The science behind RTT-hypnotherapy

Cover Image for The science behind RTT-hypnotherapy
Merlin Stadtler
Merlin Stadtler


A search of PubMed, the free database of peer-reviewed journals maintained by the US National Library of Medicine for hypnosis or hypnotherapy plus any disorder will retrieve many articles.

Clinical studies of RTT have been started; while RTT uses hypnosis as the foundation of helping people, it includes more than the format in most clinical studies of hypnosis.

Click here to access a brief bibliography of recent clinical studies.

What medical studies have been done on RTT?

RTT is a new hybrid of hypnosis and psychotherapy and visualization. Many practitioners are working with medical teams to research the healing value of RTT.

Scientifically, hypnosis temporarily changes the brain wave patterns by changing brain functions. There are also measurable changes in blood biochemistry and muscle reaction.

In RTT, the inner mind, or subconscious mind become more alert, although you are always conscious and aware of what is said to you and how you respond to questions. The focus is on increasing your awareness of the causes of your issues and changing your response to past memories or events to improve your life.

However, there is no way to measure thoughts, so only anecdotal descriptions of healing by hypnosis are available, although different forms of hypnosis (using many other terms) have been used for healing for thousands of years.

Brain scans of people in hypnosis

Research has shown changes in brain function using tools such as MRI or PET. Overall, during hypnosis the brain produces alpha waves, which are the same waves as REM sleep. Occasionally, in deep hypnosis, the brain produces theta waves.
In brain scans, different parts of the brain are affected in different ways
a complex, technical article that reviews studies on hypnosis and the brain
“We here review behavioral,neuroimaging and electrophysiological studies of hypnosis as a state, as well as hypnosis as a tool to modulate brain responses to painful stimulations. Studies have shown that hypnotic processes modify internal (self awareness) as well as external (environmental awareness) brain networks. Brain mechanisms underlying the modulation of pain perception under hypnotic conditions involve cortical as well as subcortical areas including anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortices, basal ganglia and thalami. Combined with local anesthesia and conscious sedation in patients undergoing surgery, hypnosis is associated with improved peri- and postoperative comfort of patients and surgeons.”

Clinical Hypnosis with Children and Adolescents—What? Why? How?: Origins, Applications, and Efficacy (2014) –
A review article on the history and conditions helped by hypnosis used with children. “The remainder of this paper offers several case vignettes to illustrate common applications of hypnosis and hypnotherapy in every-day child and adolescent health care “

Pain Reduction

Children with acute burn injury
Although this study did not find hypnosis effective in faster wound healing, it doesn’t mention the use of a recording between sessions. A hypnotherapy session can re-set the brain, but listening to the recording for at least 21 days after the session hard-wires in changes
Many of the references cited in these paper are interesting
Efficacy of hypnosis on pain, wound-healing, anxiety, and stress in children with acute burn injuries: a randomized controlled trial (Sept 2018) – report of study [full paper is behind a paywall]

Effectiveness of medical hypnosis for pain reduction and faster wound healing in pediatric acute burn injury: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. (April 2016) – protocol for study
Study conclusions: “Hypnosis may be effective for decreasing preprocedural anxiety and heart rate in children undergoing repeated pediatric wound care procedures but not for reducing pain intensity or accelerating wound healing.”
“In modern medicine, pain has moved beyond concern as a mere disease symptom and is now considered a basic human rights issue. Burns and the associated wound care procedures (e.g., wound cleaning, debridement, and dressing) can be painful for children. After the initial burn is sustained, procedural pain remains both the most intense and undertreated type of pain despite continual advancements in burn wound care. Furthermore, many patients indicate that wound care procedures are as painful as the original burn insult (and occasionally more painful), provoking intense anticipatory anxiety.”
“In humans the release of glucocorticoids (e.g., cortisol) and catecholamines (e.g., epinephrine and norepinephrine) elicits the classic “fight, flight, or freeze” response when psychological stress is experienced. Herndon et al. have demonstrated increased levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine sustained for up to 35 weeks in children post-burn, providing evidence of the magnitude and duration of the catecholamine surge encountered in this population. These physiologic effects in response to stress are important, as a number of studies and meta-analyses have implicated psychological stress in significantly delaying cutaneous wound healing. Attention to and relief of pain, anxiety, and stress for burned children is therefore a high clinical priority.”
Medical hypnosis helps patients focus their attention to lessen pain and anxiety and enhances patients’ acceptance of clinicians’ positive suggestions to change or reframe their perceptions, sensations, thoughts, and behaviors. Hypnotherapeutic techniques have decreased pain and anxiety in the short term and decreased psychological distress over the long term, thereby optimizing patient outcomes and complementing existing treatment modalities. Medical hypnosis can also empower pediatric patients to assist themselves at will beyond the presence of the therapist by teaching them self-hypnosis, which engenders self-mastery and active participation in their own treatment.