Where’s the Evidence Hypnotherapy Works?

Breaking the Rules

There was a time when I insisted on knowing there was evidence for a treatment before I would use it.

That was until hypnotherapy was recommended to me and for some reason I just took the plunge, without doing my usual thing of carefully weighing up the pros and the cons.

Since breaking my own rule, I have noticed there are in fact lots of things which clearly work but for which officially there is little or no evidence.


Take the time when my life was saved by emergency Recompression Treatment following a scuba diving incident where I suffered “the bends”. I went into one of those diving chambers.

Now this treatment clearly works. Before the treatment I was in poor shape, in pain and with weakened legs. When I came out I had recovered.

Yet according to the NHS there isn’t a strong evidence base supporting the treatment. Ummmm, the treatment is mainstream around the world. Thousands of divers have walked away from the treatment well and yet the NHS says there’s no strong evidence base.

Do you ever wonder what Evidence is?

The NHS says there’s no strong evidence base because “evidence” has a very narrow definition to the NHS. The NHS wants to see clinical trials – but who is going to be brave enough to divide divers into two camps – one that gets the treatment and one that doesn’t. Sorry – half of you get to be paralysed/die, just to prove something that is obvious through looking at thousands of real world cases.

Clinical trials are mega-expensive and also require standardized treatment for all participants. When I went to hypnotherapy I wanted the therapist to account for my particular needs and for the therapist to use the best techniques for me. I wouldn’t have been impressed if she’d just used a “one size fits all” approach. That’s why it would be difficult for hypnotherapy for anxiety to ever pass the NHS evidence test.

Which is a shame, because if we could look at other ways of measuring how good something is, as a country we might be able to help more people with their anxiety.

A Different Way?

AnxietyUK is a charity that is collecting evidence on the effectiveness of Hypnotherapy. This charity offers a number of treatment options for members seeking help for their Anxiety including hypnotherapy and acupuncture. They very simply collect data using standard measures of anxiety at the start of treatment and the end to help show how effective the treatment is. It’s a start.