Skype hypnotherapy – Does online hypnotherapy work ?
In the last few years lots of hypnotherapist have gone online to offer treatments. This has been a controversial area. Some therapists and societies are resisting the move, citing the problems of dropped calls and broken connections. Equally, some prestigious establishments like the world-renowned centre of hypnotherapy research, the South Manchester Neurogastroenterology service, are starting to employ skype in their work (Pilcher 2016).
I resisted doing online therapy myself for many years. Eventually, an existing (in-person) client asked to carry on our work after she moved to another part of the country and I ventured online. I was soon convinced it had merits. But not without reservations. Since then I have conducted numerous skype sessions. Hypnotherapy by Skype has obvious benefits for people who are cut off in some way. Perhaps because they are housebound or live in a foreign country. I have experienced some great results … and some moderate ones. Ultimately I want to know does online hypnotherapy work ?
Does online hypnotherapy work ?
Until this year almost nothing has been published in academic journals on the effectiveness of hypnotherapy via video call. This of course means little, gravity existed long before Newton formally described it. What we did know is that successful hypnotherapy treatments have been conducted via Skype (Sidman 2015) which confirmed what I already knew, that hypnotherapy by Skype can work. What I want to really know is how good that therapy is?
Does online hypnotherapy work – insights from other therapies
When I first put this blog out in 2018 I had to look to other therapy modalities for possible guidance. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) was, and still is, the most well researched online therapy, but a lot of this research used specially designed online programmes, often designed to minimise the need for a therapist. With these too many variables have been altered for us to generalise. However, CBT has proven successful over video conferencing platforms (Bouchard et al 2004, Choi et al 2014) but current studies lack comparators to help us assess how well they work. Coming away from CBT we have randomised controlled trials of other online treatments working (Paxton 2007, Vincent & Lewycky 2009) all with positive outcomes. One possible medium for the effectiveness of therapy is therapeutic alliance. Evidence suggests that this can be established perfectly well via the internet (Cook & Doyle 2002, Hanley 2009). However, current evidence also suggests that on-line therapeutic alliance may not be as good a predictor of the efficacy of treatment as it is in in-person therapy (Knaevelsrud & Maercker 2006).
Does online hypnotherapy work – Hypnotherapy research
Coming to our aid is Professor Whorwell’s Team in Manchester (UK) with a recent publication (Hasan et al 2019). This compares patients treated for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) using the ‘Manchester method’ of gut directed hypnotherapy (GDH) delivered over skype compared with a group already treated in-person (Miller et al 2015). It is a small-scale study (20 subjects) and no randomisation was present, but it is by far the best currently available research. In addition to some minor problems with the technology (mostly intermittent audio) they found that Skype GDH worked, but not as well as in-person GDH.
Does online hypnotherapy work – conclusion
It seems that online therapy does work. But, not necessarily as well as in-person therapy. I would recommend that therapy by video calling is used only when in-person sessions are not practical. Practical reasons may include cost, time and issues of mobility. Skype sessions may be good for clients in remote areas, or who are disabled for whom such therapy may otherwise be impractical. There may even be an argument for clients in high cost areas (The US) using skype therapists in other, less expensive, areas, if therapy would otherwise be prohibitively expensive. Another possible time is when supporting an existing (in-person) therapeutic relationship who moves away or is out of the country working.
The author – Matt Krouwel is a hypnotherapist working in Birmingham (UK) he specialises in Anxiety, IBS and psychosexual issues like Erectile dysfunction and pornography addiction.
Bouchard, S., Paquin, B., Payeur, R., Allard, M., Rivard, V., Fournier, T., … & Lapierre, J. (2004). Delivering cognitive-behavior therapy for panic disorder with agoraphobia in videoconference. Telemedicine Journal and E-health, 10(1), 13-25.
Choi, N. G., Hegel, M. T., Marti, C. N., Marinucci, M. L., Sirrianni, L., & Bruce, M. L. (2014). Telehealth problem-solving therapy for depressed low-income homebound older adults. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 22(3), 263-271.
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Hasan, S. S., Pearson, J. S., Morris, J., & Whorwell, P. J. (2019). SKYPE HYPNOTHERAPY FOR IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME: Effectiveness and Comparison with Face-to-Face Treatment. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 67(1), 69-80.
Knaevelsrud, C., & Maercker, A. (2006). Does the quality of the working alliance predict treatment outcome in online psychotherapy for traumatized patients?. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 8(4).
Miller, V., Carruthers, H. R., Morris, J., Hasan, S. S., Archbold, S., & Whorwell, P. J. (2015). Hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome: an audit of one thousand adult patients. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 41(9), 844-855.
Paxton, S. J., McLean, S. A., Gollings, E. K., Faulkner, C., & Wertheim, E. H. (2007). Comparison of face‐to‐face and internet interventions for body image and eating problems in adult women: An RCT. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 40(8), 692-704.
Pilcher, H. (2016). Q&A: Peter Whorwell. Nature, 533(7603), S112-S113.
Sidman, J. (2015) Case Study: Interstitial Cystitis Patient (CC) Treated with STSH over Skype.
Vincent, N., & Lewycky, S. (2009). Logging on for better sleep: RCT of the effectiveness of online treatment for insomnia. Sleep, 32(6), 807-815.