On a rainy evening, I headed to my first hypnotherapy appointment on the Upper East Side. I reclined in the office's worn leather armchair as the hypnotherapist picked up a microphone and sank into a low squatting position. I squeezed my eyes tightly shut as his voice came slow and steady through my headphones. Even though it was almost a whisper, it drowned out the wind and traffic sounds.
I turned to hypnotherapy because I had reached a new level of generalized anxiety. I dwelled on the past and had trouble breaking old habits. I seemed to be always waiting for the weekend, anxious to check stressful work or social situations off the calendar. None of my usual "fixes"—like aromatherapy baths, brunch with friends, and foot massages at the no-frills place down the block— were helping anymore. I needed a true reset.
Years ago, I purchased a hypnotherapy session for my father to help him quit smoking. That session changed my family's life—my Dad never smoked again. I turned to hypnotherapy to see if it would help me recalibrate similarly. Ahead, read my honest review of hypnotherapy and everything you need to know about the treatment.
Meet the Expert
Jeffrey Rose is a clinical hypnotherapist and founder of Advanced Hypnosis in NYC. He is certified by the International Medical Dental Hypnosis Association, the National Guild of Hypnotists, and the International Association of Counselors and Therapists.
What is Hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is a guided experience where the trance-like state of hypnosis is utilized to achieve "focused concentration." It is commonly used to treat psychological disorders, medical concerns, and undesired behaviors and is usually centered around verbal repetition and visualization.
While it is often misrepresented in film and television, hypnotherapy is a relatively simple process that can be done on almost anyone. Anyone who has zoned out on a train ride, drifted off to sleep, or listened to guided meditation has already experienced a type of self-hypnosis.
And contrary to popular belief, hypnosis conditions people to be in control of their state of awareness so they can alter their physiological responses to stimuli. During a hypnotherapy session, a therapist will first assist a patient in achieving a hypnotic state, verbally offer imagery and strategies to help cope with undesirable issues and finally, reinforce it all through repetition.
Benefits and Side Effects
Hypnotherapy is generally considered to be safe and effective. It has been studied in aiding anxiety and other mental health conditions, pain management, and cancer treatment side effects. Adverse side effects are rare and can include anxiety, headaches, dizziness, and the creation of false memories. It is recommended that anyone seeking to explore hypnotherapy first consult their therapist or doctor.
Can Anyone be Hypnotized?
Armed with my previous experience and research, I worried I had become too knowledgeable about the treatment for it to work a second time. But clinical hypnotherapist and founder of Advanced Hypnosis in NYC Jeffrey Rose says, "The more you know, the better!" Rose even argues that you don't even have to believe in hypnotherapy for it to work—you just have to be relaxed and willing to make changes.
What to Look for When Booking a Session
Ahead of my second appointment, Rose sent me several intake forms where I could detail what I wanted to work on and a quiz that revealed what sensorial imagery was most impactful for me. The information I provided would be worked into my treatment. "It is incumbent upon the professional to figure out how to communicate with your subconscious effectively," Rose says.
Because hypnotherapy isn't a one size fits all treatment, specifics are key in tailoring the experience to each individual. "Everything we do before the hypnosis; the intake, the conversation, you're helping me understand you," he says. "You're programming me to program you."
Not all therapists will offer intake forms, but many will offer a consultation. When researching a practitioner, look for a gratis conversation before booking and accreditations (such as board certification by the National Guild of Hypnotists and the International Association of Counselors and Therapists).
However, just because they are accredited does not necessarily mean you'll vibe with them. I recommend checking out their website for their mission statement and areas of specialty. Before you show up for your appointment, you should feel comfortable with their approach to the treatment and communication style.
Cost of Treatment
In NYC, introductory sessions can range from $150 to as much as $400, with some practitioners requiring a purchase of session packages to begin working with you. Rose says that while you can often address some behaviors or habits in one or two treatments, many issues require reinforcement sessions to lock in the benefits. Before committing to multiple sessions, ensure you feel comfortable with your therapist and their work.
In the weeks following my first appointment, I almost automatically corrected negative self-talk and felt somewhat uplifted. I started feeding my body more nutritious foods, drank more water, and restarted a yoga practice. Was I doing these things just because I wanted to believe paying for hypnotherapy had been worth it?
I wanted to learn more about how the therapy worked during my second session. Surprisingly, the science behind hypnotherapy is shockingly simple. In the highly relaxed state of hypnosis, your subconscious is more open to suggestions. Rose says that if you're able to achieve this deep relaxation, a "hyperfocus and absorption without distraction," the results can be amazing.
I showed up for my second appointment sweaty and out of breath. I had been running around the city doing errands, and this was my last stop for the day. I worried I wasn't calm enough and had already ruined the session. But, as Rose reviewed the information I had provided, I relaxed.
Getting into a focused state was challenging at first. I found my mind wandering as I listened to a rich description of a tropical beach and salt air. I drifted back to the questionnaire I had filled out, trying to remember what I had written that had prompted this setting. I fought against my eyelids, which suddenly seemed to be straining to open themselves. After about five minutes, it finally happened. I was able to just let go. It was almost like a gentle mental massage. The visualization of the beach segued into verbiage about changes I desired, with many keywords repeated. The suggestions made me feel relaxed but also energized with positivity.
However, I felt like I was playing along with the "hypnotic trance thing." I wasn't asleep and was completely aware of my surroundings. I could have opened my eyes and sat up at any moment. But, Rose says that showing up well-rested and not falling asleep is actually crucial for a successful session. In fact, good sleep hygiene was one of the "ingredients" we agreed to include in my hypnotic suggestions. I had been staying up late and always felt tired in the morning. Rose stressed the importance of "finishing" your sleep and told me I could get to a point where I never needed an alarm again. I found that hard to believe.
When it was time to open my eyes and get up from the chair, I felt happy. If nothing else, I had done something positive for myself. I went about the rest of the day in my usual fashion, wondering when I would be able to tell if the session had "worked." The next day, I started going to bed early and waking up without an alarm for the first time in my life. I was given audio files of affirmations to reinforce the session and started using them. Time will tell how "reinforced" I am but a week later, I'm still (shockingly) alarm clock free.
Do I believe I achieved a true trance-like state in my hypnosis sessions? Maybe.
Would I try hypnotherapy again and recommend it to others? Yes.
Do I believe in the sublime power of the subconscious mind, the efficacy of positive self-talk, and repetition? Yes, I do. Yes, I do. Yes, I do.
How hypnotherapy works - the process in four steps.
Levitan AA. The use of hypnosis with cancer patients. Psychiatr Med. 1992;10(1):119-131.
Hypnosis - an overview | sciencedirect topics.