It is far easier to describe what hypnosis is not rather than to describe what it is. For example, it is not one person controlling the mind of another. The patient is not unconscious and does not lose control of his or her faculties. People will not do things under hypnosis that they would be unwilling to do otherwise. The person being hypnotized is always in control. The hypnotized person decides how deep the trance will be, what suggestions will be accepted, and when to awaken. Therefore, a hypnotyized person cannot be forever "lost" if the therapist should fall dead during an induction or while the patient is deep in trance.
After developing a substantial following — “mesmerism” became “the height of fashion” in late 1780s Paris, writes Marchant — Mesmer became the subject of what was essentially the world’s first clinical trial. King Louis XVI pulled together a team of the world’s top scientists, including Benjamin Franklin, who tested mesmerism and found its capacity to “cure” was, essentially, a placebo effect. “Not a shred of evidence exists for any fluid,” Franklin wrote. “The practice … is the art of increasing the imagination by degrees.”
It may here be requisite for me to explain, that by the term Hypnotism, or Nervous Sleep, which frequently occurs in the following pages, I mean a peculiar condition of the nervous system, into which it may be thrown by artificial contrivance, and which differs, in several respects, from common sleep or the waking condition. I do not allege that this condition is induced through the transmission of a magnetic or occult influence from my body into that of my patients; nor do I profess, by my processes, to produce the higher [i.e., supernatural] phenomena of the Mesmerists. My pretensions are of a much more humble character, and are all consistent with generally admitted principles in physiological and psychological science. Hypnotism might therefore not inaptly be designated, Rational Mesmerism, in contra-distinction to the Transcendental Mesmerism of the Mesmerists.
In the 1950s, Milton H. Erickson developed a radically different approach to hypnotism, which has subsequently become known as "Ericksonian hypnotherapy" or "Neo-Ericksonian hypnotherapy." Erickson made use of an informal conversational approach with many clients and complex language patterns, and therapeutic strategies. This divergence from tradition led some of his colleagues, including Andre Weitzenhoffer, to dispute whether Erickson was right to label his approach "hypnosis" at all.
“Attending the Hypnotherapy Academy was one of the best things I have ever done for myself! The training under Tim Simmerman’s exceptional leadership is a comprehensive and thorough educational process. Upon completion of this excellent curriculum, I know that the Academy’s graduates will be in the highest percentage of successful hypnotherapists throughout the world. Not only did the exceptional hypnosis training prepare me for a rewarding and successful career as a hypnotherapist, it also provided me with a network of valued associates, my fellow classmates.”
Finally, the neural underpinnings of PHA will be even clearer when we incorporate its most important aspect in imaging studies—the dissociation between implicit and explicit memory. In PHA (and in functional amnesia) the person is unable to explicitly recall certain information, yet we see evidence of this material on implicit measures. For instance, a participant given PHA may fail to recall the word “doctor,” learned earlier, but will have no trouble completing the word fragment “d _ _ t _ r”. Mendelsohn et al. did not assess implicit memory. Rather, they tested recognition, which in a sense confounds explicit and implicit memory. We’d like to compare brain scans of a PHA group trying to explicitly recall the movie (they should show reduced activation, as above) with brain scans of the same group completing an implicit memory measure of the movie (they should show normal activation). This would be tricky to do—implicit measures of complex material such as movies and autobiographical memories are hard to find or construct. But it would contribute to a more complete neural picture of the processes involved in these fascinating forms of forgetting.
Hypnotherapy has been used to stop self-destructive and addictive habits like smoking. It has also been used to curb the urge to eat for overeaters, to stem the disruptive actions of tics, cure insomnia , stop bed-wetting, and minimize anxiety. Excessive stress can be generated from any number of sources and can be the springboard for anxiety. Some of the more prominent sources of anxiety and stress for which people seek hypnotherapy are: public speaking, test taking, and job stress. Hypnotherapy also works well for other anxiety disorders such as phobias and has proven to be an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression. In one study, hypnotherapy was used in conjunction with traditional cognitive therapy, to assist persons who had severe aversion to needles. The treatment was necessary, because it was essential that each participant receive periodic medical injections. However, the participants would have become non-compliant without the adjunct intervention of hypnotherapy. In another case, involving care for terminally ill cancer patients, it was concluded that hypnotherapy was more effective at enhancing quality of life and relieving anxiety and depressive symptoms, when compared to others who received traditional care.
Cancer patients use relaxation and hypnosis. Evidence from randomized trials shows hypnosis and relaxation are effective for cancer-related anxiety, pain, nausea, and vomiting, particularly in children. Some practitioners also claim that relaxation techniques, particularly the use of imagery, can prolong life, although currently available evidence is insufficient to support this claim.
“That study changed the whole landscape,” said Dave Patterson, a psychologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, who has been using hypnosis since the 1980s to help burn victims withstand the intense pain that comes with the necessary but excruciating bandage removal and wound cleaning. Since the ’90s, other well-designed, controlled studies have been published showing similar changes in brain activity. In another slightly trippy example, researchers suggested to people in a hypnotic state that the vibrant primary colors found in paintings by Piet Mondrian were actually shades of gray. “Brain-scan results of these participants showed altered activity in fusiform regions involved in color processing,” notes psychologist Christian Jarrett.
Several professional organizations and licensing agencies exist for hypnotherapy practitioners. Examples include the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) and the American Association of Professional Hypnotherapists. To be an ASCH member, practitioners must attend at least 40 hours of workshop training, 20 hours of individual training, and have completed at least two years of clinical practice as a hypnotherapist.
When James Braid first described hypnotism, he did not use the term "suggestion" but referred instead to the act of focusing the conscious mind of the subject upon a single dominant idea. Braid's main therapeutic strategy involved stimulating or reducing physiological functioning in different regions of the body. In his later works, however, Braid placed increasing emphasis upon the use of a variety of different verbal and non-verbal forms of suggestion, including the use of "waking suggestion" and self-hypnosis. Subsequently, Hippolyte Bernheim shifted the emphasis from the physical state of hypnosis on to the psychological process of verbal suggestion: