What’s the difference between Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy?

Note: All content on this site is provided for informational and educational purposes only, and is not an alternative for qualified medical or mental health care. As Hypnotists, we are not qualified to diagnose or treat mental health disorders.

When researching hypnosis, you might find yourself encountering both the terms hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

Similarly, some people might refer to themselves as hypnotists, and others might refer to themselves as hypnotherapists. This can be confusing, and begs the question: is there a difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy?

Hypnosis is generally an unregulated industry, in most countries. As such, you can end up with a broader range of terms that might be used to describe the same thing – or the opposite, a single word that means different things to different people.

Let’s analyze the words themselves.

Hypnosis – hypnosis itself is most accurate described as a certain state. What that state is can be hard to describe, and has a bunch of different definitions. Some describe it as a trance, others as a state of focused attention. I not to get too bogged down in describing it, and instead define it as an altered state of consciousness. This state of consciousness can be utilized for many things – from the very popular stage hypnosis to therapeutic applications in a more psychological setting.

Therapy – very broadly, therapy can basically be thought of as healing. There are all sorts of things that can be healed, such as physiotherapists or massage therapists healing the physical body, or psychotherapist healing the psyche. As a standalone term, “therapist” often is thought of as a psychotherapist, and it is generally a regulated term – you can’t just call yourself a therapist if you don’t have the proper credentials and license.

When you combine hypnosis and therapy, you get hypnotherapy, and there the general understanding is that we’re using hypnosis to help create some sort of healing in your mind. However, even in the realm of hypnosis there are different types of approaches, from the better-known behavioral and cognitive solutions that address things like smoking, habits, and addictions; to ones that are more psychodynamic or regression focused and do things like childhood or past life regression.

Hypnotherapy Regulation by Country

There is a lot of overlap between any practice that aims to help people become a better version of themselves, whether that’s psychotherapy, coaching, or hypnosis. In general, only psychotherapists are allowed to diagnose or treat actual mental health disorders. This is why a hypnotist will often shy away from even using words like “depression”, “trauma”, or “anxiety”, as these are clinical terms that we are not qualified to apply to or describe your present set of circumstances. (as a client, you are free to use these terms, as there are no regulations about how you should act as a client)

The advice for most practitioners who practice hypnosis for therapeutic purposes in North America, is not to refer to ourselves as hypnotherapists, but only as hypnotists, unless we are licensed therapists. This can help avoid any confusion or misrepresentation around our licensure and qualifications. This is why I strive to always describe myself as a hypnotist. (There are still areas on the site that use the word “hypnotherapy” often because people searching for our services might use the terms interchangeably)

Meanwhile, other countries, like the United Kingdom, (where hypnosis seems to be more popular in general) are not as strict around these terms.A few countries do heavily regulated hypnosis, for example, Israel, where hypnosis is completely banned unless you are a licensed therapist.

Advice for finding a hypnotist

As you can see, the landscape around hypnosis, hypnotherapy, hypnotists, and hypnotherapists, and related terms can be quite confusing with a lot of grey area. Hopefully this article helps you make some sense of the different factors at play.

My main piece of practical advice I hope you take away from this is to have an open conversation with your potential hypnotist to understand their training and philosophical approach. It’s also important that you feel personally comfortable with them, similar to therapy, there is a lot of trust that is needed when you decide to work with a hypnotist, and it’s important you take your time to do the research to ensure you feel safe and at ease with them.

A good hypnotist will be confident but not pushy, as I always tell my clients, trust your gut about whether they are a good fit for you.

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