Hypnosis recordings

Many hypnotherapists use recordings as part of their work, but few of us have had the time to assess the effectiveness and use of hypnosis recordings. In this blog we ask the question – do hypnosis recordings really work?

Hypnosis recordings – the evidence

Studies have shown that hypnosis recordings are effective for inducing trance,(1) and, as an alternative to self-hypnosis practice they are comparably effective, if less satisfying for users.(2) However the research into the therapeutic benefits of hypnosis recordings is limited, but promising. One study found that a 30 minute personalised recording helped 22 of 34 participants to experience improvements in tinnitus symptoms.(3) Another study into insomnia found benefits (4) as did one into using hypnosis to support dental surgery (5) Unfortunately, none of these used a control or comparator group so we cannot be certain that it was the recordings that caused the effects. Equally, not every study found clear evidence of benefit to recordings.(6)

Luckily, a study from the world of dentistry has provided us an example where a control was used. This study looked at 60 patients having their third molar extracted and was interested in decreases in anxiety and vomiting. Anxiety scores were lower in the recorded hypnosis group, however vomiting was higher, both to a statistically significant level .(7) So mixed results.

Unsurprisingly, the best data we have comes from hypnotherapy’s most well researched area, treating Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). One trial tested a program of seven recorded sessions based on the gut directed hypnotherapy (GDH) approach to IBS and found improvements .(8) In this study 53% of the recorded suggestion group experienced a halving of symptoms or better, well above the level which would be considered clinically significant. 26% of the waiting-list control arm achieved the same improvement. What this shows is that recordings produced effective results well above those experienced by the control group. A further insight comes from a study of children with IBS or functional abdominal pain (FAP).(9) This study found that at the one year follow up point a home-based programme was no worse than the individual in-person hypnotherapy (10) and that ultimately this was highly cost effective.(11) However a similar study into adults found the in-person approach to be more effective. (12)

Do hypnosis recordings work? – conclusion

As the evidence stands the picture is unclear.  It seems likely that hypnosis recordings are beneficial, but  not as effective as a hypnotherapist. With the relative ease of making a recording for a client on their own mobile phone, a 10-15-minute session to help reinforce the session may well be worthwhile. However, as the evidence suggests that self-hypnosis is more satisfying to the client then it is a choice as to when to use self-hypnosis and when recorded hypnosis.


hypnosis recordings

The author – Matt Krouwel is a hypnotherapist and post graduate researcher into hypnotherapy at University of Birmingham (UK)


Hypnosis recordings – references

  1. Ulett GA, Akpinar S, Itil TM. Hypnosis by video tape. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 1972;20(1):46-51.
  2. Hammond DC, Haskins-Bartsch C, Grant Jr CW, McGhee M. Comparison of self-directed and tape-assisted self-hypnosis. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. 1988;31(2):129-37.
  3. Brattberg G. An alternative method of treating tinnitus: relaxation-hypnotherapy primarily through the home use of a recorded audio cassette. The International journal of clinical and experimental hypnosis. 1983;31(2):90-7.
  4. Scholz OB, Ott R. Effect and course of tape-based hypnotherapy in subjects suffering from insomnia. Australian Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis. 2000;21(2):96.
  5. Hermes D, Truebger D, Hakim SG, Sieg P. Tape recorded hypnosis in oral and maxillofacial surgery—basics and first clinical experience. Journal of Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery. 2005;33(2):123-9.
  6. Horine JE. Smoking diminution as a function of multiple or single sessions of group hypnosis coupled with a take-home audio cassette tape, or of group hypnosis alone. 1991.
  7. Ghoneim MM, Block RI, Sarasin DS, Davis CS, Marchman JN. Tape-recorded hypnosis instructions as adjuvant in the care of patients scheduled for third molar surgery. Anesthesia & Analgesia. 2000;90(1):64-8.
  8. Palsson OS, Turner MJ, Whitehead WE. Hypnosis home treatment for irritable bowel syndrome: a pilot study. International Journal of Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis. 2006;54(1):85-99.
  9. Rutten JMTM, Vlieger AM, Frankenhuis C, George EK, Groeneweg M, Norbruis OF, et al. Gut-directed hypnotherapy in children with irritable bowel syndrome or functional abdominal pain (syndrome): A randomized controlled trial on self exercises at home using CD versus individual therapy by qualified therapists. BMC Pediatrics. 2014;14 (1) (no pagination)(140).
  10. Rutten JMTM, Vlieger AM, Frankenhuis C, George EK, Groeneweg M, Norbruis OF, et al. Home-based hypnotherapy self-exercises vs individual hypnotherapy with a therapist for treatment of pediatric irritable bowel syndrome, functional abdominal pain, or functional abdominal pain syndrome a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Pediatrics. 2017;171(5):470-7.
  11. Van Barreveld M, Rutten J, Vlieger A, Frankenhuis C, George E, Groeneweg M, et al. Cost-effectiveness and cost-utility of home-based hypnotherapy using compact disc versus individual hypnotherapy by a therapist for pediatric irritable bowel syndrome and functional abdominal pain (syndrome). Value in Health. 2015;18 (7):A628.
  12. Forbes A, MacAuley S, Chiotakakou-Faliakou E. Hypnotherapy and therapeutic audiotape: effective in previously unsuccessfully treated irritable bowel syndrome? International Journal of Colorectal Disease. 2000;15(5-6):328-34.