Hypnosis -- or hypnotherapy -- uses guided relaxation, intense concentration, and focused attention to achieve a heightened state of awareness that is sometimes called a trance. The person's attention is so focused while in this state that anything going on around the person is temporarily blocked out or ignored. In this naturally occurring state, a person may focus his or her attention -- with the help of a trained therapist -- on specific thoughts or tasks.
Jump up ^ Does a genetic programming of the brain occur during paradoxical sleep (1978) by M Jouvet in editors; Buser, Pierre A.; Rougeul-Buser, Arlette (1978). Cerebral correlates of conscious experience : proceedings of an international symposium on cerebral correlates of conscious experience, held in Senanque Abbey, France, on 2-8 august 1977. New York: North-Holland. ISBN 978-0-7204-0659-7.
In his later works, Braid reserved the term "hypnotism" for cases in which subjects entered a state of amnesia resembling sleep. For other cases, he spoke of a "mono-ideodynamic" principle to emphasise that the eye-fixation induction technique worked by narrowing the subject's attention to a single idea or train of thought ("monoideism"), which amplified the effect of the consequent "dominant idea" upon the subject's body by means of the ideo-dynamic principle.[57]
Barber et al. noted that similar factors appeared to mediate the response both to hypnotism and to cognitive behavioural therapy, in particular systematic desensitization.[35] Hence, research and clinical practice inspired by their interpretation has led to growing interest in the relationship between hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.[70]:105[113]
The next major development came from behavioural psychology in American university research. Clark L. Hull (1884–1952), an eminent American psychologist, published the first major compilation of laboratory studies on hypnosis, Hypnosis & Suggestibility (1933), in which he proved that hypnosis and sleep had nothing in common. Hull published many quantitative findings from hypnosis and suggestion experiments and encouraged research by mainstream psychologists. Hull's behavioural psychology interpretation of hypnosis, emphasising conditioned reflexes, rivalled the Freudian psycho-dynamic interpretation which emphasised unconscious transference.
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Psychiatric nurses in most medical facilities are allowed to administer hypnosis to patients in order to relieve symptoms such as anxiety, arousal, negative behaviours, uncontrollable behaviour, and to improve self-esteem and confidence. This is permitted only when they have been completely trained about their clinical side effects and while under supervision when administering it.[147]
Around 1900, there were very few preoperative anesthetic drugs available. Patients were naturally apprehensive when facing surgery. One out of four hundred patients would die, not from the surgical procedure, but from the anesthesia. Dr. Henry Munro was one of the first physicians to use hypnotherapy to alleviate patient fears about having surgery. He would get his patients into a hypnotic state and discuss their fears with them, telling them they would feel a lot better following surgery. Ether was the most common anesthetic at that time, and Dr. Munro found that he was able to perform surgery using only about 10% of the usual amount of ether.
The practice of many relaxation techniques is poorly regulated, and standards of practice and training are variable. This situation is unsatisfactory, but given that many relaxation techniques are relatively benign, the problem with this variation in standards is more in ensuring effective treatment and good professional conduct than in avoiding adverse effects. By selecting a license mental health professional (psychologist or social worker), patients are more likely to receive treatment from individuals who are well trained in the appropriate use of behavioral techniques.

Hypnosis is effective in decreasing the fear of cancer treatment[127] reducing pain from[128] and coping with cancer[129] and other chronic conditions.[116] Nausea and other symptoms related to incurable diseases may also be managed with hypnosis.[130][131][132][133] Some practitioners have claimed hypnosis might help boost the immune system of people with cancer. However, according to the American Cancer Society, "available scientific evidence does not support the idea that hypnosis can influence the development or progression of cancer."[134]
Mendelsohn et al.’s study is important because it demonstrates that hypnotic suggestions influence brain activity, not just behavior and experience. Hypnotic effects are real! This fact has been demonstrated clearly in earlier work, for instance, by psychologist David Oakley (University College London) and colleagues, who compared brain activation of genuinely hypnotized people given suggestions for leg paralysis with brain activation of people simply asked to fake hypnosis and paralysis.
Hypnotherapy can have negative outcomes. When used as entertainment, people have been hypnotized to say or do things that would normally embarrass them. There have been instances where people already dangerously close to psychological breakdown have been pushed into an emotional crisis during what was supposed to be a harmless demonstration of hypnosis. A statement from the World Hypnosis Organization (WHO) warns against performing hypnosis on patients suffering from psychosis, organic psychiatric conditions, or antisocial personality disorders. Because there are no standard licensing requirements, in the wrong hands, there is a risk that the hypnotist will have difficulty in controlling or ending a hypnotic state that has been induced in the patient.
Last May [1843], a gentleman residing in Edinburgh, personally unknown to me, who had long resided in India, favored me with a letter expressing his approbation of the views which I had published on the nature and causes of hypnotic and mesmeric phenomena. In corroboration of my views, he referred to what he had previously witnessed in oriental regions, and recommended me to look into the Dabistan, a book lately published, for additional proof to the same effect. On much recommendation I immediately sent for a copy of the Dabistan, in which I found many statements corroborative of the fact, that the eastern saints are all self-hypnotisers, adopting means essentially the same as those which I had recommended for similar purposes.[51]
Hypnotherapy focuses on hypnosis, the Greek term for sleep. The practice uses exercises that relax people, bringing them to an altered state of consciousness. This process focuses on mastering self-awareness. Through trance-like analysis, hypnosis decreases blood pressure and heart rate, putting one's physical body at ease. Working with memories, hypnotherapy helps a person to reframe, relax, absorb, dissociate, respond, and reflect. The process reconstructs healthier associations with a person's past events. Dealing with a wide range of conditions (and pain), people become responsive to new solutions that can lead to personal development through hypnotherapy.
Meditation practice focuses on stilling or emptying the mind. Typically, meditators concentrate on their breath or a sound (mantra) they repeat to themselves. They may, alternatively, attempt to reach a state of “detached observation,” in which they are aware of their environment but do not become involved in thinking about it. In meditation, the body remains alert and in an upright position. In addition to formal sitting meditation, patients can be taught mindfulness meditation, which involves bringing a sense of awareness and focus to their involvement in everyday activities.
This finding—that PHA temporarily disrupted some people’s ability to recall the past—echoes decades of hypnosis research. What is entirely new in Mendelsohn et al.’s study is their demonstration that PHA was associated with a specific pattern of brain activation. Consistent with what normally occurs in remembering, when people in the non-PHA group performed the recognition task and successfully remembered what happened in the movie, fMRI showed high levels of activity in areas responsible for visualizing scenes (the occipital lobes) and for analyzing verbally presented scenarios (the left temporal lobe). In stark contrast, when people in the PHA group performed the recognition task and failed to remember the content of the movie, fMRI showed little or no activity in these areas. Also, fMRI showed enhanced activity in another area (the prefrontal cortex) responsible for regulating activity in other brain areas.
Although hypnotherapy can seem strange, perhaps even implausible, it is regarded as potentially effective in treating a variety of ailments, particularly phobias, addictions, and problematic habits. Hypnosis may also be used to help patients cope with stress, smoking cessation, and chronic pain, and some women even opt to use hypnosis to manage the pain of childbirth. In patients with trauma-related conditions such as posttraumatic stress (PTSD), therapists may attempt to talk to clients about their traumatic memories under hypnosis.
Although hypnotherapy can seem strange, perhaps even implausible, it is regarded as potentially effective in treating a variety of ailments, particularly phobias, addictions, and problematic habits. Hypnosis may also be used to help patients cope with stress, smoking cessation, and chronic pain, and some women even opt to use hypnosis to manage the pain of childbirth. In patients with trauma-related conditions such as posttraumatic stress (PTSD), therapists may attempt to talk to clients about their traumatic memories under hypnosis.
Jump up ^ For example, see Media Release 89/70: issued on 12/4/1989, by Peter Collins — who was, at the time, the NSW State Government Minister for Health — which announced that the N.S.W. Government had made "a decision not to proceed with plans to place controls on Hypnosis and to ban Stage Hypnosis". Also, see Dewsbury, R., "Reversal by Govt over hypnotists", The Sydney Morning Herald, (Thursday, 13 April 1989), p.8.
The patient must be made to understand that he is to keep the eyes steadily fixed on the object, and the mind riveted on the idea of that one object. It will be observed, that owing to the consensual adjustment of the eyes, the pupils will be at first contracted: They will shortly begin to dilate, and, after they have done so to a considerable extent, and have assumed a wavy motion, if the fore and middle fingers of the right hand, extended and a little separated, are carried from the object toward the eyes, most probably the eyelids will close involuntarily, with a vibratory motion. If this is not the case, or the patient allows the eyeballs to move, desire him to begin anew, giving him to understand that he is to allow the eyelids to close when the fingers are again carried towards the eyes, but that the eyeballs must be kept fixed, in the same position, and the mind riveted to the one idea of the object held above the eyes. In general, it will be found, that the eyelids close with a vibratory motion, or become spasmodically closed.[34]
But for the comparison between PHA and functional amnesia to be most meaningful, we need to know that they share underlying processes. One way to test this is to identify the brain activity patterns associated with PHA. In a groundbreaking study published in Neuron, neuroscientist Avi Mendelsohn and colleagues at the Weizmann Institute in Israel did just that using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). They carefully selected 25 people to participate in their experiment. Although all were susceptible to hypnosis, earlier testing had shown that half could respond to a PHA suggestion (labelled “the PHA group”) and half could not (the “non-PHA group”). In the Study session of their experiment, participants watched a 45-minute movie. One week later, in the Test session, participants returned to the laboratory and were hypnotized while they lay within the fMRI scanner. During hypnosis, people in both the PHA and non-PHA groups received a suggestion to forget the movie until they heard a specific cancellation cue.
Hypnotherapy is being studied in children who have common, chronic problems and to aid in relieving pain. Children are particularly good candidates for hypnotherapy because their lack of worldly experience enables them to move easily between the rational world and their imagination. Studies with children have shown responses to hypnotherapy ranging from diminished pain and anxiety during a number of medical procedures, a 50% range in reduction of symptoms or a complete resolution of a medical condition, and a reduction in use of anti-nausea medication and vomiting during chemotherapy for childhood cancers.

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“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.

Whereas the older "depth scales" tried to infer the level of "hypnotic trance" from supposed observable signs such as spontaneous amnesia, most subsequent scales have measured the degree of observed or self-evaluated responsiveness to specific suggestion tests such as direct suggestions of arm rigidity (catalepsy). The Stanford, Harvard, HIP, and most other susceptibility scales convert numbers into an assessment of a person's susceptibility as "high", "medium", or "low". Approximately 80% of the population are medium, 10% are high, and 10% are low. There is some controversy as to whether this is distributed on a "normal" bell-shaped curve or whether it is bi-modal with a small "blip" of people at the high end.[45] Hypnotizability Scores are highly stable over a person's lifetime. Research by Deirdre Barrett has found that there are two distinct types of highly susceptible subjects, which she terms fantasizers and dissociaters. Fantasizers score high on absorption scales, find it easy to block out real-world stimuli without hypnosis, spend much time daydreaming, report imaginary companions as a child, and grew up with parents who encouraged imaginary play. Dissociaters often have a history of childhood abuse or other trauma, learned to escape into numbness, and to forget unpleasant events. Their association to "daydreaming" was often going blank rather than creating vividly recalled fantasies. Both score equally high on formal scales of hypnotic susceptibility.[46][47][48]
In this special mental state, people feel uninhibited and relaxed. Presumably, this is because they tune out the worries and doubts that normally keep their actions in check. You might experience the same feeling while watching a movie: As you get engrossed in the plot, worries about your job, family, etc. fade away, until all you're thinking about is what's up on the screen.

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As a hypnotherapist, I've seen first-hand the incredible changes that this form of therapy can bring. I once had a client with an intense phobia of maggots who couldn't so much as utter the word without experiencing a strong physical and emotional response. But after just two sessions she found that she was able to talk about them comfortably and was also willing to watch videos of them online without feeling disturbed. She was hardly able to believe her progress.
Jump up ^ The revised criteria, etc. are described in Yeates, Lindsay B., A Set of Competency and Proficiency Standards for Australian Professional Clinical Hypnotherapists: A Descriptive Guide to the Australian Hypnotherapists' Association Accreditation System (Second, Revised Edition), Australian Hypnotherapists' Association, (Sydney), 1999. ISBN 0-9577694-0-7.