Hypnotherapy for Depression: Meta-Analysis of Previous Research

According to a study done by Pilkington, Kirkwood, Rampes & Richardson (2005), mental health disorders compel individuals to search for help other than, or in addition to, prescription medication. Rost (2008) concluded that in the future depression would disable more individuals than any other single mental health problem. Barnes, Bloom & Nahin (2007) stated that nearly a million people in the United States used complementary and alternative methods to combat the effects of depression each year.

The existing body of research into the use of hypnotherapy to alleviate the symptoms of depressive disorder was found to be limited. Miaozun Shih, of Nanhua University, Chiaya, Taiwan, Yuan-Han Yang, of Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital, Kaohsiung, Taiwan and Malcolm Koo, of Nanhua University, Chiaya, Taiwan compiled a group of 6 studies from among those that investigated the efficacy of treating depression with hypnosis.

The purpose of the meta-analysis was to determine which symptoms of depression could benefit from hypnotherapy. Thirty-two symptoms were identified, however, there was no definite number of studies to be included. The method of compilation was to scan 6 databases using a set of keywords to find relevant studies. Those 5 keywords were hypnosis, hypnotherapy, mood disorder, depression and dysthmia. The electronic databases they searched were the Cochrane Depression, Anxiety and Neurosis Review Group (CCDAN), Cochrane Library, PubMed, PsiTri, PsychLit and Embase.  Inclusion was limited to studies that utilized hypnotic intervention in an attempt to alleviate depressive symptoms, used a control group that received no treatment or standard treatment only and evaluated depressive status of the subjects with a standardized instrument, for example, the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Two independent researchers performed the data extraction and evaluated it for inclusion or exclusion according to the standards set forth.

Publication in the English language was not a criterion and of the 6 acceptable studies, 4 were in English, 1 in Chinese and one in Japanese. Standard acceptable methods of statistical compilation were used in comparing the information from all 6 studies. The concensus was that depressed patients benefited more from hypnotherapy than from either standard treatment or placebo.

Suggestions for future research are to explore the effects of hypnosis on depressed individuals in relation to specific symptomatology and severity of the depression. This meta-analysis shows that hypnotherapy for depression does have a beneficial effect. However, only additional controlled studies will reveal to what degree and in conjunction with what prescription medication and/or other therapies.


Barnes, P. M., Bloom, B., & Nahin, R. (2007). Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults and children: United States. CDC National Health Statistics Report #12. Retrieved January 21, 2009, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/ nhsr012.pdf

Pilkington, K., Kirkwood, G., Rampes, H., & Richardson, J. (2005). Yoga for depression: The research evidence. Journal of Affective Disorders, 89, 13-24.

Rost, K. (2008). Disability from depression: The public health challenge to primary care. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 20, 1-5.

Shih, M., Yang, Y., & Koo, M. (2009). A meta-analysis of hypnosis in the treatment of depressive symptoms: A brief communication. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 57(4), 431-442.


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