Hypnotherapy, an application of hypnosis, serves as a therapeutic technique to create subconscious change in a person, manifesting as new responses, thoughts, attitudes, behaviours, or feelings. It's a two-part process involving the induction of a relaxed, suggestible state, followed by the use of therapeutic suggestions to prompt changes in behaviour or relieve symptoms.

Hypnotherapists employ hypnosis as a means to bypass the conscious mind, reaching into the subconscious, where deeply ingrained behaviours and beliefs reside. This process hinges on the heightened state of suggestibility and focused attention characteristic of the hypnotic state, allowing the hypnotherapist to suggest changes that can positively affect an individual's perceptions, behaviours, sensations, and self-image.

The hypnotic state is a deeply relaxed yet highly focused state of mind, likened to daydreaming or the feeling of "losing oneself" in a book or movie. This state makes the mind exceptionally open to positive suggestions and imagery.

Hypnotherapy has broad-ranging applications. Medical professionals use it to control physical discomfort, manage symptoms of diseases, and modify behaviours that exacerbate health problems. Mental health professionals use hypnotherapy to alleviate mental distress, manage behavioural problems, and treat various psychological disorders.

Among the most common uses of hypnotherapy are smoking cessation, weight loss, stress management, and anxiety reduction. Therapists also utilise hypnotherapy in the treatment of phobias, sleep disorders, grief and loss, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression.

Hypnotherapists typically conduct sessions in a calm and therapeutic environment, guiding individuals into a relaxed, focused state and addressing specific goals or issues. The hypnotherapist's gentle guidance can help the individual visualise themselves free of their problems, whether it be smoking cessation, weight loss, or the alleviation of anxiety.

A significant contributor to the field of hypnotherapy was Milton Erickson, an American psychiatrist who pioneered the concept of indirect hypnosis. He believed in the power of the unconscious mind and used techniques such as metaphor, confusion, and storytelling to facilitate change, rather than the direct suggestion methods used by traditional hypnotherapists.

Hypnotherapy, like any therapeutic approach, does not guarantee success and is not suitable for everyone. Individuals vary in their ability to enter the hypnotic state, and the effectiveness of hypnotherapy can depend on many factors, including the individual's readiness and willingness to change, their trust in the therapist, and their level of comfort during the sessions.

One controversy surrounding hypnotherapy relates to the retrieval of repressed or forgotten memories. Some hypnotherapists claim to uncover past trauma or abuse through hypnosis, but this practice is generally not supported within the psychological and psychiatric communities due to the risk of creating false memories.

An additional aspect of hypnotherapy involves self-hypnosis. Some hypnotherapists teach their clients self-hypnosis as a form of homework to reinforce the therapeutic work done in sessions. This technique equips individuals with the tools they need to calm themselves, reinforce positive beliefs, or carry out other beneficial changes.

It is important to note that hypnotherapists should be well-trained and accredited by professional bodies. Individuals seeking hypnotherapy should ensure that their chosen therapist is appropriately qualified and experienced.