Cognitive hypnotherapy

Written by Ellen Lees

Ellen Lees

Hypnotherapy Directory Content Team

Last updated December 2021 | Next review due December 2023

Cognitive hypnotherapy incorporates hypnosis to help ‘update’ the subconscious in line with the conscious and its understanding of reality.


What is cognitive hypnotherapy?

In this short video, hypnotherapist Kim Searle explores cognitive hypnotherapy; what the approach is, how it came about and how it may benefit you.

Cognitive hypnotherapy is used to positively influence emotional, behavioural, cognitive and symptomatic change. This branch of hypnosis is different from traditional schools of hypnotherapy. This technique draws influence from a range of theories and combines them so that they fall in line with the client’s personal goals, values and needs. The theories involved include:

It's this combination and influence of a range of techniques and disciplines that have helped professionals to create such a personal, tailored approach with the client - avoiding the 'one size fits all' approach.'


The 3 principles of cognitive hypnotherapy

Cognitive hypnotherapy is based on three key principles.

Trance is something we do every day, without realising

Traditional hypnotherapy focuses on the therapist ‘guiding you into a trance-like state’. Cognitive hypnotherapy believes hypnotic states to be a naturally occurring state of mind. E.g. When you daydream during a meeting or getting lost in your thoughts while driving.

All behaviour has a positive intention

While any behaviour when ‘under trance’ has the intention to fulfil a positive purpose, not all behavioural choices will be good. For example, when an individual has a fear of flying, the fear aims to keep them on the ground, away from the threat of the plane. They may know that flying is no more dangerous than the car they drive, but the fear is there nonetheless.

While fear is there to protect, it can a hindrance to this person’s life. Cognitive hypnotherapy aims to ‘update the subconscious’ with the conscious mind and its understanding of reality.

Everyone is unique

There is no one size fits all approach in cognitive hypnotherapy. This style of therapy focuses on guiding the client out of any problematic states (fear of dogs, phobias, lack of concentration) to live a more productive, happy life. This form of therapy understands that every person’s problem is unique to them and will require a personalised treatment plan.


Does cognitive hypnotherapy work?

Cognitive hypnotherapy is a fluid and flexible approach. It's designed in such a way that the therapist and client are able to work together to achieve a certain goal. Cognitive hypnotherapy provides the client with the knowledge and skills needed to take back control of their own feelings, thoughts and behaviours.

In cognitive hypnotherapy, trance states are believed to be an everyday occurrence. It's thought we spend much of the day in some form of altered consciousness, for example, daydreaming during a boring meeting. Many people believe this is what causes uncontrollable urges or feelings, such as smoking or feeling nauseous at the sight of a snake or spider. While this appears to be a bodily reaction, cognitive hypnotherapy suggests that it’s actually your unconscious trying to keep you safe. It’s as if you’re being hypnotised by your own mind into reacting to, and seeing and feeling things in a particular way. 

Cognitive hypnotherapy focuses on ‘de-hypnotising’ the client to change the way they think and behave toward their particular problem. By de-hypnotising the client, they can help them regain control over the problematic aspects of their life. For example, instead of viewing a dog as frightening and dangerous, they can alter their thoughts to be in control of the situation and know the dog is likely to be harmless.


What happens in a cognitive hypnotherapy session?

Often, sessions will begin with a discussion between you and the professional. You will talk about what it is you’re after, your problem and what you’d like to gain from cognitive hypnotherapy. Together you’ll look at the issue, how you experience it and how it affects your life. Next, you’ll work towards a personal treatment programme, tailored to you and your individual experience.

The number of sessions you need will depend on you and your situation. You may get what you need after just one session, while others may need three, four, six or 10 sessions.

You may also be given tasks to complete at home, between sessions. This may include recordings of hypnotic suggestions and/or a therapy diary to record your thoughts and development. You may also be taught self-hypnosis techniques, to help you continue treatment outside of sessions and long after treatment is over.

Many people think of hypnosis as onstage entertainment or something that is completely out of their control. But hypnotherapy isn’t something that is 'done' to a person. The client is entirely in control - the professional is merely there as a guide.


What is cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy (CBH)?

Cognitive-behavioural hypnotherapy (CBH) combines cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with hypnosis to give you the tools to manage and overcome daily stress and feelings of anxiety, as well as manage physical ailments.

Cognitive-behavioural hypnotherapy is designed to help you manage your problems by changing the way you think, and behave. By integrating techniques from CBT and combining it with hypnosis, CBH can provide you with the tools to deal with your problems in a positive way.

CBT is a talking therapy, which looks at current problems, rather than past traumas. It focuses on our ability to change, by altering how we think, feel and behave in certain situations. When you add hypnosis into the mix, we’re able to access the ‘daydream state’ in which we are more able to accept positive direction and suggestion, while our conscious thoughts are suspended.

Conventionally used to help manage depression and anxiety disorders, cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy can also assist in overcoming unwanted habits, such as smoking or teeth grinding, and dealing with emotional issues, such as low self-esteem.


Find a cognitive hypnotherapist

On Hypnotherapy Directory, we have over 500 cognitive hypnotherapists offering support online. Simply browse profiles until you find a therapist you resonate with, then send them an email to book a consultation.

It's OK to have questions - in fact, we encourage you to ask the hypnotherapist any questions you have prior to, and throughout the duration of your sessions. They are there to help and will work with you to understand the best approach for you and the reasons why you're seeking hypnotherapy.

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