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Hypnosis for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

It’s been referred to by many names over the years, such as Shell Shock, Battle Fatigue, Operational Exhaustion, Combat Stress Reaction, and now Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  As the name has expanded, so has the range of people and professions the medical community has recognized as being affected by this very normal response to traumatic/crisis events.

After World War I, the condition which was recognized as Shell Shock was considered something that was isolated to combat soldiers.  Certainly those in the military are at risk, and reportedly more so today after Iraq and Afghanistan than ever in our military’s history with some studies indicating up to 30% of returning veterans are susceptible.   The range of those who are affected by PTSD however reaches far beyond those in the military. 

Aside from soldiers, it’s more common today to hear about police officers being affected by PTSD, and after 9/11 its effect on other first responders was brought to the public’s attention as well.  Certainly due to the very nature of their job these professionals are especially susceptible; however PTSD is not isolated to those who wear a uniform.  Both victims and witnesses of violent acts may be stricken with PTSD, and it affects not only adults, but children as well.  In fact new findings are now linking bullying in children to PTSD.  Something else that isn’t commonly considered is that previous trauma in a person’s life may in fact make them more susceptible to “the straw that broke the came’s back” so to speak, or the trauma that becomes the identified cause of their PTSD diagnosis.  In other words, as was stated in a Hypnosis and PTSD Specialization and Certification lecture presented by the American Hypnosis Association, “It’s almost as if stress is cumulative.”

So one may ask what hypnotherapy has to offer for someone suffering from PTSD.  In answering this, first it’s important to realize that symptomatically speaking, many of the issues PTSD sufferers face, are things that hypnosis is widely known for being able help, and are things a hypnotherapist will commonly work with in a non-PTSD client.  For instance aside from those who are actually diagnosed with PTSD, a hypnotherapist may commonly see clients for insomnia, stress, low tolerance to frustration, fears, phobias, trouble with focus and concentration, “feeling stuck” in life, relationship issues, and a whole host of other feelings familiar to those with PTSD.   

Symptomatically addressed issues aside, by utilizing three empirically tested interventions, hypnotherapy can offer the tools to help achieve the goals the PTSD sufferer’s counselor has likely been trying to achieve all along.  Additionally hypnosis can be used to assist in reengaging in activities that have been avoided, or to vent out residual stress and fear. Another very beneficial asset is that hypnosis is extremely suited and known for is the ability to work with and facilitate relief from nightmares.

With all the aforementioned said, it is important to note that even though hypnotherapy has much to offer, it is not intended as a means for an individual to “self treat.”  PTSD can be very serious, and therefore the condition and continued treatment should always be monitored by a licensed physician or psychotherapist.  This includes hypnosis used to help achieve the goals they have set for you.  Therefore hypnotherapy sessions for PTSD require a referral, and release to allow us to keep your supervising physician, or psychotherapist updated as to your progress, and to allow us to receive input and direction as your doctor may see fit.  When approached in this manner, as a team effort, hypnotherapy has much to offer to help you return to and achieve a superior quality of life.

If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD and would like to speak with someone regarding hypnotherapy as an option, contact us online, or call the office at 469-225-9040.

William Carpenter holds a certification in Hypnosis and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from the American Hypnosis Association.


If you would like to learn more about hypnotherapy for PTSD, the American Hypnosis Association recommends the following articles:

"Hypnotherapy in the Treatment of Chronic Combat-Related PTSD Patients Suffering From Insomnia: A Randomized, Zolpidem-Controlled Clinical Trial"

Notes: This study evaluated the benefits of add-on hypnotherapy in patients with chronic PTSD who were suffering with chronic difficulties in initiating and maintaining sleep, night terrors, and nightmares. Thirty-two PTSD combat veteran patients treated by SSRI antidepressants and supportive psychotherapy were randomized to 2 groups: 15 patients in the first group received Zolpidem 10 mg nightly for 14 nights, and 17 patients in the hypnotherapy group were treated by symptom-oriented hypnotherapy, twice-a-week 1.5-hour sessions for 2 weeks. The hypnotherapy included age regression where participants imagined returning to earlier periods in which normal restorative sleep was present (for example, an exhausting day of games with friends during childhood). All patients completed the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale, Form C, Beck Depression Inventory, Impact of Event Scale, and Visual Subjective Sleep Quality Questionnaire before and after treatment.

Results: Those in the study given hypnotherapy had improvement in all sleep variables assessed: quality of sleep, total sleep time, number of awakenings during the night, ability to concentrate upon awakening and morning sleepiness. The hypnotherapy group had better quality of sleep, better concentration, and lower sleepinesss than the group that received Zolpidem (a prescription insomnia medication sold under brand names such as Ambien). The hypnotherapy group and the group given Zolpidem had equal levels of improvement for total sleep time and number of awakenings. (Abramowitz, Barak, Ben-Avi, & Knobler, 2008)

"Hypnotic Treatment of PTSD in Children Who Have Complicated Bereavement"

Notes: This paper reports on two cases where children were suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of the traumatic death of close relatives in ruralGuatemala. The normal grieving process had been inhibited due to the horrific nature of these deaths and the children's grief had become a pathological psychiatric disorder. Both children were only treated with a single session of hypnosis involving the Hypnotic Trauma Narrative (a protocol the authors developed specifically to help children deal with situations like this). There was a follow-up one week later and again after two months when the authors noted that the children's symptoms had cleared and they were now beginning to grieve in a normal fashion.

Results: Following the single session hypnosis, the mother reported significant improvements in her son’s skin with noticeable changes in itching, irritation, and swelling. The dermatologist was impressed with the child’s recent progress. According to the mother, at follow up, her daughter was feeling increasing relief from the abdominal discomfort. She was no longer debilitated by pain, which had narrowed her range of activities. Follow-up a month later was conducted by phone with the mother and she reported that both children had recovered completely from the debilitating somatization (that is, the production of recurrent and multiple medical symptoms with no discernible organic cause) features. The children were no longer demonstrating intrusive morbid ideations of the course of their father’s death and were no longer experiencing obsessive preoccupations over the degree of terror and agony their father must have endured during the course of the traumatic events that led up to his death. The mother indicated that at this juncture both children were also able to reminisce about happy times with their father. The mother at this follow-up also reported the restart of grief in both children and assured us that her family would offer comfort for their mourning. (Note—It was suspected that the traumatization/PTSD had been interfering with the children’s ability to complete normal grieving and move on, so this was a good sign.) (Iglesias & Iglesias, 2005)

"Hypnosis For Complex Trauma Survivors: Four Case Studies"

Notes: This report describes the use of hypnosis to help four Chinese woman who were suffering from complex trauma. Two were victims of sexual abuse when they were children, the third had been raped and the fourth had been repeatedly battered by her husband. The hypnotic treatment involved three steps: “stabilization, trauma processing, and integration.” Hypnosis was first used to help stabilize the victims. Then age regression techniques were used to help them to remember the traumatic events that led to their condition (and to begin to distance themselves from these memories). Finally, hypnosis was used to help them integrate and consolidate the gains they had made. When their treatment was finished they were all assessed by various self-reported and objective measurements. These all indicated that they experienced a significant reduction in their symptoms as a direct result of this hypnotic treatment. One key thing to note is that the researchers comment that adequate rapport and explanation about hypnosis must be provided before clients feel comfortable to use the tool, especially in survivors of childhood abuse who tend not to trust people easily.

Results: Data from self-reports, observation and objective measures indicate a significant reduction in the trauma symptoms of these four subjects after hypnosis treatment. (Poon, 2009)

"Indirect Ego-Strengthening in Treating PTSD in Immigrants from Central America"

Abstract:  As a result of civil war inEl Salvador andGuatemala, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled to theUSA during the 1980s. Many of these refugees experienced torture and other abuse, and current adaptation is complicated by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The scope of the problem is examined along with cultural factors in mental health treatment and the limitations of conventional exposure therapy. The authors describe two indirect, hypnotic ego-strengthening techniques that are useful in treating PTSD in this refugee population.

Conclusions:  In summary, indirect ego-strengthening techniques have proved eminently useful in treating PTSD in refugees, but have been used equally successfully with the anxiety and depression of other populations (Gafner, 1997; Gafner and Young, 1998). With this non-threatening approach, resistance is bypassed and as clients feel stronger they can tolerate more directive techniques. In many cases, indirect ego-strengthening techniques by themselves effect both reframing and affective relief. (Gafner & Benson, 2001)


Abramowitz, E. G., Barak, Y., Ben-Avi, I., & Knobler, H. Y. (2008). Hypnotherapy in the treatment of chronic combat-related PTSD patients suffering from insomnia: a randomized, zolpidem-controlled clinical trial. Intl. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 56(3), 270-280.

Gafner, G., & Benson, S. (2001). Indirect ego‐strengthening in treating PTSD in immigrants from Central America. Contemporary Hypnosis, 18(3), 135-144.

Iglesias, A., & Iglesias, A. (2005). Hypnotic treatment of PTSD in children who have complicated bereavement. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 48(2-3), 183-189.

Poon, M. W. L. (2009). Hypnosis for complex trauma survivors: Four case studies. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 51(3), 263-271.