Focus That Hurts, Focus That Helps: Applying Hypnosis in the Treatment of Anxiety, Depression and Pain Management

New! Filmed Spring 2020

Presented by Michael D. Yapko, Ph.D.

On-Demand | Available Now


12 Hours  | Pre-approved for 12 CEUs


This On Demand course and will be available immediately after purchase. Participants can watch, pause, and re-watch the sessions at their convenience.

All course content (quiz, certificate, videos) will be available until May 1, 2021. Extensions cannot be granted under any circumstances. 

Registration will close on April 1, 2021. 

Recent advances in the fields of neuroscience and cognition provide us with a better understanding of the power of focus in shaping one’s subjective perceptions and even physiology. The field of hypnosis has played an especially important role in this ongoing process of discovery. After all, it’s easy to appreciate how often people’s problems are problems of focus: consider how anxiety can arise from focusing on what can or (presumably) will go wrong, or how depression arises from focusing on what is or has been hurtful. Focusing methods such as mindfulness and especially hypnosis have strong empirical support for their ability to amplify resources and shift perceptions in ways that enhance therapeutic outcomes. The use of hypnosis to grab and re-direct people’s attention offers great therapeutic possibilities. Simply put, what you focus on you amplify. The key question for clinicians, then, is what do we want to focus the client on and how can we best guide that process?

Despite too many clinicians’ terribly misinformed dismissal of hypnosis as little more than a gimmick, in fact hypnosis has evolved a strong scientific basis for its insights into neuroscience, cognition, suggestive language and information processing, placebo and nocebo responses, the therapeutic alliance, and more. When therapists are looking for highly effective tools to enhance treatment efficacy, hypnosis should be at or near the top of the list. After all, don’t clients inevitably learn better when they’re focused, relaxed, and empowered to use more of their own innate resources? Hypnosis isn’t a therapy – it’s a vehicle for delivering therapy in a more focused and experiential way. Regardless of your preferred approach to therapy, integrating hypnosis and related focusing methods like mindfulness will enhance your treatments.

The study of the science and art of clinical hypnosis begins with the recognition that influence is inherent in the therapy process. Far more complex, though, are the deeper questions about how a clinician can offer suggestions to a client in distress that can provide empowering self-regulation skills. This online course will provide a practical introduction to the many facets of applied hypnosis and its merits in treating some of the most common disorders we as clinicians are asked to treat, namely anxiety, depression, and pain.

Session 1:       (1:06)

  • Introduction to hypnosis
  • Overview, principles, why learn hypnosis
  • Definitions


Session 2:       (1:03)

  • Neuroscience:
    • Intrinsic, instrumental research
    • Mind and brain: Scanning studies with color, pupil dilation study
  • Language as triggers for experience
  • Suggestion structures and styles

Session 3        (1:03)

  • Generic structure of hypnosis sessions
  • Traditional inductions (3)
  • Traditional deepeners (3)
  • Conversational inductions (2)
  • Ending the session on a positive
  • Suggested homework

Session 4        (1:01)

  • Classical hypnotic phenomena defined and described
  • Symptomatic vs. therapeutic hypnosis
  • Age regression – purposes, types, and relevance in treatment

Session 5        (1:03)

  • Age regression strategies
  • Strategy: Simple regression
  • Memory as a process, not an event
  • Caution: False memories can be unintentionally created
  • Strategy: Accessing and contextualizing resources

Session 6        (1:00)

  • Recap of what hypnosis offers in therapy
  • Conventional wisdom is contradictory: Which is it?
  • Discriminations defined, illustrated in therapy, life decisions
  • Barriers to effective discriminations
  • Common discrimination issues underlying problems
  • Event driven vs. process driven problems in therapy

Session 7        (1:02)

  • APA Stress in America Survey – 2019
  • Relaxation training for anxiety – meta-analytic data
  • General hypnosis strategies aimed at how symptoms form
  • Cognitive style patterns as risk factors for anxiety
  • Global cognitive style as a leading risk factor
  • Risk assessment and awareness of personal resources
  • The “what if?” questions: The price of planning
  • Ambiguity as a primary risk factor
  • Specific skills needed to tolerate ambiguity

Session 8        (1:04)

  • Recap of principal anxiety targets
  • Strategy: Recognizing and tolerating ambiguity
  • Demonstration of recognizing and tolerating ambiguity
  • Dissociation’s role in treatment of anxiety
  • Detachment across therapies
  • Summary of anxiety treatment strategies
  • Suggested homework

Session 9        (1:04)

  • Epidemiology and implications
  • Multiple factors contribute to depression’s etiology and course
  • Social factors are risk factors; emotional contagions
  • Expectancy and treatment response
  • Strategy: Hypnosis and building expectancy
  • Key therapeutic messages in treatment

Session 10      (1:06)

  • Stress generation and depression
  • Perceptions of controllability
  • Primary and secondary control interventions
  • Rumination, anxiety and depression
  • Developing an action orientation
  • Behavioral activation in therapy
  • Case examples of multi-level activations
  • “Seeding” homework
  • Strategy: Hypnotically catalyzing behavioral activation

Session 11      (1:08)

  • The role of hypnosis in pain management
  • Research affirming the merits of hypnosis
  • Pain’s “signal value”
  • Legal and ethical issues
  • Pain and perception
  • The pain narrative
  • Phases of intervention in pain management
  • Areas of inquiry regarding pain
  • Sample: Guided imagery to change pain’s meaning
  • Strategy: Facilitating sensory alteration

Session 12:     (00:57)

  • Transcript analysis: Trigeminal neuralgia patient
  • Transcript analysis: Terminal cancer patient
  • Six specific pain management strategies in hypnosis
  • Further training, certification, professional membership
  • Closing thoughts
  1. Participants will be able to identify and offer multiple examples of specific styles (relational positions) of suggestion.
  2. Participants will be able to list and describe at least three different models or conceptual frameworks for understanding hypnosis.
  3. Participants will learn about and be able to describe the potential applications of hypnosis in a variety of contexts, including psychotherapy and behavioral medicine.
  4. Participants will be able to define and discuss the characteristics of interventions that are content-based versus process-based.
  5. Participants will be able to organize and define a generic sequence for conducting a goal-oriented hypnosis session.
  6. Participants will learn how expectancy influences therapeutic outcomes, especially when treating depression, and a specific strategy for building expectancy hypnotically.
  7. Participants will learn how a low tolerance for ambiguity serves as a risk factor for anxiety and depression and how hypnosis can be used to help enhance a tolerance for ambiguity.
  8. Participants will learn six specific hypnotic interventions for helping people cope with pain.

Clinical Professionals: All mental health professionals including, but not limited to Clinical Counsellors, Psychologists, Psychotherapists, Social Workers, Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Hospice and Palliative Care Workers, School Counsellors, Youth Workers, Mental Health Workers, Addiction Specialists, Marital & Family Therapists, Speech Language Pathologists, Vocational Rehabilitation Consultants and all professionals looking to enhance their therapeutic skills.

Michael Yapko, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist residing in Fallbrook, California. He is internationally recognized for his work in clinical applications of hypnosis, treating depression, and developing strategic, outcome-focused psychotherapies. He routinely teaches to professional audiences all over the world. To date, he has been invited to present his ideas and methods to colleagues in 29 countries across six continents, and all over the United States. Dr. Yapko is the author of numerous books, book chapters, and articles on the subjects of hypnosis, depression, and the use of strategic psychotherapies. These include the popular Breaking the Patterns of DepressionTrancework: An Introduction to the Practice of Clinical HypnosisTreating Depression With Hypnosis: Integrating Cognitive-Behavioral and Strategic ApproachesHand-Me-Down Blues: How to Stop Depression from Spreading in FamiliesEssentials of Hypnosis, and Depression is Contagious.

Dr. Yapko is a member of the American Psychological Association, a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, a past Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Division of Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine (in England), a member of the International Society of Hypnosis, and a Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. He is a recipient of The Milton H. Erickson Lifetime Achievement Award, twice a recipient of the Arthur Shapiro Award for the “best book of the year on hypnosis” from the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis for Treating Depression with Hypnosis and Hypnosis and Treating Depression, and the 2003 Pierre Janet Award for Clinical Excellence from the International Society of Hypnosis, a lifetime achievement award honoring his many contributions to the field.

RegistrationEarly bird FeeRegular Fee
Individual Enrollment$449.00N/A
Full-Time Student$359.00N/A

All fees are in Canadian dollars ($CAD).

For group and/or student rates please view our Terms & Conditions and contact for more information and registration. 

  • Canadian Psychological Association
    The Alberta College of Social Workers (ACSW) and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Social Workers (NLASW) accept CPA-approved continuing education credits