Hypnosis is an altered state of awareness in which you are relaxed but have focused attention. Clinical hypnosis by qualified hypnotherapists is a medically recognised therapy used to treat emotional or physical problems.

Hypnotherapy is a form of psychotherapy used to create subconscious change in a patient in the form of new responses, thoughts, attitudes, behaviours or feelings. It is undertaken with a subject in hypnosis.

Some reports show that hypnosis can help people to reduce their blood pressure, stress, anxiety, and pain. Hypnosis can create relaxing brain wave patterns. Some clinical trials have looked at how well hypnotherapy works for people with cancer.

Hypnosis as a Complementary Therapy

There is no evidence at this time that hypnosis can treat cancer itself. As with all types of psychological therapy, some people may find hypnosis helpful, while others may not.

Research has shown that hypnosis can help people with cancer cope better with anxiety and depression. Hypnosis can be helpful in easing cancer pain in some people.

People who have participated in hypnotherapy report feeling calmer and more in control. They also report having fewer problems sleeping.

In studies of children with cancer, hypnosis helped children reduce their fears of medical procedures.

Self-hypnosis may also help reduce anticipatory nausea, or nausea that starts before chemotherapy when the person expects to be ill after treatment.

As with many types of complementary therapy, one of the main reasons people with cancer use hypnotherapy is to help them relax and cope better with symptoms and treatment. Hypnotherapy can help people to feel more comfortable and in control of their situation.

People with cancer most often use hypnotherapy for sickness or pain. There is some evidence that hypnotherapy helps with these symptoms. It can also help with depression, anxiety and stress.

How is Hypnotherapy Administered?

During hypnosis, your hypnotherapist leads you into a deeply relaxed state. You feel separate from, but still aware of, what’s going on around you.

Your therapist will use suggestion to help you in different ways, such as to gain control over certain symptoms or change some behaviours that you want to change.

Your hypnotherapist may also teach you self-hypnosis so that you can use images and suggestions to help you cope when you are not with your therapist.

Your therapist will use suggestion to help you in different ways, such as to gain control over certain symptoms or change some behaviours that you want to change.

Your hypnotherapist may also teach you self-hypnosis so that you can use images and suggestions to help you cope when you are not with your therapist.

Some people may be more easily hypnotised than others. Many people worry that they will lose control or do things against their will, but you cannot be hypnotised if you don’t want to be. For hypnosis to be helpful you need to be comfortable with the idea of being hypnotised and you have to trust your hypnotherapist.

One well known example of a relaxation technique is known variously as sequential muscle relaxation (SMR), progressive relaxation, and Jacobson relaxation. The subject sits comfortably in a dark, quiet room. He or she then tenses a group of muscles, such as those in the right arm, holds the contraction for 15 seconds, and then releases it while breathing out. After a short rest, this sequence is repeated with another set of muscles. Gradually, different sets of muscle are combined.

Research into Hypnotherapy for People with Cancer

A report from the American National Institute for Health in 1996 stated that hypnosis can help to reduce some kinds of cancer pain. A large review in 2006 looked at using hypnotherapy to control distress and pain from medical procedures in children with cancer. The review found that hypnotherapy did seem to help to reduce the children’s pain and distress, but it recommended more research.

In 2012, researchers in Spain again reviewed studies of children with cancer and found that hypnosis appeared to help reduce pain and distress from cancer or from medical procedures.

A large review in 2006 looked at research into hypnotherapy for feeling or being sick from chemotherapy. Most of the studies in this area have been in children. Overall, the studies did show that hypnotherapy might be able to help with chemotherapy sickness in children. There has only been 1 study looking at hypnotherapy for sickness after chemotherapy in adults, so we need more research into this.

One study found that hypnosis can help to reduce anticipatory nausea and vomiting. Anticipatory nausea or vomiting happens when people have had nausea or vomiting due to cancer drugs and they then have nausea or vomiting just before their next dose.

Side Effects and Risks

Talk to your healthcare team if you’re thinking about trying hypnosis. When offered by a qualified clinical hypnotherapist, hypnotherapy is generally safe.

Some people may feel anxious or confused during hypnosis. Other side effects that have been reported are fatigue, headache, fainting and dizziness. Serious reactions may include seizures, lasting psychological problems and bringing back memories of earlier trauma.

You shouldn’t use hypnotherapy with some medical conditions, as it could make them worse:

  • Psychosis (a type of mental illness where people have a distorted view of what’s real and may see or hear things)
  • A personality disorder
  • Epilepsy

If you have other types of mental health problems, or a serious illness such as cancer, you should always see a hypnotherapist who has experience of treating your condition.

Children under the age of 7 should only be hypnotised by a therapist who is trained in working with this age group.


Please note that the Little Fighters Cancer Trust shares information regarding various types of cancer treatments on this blog merely for informational use. LFCT does not endorse or promote any specific cancer treatments – we believe that the public should be informed but that the option is theirs to take as to what treatments are to be used.

Always consult your medical practitioner prior to taking any other medication, natural or otherwise.