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Clinical Hypnosis/Hypnotherapy

Library of Research Articles on Veterans and CIH Therapies

February 2023 Edition

Clinical Hypnosis/Hypnotherapy

Eads B, Wark DM. Alert Hypnosis With Tai Chi Movement for Trauma Resolution. Am J Clin Hypn. 2018 Oct;61(2):173-184. doi: 10.1080/00029157.2018.1489775. PMID: 30260307.

Alert hypnosis has a growing body of evidence to support its use in resolving trauma symptoms. There is also research to support the use of tai chi in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Integrating alert hypnosis with tai chi movements offers the potential to further the benefits of both approaches. Patients have an opportunity to work toward their desired goals using hypnotic techniques to embody targeted changes both in session and outside the office. Providers get behavioral information about the physical and emotional states in the patient. This overlap provides an advanced platform for integrated clinical work, supporting a closer integration of curative processes.

Eads B, Wark DM. Alert Hypnotic Inductions: Use in Treating Combat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Am J Clin Hypn. 2015 Oct;58(2):159-70. doi: 10.1080/00029157.2014.979276.

Alert hypnosis can be a valuable part of the treatment protocol for the resolution of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research indicates that combat veterans with PTSD are more hypnotically susceptible than the general population. For that reason, it is hypothesized that they should be better able to use hypnosis in treatment. As opposed to the traditional modality, eyes-open alert hypnosis allows the patient to take advantage of hypnotic phenomena while participating responsibly in work, social life, and recreation. Three case studies are reported on combat veterans with PTSD who learned to overcome their symptoms using alert hypnosis.

Freeman M, Ayers C, Kondo K, Noonan K, O'Neil M, Morasco B, Kansagara D. Guided Imagery, Biofeedback, and Hypnosis: A Map of the Evidence. Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs (US); 2019 Feb.

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) established the Integrative Health Coordinating Center (IHCC) with the Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation (OPCC&CT) to aid in development and implementation of complementary and integrative health (CIH) strategies across the VHA. This topic was nominated by Dr. Ben Kligler, National Director of the Coordinating Center for Integrative Health (IHCC) and Laura Krejci, Associate Director of the Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation (OPCC&CT). The purpose of this report is to provide a broad overview of the effectiveness of guided imagery, biofeedback, and hypnosis, and the health conditions for which these interventions have been examined in systematic reviews, in the form of evidence maps. The evidence maps will be used to guide and support decision-making about these treatment modalities in the VHA.

Grover MP, Jensen MP, Patterson DR, Gertz KJ, Day MA. The Association Between Mindfulness and Hypnotizability: Clinical and Theoretical Implications. Am J Clin Hypn. 2018 Jul;61(1):4-17. doi: 10.1080/00029157.2017.1419458.

Mindfulness-based interventions and hypnosis are efficacious treatments for addressing a large number of psychological and physical conditions, including chronic pain. However, there continues to be debate surrounding the relative uniqueness of the theorized mechanisms of these treatments-reflected by measures of mindfulness facets and hypnotizability-with some concern that there may be so much overlap as to make the mechanism constructs (and, therefore, the respective interventions) redundant. Given these considerations, the primary aim of the current study was to examine the degree of unique versus shared variance between two common measures of mindfulness facets and hypnotizability: the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire and the Stanford Hypnotic Clinical Scale. A cross-sectional survey was conducted with a sample of (N = 154) veterans with heterogeneous chronic pain conditions. Bivariate Pearson correlations were used to examine the associations between the target scales. Results showed that the correlations between the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire scales and Stanford Hypnotic Clinical Scale total score were uniformly weak, although significant negative correlations were found between mindfulness facets of observe and nonreact with hypnotizability (ps < 0.05). Thus, not only are the mindfulness and hypnotizability constructs unique, but when significantly associated, hypnotic suggestibility corresponds with a tendency to be less mindful. These findings have important implications for future research aimed toward matching patients to the treatment most likely to be of benefit, and suggest that matching patients on the basis of these theoretically derived "unique" moderators may hold potential.

Proescher EJ. Hypnotically facilitated exposure response prevention therapy for an OIF veteran with OCD. Am J Clin Hypn. 2010 Jul;53(1):19-26.

The highly stressful conditions of a war zone may exacerbate or trigger a wide variety of symptoms including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) once a service member returns home. Service members and new veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars present to treatment with multiple psychosocial concerns and co-morbid psychiatric conditions. Evidence-based treatments including exposure based therapies are commonly recommended for use with returning veterans. Although studies support the efficacy of Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) therapy for treating OCD, eligibility for these studies limits participation to subjects who self-report a well-defined, circumscribed complaint. This approach is not typical of clinic clients who, more often than not, report multiple psychological issues. The following individual case study demonstrates how integrating hypnosis facilitated the cognitive-behavioral ERP therapy and treatment for a patient suffering from OCD.

Stoelb BL, Jensen MP, Tackett MJ.  Hypnotic analgesia for combat-related spinal cord injury pain: a case study. Am J Clin Hypn. 2009 Jan;51(3):273-80.

A U.S. Army soldier stationed in Iraq developed myriad pain problems after sustaining a high-level spinal cord injury (SCI) from a gunshot wound. These problems were negatively impacting his ability to participate fully in his physical rehabilitation and care. Ten sessions of self-hypnosis training were administered to the patient over a 5-week period to help him address these problems. Both the patient and his occupational therapist reported a substantial reduction in pain over the course of treatment, which allowed the patient to actively engage in his therapies. Six months post treatment, the patient reported continued use of the hypnosis strategies taught, which effectively reduced his experience of pain. This case study demonstrates the efficacy of hypnotic analgesia treatment for U.S. military veterans who are experiencing pain problems due to traumatic or combat-related SCIs.

Tan G, Rintala DH, Jensen MP, Fukui T, Smith D, Williams W. A randomized controlled trial of hypnosis compared with biofeedback for adults with chroniclow back pain. Eur J Pain. 2015 Feb


Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is common and results in significant costs to individuals, families and society. Although some research supports the efficacy of hypnosis for CLBP, we know little about the minimum dose needed to produce meaningful benefits, the roles of home practice and hypnotizability on outcome, or the maintenance of treatment benefits beyond 3 months.


One hundred veterans with CLBP participated in a randomized, four-group design study. The groups were (1) an eight-session self-hypnosis training intervention without audio recordings for home practice; (2) an eight-session self-hypnosis training intervention with recordings; (3) a two-session self-hypnosis training intervention with recordings and brief weekly reminder telephone calls; and (4) an eight-session active (biofeedback) control intervention.


Participants in all four groups reported significant pre- to post-treatment improvements in pain intensity, pain interference and sleep quality. The hypnosis groups combined reported significantly more pain intensity reduction than the control group. There was no significant difference among the three hypnosis conditions. Over half of the participants who received hypnosis reported clinically meaningful (≥ 30%) reductions in pain intensity, and they maintained these benefits for at least 6 months after treatment. Neither hypnotizability nor amount of home practice was associated significantly with treatment outcome.


The findings indicate that two sessions of self-hypnosis training with audio recordings for home practice may be as effective as eight sessions of hypnosis treatment. If replicated in other patient samples, the findings have important implications for the application of hypnosis treatment for chronic pain management.

Williams RM, Day MA, Ehde DM, Turner AP, Ciol MA, Gertz KJ, Patterson D, Hakimian S, Suri P, Jensen MP. Effects of Hypnosis vs Mindfulness Meditation vs Education on Chronic Pain Intensity and Secondary Outcomes in Veterans: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Pain. 2022 Jan 25.

Effective, rigorously evaluated nonpharmacological treatments for chronic pain are needed. This study compared the effectiveness of training in hypnosis (HYP) and mindfulness meditation (MM) to an active education control (ED). Veterans (N=328) were randomly assigned to 8 manualized, group-based, in-person sessions of HYP (n = 110), MM (n = 108), or ED (n = 110). Primary (average pain intensity; API) and secondary outcomes were assessed at pretreatment, posttreatment, and 3- and 6-months posttreatment. Treatment effects were evaluated using linear regression, a generalized estimating equation approach, or a Fisher exact test, depending on the variable. There were no significant omnibus between-group differences in pre- to posttreatment change in API, however pre- to posttreatment improvements in API and several secondary variables were seen for participants in all three conditions. Participation in MM resulted in greater decreases in API and pain interference at 6-months posttreatment relative to ED. Participation in HYP resulted in greater decreases in API, pain interference, and depressive symptoms at 3- and 6-months posttreatment compared to ED. No significant differences on outcomes between HYP and MM were detected at any time point. This study suggests that all three interventions provide posttreatment benefits on a range of outcomes, but the benefits of HYP and MM continue beyond the end of treatment, while the improvements associated with ED dissipate over time. Future research is needed to determine whether the between-group differences that emerged posttreatment are reliable, whether there are benefits of combining treatments, and to explore moderating and mediating factors.

Williams RM, Ehde DM, Day M, Turner AP, Hakimian S, Gertz K, Ciol M, McCall A, Kincaid C, Pettet MW, Patterson D, Suri P, Jensen MP. The chronic pain skills study: Protocol for a randomized controlled trial comparing hypnosis, mindfulness meditation and pain education in veterans. Contemp Clin Trials. 2020 Jan 8:105935. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2020.105935.


To describe the protocol of a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness and mechanisms of three behavioral interventions.


Participants will include up to 343 Veterans with chronic pain due to a broad range of etiologies, randomly assigned to one of three 8-week manualized in-person group treatments: (1) Hypnosis (HYP), (2) Mindfulness Meditation (MM), or (3) Education Control (EDU).


The primary aim of the study is to compare the effectiveness of HYP and MM to EDU on average pain intensity measured pre- and post-treatment. Additional study aims will explore the effectiveness of HYP and MM compared to EDU on secondary outcomes (i.e., pain interference, sleep quality, depression and anxiety), and the maintenance of effects at 3- and 6-months post-treatment. Participants will have electroencephalogram (EEG) assessments at pre- and post-treatment to determine if the power of specific brain oscillations moderate the effectiveness of HYP and MM (Study Aim 2) and examine brain oscillations as possible mediators of treatment effects (exploratory aim). Additional planned exploratory analyses will be performed to identify possible treatment mediators (i.e., pain acceptance, catastrophizing, mindfulness) and moderators (e.g., hypnotizability, treatment expectations, pain type, cognitive function).


The study treatments will be administered at a large Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the northwest United States. The treatments will be integrated within clinical infrastructure and delivered by licensed and credentialed health care professionals.