The difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy?

October 21 . 5-MINUTE READ



Did you know that there is a difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy? You’re not alone, most people think they are the same and in this post, I am going to tell you how different they really are.  

What’s the difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy? 

Hypnosis is the act of being in trance while hypnotherapy is what is said to you (therapy) while in the state of hypnosis. Two very different things, one is a state of mind and the other uses that state of mind to help you bring about change, fast! 

To say they are the same is like saying meditation and counseling are the same.  

Keep reading and I will explain further.  

Why are hypnosis and hypnotherapy thought of as the same thing I hear you askWell, its really just education.  

Most people associate hypnosis with stage hypnosis and what they have seen on TV and they believe that hypnotherapy is the same thing. But there are so many uses for hypnosis and so many styles of hypnotherapy – you’d be surprised! 

Let me tell you more.

What is hypnosis and how does it work? 

Hypnosis is the deeply relaxed state, or ‘trance’, that you are in when you become hypnotised, or hypnotically induced. The hypnotic state, hypnosis, is characterised by experiencing heightened imagination, focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness and you are more likely to respond to suggestions 

Milton Erickson, who was the premier hypnotism expert of the 20th century, stated that we hypnotise ourselves or get into a hypnotic state regularly on a daily basis. An example of this could be when we are daydreaming, reading a good book or watching an engaging movie. 

Hypnosis is an incredibly powerful state of mind or tool which can be used to make significant changes to the repetitive thought patterns and beliefs that restrict us.  

Stay with me, this gets interesting 

Our awareness of life, or how our minds perceive reality, consists of two key parts: the conscious mind and the unconscious or subconscious mind.  

The conscious mind is what you and I are aware of, it includes sensationsfeelings, perceptions and fantasies inside our current awareness. However, the conscious mind is only the tip of the iceberg, acting as the captain of the ship but only accounting for around 10% of our brain capacity.  

The other 90% lends itself to the subconscious or unconscious mind which acts as the engine room. It captures our habits, our memories, our trauma, our beliefs and what results in our daily, automatic thought processes. 

It can be a difficult process to change long-term thought processes and beliefs, especially when we can only consciously control 10% of the whole mind 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Here’s why. 

In hypnosis, the conscious part of our mind stays quiet, it pauses, meaning that we tune out the worries and doubts that restrict us consciously. Hence why we are highly suggestible and open to new ideas or thoughts during hypnosis. 

Instead, we can communicate directly with the subconscious; we can suggest a change to the part of the mind where the root of the problem stems from.  

How did hypnosis (and hypnotherapy) start?  

Hypnosis has been around for a long, long time. Concepts, practices, and beliefs linked to hypnosis date back to prehistoric times. Only in the latter 18th century when German physician Franz Mesmer started experimenting with hypnosis techniques to treat patients, that it started becoming used in practice.   

In Mesmer’s original study, he believed that hypnotism made use of an occult force, invisible animal energy that created mental and physical healing through the transferring of an ‘ethereal fluid’ between the ‘mesmerist’ and the subject. Mesmer termed this ‘animal magnetism’, which was practiced in medicine for around 75 years since its origin in 1779.    

Eventually, Mesmer’s original study became discredited. However, the term mesmerism, which he coined, began to interest medical practitioners and it now plays a huge part in what we now call hypnosis.   

It was English physician James Braid, who after spending time studying and understanding the nature of the phenomenon that eventually the term ‘hypnotism’, or ‘hypnosis’ was coined. 

Work on hypnosis began to develop further as it caused widespread scientific interest in the 1880s, resulting in French physician Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault and medical professor Hippolyte Bernheim hypothesising that hypnosis did not, in fact, involve physical forces or physiological processes.  

Now Here comes the good part.  

Instead, it was found that hypnosis was a mixture of psychologically mediated responses to suggestions, meaning that it is non-invasive practice which the brain responds naturally to. 

Over time, scientists were able to identify the therapeutic potential that hypnosis had in treating neurotic disorders. Developments in this eventually lead to new practices for the phenomenon and eventually, the term ‘hypnotherapy’, which uses hypnosis for therapeutic purposes, was coined. I will explore hypnotherapy in more detail later.  

What is mesmerism?  

Mesmerism, also known as animal magnetism, aims to impact our consciousness. 

As mentioned above, mesmerism was referred to as the transferring of energy between the mesmerist to a subject with the aims of inducing a trance state that can heal the subject of illness and emotional and physical problems.  

The term ‘mesmerize’ means capturing someone’s complete attention, to the point that they cannot think of anything else. Mesmerism aims to put a subject under hypnosis without even talking to them. 

Let me explain more.  

Why not give it a try, see if hypnosis is right for you, its FREE and you can cancel anytime no questions asked

How does mesmerism differ from hypnosis?   

Hypnosis and mesmerism are very similar, if not the same. The aim of both is to induce a trance state to change subconscious patterns and thought processes. However, how they induce that trance state differs from one another.  

Mesmer’s belief in animal magnetism meant that he induced the trance state by mesmerizing the subject, using non-verbal gestures. These gestures included hand movements and touching and techniques like the magnetic gaze and mesmeric passes (stroking). 

These techniques quickly build rapport and trust with the subject which helps induce change more effectively. This is because the conscious mind gets out of the way and becomes less judgemental.  

As mentioned, mesmerism was evolved by James Braid into what we now call hypnosis. However, hypnosis relies more on sound and words to induce a trance-state. 

Milton Erickson revolutionised hypnosis to what it is today and he was key to developing verbal techniques that induced a hypnotic state. He did this by using indirect suggestions that are linked to a style of hypnosis known today as Ericksonian hypnosis.   

This is my favorite part 

What is Ericksonian Hypnosis? 

Ericksonian hypnosis, also referred to as Ericksonian language patterns’ or ‘conversational hypnosis’, induces the hypnotic trance by using indirect suggestions. These suggestions are more subtle, soft and less intrusive.  

The purpose of this kind of suggestion is that it allows the subject to ‘connect the dots’ without having to directly tell the subject what to do and how to think.  

For example, rather than using direct suggestions and saying ‘in ten seconds you will close your eyes’, using Ericksonian hypnosis a practitioner may say ‘you may find it nice to close your eyes if you start to feel your eyelids getting heavier and heavier’. 

Using indirect suggestions and using a ‘soft’ tone when delivering suggestions gives the subject the ‘illusion of choice’ and allows them to put their own ‘spin’ on what it is the hypnotist tells them.  

The benefit of this is that it becomes a much more effective tool for getting people to respond and act to suggestions.  

How do I get into the state of hypnosis? 

There are several ways in which you can get yourself into a hypnotic trance by using what is called a ‘hypnotic induction’. This can either be done by yourself as a self-hypnosis technique or be done by a professional, such as a hypnotherapist 

If you are using hypnosis for the first time it may be more beneficial to allow a professional or someone you trust with experience to help and guide you. 

To get into a deep hypnotic state, it is worth noting that it is very important to limit the number of possible distractions. The key to this is being comfortable; whether that be comfortable in your environment so you can guarantee peace and quiet, by being sat or laid comfortably or by wearing comfortable clothes.   

What is a hypnotist? 

A hypnotist is someone that makes use of the hypnotic state, for either the benefit of their patients or as a form of entertainment. This is usually in the form of communicating through suggestions, either directly or indirectly.  

How can a hypnotist use hypnosis? 

The hypnotic state can be used by practitioners, street performers and professionals to make people change behaviour or make internal changes to thought processes.   

There are three ways in which a professional uses the hypnotic state, these include: 

1. Stage & street hypnosis  

This form of hypnosis has been around for centuries and focuses on providing entertainment for people in public and private environments.  

Street hypnosis is more impromptu and reactive to the person they are hypnotising and their behaviours. On the other hand, stage hypnosis is usually more planned out and is performed in front of a larger audience.  

2. Conversational hypnosis 

Here is a fascinating one. 

As previously mentioned, conversational hypnosis is closely linked to Ericksonian hypnosis. This is a more advanced use of hypnosis but it can be incredibly powerful if done correctly.  

Conversational hypnosis is exactly what it says on the tin – it uses hypnosis in conversation. The benefit of this is that it strengthens communication and gives people the power to manipulate situations or make changes to people on a whim.  

For conversational hypnosis to work, the subject must be in a state of focused attention and must be able to respond to suggestions.  

It can be used to give someone a suggestion that they may not have thought of, or suggest it in a way that makes someone feel like they have brought the idea up on their own.  

The different language used, as well as the atmosphere created, can have a significant impact on the success of the suggestion.  

This technique is similar to clinical hypnotherapy however it is much more subtle and does not have the same restrictions that a stage hypnotist and clinical hypnotherapist may have in terms of environments and processes – it is much more flexible and can be used on anyoneanywhere. 

It can be a very valuable asset if mastered. For example, it can be used in everyday communications to benefit one’s self, perhaps in negotiation or whilst giving a family member advice.  

3. Clinical hypnotherapy 

Clinical hypnotherapy is used for the benefit of people’s lives as it is used for the treatment and alleviation of both mental and physical problems. For example, clinical hypnotherapy can be used to help someone stop bad habits, such as smoking, or reduce mental health blockages, such as anxiety and depression.  

Clinical hypnotherapy, also known as hypnotherapy (hypnosis used for therapy), focuses on helping people transform their lives into becoming an ideal version of themselves.   

I will discuss more below about this below. 

What is hypnotherapy? 

Hypnotherapy is a specific technique that is used to help someone alleviate and solve mental and physical problems by making use of the power of hypnosis or the hypnotic state.  

To help: think of hypnosis as the tool itself, the state where change can take place, and hypnotherapy as the use of the tool, for example using words to initiate certain changes.  

Hypnotherapy is used by a range of different professions and practices. It is used by doctors and nurses, hypnotherapists, psychologists, counsellors, dentists, social workers, physicians, NLP trainers, family, and marital therapists and at its basic level, it is a tool to help patients solve problems 

Certain practitioners use hypnotherapy for specific outcomes, whether that be mental health, physical health, addiction, pain relief or trauma, and others that use hypnosis for a wide array of uses. Here are the uses:   

What can hypnotherapy be used for? 

Hypnotherapy can be used for a range of therapeutic purposes to help somebody positively. 

I’m sure you’ll love what’s next. 

1. Shifting behaviours 

Hypnotherapy can be used to help change unwanted habits and behaviours.  


To get rid of bad habits the hypnotherapist may make the subject think or feel a certain way about performing that habit, making them more aware of their actions and enticing change when it comes to repeating the habit. 

For example, hypnotherapists can help someone stop smoking by making them rethink and visualise negative tastes, smells or feelings towards taking a drag of a cigarette. 

This can also be used to help with obsessive eating disorders, nailbiting, addictions or general non-serving habits.  


Confidence is such a positive emotion that is adapted constantly throughout our daily lives. It can be the difference between success and failure. 

A hypnotherapist may increase confidence by making the subject visualise an ideal version of themselves, acting how they would prefer to act, in a certain environment. This process can increase self-belief which channels positive thoughts and feelings and results in desired actions. 

Ready for the best part?   

There are several ways in which hypnotherapy is used for self-improvement. For example in academic/sports performance, our self-image and self-esteem, in communication, decision making, memory recall, weight loss, relationships, career direction, and success.  

2. Relieving pain  

Our bodies and minds are undeniably interlinked. 

In relation to this, how we perceive physical sensations is linked directly with the way that the mind responds to the sensation. Therefore, by changing the thought patterns related to the pain, we can make a massive difference to how we perceive pain.  

For example, have you ever found that something can be less painful when our attention moves away from it?  

During hypnosis, we become relaxed and are more able to channel distracting thoughts to which hypnotherapists can utilise the power of suggestion to encourage you to ignore the pain.   

Hypnotherapy can be used to help ease chronic or acute pain and can also be used as a form of anesthesia for surgery.  

3. Mental health   

One of the most common ways hypnotherapy is used is to help with mental health problems.  

It can be used to get to the unconscious part of the mind where the cause of a mental health disorder or symptom may have stemmed from and address it.  

Regression style hypnotherapy can be used for this. The hypnotherapist may ask the subject to focus on a particularly traumatic and fearful event to locate where it stemmed from and then begin to reframe the negative thoughts and feelings caused by the event.  

This is a form of hypnotherapy that is effective at being able to diminish fears, doubt, trauma and phobias. All of which may result in mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, hopelessness, anger problems, stress and PTSD. 

To note, it cannot be used so effectively to cure people with psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions or schizophrenia. 

How does hypnotherapy work? 

As mentioned, hypnosis, or the trance state, is key to accessing the deepest part of our mind that controls our beliefs and everyday thought-processes. 

Hypnotherapists have mastered the art of using the hypnotic state to be able to pull out repressed memories and deeply buried emotions that are at the root of our daily mental challenges.  

They do this first through consultation, or ‘screening’. In this screening, the hypnotherapist will set expectations for the process and go about identifying the problem that the subject is having and finding out where it stemmed from. 

They’ll use this information to decide if there are certain induction techniques and hypnotherapy styles that would best lend itself to creating effective change.  

The subject will then go through a hypnotic induction, which involves the deepening of the trance state. Once they are in a deep enough trance, therapeutic suggestions will be used, which may be in the form of stories and metaphors or to create visualisations, to cement change to the subconscious. 

Finally, the hypnotherapist will end the session by slowly bringing the subject back to consciousness.  

Here is how they do it. 

What are the different types of hypnotherapy? 

It’s worth noting that hypnotherapy, even though it shares the same end goal of helping people, doesn’t encompass one style of therapy.  

In fact, there are a range of different therapeutic styles and techniques that can be used that lead to different results. I will discuss eight hypnotherapy techniques here.  

Will any of them best resonate with you?  

1. Behavioral hypnotherapy  

Regarded as one of the least intrusive forms of hypnotherapy, behavioral hypnotherapy is a popular technique that will usually be used first by hypnotherapists. 

The aim of behavioral hypnotherapy is to change a behaviour that the patient doesn’t like, and make them ‘stick to it’ for long-term change.  

This will usually start with a conversation about what the positive outcome or end result looks like and then the hypnotherapist will provide suggestions to help with changes in behaviour.  

2. Analytical hypnotherapy 

Analytical hypnotherapy is used to identify the ‘why’ behind why a client has a problem or is acting in a way that is not preferred, with the aim to get to the root cause of the problem.  

Knowing this, the therapist can help the client understand why they behave or feel the way they do and then using the power of knowledge to be able to change the behaviour.  

3. Cognitive hypnotherapy 

Does this relate to you? 

Contrary to behavioral hypnotherapy, which focuses on behaviours and habits, cognitive hypnotherapy focuses on the thought processes or beliefs which result in the undesired behaviour.  

Naturally, people can get stuck into certain ways of thinking which may not serve them positively. Using this form of hypnotherapy enables clients to update or change this way of thinking subconsciously, and therefore the repetitive, daily thought processes start to change. This kind of therapy is linked to mindfulness and meditative practices.   

4. Regression hypnotherapy 

This is a form of hypnotherapy that is effective at being able to diminish fears and phobias, however, it is an intrusive form of hypnotherapy as it taps into traumatic events and can cause upset for the subject. However, by doing this, the hypnotherapist can tackle and identify where the trauma stemmed from and create suggestions that make the client feel more at ease about it.  

5. Ericksonian hypnotherapy 

Ericksonian hypnotherapy focuses on storytelling, creating metaphors and using indirect suggestions that aim to resonate more with people, rather than using direct suggestions. The benefit of this is that it means that the mind can review the problem in new and different ways.  

This can be an effective form of hypnotherapy as it encompasses a range of different therapeutic approaches, however, it requires a lot of skill to do as it uses stories that are relatable to people’s specific problems.   

And now onto the main use… 

 6. Solution-focused hypnotherapy 

This form of hypnotherapy is on the basis of what the practice is used for. The purpose is that rather than using hypnotherapy to get rid of the problem, the focus switches towards using it to work towards a solution  

The benefit of this is that it is linked to the law of attraction, whereby if we are able to focus on things that are more positive we will be able to manifest that into our lives.   

7. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)  

Neuro-linguistic programming is a technique that encompasses a range of tools to help people overcome obstacles in life with the aim of achieving personal excellence. 

How does it do that I hear you ask? 

NLP is used in hypnotherapy to help develop and change the restrictive thought patterns, assumptions, associations or beliefs that stop us from achieving our goals and instead help us make room for positive growth and development.  

It is a technique used by a lot of hypnotherapists as it helps with understanding communication, both how to best communicate with ourselves and with others.  

 An NLP practitioner would explore the subjects attitude, language, physical and emotional states and their ability to build rapport. This is with the aim of improving their understating, motivations, learning and memory to help them accomplish their goals  

8. TimeLine Therapy™ (TLT) 

TimeLine Therapy is based on the idea that the unconscious mind retains memories in a linear pattern (similar to a timeline), acting like a mental photobook of our lives. 

This type of therapy is often used in conjunction with hypnotherapy and NLP and helps people let go of limiting beliefs and negative emotions that stem from previous experiences.  

This is done by removing any hurtful memories attached to an event or memory, focusing on what can be learnt from the event and then utilising these learnings as a resource for strength in the future. 

One of the main purposes it is used for is how it can help a subject clear all of the negative chains of emotion they have, rather than focusing on each event one by one. For example, it can remove all the regret from the past, rather than just one event that included that emotion. In essence, it helps people get to the root cause of their problems.  

Related questions 

Can a person be hypnotised without knowing it? 

We go into hypnosis several times throughout the day naturally, usually, it can be unintentional and random. For example, it happens when we go into shock when we get engrossed in a good film or find ourselves daydreaming.  

Conversational hypnosis is an example of hypnosis that practitioners use to induce people and subtly encourage them to do things without them knowing. However, the argument as to whether someone can be made to do something against their will remains a controversial one.  

What is the success rate of hypnotherapy? 

Early in 1970, Alfred A. Barrios, author of the book Hypnotherapy: A Reappraisal summarises a statistical analysis of different research papers and concludes that for any given issue, the success rate of hypnotherapy treatments was about 93%.  

This is a staggeringly big number that built confidence in hypnotherapists and patients during that period. With the advancement in technology and science-based treatment solutions, the success rate is only better and more positive now. 


Jodi Clarke

Jodi Clarke

CEO & Founder | Clinical Hypnotherapist | Weight Loss Specialist

Leading the charge is Jodi Clarke, the CEO and Founder of Awaecnan who is also a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist specialising in weight loss. Having studied at The Academy of Hypnotic Science, an Australian government accredited Clinical Hypnotherapy training academy, Jodi’s hypnotherapy skills are both effective and award-winning as she supports clients to achieve positive changes in their everyday lives.

To find out more Connect with Jodi on Facebook or Instagram

Did you learn something valuable today or have you got something helpful we can add to this post?
Click here to write to us and let us know