Hypnosis Changes The Way Your Brain Processes Information

Today I'm covering some new research about what happens in your brain during hypnosis. Whilst most sections of the media tend to portray hypnosis in a nonsensical way, our understanding of its benefits and effectiveness continues to grow. More and more research shows how hypnosis can help you with issues such as depression and anxiety, as well as how it enhances the results you will get from cognitive behavioural therapy.

Sadly much of the misinformation seems to come from hypnotherapists who don't keep updated or read the research (as well as from other branches in the mental health field). There is a continually growing wealth of evidence and support that suggests that, if you are struggling with your mental health right now, then hypnosis can help you to make the changes in your thoughts, feeling and actions that will help you to feel better. 

hypnosis changes way brain processes information hypnotherapy ely 

Hypnosis is Conscious and Voluntary  

Before I move on to the latest research about hypnosis, here's a quick reminder about some science that I wrote about a couple of years ago (Hypnosis is Conscious and Voluntary).

Although there are still those who think of hypnosis involving being 'controlled' in some way, more and more people are recognising the benefits of hypnosis, and there is a growing scientific evidence base to support its effectiveness. Rather than being controlled in some way, hypnosis helps you to take back control. Instead of being at the mercy of unwanted thoughts, feelings and behaviours, you learn how to take charge of your own mind.

Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy uses your ordinary psychological processes to help you to achieve desired therapeutic goals. Hypnosis and hypnotherapy are about using your imagination, motivation, thoughts, ideas and cognitions to achieve goals such as overcoming anxiety. In essence, hypnosis is about adopting a hypnotic “mind set” in which we purposefully utilise our imagination, beliefs, expectations, motivation, mental engagement and thoughts.

The science tends to support this approach. Casiglia et al (2018) demonstrated that hypnosis is a conscious and voluntary process using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Hypnosis was characterised by the activation of particular brain areas associated with consciousness and free will. 

Rather than being something magical, different or strange, hypnosis is a conscious and voluntary process that you need to engage with in order to achieve goals.  

This also fits with the strong evidence supporting the benefit of adding hypnosis to cognitive behavioural therapy to enhance results. Adding hypnosis to cognitive behavioural therapy can help you to achieve more a more positive result, and a more long lasting one (Kirsch (1995), Ramondo (2021)).

If you want to learn more about the actual nature of hypnosis (rather than the myths and misconceptions) then do take a look at these articles:

Hypnosis and Control - Who's In Control Really?

Misconceptions About Hypnosis

Should all Cognitive Behavioural Therapy include Hypnosis for better results?

Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy - what it is and how it can help you combat anxiety

Hypnosis Enhances Results Of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Updated Science and Evidence


Hypnosis Changes The Way Your Brain Processes Information

As well as enhancing the effectiveness of cognitive behavioural therapy, hypnosis has a strong evidence base in the treatment of many issues, such as pain, irritable bowel syndrome, post traumatic stress disorder symptoms, depression and anxiety.  

And in a new study, Tuominen, Kallio, Kaasinen and Railo (2021) have shown that the way our brain processes information is fundamentally altered during hypnosis. During a normal waking state, information is processed and shared by various parts of the  brain, but this research found that during hypnosis the brain shifted to a state where individual brain regions acted more independently of each other.

I think many of us, including people seeking help with something like anxiety, are primarily concerned with using hypnosis to change their thoughts and feelings so that they feel better. After all, my ultimate goal as a therapist is to help someone who is suffering or struggling in some way and to have them reach a point where that thing no longer affects them in that way (as is the case for those who have kindly left reviews about their sessions with me). Engaging your normal psychological processes in particular ways can help you to end what you are currently experiencing and to establish a new, more beneficial, pattern of thinking, feeling and acting.

This research, however, starts to add to our understanding of the brain mechanisms behind the effectiveness of hypnosis. Here, the research suggests that the way your brain functions during hypnosis is different to how it functions more generally through the day. This kind of continuing scientific understanding can only help hypnosis to become more available to more people. At a time when demand for mental health help and support continues to grow, it's time the science for the effectiveness of hypnosis, and how it enhances cognitive behavioural therapy, became more recognised by mental health professionals and policy makers. 

To your health and happiness,

Dan Regan

Online Skype and Zoom Hypnotherapy  

Face-to-face hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket


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Casiglia, E. , Finatti, F. , Gasparotti, F. , Stabile, M. , Mitolo, M. , Albertini, F. , Lapenta, A. , Facco, E. , Tikhonoff, V. and Venneri, A. (2018) Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Demonstrates That Hypnosis Is Conscious and Voluntary. Psychology, 9, 1571-1581. doi: 10.4236/psych.2018.97095.

Kirsch, I., Montgomery, G. and Sapirstein, G., 1995. Hypnosis as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy: a meta-analysis. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology63(2), p.214.

Ramondo, N., Pestell, C., Byrne, S. and Gignac, G., 2021. Clinical Hypnosis as an Adjunct to Cognitive Behavior Therapy: An Updated Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.

Tuominen, J., Kallio, S., Kaasinen, V. and Railo, H., 2021. Segregated brain state during hypnosis. Neuroscience of consciousness2021(1), p.niab002.