Can You Get the Habit-Changing Benefits of Hypnosis through an App?

Written by: Denise John, PhD


Published on: February 29, 2024

Photo courtesy of Tanguy Troude/Stills.com

When you hear the word “hypnosis,” you may think of people uncontrollably clucking like chickens or barking like dogs to the commands of a hypnotist as a laughing audience observes. Or maybe you imagine a hypnotherapist with a swaying pendulum softly repeating, “You’re getting sleepy,” followed by a client lying on a sofa sharing truths they never intended to reveal.

This is not a reflection of reality: You can stop a session at any time—for whatever reason. “Hypnosis is not a state of unconsciousness or a loss of control,” says Patrick Porter, PhD, the founder and CEO of BrainTap, a brain fitness company. “Rather it’s a state of focused attention and heightened suggestibility, with the individual remaining in control throughout.” And you share what you want during hypnosis—it’s not truth serum. It’s a tool, experts say, that can potentially transform our subconscious patterns.

“The majority of our thoughts, actions, and behaviors come from the subconscious mind,” says Ivana Basrek, a certified hypnotherapist. “That means that it’s automatic and it’s happening without us consciously thinking about it.” During hypnosis, you reach a relaxed state where your subconscious thoughts can be altered. “When we change something in our subconscious mind, then it translates into our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors,” says Basrek.

According to David Spiegel, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University and the founder of Reveri, a self-hypnosis app, hypnosis has the potential to change any behavior we want—managing stress and anxiety, sleeping better, stopping smoking, eating intuitively, improving focus, managing pain, and more.

Porter says that hypnosis works, in part, because of the shift in brain waves that occurs during a hypnotic state: “You’re changing from beta waves, which is [indicative of] a reactionary brain, into an alpha and maybe even a theta state, depending upon how deep [you] go.” We can tap into our subconscious mind within these states. “This is why hypnosis is so useful, because it allows us to access those patterns and change them at the source, where they are stored,” Basrek says.

This typically doesn’t happen in one session. “It’s about training the brain daily,” says Porter. Self-hypnosis apps really excel here: You can listen to daily recordings that are similar to guided meditations. If you’re working with a professional, weekly one-on-one sessions can be supplemented with recordings every day between sessions.

The process is straightforward: Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet space and listen to the hypnotherapist—in-person, virtually, or prerecorded—for 10 to 60 minutes, depending on the frequency your hypnotherapist recommends and your goals.

If you’re curious about hypnotherapy but have fears around losing control—which Porter says is very common—here are five things that he recommends to help address them.

  1. Learn more about it. “Understanding the process of hypnosis can alleviate many concerns,” Porter says. “It’s not about being controlled but rather entering a state of deep relaxation and concentration.”
  2. Work with a professional. Porter says, “Working with a licensed and experienced hypnotherapist can provide reassurance. They can explain the process and ensure a safe and controlled environment.” When looking for a hypnotherapist, Basrek recommends making sure that you trust them and are comfortable in their presence. “It’s really important that the person you’re working with is creating this safe, warm bubble that you feel good in so you can relax and let go,” she says. To find a certified hypnotherapist, Rapid Transformational Therapy, the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, and the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis are good places to start.
  3. Ease into it. If you don’t feel comfortable but you’re still curious, Porter suggests starting slow: “Begin with short sessions or guided hypnosis apps to build comfort and familiarity with the process.”
  4. Remember that you’re in control. “You cannot be hypnotized against your will, and you can come out of the hypnotic state whenever you wish,” says Porter.
  5. Keep an open mind. Porter says that our beliefs are powerful: “It’s important to approach hypnosis with an open mind and a willingness to participate, as these factors greatly influence its effectiveness.”



This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.