Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

There have been a number of studies investigating the effectiveness of hypnosis in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress disorder (ASD). To date the evidence is fairly mixed. Single-case studies which have integrated hypnosis have indicated promising effects, but larger studies have not shown the same level of support.

Current evidence-based therapies for PTSD include trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (TF-CBT) and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). Interestingly, some of the techniques commonly used as part of a CBT treatment for PTSD (e.g. revisiting trauma memories, having an 'adult self' comfort a 'child self') have origins in hypnotic techniques. The benefit that CBT brings to these techniques is a conceptual framework to understand the traumatised individual.The benefits that hypnosis might bring to the treatment of PTSD include a focus on feelings of safety / emotional regulation, and a framework & techniques for revisiting memories.

Hypnosis and PTSD references

  • Abramowitz, E. G., Barak, Y., Ben-Avi, I., Knobler, H. Y. (2008). Hypnotherapy in the treatment of chronic combat-related PTSD patients suffering from insomnia: a randomized zolpiderm-controlled clinical trial. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 56(3), 270-280.
  • Bryant, R. A., Moulds, M. L., Guthrie, R. M., Nixon, R. D. V. (2005). The additive benefit of hypnosis and cognitive behavioural therapy in treating acute stress disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73(2), 334-340.
  • Bryant, R. A., Moulds, M. L., Nixon, R. D. V., Mastrodomenico, J., Felmingham, K., Hopwood, S. (2006). Hypnotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy of acute stress disorder: a 3 year follow-up. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44(9), 1331-1335.
  • Cardena, E. (2000). Hypnosis in the treatment of trauma: a promising, but not fully supported, efficacious intervention. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 48(2), 225-238.
  • Spiegel, D. (1989). Hypnosis in the treatment of victims of sexual abuse. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 12(2), 295-305.
  • Spiegel, D. (1992). The use of hypnosis in the treatment of PTSD. Psychiatric Medicine, 10(4), 21-30.
  • Spiegel, D., Cardena, E. (1990). New uses of hypnosis in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 51, 39-43.


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