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Effect of Hypnotherapy in Alcohol Use Disorder Compared With Motivational Interviewing

A Randomized Controlled Trial

Shestopal, Irene MD*; Bramness, Jørgen G. MD, PhD†,‡

Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment: September 2019 - Volume 18 - Issue 3 - p 169–175
doi: 10.1097/ADT.0000000000000170
Original Articles

Background: Hypnotherapy has proved to be effective for the treatment of several medical and psychiatric conditions. It has been used in the treatment of alcohol use disorder (AUD), but only 2 randomized controlled trials have been conducted for this disorder.

Methods: This study was carried out at an inpatient clinic in Norway. A 6-week long treatment program included intensive group therapy, but also 5 hours of individual therapy, given as motivational interviewing (MI). Thirty-one patients were randomized either to receive 5 individual sessions of hypnotherapy instead of MI (N=16) or to be in the control group (N=15). The treatment method for the hypnotherapy group was Erickson (permissive) hypnosis. At baseline all the participants were diagnosed using a psychiatric interview and filled in the Alcohol Use Identification Test (AUDIT), Timeline FollowBack (TLFB) for alcohol use, Hopkins Symptoms Check List (HSCL-25) for monitoring mental distress and Traumatic Life Events Questionnaire. AUDIT, TLFB, and HSCL-25 were readministered at follow-up after 1 year.

Results: There were no differences between groups at baseline. One year later more women were lost to follow-up in the MI group. Both the intervention and control groups had reduced their alcohol consumption significantly. The change in AUDIT score was, however, largest for the hypnotherapy group, albeit only on a trend level (P=0.088).

Conclusions: Those receiving hypnotherapy did marginally better concerning alcohol use at 1-year follow-up. This small advantage for hypnotherapy could indicate an effect, rendered nonsignificant by an underpowered study. It could also be that neither MI nor hypnotherapy gave an additional effect on top of the substantial group therapy. Lastly the findings could indicate that hypnotherapy is at least as effective as MI.

*Private Practice, Oslo

Norwegian National Advisory Unit on Concurrent Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders, Innlandet Hospital Trust, Hamar

Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Tromsø—Norway’s Arctic University, Olso, Norway

I.S. was granted a stipend from Privatpraktiserende Spesialisters Landsforening (the national union of private specialists). J.G.B. declares no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Irene Shestopal, MD, Solskinnsveien 14, Oslo 0376, Norway (e-mail:

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