Debunking Hypnosis: Coding Medical Hypnotherapy

Debunking Hypnosis: Coding Medical Hypnotherapy

Hypnosis is one of the world’s oldest sciences. It has existed, in one form or another, as long as records have been kept. Hypnosis, also referred to as hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion, is a trance-like state in which you have heightened focus and concentration.


Don’t confuse medical hypnosis with the flamboyant shows where a performer, swinging watch in hand, places unsuspecting volunteers in a trance and instructs them to perform silly tasks. Hypnotherapy is a legitimate treatment for a myriad of medical problems, and unlike many treatments, it is safe and noninvasive.

The goal of medical hypnosis is to improve overall health and wellness by facilitating relaxation and mindfulness. Recent research supports the view that hypnotic suggestions effectively change brain activity and, in turn, aspects of a persons physiological and neurological functions. Here is some background information on this emerging therapeutic modality and what you need to know to properly code medical hypnosis.


What is Hypnotherapy?

Hypnosis is an internationally recognized psychotherapeutic technique for treating mental and psychosomatic issues. A trained hypnotist induces an altered state of awareness, perception, or consciousness using verbal repetition and mental images. They then provide suggestions for changes in sensation, perception, cognition, affect, mood, or behavior. While hypnotized, patients usually feel calm and focused, have reduced peripheral awareness, and have an enhanced capacity for response to suggestion. This focused state makes the brain more flexible. While patients are in this state of heightened awareness and suggestibility, they can access sources of distress and experience changes in the way they think, feel, and behave.

It’s important to note that people’s response to hypnosis varies and it is more effective when the patient wants to be hypnotized. Although people are more open to suggestion during hypnosis, they don’t lose behavioral control. The hypnotherapist strives to uncover subconscious motivations, access repressed memories, perform regression therapy, and use the power of suggestion to “re-map” the mind’s responses to stimuli. This modality helps the therapist to achieve an alteration in the patient’s thought and behavior patterns in hopes of treating a psychological or physical problem.

Medical Problems Hypnosis Is Proven to Help

Hypnosis has been studied for a number of conditions. It has helped patients gain control over undesired behaviors including addictions, phobias, and obesity, as well as cope better with pain, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, fatigue, gastrointestinal and dermatological disorders, and countless other issues.

“Hypnosis takes advantage of the fact that people are able to be open to absorbing new ideas,”  Dr. Mark P. Jensen, a pain expert at the University of Washington who researches hypnosis says. “You get someone’s attention and then you offer them a new way of looking at a problem that will make the problem easier for them to manage.”

How Long Has Hypnosis Been Practiced?

Astonishingly, ancient hieroglyphics indicate that the Egyptians were using hypnosis as early as 3,000 B.C. Evidence suggests the Greeks and Mayans understood and employed it, as well. Modern clinical hypnotherapy dates back to the late 1700s. Its use as a reliable therapy dramatically increased in the 1950s when both the British Medical Association and the American Medical Association confirmed the efficacy of hypnotherapy.

Hypnosis Coverage and Coding

The cost of hypnotherapy varies depending on the provider, location, and the condition treated. As long as a licensed professional certified in clinical hypnotherapy administers the treatments, most insurance companies will cover 50 to 80 percent of the cost of individual therapy. Keep in mind that this is only for certain conditions and coverage depends on the patient’s health plan. Medicare also covers hypnotherapy in many cases when it is reasonable and necessary for the treatment of a medical or psychological condition. Make sure to verify with the patient’s insurance company the indications covered under the payer’s policy.

Use CPT 90880 Hypnotherapy to report this service.

Make sure to submit the claim with a covered diagnosis for proper reimbursement. Adequate documentation showing the medical necessity for conducting the hypnotherapy session must be available to support the claim in the event documentation is requested. There are a few indications where hypnotherapy is a covered service for chronic pain management, anxiety reduction, and as an adjunct treatment for somatoform or adjustment disorders.


In cases where hypnotherapy is provided to enhance psychotherapy, you cannot report hypnotherapy along with psychotherapy codes. You must either report 90880 or the appropriate psychotherapy code, or the claim for the psychotherapy code will be denied.

Stacy Chaplain

Stacy Chaplain

Stacy Chaplain, MD, CPC, is an executive editor at AAPC. Prior to her work at AAPC, she worked as Director of Clinical Coding Quality and has more than 4 years experience in medical writing & editing. Stacy received her Bachelor of Arts in Biology from The University of Texas at Austin and her Medical Doctorate from The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. She is a member of the Beaverton, Oregon local chapter.

Stacy Chaplain

Latest posts by Stacy Chaplain (see all)

Translate »