For many people the word “hypnosis” evokes images of piercing eyes, swinging watches, goofy stage-show volunteers, or bad plot lines in bad movies— people losing control of their minds, forced to act against their will, or getting stuck in some zombie-like netherworld. But it’s a new day. These notions¾all archaic and all nonsense¾are rapidly succumbing to the cold logic of modern science. As Western healthcare both acknowledges and exploits the unequivocal connection between the mind and body, therapeutic hypnosis or hypnotherapy is finding a place in the mainstream of health and wellness, and with good reason.

Hypnosis is a completely natural state of consciousness that creates both an open, receptive state of mind and what might be thought of as a direct communication link with the mind/body dynamic that is safe, painless, and versatile. Beyond the most commonly known applications— smoking cessation, weight control, building motivation, boosting performance, and erasing fears and phobias—hypnotherapy is a proven (adjunctive) treatment for a variety of conditions including, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, anxiety, stress, insomnia, migraine, allergies, arthritis and more. It is also effectively used as an ancillary treatment for infertility, sexual dysfunction, bedwetting, HIV, and even some cancers.

Hypnotherapy can help minimize tissue damage and promote faster healing from dental procedures, surgery, and childbirth. It is used to manage chronic pain, as natural anesthesia, and to ease the side effects of chemo and radiation therapy. In fact, ABC News Online’s Healthology reported, “94% of patients benefit from hypnotherapy, even if only through improved relaxation.” Of course, like any treatment method there are limits to its usefulness; it is not a panacea.

Success with hypnotherapy requires a desire and commitment to change, a willingness to experience the state, and a belief in a positive outcome. Otherwise, it may not work very well, if at all. For certain psychotic conditions or addiction to mind-altering substances, hypnosis is considered neither effective, nor recommended. Still, more and more people are discovering in hypnotherapy, a potent tool for crafting a healthier, more productive life.

All this is good news, and perhaps it shouldn’t surprise. It bears repeating that hypnosis is a naturally-occurring state-of-mind and its use in healing and fostering wellness actually dates back more than 7000 years, so it is really not so “new.” Nonetheless, given the evidence it appears that hypnotherapy’s expanding role in modern healthcare seems like a very positive trend.