The Different Types of Hypnosis and How They Work

Hypnosis is an effective tool that can improve our health and change our thoughts, emotions, and habits. But do you know the different types that exist?
The Different Types of Hypnosis and How They Work
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 18 May, 2023

Hypnosis is one of the most interesting and controversial techniques. This is mainly due to the fact that there’s a lack of knowledge on the subject. Indeed, when we think about hypnosis, we often imagine an individual losing control of themselves at the mercy of a third party. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, hypnosis is a safe and effective method, with a long history and various types of applications. In this article, we’re going to talk about the different types of hypnosis.

Hypnosis isn’t a single and homogeneous procedure. Different fields and schools have made their own proposals in this regard. And, despite the fact that more research is required, to date, hypnosis has proven to be useful not only for improving psychological but also physical well-being.

So, what hypnosis options are there and how do they vary? We’re going to explore.

man doing hypnosis
Hypnosis not only manages to produce changes in behavior or thought patterns, but it can also alter, for example, our perception of pain.

The definition of hypnosis

Hypnosis is a state of suggestion that allows the practitioner to influence an individual’s behavior and mental content. In this state, the activity of their cerebral cortex (the conscious part) is inhibited and access to the unconscious area related to the emotional brain or limbic system is facilitated.

As a matter of fact, this process occurs naturally in various everyday situations. For example, when you’re driving automatically or are totally immersed in a movie. Also, when you enter the state of flow while practicing your favorite artistic activity.

Hypnosis is the set of techniques that deliberately promote this state and use it to generate beneficial changes. In fact, hypnosis has been used for centuries in different cultures. That said, it wasn’t until the 18th century that it began to be rigorously studied and applied in the West. Since then, different psychologists and doctors have used it for therapeutic purposes.

The different types of hypnosis

There are multiple types of hypnosis. They have varying degrees of scientific validity. You might’ve heard of childhood regressions and other similar controversial procedures. But, we’re going to talk about those that, to a greater extent, have proven to be safe and effective, both due to their trajectories and results.

Traditional hypnosis

This is the most widespread and popular method. It’s used by many professionals in different fields. It consists of directive hypnosis based on suggestion. As such, it seeks to take the individual to a deep state of trance and influence their thoughts, attitudes, or behaviors through suggestion. This is done in an organized way and follows a series of protocols, but it has certain limitations.

With this kind of hypnosis, it’s important to evaluate the degree of suggestibility of the individual, since only some people are reactive to this state. Moreover, since the instructions are given quite directly, the process may not be well received by patients who don’t like such forcefulness.

Ericksonian hypnosis

Developed by psychologist Milton H. Erickson, this approach is characterized by being more natural, personalized, and focused on the present. It doesn’t seek a trance state, nor is it completely addressed to the individual.

On the contrary, it involves lighter states. Elements such as anecdotes, metaphors, and humor are also used to promote reflection in the individual and allow them to reach their own interpretations. This type of hypnosis is more appropriate for working with skeptical people or people with low suggestibility.

Cognitive-behavioral hypnosis

Despite the fact that hypnosis has traditionally been associated with personalities such as Freud or Charcot, this technique isn’t only used from a psychoanalytic perspective. In fact, many cognitive-behavioral psychologists use it as part of more comprehensive intervention programs.

In these cases, specific problems such as addictions, anxiety, or pain are usually treated. Work is carried out seeking states of physical relaxation. Combined with imagination, it allows the generation of a change in core beliefs.


This is a self-application kind of hypnosis. It aims to help the individual self-manage their health. In this case, they’re trained to induce the suggestion themselves, generally with the support of audio recordings for guidance.

Autohypnosis can be used as a part of a larger program that includes contact with a professional, or on its own.

Woman listening to hypnosis
Self-hypnosis is often used to address problems such as smoking, anxiety, or chronic pain.

Neuro-linguistic programming

Finally, it’s worth mentioning an approach that, while it’s not pure hypnosis, is closely related. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) was developed by Bandler and Grinder and is based on the fundamentals of Erickson’s proposal. But, in this case, language is used as a mediating element of change.

This perspective understands language as the basis of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Therefore, it’s seen as influencing how we feel and relate to others. Thus, by intervening in language, modifications can be achieved in our thoughts, feelings, and habits.

Despite the fact that thanks to NLP, improvements have been made in certain areas, it’s not backed by sufficient scientific support.

The benefits of different types of hypnosis

In short, the various kinds of hypnosis are extremely valid and useful tools for improving physical and emotional health and achieving various changes that the individual may need. Hypnosis is especially useful for working on aspects on which there’s conscious resistance or on which the origin isn’t clear.

However, hypnosis must be employed in a therapeutic context, by trained and accredited professionals. Moreover, it should ideally form a part of more complete interventions.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Mendoza, M. E. (2000). La hipnosis como adjunto en el tratamiento del hábito de fumar. Estudio de caso. Psicothema12(3), 330-338.
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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.