Hypnotherapy Common Uses Habits

The steps that therapists use in conducting habit reversal tend to differ. Some use a three-step approach, while others describe five distinct components. Regardless of the sequence or labels, most habit reversal therapies include these critical steps:

  • Developing awareness of the habit: The therapist begins by making sure that patients know about their habit, when the behavior appears and how often they repeat the behavior. One way to raise awareness is with video playback of the subject at work or at play.
  • Stimulating the motivation to change the habit: Patients who are aware of a bad habit often go to great lengths to hide the effects of their behavior. For example, the bald patches that develop from pulling out your scalp hair can be a social embarrassment that has a great impact on daily life. The desire to live a normal life is motivation to change an unconscious habit.
  • Finding a competing response: Once patients are aware of the conditions that trigger their habitual behaviors, they can intercept that automatic response and substitute a gesture or action that prevents the habitual behavior. For example, if you’re aware that you’re about to pull at your hair when a stressful situation comes up, you might stretch your arms behind you. While onlookers see nothing unusual, you’re actually keeping your hands away from your body, making the hair pulling impossible at the moment. With practice, the competing behavior becomes an invisible, acceptable habit that eradicates the problem habit.
  • Practicing relaxation methods. Since stress is a common trigger for bad habits, patients learn relaxation techniques. Relaxation is an important technique in intercepting a bad habit and substituting the competing response.

Augmenting Habit Reversal Treatment with Hypnotherapy

Some therapists use hypnotherapy to help their patients cope with stress that triggers harmful habits. Using hypnosis along with habit reversal treatment has several benefits:

  • Hypnotherapy and habit reversal training complement one another.
  • Hypnotherapy helps the patient focus on necessary changes.
  • Relaxation, the first step in hypnotherapy, is critical to the use of the competing response and in coping with stressful situations.
  • The hypnotherapist’s suggestion may strengthen the patient’s use of a competing response.

Hypnotherapy has shown to be quite successful with habit reversal. Therapists have taught young subjects with Tourette’s syndrome to control their facial tics with self-hypnosis, according to a study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics (2010).

Clearly, habit reversal treatment and hypnotherapy are less invasive than medical interventions. Many patients that have trouble coping with medication side effects and therapists are reluctant to prescribe sedatives or anti-anxiety medication for children. Your physician or therapist can help you find the course of treatment that’s best for your situation.


Harris, L. (2008). Break your bad habit overnight. Retrieved August 10, 2010, from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id


SirGan. (2006). Habit disorders: How to prevent and treat nail biting. Retrieved August 14, 2010, from http://www.steadyhealth.com/articles/Habit_disorders__How_to_prevent_and_treat_nail_biting_a123.html

Stein, J. (2010). Self-hypnosis training may help children with Tourette’s syndrome, study finds. Retrieved August 10, 2010, from http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jul/12/news/la-heb-0712-tourette-20100713

University of Maryland Medical Center. (2010). Hypnotherapy overview.Retrieved August 12, 2010, from http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/hypnotherapy-000353.htm