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Can Clinical Hypnotherapy Help Your Menopause Symptoms?

Updated: Jun 4

Last week I started experimenting with a new treatment method for my gut: hypnotherapy.

Hypnotherapy has a bad rap. We're all familiar with movies where someone completely loses control of their mind and body and does stupid or bad things under someone else's total influence.

It's not like that in real life. In fact, it's quite the opposite, it's more likely that you would fall asleep (although usually you don't), because it's a very relaxing practice. You never actually lose control of your faculties, and don't risk speaking things you don't remember later. How it works is that your brain becomes more open to suggestions when your body is in that very relaxed state. You can read more about it on WebMD, Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

It is an evidence-based clinical approach and has been used clinically since the 1950s. Search the medical journals databases like PubMed and NCBI and you will find loads of high-quality clinical trials indicating its efficacy at pretty much anything. Many medical societies recommend it explicitly as effective non-standard therapy.

"Clinical" hypnotherapy is targeted to a particular condition. In my case, IBS or digestive symptoms. Historically hypnotherapy has been used more in the realm of mental health, PTSD, and addictions, however, now it is being used for numerous physical conditions including reducing menopausal hot flushes and other symptoms (here, here, and here), improving sleep (here and here), reducing pain (here and here) and opioid misuse risk due to chronic pain, and obesity, among others. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be one of the best studied uses for clinical hypnotherapy. It has been found to be particularly effective in children.

Why isn't it offered by doctors, if it is an evidence-based treatment? Same reason doctors don't offer mental health therapy and complementary therapies. They don't have time, and may not be trained in those particular methods. Even not all mental health practitioners are trained in hypnotherapy. It takes special training. It is more than just guided meditation and relaxation. Although any healthcare provider can be trained in and offer hypnotherapy, in Canada anyone can receive and offer hypnotherapy. Still, clinical hypnotherapy has to be offered by a licensed health provider to be recognized for purposes of insurance reimbursement and medical expenses tax deduction.

How Is Hypnotherapy Done?

The secret with hypnotherapy is repetition. Just like medication. You don't just take it one day and expect to be better. You have to take it for several weeks and months to even start seeing a benefit. With clinical hypnotherapy, you can usually start seeing benefit within a few weeks, and can take up to a few months to complete therapy. Whereas with most medication you have to keep taking it to keep reaping benefits, the benefits of clinical hypnotherapy are longer-lasting, and you don't have to do it indefinitely. Some clinical trials for IBS for example demonstrated that participants maintained benefits from a course of treatment after 5 years.

Hypnotherapy is not generally recommended as a replacement for standard medical therapy, but as an adjunct to it. However, there are several examples where in clinical trials hypnotherapy was demonstrated to be a suitable replacement for, or even a better option than, standard medical therapy. In one of the trials listed above, clinical hypnotherapy was significantly more effective than the use of gabapentin in a small number of patients who received treatment for breast cancer and were not eligible for menopause hormone therapy (here).

Personally, after 1 week and a couple of days doing daily hypnotherapy sessions for IBS, I have noticed an improvement in my anxiety level and in my bowel regularity and consistency. I'm still bloated but I'm encouraged by this small change thus far. Plus, I enjoy the experience, 15 minutes of relaxation and visualization and positive affirmations. It's really simple and short. I would already be taking this time out in my day to do meditation, so this effectively replaces it and treats my clinical symptoms on top of it!

Hypnotherapy for Menopause?

In the particular case of menopause, which is the reason I'm writing this piece in the first place, the evidence accumulated thus far points to many benefits of hypnotherapy (see three previously mentioned studies: 1, 2, 3). Even the North American Menopause Society recommends its use for the reduction of vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes) and other key symptoms of menopause like sleep disturbances. Given its long-time use for mental health like depression and anxiety, it's no surprise that hypnotherapy can also help mood symptoms in menopause, which are also known to worsen other menopause symptoms.

[Despite a lot of talk about other "natural" or complementary methods like acupuncture and herbal therapies like black cohosh and dong quai, the North American Menopause Society doesn't recommend them yet, not necessarily because they don't work for sure, but simply because the evidence is not robust enough to point towards the benefits outweighing the risks in large populations of women. I'll do a review of some of those methods when I'm further along in my experimentation!]

How does someone get hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy can be individual or group, or even provided through an app. A review in 2013 of hypnotherapy apps found that most were not backed by clinical trials. Since then several apps have developed and published results of their own clinical trials, here, here and here.

I myself have been using the Nerva app from Mindset Health for gut symptoms. It has been created using research from Monash University, which was also the pioneer of research on FODMAPs and developer of the low-FODMAP diet for IBS. The same company also offers an app for menopause symptoms called Evia. I have not tested that one, but clinical trials supposedly demonstrated a reduction in hot flushes of 70-80%. Their other apps target smoking cessation, mental health, and chronic pain. Their price point for individuals is extremely affordable, and even more so if you have it recommended through a healthcare provider. I paid around CAD$135 per year with the provider discount.

I don't have time to do a scope of all the hypnotherapy apps out there. But if you google "best hypnotherapy apps" you will find many reviews. Whichever one you choose, make sure the science backing it is solid and that healthcare practitioners stand behind it.

If you choose to do hypnotherapy with a practitioner, you can filter on hypnotherapy in the Psychology Today Canada "Find a practitioner" directory (you can further filter by province and city). Different practitioners work differently, but what I understand is that they help you develop a script that you can use on your own for self-hypnosis at home so you don't always have to rely on your practitioner for every single session.

That's all for today! I hope this was helpful to you.

If you need help figuring out which health strategies are best suited for you, I can help you uncover research and take you through a process to discern which ones your body is ready for. Contact me at to find out more!

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Visit my services and programs! In April we are kicking off a new round of Menopause Support Hub all on menopause hormone therapies! I'm also planning to add another strength training for women over 40 class time on Monday evenings. Check back often for updates.

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