Hypnotherapy is Effective for Relieving Anxiety for Patients in Palliative Care

A recent study gave four hypnotherapy sessions to patients who were receiving care for a terminal cancer diagnosis and were suffering from anxiety. The hypnotherapy was aimed at addressing the anxiety, not the cancer.

First session: self-hypnosis

At each session, induction of hypnotherapy trance was achieved using eye fixation and progressive relaxation. In trance, the patient was taught how to access and use positive self-suggestion.

Second session: visualization

This technique involved helping the patient to perceive a troubling symptom as an external entity and to manage it as if it were a physical reality. Intrusive and negative thoughts may also have been addressed through visualization.

Third session: install an anchor

The patient was taught to use an ‘anchor’ to access a preferred mental state. This involved recalling a positive memory and linking this with a physical trigger, e.g. a finger pinch. The physical trigger was then used by the patient at will when they were faced with a difficult situation or emotion.

Fourth session: immune system visualization

This process aimed to enable the patient to visualize his/her immune system in a dynamic way, in the hope of consciously enhancing the immune process. It is a tool to enhance the individual’s sense of control over their disease process.

All patients were brought out of trance in a controlled manner and reorientated to their current environment. The order of these techniques may have been altered depending on the patient’s particular issues and needs. All treatments were tailored to the individual.

A significant reduction in anxiety and depression levels was found. Sleep also improved. This study was limited by only having eleven participants but it suggests hypnotherapy can be very helpful to people in this kind of situation. More research would provide further evidence.


Plaskota, M. Lucas, C., Evans, R., Pixxoferro, K., Saini, T. and Cook, K. (2012) A hypnotherapy intervention for the treatment of anxiety in patients with cancer receiving palliative care, International Journal of Palliative Nursing, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 69-75 (Online). Available at  https://doi-org.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/10.12968/ijpn.2012.18.2.69

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