Hypnotherapy teaches the subconscious to challenge and change its beliefs and its perception of past events. By mental imagery clients can create new positive realities for themselves. Hypnotherapy is often applied in order to modify a subject's behaviour, emotional content, and attitudes, as well as a wide range of conditions including dysfunctional habits, anxiety, stress-related illness, pain management, and personal development.
Contrary to popular belief hypnosis does not involve any loss of control on the part of the person being hypnotised. The state which is induced by hypnotherapy can be likened to the deep relaxation or focused concentration that comes with watching an absorbing television program or reading a gripping novel. It can be pulled out of at any time.
Another popular belief that needs correcting is that hypnotherapy is some form of complementary or alternative medicine. Over a hundred years ago a BMA committee reported it was "of the opinion that as a therapeutic agent hypnotism is frequently effective in relieving pain, procuring sleep, and alleviating many functional ailments [i.e., psycho-somatic complaints and anxiety disorders]."
In 1955 a sub-committee of the BMA reported that it was "satisfied after consideration of the available evidence that hypnotism is of value and may be the treatment of choice in some cases of so-called psycho-somatic disorder and Psychoneurosis. It may also be of value for revealing unrecognized motives and conflicts in such conditions. As a treatment, in the opinion of the Subcommittee it has proved its ability to remove symptoms and to alter morbid habits of thought and behaviour."
Research on hypnotherapy has tended to highlight four main areas in which its efficacy as a treatment can be demonstrated - anxiety, insomnia, pain management and psycho-somatic disorders, i.e., stress-related illness.
Research into smoking cessation, as published in Which magazine and New Scientist, showed hypnotherapy to be the most successful way to stop. Similarly, studies covering over 70,000 people which were co-ordinated by the University of Iowa showed hypnosis to be the most effective of all methods.