Hypnotherapy for Anxiety

Geraldine is an Anxiety UK-approved therapist, helping women with primary and secondary tokophobia and birth trauma.

Geraldine McGrath

Calm Path Hypnotherapy

What is hypnotherapy?

If you think that hypnotherapy involves watching a pointy-bearded stage hypnotist suggesting embarrassing behaviours, then let us debunk the myth for you. As David Spiegel, who is professor in medicine at Stanford University California, states: “hypnosis is the oldest western form of psychotherapy, but it’s been tarred with the brush of dangling watches and purple capes.” Through his studies, Professor Spiegel has shown that hypnotherapy is a useful tool which can help us to alter our thoughts and perceptions about a whole host of tricky issues that we may experience throughout life. In fact, it can assist us to exercise more control over our reactions and responses which lead to unhelpful habits, thoughts and emotions.

Is hypnotherapy safe?

Hypnotherapy is wholly natural and completely safe. This is because it utilises a natural state of consciousness called trance or the hypnotic state. During the course of a typical day we go in and out of trance when we get lost in a book, cook a meal or drive a long distance. In this state the outside world is far removed from our activity, and we are fully absorbed and narrowly focused on the task at hand. Hypnotherapy is excellent at inducing this state and also then offering positive suggestions to counteract any unhelpful thinking, beliefs or behaviours. 

You are fully in control during a trance and will never absorb suggestions which seem off. This is because the conscious mind comprises something called the critical faculty, which will instantly disregard any suggestions which you don’t agree with or that seem out of whack.

In fact hypnotherapy has been shown to positively alter activity in numerous regions of the brain. Spiegel has found that certain areas which control our perception of pain can be altered beneficially through hypnotherapy. This is why some women are able to give birth using hypnotherapy aka hypnobirthing, without pain medication.

How can hypnotherapy help with anxiety?

Hypnotherapy has been shown by scientific studies to reduce the function of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex – a section of the brain that is highly active when you are anxious. For people who suffer from panic disorder, phobias and PTSD this part of the brain appears to play a key role in heightening the response to a perceived threat, whether real or imagined. This function is overly active in those suffering from such anxiety disorders. Listening to a hypnotherapy recording or experiencing personalised sessions can provide much relief when you’re in a highly anxious state, as it demonstrates that the ability to relax lies within each and every one of us.

Hypnotherapy can also help you to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system. This is the rest and digest part of the nervous system and it is controlled by the vagus nerve, which is really a network of nerves and the longest and most complex in the body.  It regulates heart function, appetite and breathing which are all involuntary bodily functions. Toning the vagus nerve can lead to better physical health and psychological wellbeing. And of course this can be achieved via repeated experience of the relaxed state and positive suggestions achieved in hypnotic trance.


Is hypnotherapy suitable if you are pregnant or a new mum?

Yes! The only caveat is that if you suffer from an existing severe and enduring mental health condition then it is unlikely that this approach will be right for you. A discussion with your GP will clarify this. 

If this doesn’t apply to you then you can safely use hypnotherapy in pregnancy to relieve pain, help you to relax and to psychologically prepare you for labour. Hypnobirthing methods are also useful and will assist you in countering the effects of contractions and any anxiety you may be experiencing during labour.  

For new mums experiencing postnatal depression and anxiety, a first port of call should be a visit to your GP to discuss the severity of your symptoms. If you are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms and your GP is on board, then hypnotherapy is a natural and impactful therapy that can assist you a great deal in adapting to being a new parent. 

Your parenting journey is often filled with unforeseen stresses, strains and pressures yet is also mixed with moments of joy and snuggly baby bonding time. Nevertheless, it can be a time in which you experience heightened anxiety levels for the very first time. This can be very alarming and destabilising and therefore getting help from a hypnotherapist who is an expert in such matters will support you and your family going forwards. In fact I believe that it will provide you with a range of vital tools for navigating the stresses and strains of life.

How can you incorporate hypnotherapy into your day?

With the recent pandemic many hypnotherapists are conducting their work online therefore this is an extremely convenient way to receive sessions. You should be able to arrange a mutually convenient time with your hypnotherapist. This could be when your baby takes their morning or afternoon nap, or a time when perhaps your partner or own parents can look after your child for an hour.

Alternatively, you can purchase hypnotherapy recordings via streaming services. These are less likely to be tailored to your specific personal requirements, however, they can be an extremely useful aid when you are going through tough anxious times. A good time to listen is before you go to sleep, as your subconscious mind will observe the positive messages being suggested for hours after and during your nights rest. There is also no harm in listening to hypnotherapy recordings at any point in the day when you feel like you must need to.

How to find a hypnotherapy specialist

The NHS guidance is that to find an accredited practitioner of hypnotherapy you should visit the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) website. Currently the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), Federation of Holistic Therapists and the National Hypnotherapy Society are shown as accredited registers on the PSA website.

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