I took the hypnobirthing course as a weekend course with certified instructors. I was not all that impressed with the instructors, to be honest, but DH and I really gave it our best shot. I have to say I did not have the zenned-out, painless birth like they showed in the videos. I was very relaxed at a far later stage of labor than is apparently typical. When I came in to the birth center they did not seem to believe I was in labor because I was "too calm" or something like that, even when having contractions. They were planning to check my cervix and then send me back home to labor some more there but then I turned out to be at 5, almost 6 cm. However even though I was very relaxed, not afraid, etc. over the next few hours as I continued to contract and dilate I have to say it did become very painful. In retrospect I think I could have stayed more relaxed at home and I'm planning to have a homebirth next time around, but I also can't say I would totally blame the birth center surroundings for the fact that hypnobirthing was not totally "successful" for me. In fact several of the videos shown in the class I took portrayed hospital hypnobirths, so it was definitely implied that if you just mastered the technique you would be successful in any setting.
All that said -- I don't regret learning the techniques, but I do wish I had also learned about other techniques for coping with pain, besides the sole technique of simply believing there won't be any. The instructors we had discouraged parents from reading any other books or taking any other clases regarding childbirth preparation--they said basically reading such things would predispose you to believing you would have pain and would interfere with your ability to successfully practice hypnobirthing. In retrospect, I have read quite a bit of Ina May Gaskin's approach to birth and really wish I had known some of that beforehand. I saw her speak last year and remember her talking about the power of distraction, among other things, like having the birth partner make jokes and use humor/laughter to ease the pain. I thought that was a GREAT approach. With my son's labor/birth I was so incredibly focused on what was going on with my body, trying to relax, etc., and it was all so very SERIOUS! Next time I plan to have some comedy videos on hand to pass the time and keep the mood light. I honestly think that would have helped more than the hypnobirthing did.