Written by Katja Boehm, Markus Horneber and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated April 29, 2016

Hypnotherapy

Abstract and key points

  • In hypnotherapy a patient attempts to enter into a trance-like state in order to cope better with complaints such as pain, anxiety and stress by actively diverting their attention towards relaxing thoughts.
  • Existing evidence from twenty-two controlled clinical trials suggests that hypnotherapy may reduce cancer therapy-related pain, anticipatory nausea and vomiting, and anxiety.
  • Hypnotherapy is generally considered safe but is contraindicated in acute psychoses, severe personality disorders

Hypnotherapy is a procedure with which behaviour, cognition and affective patterns are influenced by means of hypnosis and the shift in consciousness it induces. This makes it possible to restructure distressing events and perceptions while supporting the biological changes needed for healing processes.

Hypnosis has been suggested to be a useful adjunct for pain reduction in cancer patients. In addition, it is mainly used for anxiety, insomnia, pain management and stress-related illnesses.

Twenty randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and two controlled clinical trials (CCTs) report on results of hypnotherapy for cancer patients. They include studies on hypnotherapy in anticipatory nausea and vomiting (ANV), pain and other symptoms. Research shows that hypnosis can reduce pain, nausea and emesis, hot flushes, fatigue and anxiety. 

Hypnotherapy is considered a safe treatment modality when administered by trained professionals. Acute psychoses, severe personality disorders and an inability to be hypnotized are considered contraindications.

Citation Katja Boehm, Markus Horneber, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Hypnotherapy [online document]. http://ws.cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Mind-body-interventions/Hypnotherapy. April 29, 2016.

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