What is Hypnosis

Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy

What is Hypnosis?

Hypnosis is simply a state of increased focus of attention on one experience, whilst attention on the surroundings is decreased. We will all have experienced this in our everyday lives, for example when we are so engrossed in an activity (e.g. reading or watching a film) that we do not hear someone calling our name, or imagining ourselves relaxing on a beautiful sunny beach instead of focusing on the work in front of us! Hypnotherapy is a term that is often used to describe hypnosis used by a health professional to treat mental or physical health conditions or change habits. In gut directed hypnotherapy, the hypnosis is used to change symptoms in the gut e.g. in irritable bowel syndrome or the functional symptoms which may accompany coeliac disease or inflammatory bowel disease.

The brain-gut connection and gut directed hypnotherapy

We have all experienced ‘butterflies’ in our stomachs when we have felt nervous at some point in our lives. Other emotions such as anger, sadness or anxiety can also trigger gut symptoms as the brain and gut are closely connected. Signals are sent from the brain to the gut and from the gut to the brain via the nervous system and gut microbiome. This two-way communication is known as the gut-brain axis. Hypnosis has been shown to help treat anxiety or depression which may drive the symptoms and can also target the gut function itself. 

The National Institute for Clinical and Care Excellence (NICE) and the British Society of Gastroenterology guidelines for IBS have recommended that psychological interventions (including hypnotherapy) should be considered for people with IBS whose symptoms have not improved with medical management after 12 months (1, 2). Despite the fact that research has shown that courses of gut directed hypnotherapy can improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms and quality of life, only a few centres in the UK currently offer this on the NHS. Some studies have provided 12 week courses on an individual basis (3) but more recently, studies have shown that it can also work in fewer sessions (4-7), in a group setting (7-9) or via an online platform (10, 11). Often the patients who have been involved in these trials have struggled with their symptoms for a long time and previously not found dietary or medical management effective

Can anyone trial hypnosis?

It is suitable for most people but there are a few exceptions; people with severe depression, dementia or have a history of psychosis should not trial hypnosis.

Will I stay in control?

Yes! In fact hypnosis helps you to gain more control over your mind and body rather than less. You will also be able to remember the hypnosis experience and remain aware of where you are.

Does hypnosis work for everyone?

No, some people find hypnosis more effective than others. Generally, the more quickly and easily you are able to reach a state of relaxation, the more effective it will be. On this course, in order for every participant to have the best chance of success, each session includes plenty of time encouraging a deep sense of physical and mental relaxation.

How easy is hypnosis?

Some people find it easier to enter hypnosis than others, however practice between sessions will help. All hypnosis is considered to be self-hypnosis as you remain in control, so it is not necessary to always be guided by a therapist. You will therefore be encouraged to practise with a recording between sessions.

Find out about our Gut Directed Hypnotherapy Course


1. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Addendum to NICE guideline CG61, irritable bowel syndrome in adults: diagnosis and management of irritable bowel syndrome in primary care. 2008, updated 2017. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg61.

2. British Society of Gastroenterology guidelines on the management of irritable bowel syndrome. Gut. 2021; 70(7): 1214-1240:[Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33903147/]

3. Gonsalkorale WM, Houghton LA, Whorwell PJ. Hypnotherapy in irritable bowel syndrome: a large-scale audit of a clinical service with examination of factors influencing responsiveness. Am J Gastroenterol. 2002;97(4):954-61.

4. Palsson OS, van Tilburg M. Hypnosis and Guided Imagery Treatment for Gastrointestinal Disorders: Experience With Scripted Protocols Developed at the University of North Carolina. Am J Clin Hypn. 2015;58(1):5-2

5. Vasant DH, Whorwell PJ. Gut-focused hypnotherapy for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: Evidence-base, practical aspects, and the Manchester Protocol. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2019;31(8):e13573.

6. Hasan SS, Whorwell PJ, Miller V, Morris J, Vasant DH. Six versus twelve sessions of gut-focused hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized trial 2021 [updated 30 March 2021. 2021/03/01:[Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/33662389]

7. Lövdahl J, Törnblom H, Ringström G, Palsson OS, Simrén M. Randomised clinical trial: individual versus group hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2022;55(12):1501-11.

8. Gillan C. Review article: the effectiveness of group and self-help hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome and the implications for improving patients’ choice and access to treatment. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2021;54(11-12):1389-404

9. Gerson CD, Gerson J, Gerson MJ. Group hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome with long-term follow-up. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2013;61(1):38-54

10. Hasan SS and Vasant D. The emerging new reality of hypnosis teletherapy: A major new mode of delivery of hypnotherapy and clinical hypnosis training. Int J Clin Exp Hypn 2023; 71(2): 153-164.

11. .Hasan SS, Pearson JS, Morris J, Whorwell PJ. Skype hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome:Effectiveness and Comparison with Face-to-Face Treatment. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2019;67(1):69-80.


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