What Hypnosis Can and Cannot Do and What It Can Help With…

by Erika Slater

Hypnosis word cloud

There are questions that crop up all the time from people who contact me seeking help for themselves or a loved one.

Two of the more frequent questions boil down to what hypnosis can and cannot do, and what it can help with?

Based on my nearly 14-years of experience seeing people for all types of issues and challenges they want to overcome, I’m going to do my best to answer this for you today, and provide you a ton of resources to check out for further information.

As a preface to my answers I want you to know a little about me and my practice, so you know where I’m coming from. First, I came to hypnosis in 2004 to help me overcome a stubborn and unhelpful personal habit and challenge in my life.

Secondly, I consider myself a highly logical person and have an analytical and inquisitive mind. So, anything shrouded in mysticism without evidence makes me skeptical and suspicious.

So, I question everything looking for the answer to how does this really work? I suspect this is also why you ended up on this page.

I limit my hypnosis practice to therapeutic help for people and don’t perform stage hypnosis or any form of entertainment using hypnosis. I’m a professional Certified Hypnotist and take my work seriously. Over the decades I’ve used hypnosis to help clients overcome major life challenges and change negative habits.

At the end of this article I’ll provide you links to further reading covering these questions so you can get a full perspective.



Woman in hypnosis sessionHypnosis in the hands of a skilled hypnotist, and a client who truly wants to make changes in their life, is a tool to help people overcome negative habits and achieve positive outcomes. Hypnosis achieves this by working with the unconscious (subconscious) mind.

A few words of explanation here on the two parts of your mind.

The unconscious and conscious mind are two sides of the same coin. Think of your conscious mind as the part of the brain you rely on to make decisions throughout your waking day. It’s the critical thinking aspect of your brain.

Think of your unconscious mind as that part of the brain that ensures your body continues to function without your conscious thought when asleep – such as breathing.

Your unconscious mind also creates, automates and engages your habits to help you get through the day without having to consciously think about how to do certain things

Now the conscious mind often taps into the unconscious mind when making its choices and decisions throughout the day. For the most part, this relationship between the two is healthy and positive for you, and protects you from harm.

But when we want to make changes in our life this relationship can get in the way as you’ll see later.

Hypnosis can help bypass the conscious critical thinking mind and change the unconscious mind habits its created for you over time. It does this by putting you into a state of relaxation such that it quietens the conscious mind to bypass its critical thinking protective role.

A hypnotist has various hypnosis methods available to achieve the necessary relaxation for this to be effective with a client. Once relaxation is induced the hypnotist works with the client to replace habits they want to change or overcome, or to trigger a different response to a thought or feeling they’re experiencing.

So, now you know some basics you can understand how we can determine what hypnosis can and cannot do.

For hypnosis to succeed it needs for a client to want to change, and it needs active participation of the client. At the end of the day nothing can change using hypnosis unless the client wants it, and the client changes.

Hypnosis is not magic. There’s no fairy dust in the hypnotist toolbox. Hypnosis will not succeed if a client is looking for a silver bullet and for the hypnotist to, metaphorically speaking, take out the client’s brain, scrub it clean of bad habits or thoughts, and put it back in.

People looking to have hypnosis be “done on them” by a hypnotist make poor candidates for hypnosis.

Science is still at the beginning of understanding the mind and what it can do. They even have a word for the study of it – Neuroscience. Hypnosis provides us a tool to impact our thoughts and our feelings and thereby our behaviors and outcomes.

Hypnosis allows us to focus on our thoughts and replace negative thoughts and habits with positive ones. It does this by quietening down our chatty conscious mind so it gets our “critical thinking” out of the way, and instead allows a hypnotist to talk directly to the unconscious mind. Hypnosis is a natural state of consciousness and is perfectly safe.

Hypnosis can’t make you or your personality change by itself. A hypnotist can’t make you rob a bank. It can’t make you quit smoking if you really don’t want to stop. It can’t alter your core values or principles or make you do anything you don’t want to do. By itself, it can’t make you do anything unethical or against your morals. You don’t fall asleep during a session but instead enter a relaxation zone, and in most instances, it’s not necessary to enter a deep state of trance to get the benefit. You’ll be aware of your surroundings and its noises at all times.

Most people remember everything that was said during a session, but occasionally there is some memory loss or difficulty in remembering exactly what was said. Whether the session is remembered completely or not doesn’t impact the benefit.

Currently, hypnosis is limited to working with the mind so some physical characteristics linked to triggers in the brain can be softened with therapeutic hypnosis. Stuttering and noise sensitivity are two examples. But hypnosis can’t repair nerve damage or cure terminal illnesses.

People with medical conditions should always consult with their primary care physician before embarking on a different form of intervention.

In the modern medical world hypnosis is now accepted as an aid to recovery after surgery or illness, and in specific instances can reduce dependency on medications. Professional hypnotists work on referrals from Doctors in the area of pain management and pharmaceutical dependency.



Neuroscience icon concept of left and right brainIf you’ve read through the previous section covering what hypnosis and can and cannot do then some of what is in this section will be obvious to you.

Because hypnosis deals with the unconscious mind and thereby anything do with our beliefs, habits, and thoughts then any physical characteristic triggered by our brain can be helped using hypnosis. But it can’t change your genes, so if you have brown eyes and black hair then you’ll need to go about that a different way!

A few of the categories below you’ll find a hypnotist will require a referral from a medical Doctor. In particular pain management sessions for somebody under medication is best supervised by a M.D.

When doing a search for a local hypnotist you’ll find some psychologists also are clinical hypnotherapists.

The benefit of this, particularly in U.S., is the patient’s insurance may cover the sessions. Most Certified Hypnotists in private practice don’t take insurance so you’ll pay for the cost of the session out of your own pocket.

Understand, as you read this list for what hypnosis can help with, it keeps expanding as neuro scientists discover more about the workings of the brain, and how it manifests itself in what were once considered personality and psychological imprints that couldn’t be changed.

What follows is by no means a definite list, but likely if you’re looking to see if it can help you then you’ll be able to match one of the categories to see if you fall in the current spectrum of issues where hypnosis has already been applied.

Click any of the links for more detail on how hypnosis can help…

Addiction Help Incl: alcohol, porn, gambling, gaming, etc.
Communication Skills Incl: shyness, assertiveness, social skills, etc.
Confidence and Self-Esteem Incl: self-compassion.
Depression Incl: college, postnatal, SAD, etc.
Emotional Eating Incl: sugar, weight loss, healthy eating, etc.
Exam Preparation Incl: high school and college testing.
Fitness and Health Incl: motivation to exercise, eating healthy, etc.
Grief and Loss Incl: pets, work, family, friends, etc.
Healthy Eating Incl: portion control, nutrition, planned meals, etc.
Interpersonal Skills Incl: contolling emotions, persuasiveness, etc.
Job Skills Incl: difficult people, focus, career, success, etc.
Memory Problems Incl: senior issues, memory techniques, illnesses.
Motivation and Inspiration Incl: failure, enthusiasm, thinking big, etc.
Nail Biting Incl: worry and chewing.
Noise and Sound Sensitivity Incl: misophonia, hyperacusis.
Pain Management Incl: arthritis, hip, knee, shingles, fibromyalgia, etc.
Panic Attacks Inc: PTSD, anxiety attacks, test taking, etc.
Parenting Skills Incl: motherhood, teenagers, guilt, single, etc.
Personal Development Incl: coaching, guidance, mindset, habits, etc.
Personal Finance Incl: money management, debt free, planning, etc.
Personal Fitness Incl: gym, motivation, muscle strength, etc.
Personal Skills Incl: anger management, communication, etc.
Phobias and Fears Incl: dental, agoraphobia, needles, being late, etc.
Pregnancy and Childbirth Incl: breastfeeding, insomnia, adjusting, etc.
Procrastination Incl: paralysis by analysis and self-sabotage.
Public Speaking Incl: question responding and controlling nerves.
Relationship Help Incl: intimacy, fun, creating spark, abuse.
Relaxation Techniques Incl: mindfulness, meditation, yoga, hypnosis, etc.
Sexual Problems Incl: impotence, porn, shyness, perfromance, etc.
Sleeping Problems Incl: insomnia, somnabulism, bed wetting, etc.
Smoking Cessation Incl: cannabis, all tobacco products.
Social Anxiety Incl: confident, nervous, small talk, dating, etc.
Sports Performance Incl: winning, nerves, rehearsal, confidence, etc.
Stage Performance Incl: stage fright and performance anxiety.
Stress and Anxiety Incl: coping, visualization, ego, imposter syndrome.
Stuttering Incl: stammering and speaking clearly.
Sugar Addiction Incl: emotional eating, weight loss, etc.
Thinking Skills Incl: concentration, creativity, solution focused, etc.
Tinnitus Incl: ringing, reducing volume and stress.
Weight Loss and Management Incl: healthy eating, sugar topics, and weight gain.



The limits of what hypnosis can help individuals overcome to get the outcomes they want is continually being updated. As more people look for alternatives to dangerous and addictive medications hypnosis and its study is helping to “move the needle” on its use. If you want to consider working directly with me through my online and in-office sessions then check out my Special Hypnosis Services Programs or if you’ve a specific need not covered by those then contact me here.

Hypnosis can be used to create a positive and healthy life and this contributes to living a longer and more fulfilling happy life.

Look for its use in the medical world to expand as scientists unravel more of the mysteries of how the mind operates, and particularly the relationship between our conscious and unconscious mind.

Let me know how you enjoyed this article.



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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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