In 2011, a Russian "evil hypnotist" was suspected of tricking customers in banks around Stavropol into giving away thousands of pounds worth of money. According to the local police, he would approach them and make them withdraw all of the money from their bank accounts, which they would then freely give to the man. A similar incident was reported in London in 2014, where a video seemingly showed a robber hypnotizing a shopkeeper before robbing him. The victim did nothing to stop the robber from looting his pockets and taking his cash, only calling out the thief when he was already getting away.
Pierre Janet originally developed the idea of dissociation of consciousness from his work with hysterical patients. He believed that hypnosis was an example of dissociation, whereby areas of an individual's behavioural control separate from ordinary awareness. Hypnosis would remove some control from the conscious mind, and the individual would respond with autonomic, reflexive behaviour. Weitzenhoffer describes hypnosis via this theory as "dissociation of awareness from the majority of sensory and even strictly neural events taking place."
Anecdotal reports suggest that hypnotherapy may be effective in treating allergies, amnesia, anorexia, anxiety, arthritis, bedwetting, bulimia, chronic fatigue syndrome, claustrophobia, depression, dermopathies, fear, flatulence, forgetfulness, gastrointestinal tract problems (such as colitis and irritable bowl syndrome), gout, hypertension, hyperventilation, insomnia, jet lag, low back pain, menstrual defects, migraines, pain and neuralgias, mood swings, panic attacks, phobias, postpartum pain, premenstrual syndrome, psychosomatic disease, sciatica, sexual dysfunction, sleep disorders, sports injuries, stress, stuttering, tension, tics and warts.
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High hypnotizable people with PHA typically show impaired explicit memory, or difficulty consciously recalling events or material targeted by the suggestion, and a dissociation between implicit and explicit memory, so that even though they can’t recall the forgotten information it continues to influence their behavior, thoughts and actions. The forgetting is reversible—when the suggestion is cancelled, their memories come flooding back. These last two features—the dissociation and reversibility—confirm that PHA is not the result of poor encoding of the memories or of normal forgetting, because the memories return as soon as PHA is cancelled. Rather, PHA reflects a temporary inability to retrieve information that is safely stored in memory. That makes it a useful tool for research.
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.
In Test 1 Mendelsohn and colleagues found that people in the PHA group (who could experience PHA) forgot more details from the movie than people in the non-PHA group (who could not experience PHA). But in Test 2, after the suggestion was cancelled, this memory loss was reversed. People in the PHA group correctly recognized just as many details from the movie as people in the non-PHA group. Somewhat surprisingly, however, the suggestion to forget was selective in its impact. Although people in the PHA group had difficulty remembering the content of the movie following the forget suggestion, they had no difficulty remembering the context in which they saw the movie.
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There is a huge range of societies in England who train individuals in hypnosis; however, one of the longest-standing organisations is the British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis (BSCAH). It origins date back to 1952 when a group of dentists set up the ‘British Society of Dental Hypnosis’. Shortly after, a group of sympathetic medical practitioners merged with this fast-evolving organisation to form ‘The Dental and Medical Society for the Study of Hypnosis’; and, in 1968, after various statutory amendments had taken place, the ‘British Society of Medical and Dental Hypnosis’ (BSMDH) was formed. This society always had close links with the Royal Society of Medicine and many of its members were involved in setting up a hypnosis section at this centre of medical research in London. And, in 1978, under the presidency of David Waxman, the Section of Medical and Dental Hypnosis was formed. A second society, the British Society of Experimental and Clinical Hypnosis (BSECH), was also set up a year before, in 1977, and this consisted of psychologists, doctors and dentists with an interest in hypnosis theory and practice. In 2007, the two societies merged to form the ‘British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis’ (BSCAH). This society only trains health professionals and is interested in furthering research into clinical hypnosis.
According to Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus, speaking for Psychology Today, hypnosis is a “genuine psychological phenomenon that has valid uses in clinical practice … hypnosis is a state of highly focused attention or concentration, often associated with relaxation, and heightened suggestibility. While under hypnosis (i.e., in a hypnotic trance), it seems many people are much more open to helpful suggestions than they usually are.” The suggestions made in a therapeutic setting get deep into a person’s brain, beyond their conscious thinking, leading to behavior change and the ability to overcome challenges that might otherwise seem insurmountable.
This method of hypnotherapy is commonly beneficial to hypnotherapists in discovering the psychological root of a problem or symptom, such as social anxiety, depression, or past trauma. These types of trauma are often hidden in unconscious memory and forgotten on a conscious level. Using hypnotherapy for analysis has proven particularly effective at digging into the subconscious memory to attempt to retrieve suppressed memories or early developmental trauma that could result in a wide range of psychological conditions or problematic behavior.
Cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy (CBH) is an integrated psychological therapy employing clinical hypnosis and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The use of CBT in conjunction with hypnotherapy may result in greater treatment effectiveness. A meta-analysis of eight different researches revealed "a 70% greater improvement" for patients undergoing an integrated treatment to those using CBT only.