My compliments to the WSJ and their writer/digital editor, Lane Florsheim, on the recent article quoted below. My emphatic and extremely biased response to the question posed in the title is “YES”, mostly. It is not actually that Hypnotherapy apps are better, but trance psychology is already so threaded into our relationships with our phones and devices that working with hypnosis I believe is the ever-so-slightly stronger medicine to actually help us understand our habitual loops, and interrupt them in some cases. As Dr. Mike Dow has said, “I like meditation, but I love hypnosis.” He speaks for both of us.
The article below presents a fair and balanced picture of the benefits, advantages, and challenges presented by hypnosis. Here is the link to the original article on the WSJ.
Thanks Anna Gannon for sending my way.
Are Hypnotherapy Apps Better Than Meditation?
Often associated with onstage theatrics and eccentric celebrities, hypnosis is moving further into the mainstream with hypnotherapy apps like Clementine, Harmony Hypnosis and Mindset
CHANGE YOUR MIND Through repetition of certain techniques, boosters say, hypnotherapy is like training your brain.
By Lane Florsheim
Aug. 27, 2019 8:31 am ET
Six years ago, Kim Palmer, 40, was working in a senior marketing role at a tech start-up in London, an environment she describes as extremely fast-paced. “I was like a lot of women, probably, very ambitious,” she says. “I was work-obsessed; I was a perfectionist.” One day at the office, halfway through her pregnancy with her first son, Palmer had a panic attack in front of a group of co-workers. “As someone who took all of their sense of self-worth from being good at work, it was incredibly traumatic for me,” she says. She continued to have panic attacks, sometimes in front of her family or friends.
Palmer says it took a toll on her confidence. The breadwinner of her family, she started having a hard time functioning in her role at work. After she went on maternity leave, the company where she worked was sold and her position was eliminated, a time she calls her “low of lows.” She tried both talk and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), but neither worked. When a former co-worker suggested hypnotherapy, Palmer met with the hypnotherapist Georgia Foster. She continued their sessions for a year. “Hypnotherapy was the therapy that helped me start being able to talk to people and to go out for dinner with my friends and family,” she says.
The idea for Clementine, the female-focused hypnotherapy app Palmer launched in 2017 (and which Foster contributes to), came to her after she began opening up about mental health and her struggles with confidence to her co-workers. “I’m not exaggerating, every single woman I spoke to said they felt the same way, and they wished that we could have open conversations about this,” she says. “That’s when I knew there was an opportunity to do something to help women.” She started meeting with professional women more formally, sitting down with about a hundred of them to understand the biggest day-to-day difficulties they were facing. The modules on the Clementine app, which she created with app developer Tenrocket, are based on the topics that came up during these conversations: sleep, confidence, de-stress, mantras and body—plus a panic button that takes users to a short recording to calm them down in urgent moments. The sessions encourage users into a relaxed state where they’re more open to new ideas and suggestions that can change their thought processes.
Palmer is one of a small wave of app founders—including Harmony Hypnosis Meditation app founder and hypnotherapist Darren Marks, 48, and Alex Naoumidis, 24, who co-founded an app called Mindset—who are trying to move hypnotherapy further into the mainstream. Naoumidis’s app is part of start-up incubator Y Combinator’s current class (the incubator’s previous investments includes Airbnb and Dropbox ). “Part of it is building products that don’t look mystical,” says Naoumidis, who is based in San Francisco. “Because we’re targeting specific issues that people are suffering from that are quite difficult, and they’ve tried a lot of different things, they’re willing to try something a little bit more out there. Ten years ago, people thought meditation was for hippies, and now it’s used by everybody.” Palmer says she wants Clementine to do for hypnosis what apps like Calm and Headspace, apps that provide guided meditation sessions aimed at lessening stress, insomnia and other issues, have done for meditation.
Wellness apps can translate into profit. Meditation is a $1.2 billion market: Calm quadrupled its revenue last year to bring in $150 million, and Headspace’s revenue was over $100 million. While hypnotherapy apps haven’t reached this level of popularity, their subscription packages tend to be similarly priced. Headspace costs $13 per month or $95 a year, and a yearly subscription to Calm costs $70. Mindset charges $11 per month or $64 per year, and Harmony costs $8 per month or $50 yearly—or users can pay $150 for a lifetime subscription. (Clementine is free, except for access to the body image section, which costs $8 and addresses body image and confidence issues for paying customers.)
Hypnotherapy, which is also referred to as hypnosis, is sometimes characterized as a theatrical form of mind control and as a fringe practice. A number of celebrities have embraced the practice. (“I guess I could try hypnotherapy,” Katy Perry sings in her 2019 song “Never Really Over.” “I gotta rewire this brain/’Cause I can’t even go on the internet/Without even checking your name.” She reportedly used hypnotherapy to get over her 2014 breakup with John Mayer.) Chelsea Handler used hypnosis to quit smoking. Reese Witherspoon hired a hypnotist to help deal with nerves while shooting the sex scenes in her movie Wild. Jessica Alba has said “hypnobirthing,” the practice of self-hypnosis during labor, helped her through her delivery with her first child. Plus, as hypnotherapist and Harmony app founder Marks says, sometimes people’s only experience with hypnosis is what they’ve seen on TV or during stage shows. “I do have to spend quite a bit of time explaining the difference,” says Marks. “You can’t be made to do things you don’t want to do. When you see people doing silly things on the stage, it’s a bit like an actor acting or a child playing. Hypnotherapy uses that same world of imagination…to empower people and help them achieve their goals.”
So, how does hypnotherapy work? “I give [patients] instructions to think about things, to imagine things in a particular way,” says Marks, who’s based in London. “And if they follow those instructions, they’ll go into what’s termed a trance state.” From there, Marks uses suggestion and imagery to work with patients. Whereas normally telling a stressed, insecure patient she’s calm and confident wouldn’t be convincing, in this state, her critical faculties are relaxed so she’s more open to the suggestion. Similarly, Marks can tell her to imagine herself in a situation where she was anxious or worried but instead to picture herself as comfortable and successful. “The reason that kind of imagery is effective is because our subconscious minds do not differentiate between real and imagined experiences,” he explains.
Marks got the idea for Harmony after he started making recordings for some of his clients. He says the app has almost every technique he uses. “It’s as close as I can come to simulating what it’s like to see me for real,” he says, adding that his clients have access to all of the recordings on the app.
The degree requirements for hypnotherapists vary—while the American Association of Professional Hypnotherapists doesn’t require a master’s or doctoral degree, the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists requires a master’s and, in some cases, a medical or doctoral degree, for certification, and the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis only certifies applicants who have obtained at least a master’s. A 2015 U.K. study published in the Mental Health Review Journal found that cognitive hypnotherapy focused on treating anxiety and depression to have a 71 percent success rate over six sessions.
Through repetition of these techniques, boosters say, hypnotherapy is like training your mind. Amy Chang, a 47-year-old CEO of a health e-commerce company in San Diego, dealt with issues related to loneliness for all of her life and felt frustrated that she’d spent “tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket” on therapy that ultimately didn’t work. She downloaded Harmony and in June 2018 became a lifetime member. She says that listening to a module on overcoming the fear of loneliness enabled her to reprogram her association with being alone to be a positive rather than negative one. “I love being alone now,” she says. “I don’t want to sit here and say psychotherapy isn’t helpful, because it is for a lot of things, but when it comes to something that’s been subconsciously wired from [a young age], [hypnotherapy] works so much better.” She says she doesn’t use the app very often anymore because she doesn’t really need it.
Alicia Meulensteen, a 41-year-old senior director at an international relief organization based in New York City, is another happy beneficiary of Clementine. She uses the de-stress module most frequently, sometimes when she’s getting ready in the morning, sometimes as a break when a stressful situation comes up at work. “It’s felt a little more accessible [than meditation apps],” she says. “In a way, it’s like someone giving you a pep talk or talking to you. It doesn’t feel as intimidating.”