Alcohol has been recreationally consumed for centuries. Many people drink alcohol and have no problem setting a limit to how much they drink and how often. Yet for some, alcohol is a substance that can have detrimental effects on their health and their lives. In fact, as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism explains, “throughout history, we’ve struggled to understand and manage alcohol’s power.”

But in recent decades, researchers and medical professionals have spent quite a bit of time studying alcohol addiction, its effects,  its development, its treatment, and prevention. Effective treatment methods include alcohol detox, outpatient counseling or group therapy, and/or treatment within an inpatient drug rehab program. These programs usually include the use of evidence-based modalities, such as behavioral therapy or medication. Although research behind this technique is lacking, one newer alternative means of treatment that is gaining popularity is hypnotherapy.

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Hypnotherapy Defined

The purpose of hypnotherapy is to help people relax using the power of suggestion. Essentially, this technique relaxes the conscious mind, while allowing the subconscious mind to become more focused.

How Does Hypnotherapy Work?

Hypnotherapy utilizes a series of relaxation techniques and skills to help a person reach a relaxed, focused subconscious state. Once a person is in this heightened state of awareness, the person leading the session can help make suggestions. While not a proven treatment method for addiction, the idea behind hypnotherapy for alcohol abuse is to persuade someone to avoid alcohol.

For example, the therapist may show a person images that are associated with alcohol addiction such as drinks. Next, they will suggest that if the person drinks again, he or she will experience an adverse reaction such as stomach pains. Some people who have had hypnotherapy claim that these associations will carry over into their real life, outside of this hypnotic state. In the example above, someone may actually experience stomach pains when they drink again.

What Would A Hypnotherapy Session Be Like?

Hypnotherapy starts with a consultation during which the two parties can discuss a variety of personal details for the participant. In subsequent sessions, hypnosis can begin. The pace of this alternative treatment is different for each person but often is structured around the following format:

  • Introductory greeting and conversation to foster relaxation and comfort
  • Induction: during this point, the participant hopes to enter a state of deeply relaxed physical calm
  • While the person is in this deeply relaxed state, the leader is able to start the “change work” during which the techniques and approaches previously agreed upon are used
  • After this stage is complete, the person will slowly come back to wakefulness
  • Questions and discussion

Can Hypnotherapy Treat Alcohol Addiction?

Hypnotherapy is not a proven technique for alcohol abuse treatment, but it may be used as an alternative treatment method to aid in the recovery process alongside techniques like dialectical behavioral therapy that are evidence-based. While there is no research to support that hypnotherapy is an effective means of treatment, there are some who believe in its power.

Those who support the use of hypnotherapy for alcohol addiction treatment claim that it can help the participant understand why their behaviors qualify as abuse and not merely use. Also, it may help them learn and understand how to implement good behaviors in place of old, destructive behaviors resulting from abuse. Further, during hypnosis, a person may be able to examine his or her life. This allows the person to pinpoint the areas that need change in order to cope and to view alcohol in a different light.

Many people suffering from alcohol abuse find it hard to admit (often for years at a time) that they have a substance abuse problem. For this reason, alcohol abuse can go untreated for years, but recovery is possible.