People with IBS’s opinions and attitudes towards hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy has a proven track record as a treatment for IBS.(1 )This is so well established that the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the arbiter of best practice in the UK’s health system, include it within their guidelines as a possible treatment option. Despite this it seems that few people with IBS use the treatment and we wondered why?

Over the last two years I have been interviewing people with IBS about their attitude to hypnotherapy.(2) Interviews took about 30-45 minutes each. I then transcribed them and conducted what’s known as a thematic analysis.(3) Specifically, I spoke with 17 UK based adults (15 female) who were living with IBS and had never been to a hypnotherapist for it.

I learnt that most participants had some conceptualisation of hypnotherapy as a general therapeutic tool, although several had never heard of it in relation to IBS until they encountered the study. Many made joking references to the entertainment side of hypnosis, this did not appear to prohibit it’s use as there was an understanding that they were two different things.

However, how hypnotherapy, a psychological therapy, actually helped with IBS, a physical condition, was difficult for many to conceive. This is not surprising as the scientific world is also still unclear on this point.(4) Various theories exist including reduction in perception of sensation, steadying gut transit and breaking the stress cycle associated with IBS, however currently evidence is insufficient to provide a conclusive model.

All participants were interested in the idea of hypnotherapy for their IBS, some cautiously, some enthusiastically. Several liked the idea of a therapy in which nothing went into their bodies, and thus was unlikely to upset their IBS, an experience many participants had from previous treatments. However, a number of barriers to hypnotherapy were apparent including, cost, time, travel and fear of being vulnerable. Many of which would be offset by hypnotherapy via video call (like skype), which is a possibility.(5)

A fairly consistent image of their preferred hypnotherapist emerged. This was a person, gender preference was not strongly pronounced, with a strong educational background, good interpersonal skills, lots of experience and dressed in a relaxed but smart way.

The author – Matt Krouwel is a post graduate researcher into hypnotherapy for IBS at the University of Birmingham (UK)

People with IBS’s opinions and attitudes towards hypnotherapy -references

1. Ford AC, Lacy BE, Harris LA, Quigley EMM, Moayyedi P. Effect of Antidepressants and Psychological Therapies in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Am J Gastroenterol. 2019;114(1): 21-39.
2. Krouwel M, Jolly K, Greenfield S. How do people with refractory irritable bowel syndrome perceive Hypnotherapy?: qualitative study. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2019;45(August 2019): 65-70.
3. Braun V, Clarke V. Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative research in psychology. 2006;3(2): 77-101.
4. Tan G, Hammond DC, Joseph G. Hypnosis and irritable bowel syndrome: a review of efficacy and mechanism of action. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. 2005;47(3): 161-178.
5. Hasan SS, Pearson JS, Whorwell PJ. Skype hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome : Effectiveness and Comparison with Face-to-Face Treatment. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2019.