Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis for treating such conditions as addictions, anxiety, depression, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, phobias and stress. Hypnotherapy is believed to have begun in the eighteenth century with the work of the Austrian physician, Franz Anton Mesmer.

Mesmer utilized the ethereal sounds of a glass harmonica to assist in producing a trancelike state in the patient, which he used as a curative remedy. Dismissed as a quack by most of his peers, Mesmer’s work was latched on to by a Scottish physician named John Braid, who came up with the term hypnosis after the Greek God ‘Hypnos’.

Hypnosis is not a state of sleep but a state of relaxation varying from light to deep. Tests have shown that a person is neither unconscious, nor asleep. Tests have shown that a person in deep hypnosis is in a state of deep relaxation and engaged in normal mental activity.

The hypnotherapist induces this state by various methods, including eye fixation, progressive relaxation and imagery. Once the patient is in this state the therapist uses suggestion, which is aimed at influencing behaviour and relieving symptoms.

People with personality disorders, psychosis and certain neurological disorders such as epilepsy should avoid hypnotherapy as there is some evidence to suggest that it can precipitate onset of episodes of these disorders.