Can Hypnosis Really Help with Depression and How Does it Work?

by Erika Slater

Sad and depressed young woman holding a pillow sitting on a bed

In this article you’ll discover:

  1. The different forms of depression and common symptoms impacting those who suffer with it.
  2. Common treatments used to help with the symptoms covering medications and traditional therapies including the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
  3. Use of hypnosis as an alternative or supplemental treatment to answer the question can hypnosis help with depression.
  4. Further reading and hypnosis resources around depression covering the treatments, research, and information with this mental health disorder.

Depression is a recognized mental health disorder affecting millions of people on a daily basis.

It can happen as a secondary diagnosis of another issue such as Schizophrenia or be the primary diagnosis. We’ll discuss different types in this article.

Unfortunately for many, it can affect them for years, and even their entire lives. Depression comes in various types, so, finding the actual cause and proper form of treatment for each person may vary. Getting the right diagnosis and treatment for depression can take a while.

In this article I’ll focus on the current thinking around questions such as can hypnosis help for treating depression? Can it help alleviate the symptoms or the causes? Hypnosis is being used to treat a variety of other mental health issues so, can hypnosis cure depression?

Cure” is a strong word and avoided by most of the medical world when it comes to mental health. Serious mental health diagnosis such as schizophrenia and bi-polar have treatments but not cures. So, for some types of depression we’re not talking about cure but that doesn’t mean the impact on a personal life can’t be helped.

Let’s begin by covering some different forms of depression…



Grieving sad and crying friends embracing each otherThe type of depression most people are familiar with is ‘Major Depression’ also known as Major Depressive Disorder, clinical depression or MDD.

This is the most serious primary type of depression, in terms of number of symptoms and severity of them, but there are significant individual differences in the impact on a person as the length and frequency of the bouts of depression. People suffering have trouble identifying the cause but have low-esteem, low mood and loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities.

Genetics, biological and possibly environmental causes can bring the onset of this illness. However, there’s no lab test to identify major depression.

Its identified by the completion of an evaluation and examination by a qualified professional. During this review physical conditions that could contribute to depression are ruled out.

While many people consider suicide as being one of the outcomes of depression the fact is you don’t need to feel suicidal to have major depression, and you don’t need to have a history of hospitalizations either, although both of these factors are present in some people with major depression.

Persistent Depressive Disorder or Dysthymia or dysthymic disorder is often times mistaken for a major depression but when the duration isn’t consistent or long, it’s easier to discern. It’s a low to moderate level of depression that persists for at least two years, and often longer. While the symptoms are not as severe as a major depression, they’re more enduring and resistant to treatment. For more information about these types of depression see the link in the resources section to the Mayo Clinic article covering Persistent Depressive Disorder.

Bi-Polar Disorder, also known as ‘manic depressive’ is one of the more difficult types of mood disorders to treat. This type of depression includes both high and low mood swings, as well as a variety of other significant symptoms not present in other depressions.

Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder both can contain symptoms of depression. It’s medically accepted now through studies that close to 50% of folks with schizophrenia are not aware they have an illness, and this poses a challenge for those trying to help get treatment for these people. However, that doesn’t mean those with poor insight don’t suffer with depression with their illness.

Yes, depression can be complicated in mental illness.

Situational depression is one of the most common types of depression affecting the majority of the North America population throughout the course of their lives. At some point individuals are most likely to experience this kind of depression. This can range from a spell of sadness, which we’re all subjected to after a loss of something dear to us, to a feeling of hopelessness that persists beyond the event and “normal” acceptable grieving period. A loss of a parent, sibling, or close friend can invoke sustained situational depression.

This category of mood disorders describes depression that occurs in response to a major life stress or crisis. It is sometimes referred to as ‘Adjustment Disorder’. In this type of depression, an individual may experience a sudden loss or change in their life which leads them to become stressed, sad, and depressed, potentially leading them to feel hopeless and helpless.

There’s a wide range of symptoms associated with depression and used by people in describing how they feel. The include some of the following:

  1. A general feeling of hopelessness, numbness and helplessness. The joy of life evaporates and a feeling of sadness prevails causing each day to seem dark and overwhelming.
  2. Getting out of bed and starting the day takes an immense amount of effort. Sleep problems often accompany depression and a feeling of exhaustion even on waking.
  3. Lack of interest in doing anything that involves fun or interacting with people. Isolation and food can become a focus and cause weight gain and/or slipping into unhealthy eating habits. On the other end of spectrum can be a loss of appetite.
  4. Emotional triggers can be frequent and seemingly uncontrollable with frequent crying bouts. A feeling of “falling apart” and spiraling down towards a bottomless pit.

Any of these symptoms justify a discussion with your primary physician to determine a treatment plan moving forward.



Depressed young woman looking at pillDrugs prescribed by a doctor are usually first line of defense for those suffering with depression. Anti-depressants and sleep medication can help with the symptoms and for many people this is enough to help them out of situational depression.

For those with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and bi-polar, and when the depression has a biological or environmental cause then as likely these people will already be on medication, and the choice of additional medication to combat depression should be undertaken by the attending psychiatrist.

As noted prescribed drugs can help with the symptoms, but if its required to get at and heal the underlying causes then beyond medication there are additional treatments covering counseling, psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and hypnosis.

Counseling and psychotherapy include traditional talk therapies where the patient discusses their feelings with the therapist to work through solutions and positive thoughts along with positive affirmations and using other techniques.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be effective because it does three important things for clients or patients using it. First it helps teach individuals to assume a sense of self-empowerment – that is assuming responsibility for thinking the thoughts that lead to the feelings they’re experiencing. CBT asserts that thoughts lead to feelings.

The second aspect of CBT is the emphasis it places on the client’s self-efficacy. The individual assumes all responsibility for not only what they think leading to what they feel, but also who and what they want to become. CBT teaches individuals they have the accountability to choose whatever they want to think and feel.

The third aspect of CBT is that it teaches individuals to live in the here and now. As they think so will they feel. So, it helps in changing their mindset.

If you’d like to read more about CBT then I’ve provided a link in the additional resource section to an article called “The Benefits and Criticisms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.”

A number of the treatments mentioned above can help with depression but as with many issues a combination can provide relief and stabilization. Hypnosis can be used to help augment other treatments such as medications, psychotherapy and CBT in treating depression. I want to spend rest of this article talking about hypnosis and when it can help with depression.



Hypnotherapist holding patient wrist in her office during sessionHypnosis in itself is not a therapy. Some hypnotists describe it more as a delivery system for treatment. Hypnosis can be considered then as various techniques to help put a patient into a relaxed and focused state. In this state it is possible to work directly with the client’s unconscious mind. Once in this state a skilled therapist can then perform the work to help a client.

Hypnosis is most likely to be effective with those suffering from dysthymia, situational depression and adjustment disorder as these are brought on by life changes and stressful times in an individual’s life. As these forms of depression don’t tend to be brought on by genetics or biological aspects of an individual then relief is more likely to be provided by therapies used while in hypnosis.

Mark Tyrell of Uncommon Knowledge discusses the use of hypnosis in depression in an article I’ve linked to in the resource section below entitled “Should Hypnosis Ever Be Used to Treat Depression?” Mark maintains “… if the therapy is focused on bringing up lots of painful memories, essentially giving their feelings of misery a ‘booster’, it’s no wonder depressed clients could suffer.”

Here Mark is not talking about hypnosis itself but the therapy used by the hypnotherapist when the patient is in hypnosis, which if focused on bringing up painful memories and reliving the past can be toxic to their depressed state. He says “hypnosis simply powers and magnifies whatever therapy is being given through it.” Tyrell adds, “When the aim of therapy was to find out what happened or ‘release suppressed memories‘, there was no way applying hypnosis could turn out well.” After all he says “…there’s no evidence that hypnosis can be used to ‘find out what happened’. And second, there’s no evidence that finding out the cause of a problem solves the problem anyway.

Tyrell argues hypnosis mirrors two primary trance-like states people with depression experience; catalepsy and an inward focus. Depressed people can exhibit emotional numbness or sit almost motionless for hours, and in addition appear withdrawn and disconnected from the outside world.

Tyrell concludes in his article, for those depressed people who are already experiencing the features of the trance state then hypnosis as a mechanism can resonate strongly. In the hands of a skilled hypnotherapist who can deliver “… positively orientated therapy enabling, constructive, and solution-focused outcomes, then hypnosis can magnify those benefits hugely.”

Some factors to consider before embarking on hypnosis. Hypnosis isn’t something “done to you.” It’s not a magic bullet for resolving issues but done in partnership with a willing, motivated, and open-minded subject. For something like situational depression, it will take multiple sessions and so you’ll need to stay with it to see results.

Check out the experience and qualifications of hypnotists you may be considering to help or better still ask for a referral from a medical practitioner. There are many hypnotists these days who specialize in medical hypnosis and they make themselves known to providers. Skills in hypnosis and client interactions vary regardless of background and training in hypnotherapy. Choose somebody you feel you can work with and trust. If you’d like to consider working directly with me then check out all my online and in-office Hypnosis Services here or for specific help then contact me here.

Use the resources below to get further background information and talk with your primary physician and/or treatment provider about your current condition before supplementing your current treatment plan.



There are many forms of depression, some categorized as serious mental illness such as major depression and bi-polar, and brought on and influenced by genetic, biological and environmental aspects. Other forms of depression are more situational and happen due to major life changes and stresses.

Depression caused by those suffering from dysthymia, situational depression and adjustment disorder can benefit from hypnosis. In these instances, hypnosis can be used to supplement other treatments such as medication, psychotherapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Where hypnosis is used to provide relief, the focus is on the present and future rather than attempting to understand the past and causes of depression which can lead to a more toxic state for the patient. Hypnosis used as a delivery system for therapies can mirror the current trance-like state the depression causes in a patient making the client feel more at ease during the sessions.

If you want to learn more about how hypnosis could help with your depression then you can check out this self-hypnosis program on depression which you can try the first module for free here >>>



Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia) – Mayo Clinic >>>

The Benefits and Criticisms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Erika Slater >>>

Summertime SAD – Summer Depression and What to Do About it! >>>

Five Ways to Treat Depression with Hypnotherapy – Diane Zimberoff >>>

Should Hypnosis Ever Be Used to Treat Depression? – Mark Tyrell >>>

Library of Self-Hypnosis Downloads Products >>>

Erika Slater CH
Free At Last Hypnosis

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Interested in making a significant change in your life and interested in learning more about what I do and how I do it? Discover my hypnotherapy services here or contact me here.

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