Review article: the effectiveness of group and self-help hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome and the implications for improving patients' choice and access to treatment

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2021 Dec;54(11-12):1389-1404. doi: 10.1111/apt.16623.Epub 2021 Sep 30.


Carolyn Gillan 1


Author information

1School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK.

PMID: 34591988


DOI: 10.1111/apt.16623


Background: Individual hypnotherapy (IH) is a recognised treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, it is not widely available to patients due to its resource-intensive nature, lack of adequately trained therapists, and scepticism about hypnosis. Non-individualised hypnotherapy approaches, such as group and self-help hypnotherapy, could maximise existing therapist resources by treating more patients at the same time, thus widening patient access to treatment without incurring additional expenditure.

Aims: To investigate the research literature for non-individualised approaches to hypnotherapy for IBS and to determine their effectiveness for reducing symptom severity and/or providing adequate relief.

Methods: A literature review of published peer-reviewed studies was conducted. Quantitative research was selected to determine the effectiveness of the interventions.

Results: Ten studies were eligible for inclusion. Three delivered group hypnotherapy, three integrated hypnosis within a group concept, and four utilised a self-help home hypnotherapy treatment using audio recordings. Both group hypnotherapy for adults and the self-help home hypnotherapy treatment for children were effective interventions that may be non-inferior to IH for patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms. Treatment benefits were long-lasting. The evidence for the integrative group concept and home treatment for adults was less compelling.

Conclusions: Group hypnotherapy for adults, and self-help hypnotherapy for children, may be cost-effective treatments that can widen access for patients with milder IBS in primary care settings. Further research is needed to determine the effectiveness of group hypnotherapy for patients with severe, refractory IBS.



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