Written and reviewed by Ralph Miller, certified clinical hypnotherapist | Edited by Sahar Miller | Last Update November 12, 2020
According to the World Health Organization, 264 million people suffer from depression worldwide. Further, depression is responsible for lost work productivity, interpersonal problems, and substance abuse.
So of course, if you’re suffering from depression, you want all the help you can get to get through it. And if you’ve been thinking about using hypnosis for depression, you probably just want to know if it works.
We’re going to share that, but it is complicated, and there are a few things you must know before utilizing hypnosis for depression. So let’s start with what depression is…
What is Depression?
Depression is a serious but treatable mood disorder. If you suspect you may be experiencing depression, set an appointment to speak with your healthcare provider or mental health professional.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has a great information page on depression, so we won’t share all that information here. But according to the NIMH, there are three questions you can ask yourself to help determine whether or not you may be depressed:
- Do you feel sad, empty, and hopeless most of the day, nearly every day?
- Have you lost interest or pleasure in your hobbies or being with friends and family?
- Are you having trouble sleeping, eating, and functioning?
If you answer yes to these questions and you’ve “felt this way for at least 2 weeks, you may have depression,” according to the NIH and should seek the help of a medical professional.
Does Hypnosis Work?
While there may be a lack of direct evidence regarding the use of hypnosis for depression and it’s effectiveness, it has been suggested that negative self-hypnosis, mainly in the form of the negative stories we tell ourselves over and over, is responsible for reinforcing a depressive state of mind. In that regard, it logically follows that hypnosis, in the form of restructuring those negative stories into positive ones, will actually go a long way in helping to alleviate a depressive state of mind.
In an article published in the Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, Michael Yapko shares, “There is a large body of clinical evidence and a growing body of empirical evidence that hypnosis can contribute significantly to positive treatment results in a variety of ways (i.e., directly and indirectly) related to depression. Here are three:
- Hypnosis is a tool for empowerment
- Depression reduction is often cited as an effect of hypnosis treatment
- Use of hypnosis in conjunction with other treatments shows higher efficacy for the modality of treatment than that of its use without hypnosis
Much of what Yapko discusses in terms of the value of hypnosis deals with ‘expectancy.’ He shares that “expectancy refers to that quality of the client’s belief system that leads him or her to believe that the procedure implemented by the clinician will produce a therapeutic result.”
In other words, expectancy is whether you believe that a certain procedure will help. And according to research, your belief actually plays a large role in the actual outcome, especially when it comes to mood disorders such as depression. And…you guessed it…hypnosis actually improves expectancy, and hence improves the outcome of your treatment.
Yapko has proposed that hypnosis has relevance to the treatment of depression because hypnosis can:
- Build positive expectancy regarding treatment
- Address co-related symptoms, such as insomnia and rumination
- Modify patterns of self-organization, including cognitive, response, attentional, and perceptual styles
So while hypnosis for the direct treatment of depression may not be supported by research, research studies do show that hypnotherapy works best in conjunction with other therapies, such as psychotherapy, including cognitive, behavioral and interpersonal approaches, in the treatment of depression.
When answering the questions, should hypnosis be used to treat depression, psychotherapist trainer Mark Tyrell states, “Hypnosis can be used to help reframe past events constructively and rehearse new ways of feeling and thinking. It can calm the brain down enough to start to feel hope and set realistic goals.”
If feeling hope is something you struggle with, hypnotherapy may be worth considering as an option in addition to other psychotherapy approaches.
How Many Sessions?
People often ask how many sessions of hypnotherapy they will need for depression, and the answer is elusive. The number of sessions is best determined by your hypnotherapist in conjunction with any other healthcare professionals responsible for your care.
The cost of hypnotherapy sessions will vary depending on your geographical location as well as the experience of your individual practitioner.
Frequently asked questions
Does hypnotherapy work for depression?
Studies do not show hypnotherapy being an effective treatment for depression. However, hypnotherapy may be used to address positive expectancy of depression treatment, along with other co-related symptoms like insomnia.
Does Medicare cover depression?
No, Medicare doesn’t cover hypnotherapy for depression.
How often should I get hypnotherapy for depression?
It is advisable to discuss the frequency of your hypnotherapy treatments for depression with a professional hypnotherapist in your area.
Hypnosis for Depression
There are many complementary and alternative therapies that may help with depression, including:
- Guided imagery and visualization
- Massage Therapy
- Yoga Therapy
Before getting started with hypnotherapy for depression, be sure to talk with your physician or medical professional about getting a proper medical diagnosis and what treatment recommendations are appropriate for your condition.
Work with a professional hypnotherapist in your area to determine how hypnotherapy may best help you and the frequency of treatment that’s right for you. In research studies, hypnotherapy is seen to work best in conjunction with other therapies, such as psychotherapy, including cognitive, behavioral, and interpersonal approaches.
Assen Alladin (2010) Evidence-Based Hypnotherapy for Depression, International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 58:2, 165-185, https://doi.org/10.1080/00207140903523194
McCann, B. S., & Landes, S. J. (2010). Hypnosis in the treatment of depression: considerations in research design and methods. The International journal of clinical and experimental hypnosis, 58(2), 147–164. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207140903523186
National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Depression Basics. Retrieved November 13, 2020, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml
U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. hypnotherapy. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/hypnotherapy
World Health Organization (WHO). (2020, January 30). Depression. Retrieved November 13, 2020, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression
Yapko M. (2001). Hypnosis in treating symptoms and risk factors of major depression. The American journal of clinical hypnosis, 44(2), 97–108. https://doi.org/10.1080/00029157.2001.10403465