March 19

Does hypnosis for addiction work?


It has often been said that one of the hardest things to tackle is drug addiction. However there are ways to help people who are addicted to drugs and one of these is to use hypnosis. Mental health declines when substance abuse is present. The problem though is that any addiction treatment needs to take into consideration the underlying causes for drug abuse, and not just treat the symptoms.

Every single behaviour we engage in as humans has a function. This includes dysfunctional behaviour. So, drug addiction is a psychological response to trying to meet a need that hasn't been met in a functional way - a way that ultimately works. Therefore any behavioural therapy and any treatment program that tries to tackle drug addiction needs to look at the underlying unmet needs the individual is trying (and failing) to meet.

The drug is only the tip of the iceberg. It tells you the person is in pain and is trying to 'get away' from it in any way they can - which usually results in some kind of self harming behaviour such as any addictive behaviour.

Addictive Thinking vs Being 'an Addict' 

Saying "I am an addict' is a traditional first step to tackle drug and alcohol abuse. Although this approach is based on the idea that we have to admit we have a problem if we hope to overcome it, the problem with this approach, in my opinion, is that it puts a label on the person which is difficult to shake: in fact it drives the person to see the drug abuse as part of their identity and this can be a double edge sword. 

Although physical addiction does exist, it is far less important and much easier to overcome than addictive thinking. It is addictive thinking that keeps the addict going back to the drug, no matter what the drug may be: alcohol, sex, gambling, shopping, heroine etc. Of course recovery and health does start with admitting that one has a problem and has not been able to resolve it on their own. The first step in any assisted treatment is to want to get better and to want the help offered. Nobody can be helped that does not want to help themselves. 

However, instead of labelling oneself as an addict I find a much better approach is to see ourselves as a fallible human being who is trying to find a way towards psychological healing by engaging in a way of thinking and behaving that ultimately is not going to give us the result we crave, but, in fact, the exact opposite. In other words, someone struggling with addiction is a person trying to solve a problem using a strategy that does not work. The therapist's job is to show them a strategy that does.

How does a hypnotherapist treat addiction?

hypnosis for drug addiction woman snorting

Before using hypnosis or any hypnotic trance the client and therapist need to be on the same page. A comprehensive interview needs to take place to find out the client's personal history, what drives them to act out and what they are trying to avoid by engaging in the addictive behaviour. It must become very clear to the therapist what function of the drug has for the client. This is important because if you take away a crutch but don't teach the person to walk they will fall.

As in every hypnotherapy session, the suffer needs to be informed and given a through explanation of the process. Then trance will be induced, deepened and used by giving detailed suggestions geared towards cessation of the destructive habit. It is important to know that, given the complexity of each person's underlying causes for the conditions, the process can be lengthy. 

An exploration of the person's past traumas is often necessary so that healing can take place. Only after therapy is administered in this way suggestions can be used to make willing subjects give up their addiction for the foreseeable future, provided their motivation to change was strong.

The great advantage of this approach is that it is not a generalised approach. The therapy is tailored to the specific individual and adapted to the client's specific situation.  People get addicted to drugs for all kinds of personal reasons and might be at different stages in their process of healing, and therefore therapy can be tailored to where they are in their personal journey. 

How effective is hypnotherapy for addictions?

man smoking

It is well known that hypnotherapy can be highly effective in treating people with an addiction to cigarettes. In the same way other addictions can be treated very effectively because the same principle is at work : hypnosis bypasses the critical conscious mind and deals directly with the subconscious.

Clinical trials have showed that out of ten individuals that tried hypnosis to treat their drug addiction , all of them stayed drug free for six months after their sessions came to an end. However, after two years had passed, seven out of ten stayed drug free while the other three went back to taking drugs. 

Obviously these results are very positive, and while results may not show up immediately , after a few sessions it has been proven that people stay clean for an average of two years or more.

There are some factors that are going to influence whether an addict is going to respond positively to this approach. First of all, as already mentioned, there must be a strong motivation to stay free of drugs and a willingness to try hypnotherapy.

One of the first things you should ask yourself , if you have a drug problem, is whether you are willing to admit that you do have a problem and if you would be comfortable to undergo therapy sessions that can be emotionally challenging. Also, you need to have outside support, such as, for example, community group support in addition to hypnotherapy. 

Individual treatment can be intense but highly effective. You could see a hypnotherapist as well as a counsellor / psychotherapist at the same time and tackle the problem with their joined support. It is very important when you do this that you are truthful and you collaborate fully with them. They are bound by confidentiality and they will be able to help you more if you answer their questions with honesty.

Hypnotherapy is very helpful in the treatment of addictions and it has been found to be highly effective in treating people with all sorts of issues. The only prerequisite is to be open to it working.

Whether you decide to go for individual therapy, one session is not going to enough. A few sessions will be necessary  but you will be able to feel the results fairly quickly compared with traditional talking therapy or group therapy, within the fist few weeks after you have started seeing a hypnotherapist.

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