If you’re wondering ‘what is the difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy‘ then you’re not alone. Many people who are looking to make positive changes to their lives stumble upon hypnotherapy but aren’t quite sure how it works.

In this article, I’ll explain the key differences between hypnosis and hypnotherapy, provide some insight into how the subconscious mind works, and hopefully give you a better understanding of how hypnotherapy can help you make the changes you desire.

What is the difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy?

Hypnosis is a trance state of deep relaxation. While in this hypnotic trance people experience increased suggestibility, concentration and imagination. This allows positive suggestions can be given to the subconscious mind in order to help change negative thought patterns and behaviours.

Hypnotherapy on the other hand combines hypnosis with taking therapy and is used to treat a wide variety of psychological and physical conditions. It is a form of psychotherapy that uses hypnosis as a primary tool to help people make positive changes in their lives.

The main difference between the two is that hypnotherapy is focused on helping you make specific changes in your life, whereas hypnosis is more about relaxation and managing stress.

What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a naturally occurring state of mind that we all experience every day, if you’ve ever been so engrossed in a book or movie that you forgot where you were then you’ve been in a hypnotic state.

During hypnosis, the conscious mind is relaxed and the subconscious mind becomes more open to suggestion. It’s a bit like daydreaming, where you’re still aware of your surroundings but your mind is free to wander.

Hypnosis is usually induced by a therapist using verbal repetition and mental images. Once you’re in a state of hypnosis, the therapist will use specific hypnotherapy techniques to help you change your thoughts and behaviours.

Is stage hypnosis the same as clinical hypnosis?

You may have seen stage hypnosis performed live or on TV , where people seem to be in a deep sleep and are controlled by the hypnotist. This is not true hypnosis, as the participants are usually willing volunteers who want to be entertained.

True hypnosis cannot be induced against someone’s will, as it requires them to be in a relaxed and receptive state of mind. It’s also important to note that during hypnosis people remain in control of their actions and can choose to come out of the trance at any time.

What happens during a hypnotherapy session?

This really does depend on the practitioner as there are a number of therapeutic approaches to cognitive hypnotherapy, including neuro-linguistic programming, cognitive behaviour therapy and solution-focused hypnotherapy. The latter is a form of conversational hypnosis that is focused on finding solutions. It is often used to help treat anxiety and depression because it doesn’t dwell on the problem.

The initial consultation

In your first session, you’ll have an initial consultation. This is where you would establish what you want to achieve from the sessions, which could be anything from smoking cessation, helping to lose weight or even overcoming OCD. Hypnotherapy also has high success rates for dealing with physical problems such as acute and chronic pain, and is often cited as a reliable source of pain relief for irritable bowel syndrome.

Talking therapy

At the start of each session comes the talking therapy part. This is where you’ll learn about how hypnosis works in relation to the brain, understand what’s going on with the conscious and unconscious mind in relation to your situation, and the hypnotic procedures you’ll experience during the session.


Next, you’ll be guided into a state of deep relaxation where you’ll experience a level of focused attention, and it’s at this point that hypnotic suggestion is used to help you achieve your goal.

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy works well because in the talking therapy session, you’ll have co-created what a happier, healthier version of yourself would look like. Through indirect suggestions, your brain is more likely to accept something you came up with yourself.

The session will last for around 60 minutes, at the end of which you’ll be given some time to come round and chat about how you found the experience. You may also want to discuss self-hypnosis techniques with your hypnotherapist. Some clients like this approach as they find the self-hypnosis part empowering and it can be a great way to complement the work done in sessions.

Will hypnotherapy work for me?

Hypnotherapy is a natural and drug-free way to help you make specific changes in your life. How successful the therapy really does differ from person to person. Some people naturally resist hypnotic induction, so they find it hard to enter the trance state where change can be made at a subconscious level. This means the conscious mind is still in charge, and those well-practised thought patterns resist the hypnotic suggestions.

What can hypnotherapy help with?

Hypnosis and hypnotherapy can be used to treat physical health conditions such as acute pain as well as to promote positive mental well-being.

Solution-focused hypnotherapy, a modern conversational hypnosis (or talking) therapy is well suited to stress-related issues such as anxiety, fear and phobias, anger, depression and confidence. It’s also positively received for habit breaking such as helping people to stop smoking, aiding weight loss and overcome alcohol and drug addiction.

Since I started to practice hypnotherapy, over 10 years ago now, the field has gradually become more accepted in the mainstream. Hypnosis and hypnotherapy are regarded less as parlour tricks performed by a stage hypnotist. It’s not uncommon to see references in academic research papers and guidance from Government think tanks.

The National Insitute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have compared CBT, hypnotherapy and psychological therapy as a treatment for refractory IBS and published guidance to the NHS suggesting hypnotherapy should be an option due to the success rate.

What is solution-focused hypnotherapy?

This type of therapeutic hypnosis has origins in Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). Milton Erickson, who is considered the father of modern hypnosis, developed a form of therapy called Ericksonian hypnosis in the 1950s. It was based on the idea that solutions to problems could be found by focusing on the positive aspects of a situation.

Erickson’s work was further developed by Steve de Shazer, who is credited with being the founder of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. De Shazer, along with his wife Insoo Kim Berg, developed the key principles and techniques of SFBT.

In the UK, the AfSFH (Association for Solution-Focused Hypnotherapy) was set up in 2009 to promote and develop the field. The association is made up of accredited hypnotherapists who have undergone specialist training in this type of therapy, myself included.

One of the reasons I decided to learn hypnotherapy with the AfSFH is the gentle and positive approach that doesn’t drag up repressed memories. Ericksonian hypnosis used hypnotic suggestions that had specific outcomes around positive reinforcement. This resonates with me and my experiences in overcoming my own problems.

How can I help?

If you’re reading this article and wondering how Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help you, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

I am a qualified and experienced hypnotherapist in London, and I am available to run hypnotherapy sessions online too. We can arrange an initial consultation over the phone or via Zoom if you prefer a face-to-face conversation.

If you have any questions or reservations, I am always happy to help just call 07966 464 005 or via this contact form