Hypnosis in Contemporary Medicine

In 2005, a review was undertaken by James H. Stewart, MD, on behalf of the Mayo Clinic, entitled “Hypnosis in Contemporary Medicine”.

Hypnosis became popular as a treatment for medical conditions in the late 1700s when effective pharmaceutical and surgical treatment options were limited. To determine whether hypnosis has a role in contemporary medicine, relevant trials and a few case reports are reviewed. Despite substantial variation in techniques among the numerous reports, patients treated with hypnosis experienced substantial benefits for many different medical conditions. An expanded role for hypnosis and a larger study of techniques appear to be indicated.
Mayo Clin Proc. 2005;80(4):511-524

What is so interesting about this review is that it deals with a very well tested and verified field of psychological science (i.e. clinical hypnosis) which is viewed by modern contemporary medicine skeptically.

This scholarly article reviews various trials, case reports and studies which all show very positive results from the use of hypnotherapy for allergy, pain relief, anesthesia for surgery, dermatology, gastroenterology, healing from surgery or injury, hematology, hypertension, neurology, obesity, obstetrics, oncology, otorhinolaryngology, pulmonary medicine, rheumatology, surgery, and urology.

In all cases, clinical hypnosis showed a significant improvement in results over other more common treatments. For example:

In a 1992 meta-analysis of 633 smoking-cessation studies involving almost 72,000 participants, hypnosis was the most successful cessation method, with a 12% to 60% success rate (mean, 36%), 3.5 times that achieved by self-care methods.


Chemotherapy often is associated with nausea and vomiting. Hypnosis has been studied for reducing these and other adverse effects. Children receiving chemotherapy who were assigned randomly to hypnosis had less anticipatory nausea and vomiting and less vomiting with chemotherapy compared with a control group.104 A later prospective randomized trial examined the effects of hypnosis for the adverse effects of chemotherapy in children with a resultant significant decrease in anticipatory nausea and the need for antiemetic medications.105 Children who learned self-hypnosis techniques were believed to have gained feelings of control over their situations.

The reviews conclusion also sheds light on attitudes towards clinical hypnosis and how over time it is becoming more and more accepted as a mode of treatment in medicine:

The acceptance of hypnosis as a mode of treatment in medicine is increasing as a result of “careful, methodical, empirical work of many research pioneers.”35 Many important trials reviewed here have helped to establish the role of hypnosis in contemporary medicine. These trials have established the utility and efficacy of hypnosis for several medical conditions, either alone or as part of the treatment regimen. Nonetheless, skepticism may prevail and hypnosis may remain underused because of the tendency to doubt or fear the unknown. According to a recent study, health care providers changed their attitudes significantly and positively when presented with information about the use of hypnosis in medicine.144 Through greater awareness and acceptance of hypnosis, additional training and research can be inspired in pursuit of improved techniques and new areas of potential benefit.

For the full article, click here.

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