Hypnotherapy is not magic and it does not cause you to be unconscious, but it does recruit the therapeutic power of relaxation and belief to alter bowel function in people with IBS. It also affects sensations, feelings, thoughts and behaviours in a way that can help people feel better and more able to cope.

To find out more about hypnotherapy, what will happen and how to access therapists and much more, log in or join The IBS Network.  Then scroll down. 


Can Hypnotherapy help with IBS symptoms?

Research suggests that hypnotherapy can be effective for long-term improvement with the symptoms of IBS.   The study published in the journal ‘Gut’ and carried out at Withington Hospital Manchester showed improvement in 71% of patients who recorded their symptoms, quality of live and levels of anxiety and stress before and after treatment.   They also concluded that ‘the beneficial effects of hypnotherapy appear to last at least five years’ making it a ‘viable therapeutic option’ for treating IBS.

So how does hypnotherapy work?

Hypnotherapy utilises a very relaxed state of consciousness or ‘trance’ to communicate verbally with the client’s subconscious mind, utilising the client’s own imagination to achieve changes in perceptions, feelings, thoughts and behaviour. Contrary to popular myth, no-one can be hypnotised unless they want to, and the subject is in complete control throughout the process and able to wake up at any point.  A trained and licensed hypnotherapist will guide the client into a relaxed and peaceful, safe state of perception and then help the client use their own imagination to create solutions to whatever it is they want to deal with.   It can be very helpful to deal with all sorts of physical symptoms including reducing blood pressure and managing pain.  

What can I expect from a course of hypnotherapy for IBS?

There is no magic with hypnotherapy and it requires real motivation from the person to make the changes. It can take many sessions over a period of time to gain these improvements and so requires real commitment from the person.

Without that motivation and commitment, it will not be effective.

Again, a well-trained hypnotherapist, especially one with experience of working with IBS and related conditions, will always evaluate the desire and motivation for change before starting any programme with someone.The therapist will ensure that the person is fully briefed on what to expect, how it will work and how long it will take as well as the commitment required.


Bowel directed hypnotherapy, which has been developed for use with people with IBS, will encourage you to use the warmth of your hand resting on the abdomen to calm down areas of spasm and relieve pain and also to visualise your bowel as a river so that it can be  speeded up or slowed down according to whether you have constipation or diarrhoea.  

During the initial consultation the therapist will ask you about your illness and the major episodes in your life. Hypnosis will be explained and any worries about the treatment will be discussed. At the second and subsequent visits hypnosis will be induced by calming mental imagery, progressive muscular relaxation, deep breathing and a slow repetitive vocal cadence. You will enter an altered state of consciousness which is usually described as very pleasant and relaxing. During hypnosis, your attention will be focused on the therapist’s suggestions, which relax you and relieve discomfort. At the end of the session, the therapist will use suggestions to bring you out of a deep state of relaxation.  You will usually feel much better after hypnosis, relaxed and refreshed, just like after you have had a deep sleep.  Suggestions, made by the therapist may continue to influence the way you feel and behave for some time after the session and you may be given CDs to help with this process.    

A number of sessions are usually required to help with IBS.  Your Hypnotherapist should explain before you begin how long each session will last and how quickly you might expect to feel a benefit.

Your Questions

Will I be under the control of the hypnotherapist?

Not at all. Hypnotherapy is a kind of focused attention. You will not lose control of yourself. The therapist cannot make you do anything you do not want to do.

What if I cannot be hypnotised?

Nearly everyone can enter the hypnotic state. The depth of hypnosis is irrelevant to a successful outcome, it is usually the individual with a high motivation for change who achieves the best results.

Will I get stuck in hypnosis?

It is not possible to get stuck in hypnosis. As with sleep or daydreaming people emerge naturally from hypnosis, particularly if there is a need to do so.

Is it safe?

Yes, in the hands of a properly trained professional, hypnotherapy is quite safe.

What will it cost?

Hypnotherapy usually costs around £60 to £90 largely depending on your location and the length of the sessions.

Is it effective?

Bowel directed hypnotherapy can be remarkably effective for people with IBS. In February 2008, The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) published guidance for GPs and consultants, saying that there was good evidence that hypnotherapy was an effective treatment which could be recommended for IBS.   Dr Peter Whorwell from Manchester integrates hypnotherapy in his gastroenterology practice and reports an 80% success rate.

The crucial element is your attitude. Without determination to overcome your problems, hypnotherapy is not likely to be successful. Your motivation to change is the key to a successful outcome. Motivation means more than just wanting to be rid of your IBS, it means being determined to overcome the symptoms yourself. Therapists are merely catalysts, the attitude they require from their patients is “I will control my symptoms”.

How do I know that my hypnotherapist has been properly trained?

A person can feel very vulnerable in the hands of someone who does not use hypnotherapy in a responsible way, so it is important that the practitioner is properly trained. At the moment, there is no single body that regulates the hypnotherapy profession. There are a number of professional associations that practitioners can choose to belong to but a hypnotherapist is not required to do this by law, nor to have completed a specified course of training.  When choosing a Hypnotherapist you should feel at ease and that you can trust them.

For further information and a hypnotherapist near you, contact The Hypnotherapy Directory or The Complementary and Natural Health Care Council (CNHC).   For further information on Hypnotherapists with a psychotherapeutic approach, contact The British Society for Clinical and Academic Hypnosis

Can I apply self hypnotherapy using a tape?

Although hypnotherapy is usually conducted by one to one interaction with a hypnotherapist, there are now CD's/Downloads available to facilitate self hypnosis. Early indications suggest these can help some people with IBS and are not dangerous. Contact a Hypnotherapist in your area for further advice   www.hypnotherapists.org.uk/ 

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