Hypnosis – Behavior Therapy – Psychoanalysis – What are the Differences?

People frequently ask me the question: ‘What are the differences between Hypnosis, Behavior Therapy and Psychoanalysis?’  Unlike many theories and concepts there is no exact comparison between Hypnosis, Behavior Therapy and Psychoanalysis. This article will define each disciple and the results one can expect from each. 


Hypnosis is a special form of communication to the subconscious mind where habits are established, memory is stored and the answers to one’s issues reside. Because the language of the subconscious mind is visual, the more detailed your image is of your goal, the faster your subconscious mind will create the changes you desire. Once your subconscious accepts a new idea, you automatically accept it at the conscious level, thus, avoiding Cognitive-Emotive Dissonance (see definition below). In addition: (1) Classical (Pavlovian or respondent) conditioning (2) Operant (Skinnerian or instrumental) conditioning is a non-issue because in a trance state the conscious mind automatically accepts what the subsoncious mind brings forth as the solution to the issue.  

Hypnosis is direct, focused and combines creating health while transforming the past. It is precise, powerful, virtually painless and an accurate way of changing the landscape of your inner and outer mind, body and spirit. Hypnosis allows you to access your past, present and future – as well as your subconscious, and clear negative thoughts, emotions (feelings) and energy, on all levels – mind, body and spirit.

American Health Magazine (1969) reported the following findings from a study by Alfred A. Barrios, PhD. An updated study “Hypnotherapy: A Reappraisal” by Alfred A. Barrios, Ph.D. published in Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice (Spring, 1970) clearly points out: Hypnosis is more effective and works more quickly than traditional talk-therapy or psychoanalysis.   http://www.stresscards.com/esspsychotherapy.htm

 Hypnosis Comparison Study: 

 Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice (Spring, 1970), Alfred A. Barrios, PhD

  – Hypnotherapy 93% recovery after 6 sessions

 – Behavior Therapy: 72% recovery after 22 sessions

 – Psychoanalysis: 38% recovery after 600 sessions

 In the research noted above Hypnosis was proven not once, but twice to be more effective and works more quickly than Traditional Talk-Therapy, Behavior Therapy and Psychoanalysis. In a hypnotic state, you are more receptive to new ideas and you can more effectively process the emotions linked to the experiences, which created pain, fear, sadness, anger, guilt, shame, humiliation and low self-esteem. Furthermore, hypnosis transforms the root cause of all issues and symptoms.

Behavior Therapy:

In the research noted above Behavior Therapy is a slow and tedious process. The process helps people cope better, but, does not eliminate or transform the core issue that prompts the behavior/symptoms and the need for assistance to resolve the issue(s).

Behavior: The things living organisms do. There are two types: (1) overt behavior- observable by other people; (2) covert behavior – observable only by the person themselves. For example: thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

Behavior Therapy seeks to find a conscious solution to unconscious issues that may or may not be discovered.  Aspects of the unconscious issues include, but are not limited to the following:  

Cognitive-Emotive Dissonance: The most important stage in new learning, characterized by the following two features: (1) it occurs when people first begin thinking and acting in their new, correct ways for their behavioral goal but (2) they are having the uncomfortable emotional feelings that they have when they believe they are behaving incorrectly: People usually describe this experience with “This doesn’t feel right,” or “This feels wrong to me.” A common analogy of this is: an American driver “feeling wrong” while driving correctly on the left side of the street in England. This experience is unavoidable in a psychotherapeutic process or any type of change in a personal habit. In psychotherapy/behavior therapy it is the stage of maximal therapeutic resistance. If cognitive-emotive dissonance is poorly handled in psychotherapy/behavior therapy, people are likely to drop out or become non-compliant.

Conditioning: The process of learning in which an innate behavioral response to a learned or innate stimulus becomes a new behavioral response to a formerly neutral stimulus, after that neutral stimulus has been paired a sufficient number of times with the original, learned or innate stimulus. There are two major types of conditioning: (1) Classical (Pavlovian or respondent) conditioning wherein the behavioral response being learned is an innate response for a neutral stimulus such as salivating to the sound of a bell. (2) Operant (Skinnerian or instrumental) conditioning wherein the behavior being learned is new for the person/subject.

Discrimination: The process wherein a person/subject reacts appropriately to only one, of two or more similar, but different stimuli.

Drive: A force that activates or compels people or animals to make a behavioral response. In behaviorist terms, drives are the results of physiologic deprivations, such as; no food and/or water, or the result of pain or some other unpleasant stimulus.

Emotive Imagery: The mental process of visualizing real or imaged events so vividly that the person reacts with the most logical emotional and/or physical response for the meaning that those mental pictures have for that person. In behavior therapy, emotive imagery is called mental practice.

Extinction: The process whereby the frequency of a learned response to a conditioned stimulus decreases and ultimately disappears, due to lack of reinforcement.

Magic: An imaginary, but empirically non-existent power that can exempt real events from the rule of nature that an event occurs only after its essentials for existing have been met.

Magical Thinking: Thinking that describes only non-empirical illusions of realities or reality.

Punishment: Any undesirable consequence of the subject’s behavioral response in a specific situation that decreases (ideally to zero) the probability of that response occurring in similar future situations.

Reinforcement: A process of increasing the probability (ideally to 100 %) that a specific behavior will be repeated in similar future situations. The two classes are: positive and negative. (1) Positive reinforcement occurs when a subject receives or experiences a personally pleasant event, that is, a reward as the consequence of its specific, immediately preceding behavior. The object or experience received is a positive re-inforcer for the behavior that preceded it. (2) Negative reinforcement occurs when a subject receives an unpleasant stimulus that results in a behavioral response that transforms or removes that stimulus. The unpleasant stimulus for the behavior that transformed it is a negative r-einforcer. The unpleasant stimulus is called an aversive stimulus. The event of termination or removal of an aversive stimulus is a positive re-inforcer-also called a secondary re-inforcer for the behavior that immediately preceded that terminating event.

Response and Stimulus Generalization: The process whereby a neutral stimulus that is similar to, but different from, a conditioned stimulus elicits the same responses that the original or conditioned stimulus elicits, without having been previously paired with either. Generalization of a response is the process wherein the same response is learned to different stimuli.

Stimulus: A sensory event that elicits a response from a person/subject. The two types of stimuli are: (1) Innate or unconditioned stimuli, which elicit only natural or innate responses from a subject such as salivation when exposed to food, and (2) learned or conditioned stimuli, which elicit the responses that innate or learned stimuli elicit, but only after having been paired several times with the real or conditioned stimulus when they elicit their normal target responses. 

There are varying opinions about the best way to define BEHAVIOR THERAPY. However, most health professionals accept Eysenck’s definition: Behavior therapy is the attempt to alter human behavior and emotions in a beneficial way according to the laws of modern learning theory. There is only one problem with that definition: There is no generally recognized comprehensive learning theory of human behavior.

Consequently, from a phenomenological reference, behavior therapy has the following three objective appearances. First, behavior therapy is a general field of skill improvement that deals with learned, undesirable emotional and physical behavioral responses. But these undesirable responses have been practiced so much that they have become personal habits. However, the people who have these undesirable habits believe that they have little or no satisfactory control over them. That is why these habits are often the main behavioral barriers to creating a satisfying life. Second, as a field of behavioral improvement, behavior therapy consists of a diverse collection of many different behavioral (as opposed to medicinal) regimens. Each regimen has a name and is proclaimed to be based on laws of the yet-to-be-identified modern learning theory. Without a comprehensive unifying learning theory however, behavior therapy will not soon become the genuine health science discipline that it is incorrectly assumed to already be and widely practiced in the United States, South America and Europe.


Psychoanalysis focuses on discovering the unconscious reason for behaviors or symptoms and consciously change behaviors to create more effective skills to deal with issues.  

In the research noted above Psychoanalysis is a slow and tedious process. The process helps people to cope better, but, does not eliminate or transform the core issue that prompts the distress/dis-ease and the presumed need for psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalysis designates concomitantly three things:

1. A method of mind forensic investigation; especially the unconscious mind;

2. A therapy of neurosis inspired from the above method;

3. A new stand alone discipline that is based on the knowledge acquired from applying the forensic investigation method and clinical experiences.

There is nothing vague in the definition of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is a specific mind investigation technique and a therapy inspired from this investigation.  First and foremost therapy in order to emphasize even more that psychoanalysis implies no speculation, that it is closer to psychotherapy and farther from philosophy, art or culture in general. Paradoxical to the definition, the psychoanalytic process is vague, laborious and tedious with a sense of ‘I must be better after spending all the time and money.’  Yet, in spite of considerable time and effort accomplish only better coping skills and techniques. 

The psychoanalytical science referenced in the third point came to into being from Freud’s study called Totem and Taboo, in which he launched himself in social and anthropologic analysis based on the knowledge extracted from applying psychoanalysis to neurosis therapy. Anyone who wants to know more about the speculative aspect of psychoanalysis needs to read the aforementioned book.  

Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD, Metaphysician – Certified Hypnosis and Regression Practitioner, Author and Speaker. Dr. Dorothy facilitates clearing blocks, fears and limiting beliefs. You can live the life you desire. She brings awareness to concepts not typically obvious to one’s thoughts and feelings. https://drdorothy.net