How do people with refractory irritable bowel syndrome perceive hypnotherapy?: Qualitative study

Krouwel M1, Jolly K2, Greenfield S2. Complement Ther Med. 2019 Aug;45:65-70. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.05.020. Epub 2019 May 20.


Author information

Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, United Kingdom. Electronic address: Mattkrouwel@gmail.com.

Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, United Kingdom.


OBJECTIVES: Hypnotherapy is recognised in the UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines as a potential treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). However, little is known about the views of people with IBS regarding hypnotherapy. This qualitative study aimed to identify perceptions of and barriers to hypnotherapy for IBS by people with the condition.

DESIGN: One-to-one semi-structured interviews using thematic analysis.

SETTING: Convenience sampling in the UK. Participants were recruited by poster advertising and online IBS support groups. Interviews were conducted at the interviewees' preferred location or via video calling.

PARTICIPANTS: 17 people (15 female, 2 male) who self-identified as having refractory IBS according to a provided definition.

RESULTS: Four hypnotherapy related themes arose from the data: conceptualisation of hypnotherapy, hypnotherapy for IBS, barriers to hypnotherapy for IBS, ideal format of hypnotherapy for IBS. Participants saw hypnosis as an altered state in which change was possible, but many had not considered it for IBS. They were broadly open to hypnotherapy for IBS, but a variety of potential barriers were apparent, including cost and therapist validity. Group hypnotherapy was less acceptable than one-to-one treatment. Hypnotherapy via video call was seen as convenient, but there were concerns about its effectiveness.

CONCLUSION: People with IBS may be put off hypnotherapy by a lack of understanding of how it works for their condition and lack of awareness of it as a therapeutic option. Uptake may be improved through effective promotion of the approach which addresses its mechanisms of effect.

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