Hypnosis or Hypnotherapy as an addiction treatment is gaining credibility in the medical and psychiatric community. When carried out under the watchful eye of a highly qualified addiction counselor, this treatment can help those who have already come through the initial stages of rehabilitation cope with cravings and stave off relapse.
Hypnotherapy as a treatment for addiction comes along later in the rehabilitation process. The person seeking treatment needs to completely detoxify their system before they even consider undergoing treatment, and this usually means spending weeks or even months cleaning up.
A medical professional offering hypnosis as a treatment for addiction is a hypnotherapist. This person guides the recovering alcoholic into a trance-like mental state in which the person is more susceptible to ideas and suggestions. In this state, those being hypnotized can become more imaginative and better at problem solving. In short, they’re in prime position to sort out strategies for conquering their own addictive behaviors.
However, the only way that hypnosis can be effective as a treatment for addiction is if the person being hypnotized really wants to give up their destructive habits and behaviors. The treatment does not change minds or induce new outlooks. Instead, it helps to hone and refine a preexisting mindset.
It’s important to understand that hypnosis is not a cure-all for addiction, but it can definitely serve a role in a comprehensive course of treatment. It’s particularly useful in helping recovered alcoholics stay on the right track.
In order for hypnotherapy to serve a meaningful role in overcoming addiction, it is essential that the person receiving treatment be sober. Deep concentration is the cornerstone of hypnotism, and the toxins and dulling effects of alcohol limit the effectiveness of a hypnotic trance. Along these lines, hypnosis serves a greater role in preventing relapse than it does in quitting drinking. It serves as reinforcement, but not as a solution to addiction in itself.
After a person who has been struggling with an addiction to alcohol overcomes the initial hurdle of becoming sober, a new set of challenges emerge. At this point, staying sober is the goal, and doing so requires goal setting, plenty of focus and a healthy dose of optimism.
This is where hypnosis as a treatment for addiction really becomes effective. It allows the patient to get involved in the treatment process, letting them explore their own triggers for relapse and giving them tools to deconstruct a craving should one arise.
The hypnotic trance is a deeply relaxed state, and it’s marked by changes in metabolism, breathing and even brain patterns. In other words, it’s both a mental and physical state of being.
During this relaxed state, the person being hypnotized is more open to exploring the mechanics of their addiction to alcohol. This allows them to explore the ebb and flow of their own cravings – with the goal of putting together strategies to overcome them – without any stress or feelings of guilt getting in the way.
In some cases, the hypnotherapist may also train their patients to practice self-hypnosis in their daily lives. Going into a lightly hypnotic state is an excellent way to overcome a craving in real time, and it gives recovering alcoholics a powerful edge against relapse.
One of the most important considerations in seeking hypnosis as a treatment for addiction is who will actually be carrying out the therapeutic process. There are relatively few regulations controlling who can and cannot perform hypnotism, which means it is worth doing research and shopping around for the best specialists.
To a certain extent, the level of expertise required from a specialist depends on the depth of the therapy. For recovering alcoholics who are simply seeking to arm themselves with strategies for fending off cravings and relapse, a basic behavioral therapist is more than qualified. Hypnotism of this caliber is relatively easy to carry out, and – while it certainly should not be performed by amateurs – it doesn’t require a great deal of specialization. Any professional practicing hypnosis as a treatment for addiction should be certified by an organization like the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis.
However, some rehabilitation clinics and addiction treatment centers are also using hypnotherapy as a means of delving into the person’s mind to root out underlying causes for the addictive behavior. This requires careful understanding of the psychology of addiction and should only be carried out under the strict supervision of a qualified psychologist.
In considering the effectiveness of hypnosis as a treatment for addiction, it’s important to acknowledge the different types of addiction that exist. In short, an addiction can operate on a physical or a mental plane. Elements of both exist in most cases.
A physical addiction involves a substance like alcohol, which literally enters the body and changes the way it operates. The damage that the substance inflicts on the body may be reversible, but no amount of hypnosis is going to repair these physical changes. That’s tantamount to expecting antivirus software to correct hardware problems in a computer.
But from a mental perspective, an addiction is rooted in repetitive behaviors and environmental triggers, and the payoff comes in some form of gratification or catharsis. Some addictions are completely mental, such as addictions to gambling or pornography. However, many of these same triggers and behavioral patterns are also at work in physical addictions like alcoholism.
In either case, hypnosis is a tool that the mind can use to address thoughts and behaviors that are related to addiction. When applied in this way under the careful supervision of an addiction counselor, hypnotherapy can be an effective addition to a comprehensive suite of treatments.