Hypnotherapy research – 2019’s most important studies


Happy New year! As the old year comes to an end and we welcome in the new so it’s time to review the hypnotherapy research of 2019. I went on to google scholar, put in ‘hypnotherapy’ limited the search to 2019, title only and excluded citations only and patents and pulled up 52 articles, and did the same for ‘hypnosis’ producing 132 articles. From these I’ve pulled out some of the most important for the clinical hypnotherapist, including what may be the single biggest, and best run, clinical trial of hypnotherapy.

Hypnotherapy research 2019 – Anxiety

Although the year saw several small scale trials the big event for hypnotherapy and anxiety was a systematic review and meta-analysis carried out by Valentine, Milling, Clark, & Moriarty combined the results of 17 trials into hypnotherapy for anxiety and found that hypnotherapy had a statistically significant effect over control measures. Further they identified that hypnotherapy had greater effect when combined with other psychological approaches. These findings provide good ongoing evidence for the effectiveness of hypnotherapy as a treatment option for anxiety.

Hypnotherapy research – Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

The biggest event of the year was the publication of the long awaited IMAGINE study findings. The IMAGINE study, with 345 participants is possibly the largest single hypnotherapy trial ever run. It compared gut directed hypnotherapy (GDH), both one-to-one and in groups, to a comparator intervention (educational supportive therapy). Hypnotherapy was found to be more effective than the comparator. Both 1-2-1 and group were about equally effective. This study not only adds weight to the ever-increasing body of evidence that hypnotherapy is effective for IBS but strongly indicates that group work may be a valid option for financially conscious health care providers considering providing a GDH service but put off by the cost.

In another landmark study Hasan, Pearson, Morris & Whorwell showed that GDH treatments can be delivered via Skype, although the treatment was less effective than in-person. Some of the same team showed improvements in the condition of children and adolescence with IBS in an uncontrolled trial (Hasan, Cruickshanks, Whorwell, & Vasant).

In addition, Krouwel, Jolly and Greenfield examined the barriers to the use of hypnotherapy by people with IBS providing important insights, which we explored earlier this year.

Hypnotherapy research 2019 – Pain

Although a number of individual studies were carried out the big news for 2019 was Thompson, Terhune, Oram et a’sl a systematic review and meta-analysis of previous trials into hypnotherapy for pain. In total they identified 85 studies covering 3632 participants. Overall, they found that hypnotherapy was beneficial to those with medium and high hypnotisability but of little value to those with low hypnotisability.

Hypnotherapy research – Pre-operative & operative

New ground was broken this year with successful work relating to the insertion of cannulas, where hypnosis was used to ease the experience for patients (Fusco, Bernard, Roelants et al).

Santosa, Sutanto, & Septiawan, investigated the effects of hypnotherapy upon anxiety, breathlessness and the cough response in relation to bronchoscopy (the insertion of a scope into the trachea and bronchi). The intervention group showed a significant decrease in anxiety and non-significant improvements in pain and cough response.


Hypnotherapy research – Smoking cessation

The highly prestigious Cochrane foundation updated a previous meta-analysis of 14 studies with 1926 participants in total. Hypnotherapy was found to be comparable to other methods (comparators) and on a subset of participants it was found to bring added benefit to other treatments.


Hypnotherapy research 2019 – Urinary incontinence

Komesu ran a trial of 152 women with urinary incontinence and split them into two, one group on medication and one with a hypnotherapy intervention. Although medication performed better at two months after treatment, no difference was found between the effectiveness of the approaches at 6 and 12 months, meaning that by the current state of the evidence hypnotherapy was comparable to medication at medium and long term, however medication was more effective in the short term. This suggests that there may be a place for hypnotherapy as an adjunct to urinary incontinence medication or for withdrawal from medication


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

Hypnotherapy research - References

Barnes, J., McRobbie, H., Dong, C. Y., Walker, N., & Hartmann‐Boyce, J. (2019). Hypnotherapy for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (6).

Flik, C. E., Laan, W., Zuithoff, N. P., van Rood, Y. R., Smout, A. J., Weusten, B. L., … & de Wit, N. J. (2019). Efficacy of individual and group hypnotherapy in irritable bowel syndrome (IMAGINE): a multicentre randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 4(1), 20-31.

Fusco, N., Bernard, F., Roelants, F., Watremez, C., Musellec, H., Laviolle, B., … & Branchu, P. (2019). Hypnosis and communication reduce pain and anxiety in peripheral intravenous cannulation: Effect of Language and Confusion on Pain During Peripheral Intravenous Catheterization (KTHYPE), a multicentre randomised trial. British Journal of Anaesthesia.

Hasan, S. S., Cruickshanks, P., Whorwell, P. J., & Vasant, D. H. (2019). OWE-09 Outcomes of gut-focused hypnotherapy in school children and adolescents with severe refractory Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

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.

Komesu, Y. M., Schrader, R. M., Rogers, R. G., Sapien, R. E., Mayer, A. R., & Ketai, L. H. (2019). Hypnotherapy or Medications: A Randomized Non-Inferiority Trial in Urgency Urinary Incontinent Women. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology.

Krouwel, M., Jolly, K., & Greenfield, S. (2019). How do people with refractory irritable bowel syndrome perceive hypnotherapy?: Qualitative study. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 45, 65-70.

Sadat Madani, S. A., & Tavallaii Zavareh, A. (2019). The Effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Hypnotherapy in Reducing Symptoms and Treatment of Anxiety. Health Research Journal, 4(1), 16-22.

Santosa, T. B., Sutanto, Y. S., & Septiawan, D. (2019). Hypnotherapy Effectiveness in Bronchoscopy to Control Anxiety, Breathlessness and Cough. Jurnal Respirologi Indonesia, 39(1), 21-30.

Thompson, T., Terhune, D. B., Oram, C., Sharangparni, J., Rouf, R., Solmi, M., … & Stubbs, B. (2019). The effectiveness of hypnosis for pain relief: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 85 controlled experimental trials. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.

Valentine, K. E., Milling, L. S., Clark, L. J., & Moriarty, C. L. (2019). The Efficacy of Hypnosis as a Treatment for Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 67(3), 336-363.