Research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology suggests that hypnotherapy combined with cognitive behavioural therapy is more effective in treating patients undergoing radiotherapy treatment for cancer than either technique on its own.

The application of hypnotherapy and other therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy specifically for patients receiving radiotherapy for cancer has not yet been fully explored or researched. However, recent research into the use of cognitive behavioural therapy combined with hypnosis has proved very beneficial for women receiving radiotherapy for breast cancer.

Research combining CBT with hypnotherapy indicates that relative to a standard control group, participants receiving CBTH demonstrated significantly lower levels of negative affect each week of treatment and significantly higher levels of positive affect in weeks one, two, three and five of the radiotherapy treatment.

Additionally there was an increased frequency of days where the positive affect was greater than the negative affect. The combined use of CBT with hypnotherapy not only reduced the negative effect of worry, anxiety and negativity, but increased the positive affect of confidence, well-being and relaxation.

The results seen are not only statistically significant but clinically important as the results of the research are consistent with previous literature demonstrating the beneficial effects of the combination of CBT with hypnotherapy for patients receiving treatment for cancer.

The combination has proved more effective than the use of either hypnotherapy or CBT alone, and it is suggested that the reason for this is that cognitive behavioural therapy teaches patients to identify and challenge their negative or irrational beliefs (and to replace them with more helpful rational alternatives) while hypnotherapy helps the patient feel more relaxed, comfortable and have more optimistic expectations.

Additionally, hypnotherapy is often used to control symptoms (pain etc) so the combination of CBT with hypnotherapy addresses a wider range of factors during radiotherapy than either technique alone. Obviously more research is required, but initially the results seem very positive. The Institute hopes to see more research in other areas of medicine to identify whether combining CBT with hypnotherapy has a positive affect on patients receiving treatment for other illnesses.

Journal of Clinical Psychology