"After a single session of self-hypnosis, half the people will stop smoking right away," says Spiegel, "and of those, half will not touch a cigarette for two years." Unfortunately, there's little evidence hypnosis can help people break other bad habits. Weight-loss studies haven't been impressive, and there's even less evidence of effectiveness in the treatment of drug addiction. "Drugs mess with the brain," says Spiegel, "making it hard to use hypnosis."
A series of studies has shown hypnosis to be an effective treatment for most of the physical symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well as the anxiety and depression that often accompany them. Most studies reported success rates of between 70 percent and 95 percent--impressive results for a condition that doesn't respond well to medical treatment.
Hypnosis has long been used to treat phobias, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and recent studies have shown it to be highly effective. But despite her successes, Terri Shifrin is the first to say hypnosis is not a cure. "I still have agoraphobia," she says. "I battle anxiety every day."
However, in the two years since she started hypnosis treatment, Shifrin has widened her comfort zone. Now she's working on her phobia of airplanes: She wants to return someday to that waterfall in Hawaii, the one she visualizes whenever she feels the panic begin to rise.
Finding a Good Hypnotherapist
A hypnotherapist may be a licensed psychologist or physician with years of training or a layperson who's taken a weekend certification class and hung out a shingle.
To be sure you're getting a reliable practitioner, ask for a referral from someone you trust, or look for a hypnotherapist who is also a licensed healthcare provider, such as a physician, registered nurse, psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker.
For a list of qualified hypnotherapists, contact these sources:
The Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Executive Office
Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology
221 Rivermoor Street
Boston, MA 02132
American Society of Clinical Hypnosis
140 N. Bloomingdale Rd.
Bloomingdale, IL 60108