Effect of Hypnotic Group Treatment on Distress Psychopathology in Mixed-group Outpatients with Depression and Anxiety

Roberto Truzoli1, *, Bruno Renzi2, Marta Romanò2, Ilaria Gremizzi2, Veronica Pirola2, Phil Reed3
1 Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences “L. Sacco”, University of Milan, Milan, Italy
2 University of Milan, Milan, Italy
3 Department of Psychology, University of Swansea, Swansea, UK

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© 2020 Truzoli et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences “L. Sacco”, University of Milan, via G.B. Grassi, 74 20157 Milan, Italy; Tel: +393336126954; Fax +390250319729; E-mail:



There is evidence of hypnosis being effective in reducing both emotional distress, anxiety, and depression.

Hypnosis as a technique promotes enhanced mental mastery over the body. This may result in hypnosis being particularly salient in treating distress associated with somatic and psychological symptoms.


This research aims at verifying the effectiveness of a group treatment, which provides for the use of hypnosis-related techniques in mixed-group outpatients with anxiety or depression.


Participants. 31 outpatients (average age= 49.005; DS =12.1) including 13 with mild-moderate depression (average age= 49.17; DS=12.20) and 18 with mild-moderate anxiety (average age=48.84; DS=13.02).

Procedure. The group treatment comprised 8 sessions, during which a hypnotic state was induced, aimed at generating a sensation of profound wellbeing in the participants. They could share their experience in a penultimate group session, and were provided with individualised recommendations on nutrition and lifestyle in the last individual session. Patients were prescribed to practice self-hypnosis every day at home with the support of a CD-ROM.

Psychopathological symptomatology (SCL-90R), depression (BDI), and anxiety (STAI-Y1, SAS) were assessed at pre, post, and 3-month follow-up.

Statistical analysis. Friedman, Kruskal-Wallis and Mann-Whitey tests were used. The Bonferroni’s correction was applied as needed. The effect size (Cohen’s d) was also measured.


For the total sample, for all tests, significant differences were observed in the phases. The effect size was found to vary from “small” at pre to ”medium” at post. A “large” effect size was observed when comparing pre and follow-up phases. An overall reduction in the symptoms of distress measured by the SCL-90 R – with the anxiety group showing better outcomes – alongside with an improvement in the symptoms of depression and anxiety were observed in all participants.


The clinical impact appears to be relevant, as shown by the values for d. The treatment is cost-effective for highly prevalent disorders in outpatients. The outcomes of this study support the effectiveness of hypnotic group treatment.

Keywords: Anxiety, Depression, Distress, Hypnosis, Group treatment, Effectiveness.