Jump up ^ Braid, J. (1844/1855), "Magic, Mesmerism, Hypnotism, etc., etc. Historically and Physiologically Considered", The Medical Times, Vol.11, No.272, (7 December 1844), pp.203-204, No.273, (14 December 1844), p.224-227, No.275, (28 December 1844), pp.270-273, No.276, (4 January 1845), pp.296-299, No.277, (11 January 1845), pp.318-320, No.281, (8 February 1845), pp.399-400, and No.283, (22 February 1845), pp.439-441: at p.203.
The earliest definition of hypnosis was given by Braid[contradictory], who coined the term "hypnotism" as an abbreviation for "neuro-hypnotism", or nervous sleep, which he contrasted with normal sleep, and defined as: "a peculiar condition of the nervous system, induced by a fixed and abstracted attention of the mental and visual eye, on one object, not of an exciting nature."[21]

Evidence from randomized controlled trials indicates that hypnosis, relaxation, and meditation techniques can reduce anxiety, particularly that related to stressful situations, such as receiving chemotherapy (see box). They are also effective for insomnia, particularly when the techniques are integrated into a package of cognitive therapy (including, for example, sleep hygiene). A systematic review showed that hypnosis enhances the effects of cognitive behavioral therapy for conditions such as phobia, obesity, and anxiety.


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.
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.
The use of hypnotherapy with cancer patients is another area being investigated. A meta-analysis of 116 studies showed very positive results of using hypnotherapy with cancer patients. Ninety-two percent showed a positive effect on depression; 93% showed a positive effect on physical well-being; 81% showed a positive effect on vomiting; and 92% showed a positive effect on pain.
Changes in brain activity have been found in some studies of highly responsive hypnotic subjects. These changes vary depending upon the type of suggestions being given.[168][169] The state of light to medium hypnosis, where the body undergoes physical and mental relaxation, is associated with a pattern mostly of alpha waves[170] However, what these results indicate is unclear. They may indicate that suggestions genuinely produce changes in perception or experience that are not simply a result of imagination. However, in normal circumstances without hypnosis, the brain regions associated with motion detection are activated both when motion is seen and when motion is imagined, without any changes in the subjects' perception or experience.[171] This may therefore indicate that highly suggestible hypnotic subjects are simply activating to a greater extent the areas of the brain used in imagination, without real perceptual changes. It is, however, premature to claim that hypnosis and meditation are mediated by similar brain systems and neural mechanisms.[172]
Ernest Hilgard, who developed the "neodissociation" theory of hypnotism, hypothesized that hypnosis causes the subjects to divide their consciousness voluntarily. One part responds to the hypnotist while the other retains awareness of reality. Hilgard made subjects take an ice water bath. None mentioned the water being cold or feeling pain. Hilgard then asked the subjects to lift their index finger if they felt pain and 70% of the subjects lifted their index finger. This showed that, even though the subjects were listening to the suggestive hypnotist, they still sensed the water's temperature.[180]

Hypnotism was one of the earliest psychoanalytic techniques employed by Sigmund Freud, who was introduced to the technique by physician Josef Breuer. Freud and Breuer believed that traumatic memories that were not accessible to the waking mind could be revealed while a person was under hypnosis, thus facilitating a “cure.” Freud eventually abandoned hypnosis in favor of forced association, and then free association, after he found that not all of his patients responded to hypnotism.


Hypnosis for weight loss or to quit addictive behaviors like smoking or drinking, is how most people think of hypnosis. While people do often seek hypnosis therapy for these reasons, there are other reasons too. People may see a hypnotherapist before and during childbirth or to increase self-esteem. It can also be used to deal with chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, or treat irritable bowel syndrome.
In 2013, the then-40-year-old amateur hypnotist Timothy Porter attempted to sexually abuse his female weight-loss client. She reported awaking from a trance and finding him behind her with his pants down, telling her to touch herself. He was subsequently called to court and included on the sex offender list.[161] In 2015, Gary Naraido, then 52, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for several hypnosis-related sexual abuse charges. Besides the primary charge by a 22-year-old woman who he sexually abused in a hotel under the guise of a free therapy session, he also admitted to having sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl.[162]
In a hypnotherapy session, after identifying client goals for the session and reviewing how the session will proceed, the practitioner will use guided imagery and soothing speech to help the person to feel relaxed and safe. When the recipient of hypnosis has achieved a more receptive state, the practitioner will provide suggestions that could help the person reach his or her goals. The person in the trancelike state remains aware and is usually able to return to a more alert state independently once the session is over. Some people find that just one hypnotherapy session is sufficient, and others may attend several sessions.

At the outset of cognitive behavioural therapy during the 1950s, hypnosis was used by early behaviour therapists such as Joseph Wolpe[71] and also by early cognitive therapists such as Albert Ellis.[72] Barber, Spanos, and Chaves introduced the term "cognitive-behavioural" to describe their "nonstate" theory of hypnosis in Hypnosis, imagination, and human potentialities.[35] However, Clark L. Hull had introduced a behavioural psychology as far back as 1933, which in turn was preceded by Ivan Pavlov.[73] Indeed, the earliest theories and practices of hypnotism, even those of Braid, resemble the cognitive-behavioural orientation in some respects.[69][74]

There are no studies to show that hypnosis can affect outcomes after breast cancer specifically. However, hypnosis does appear to help with some of the symptoms of cancer and side effects of its treatment, such as pain, nausea, vomiting, stress, and anxiety. Research is also being done to find out whether hypnosis can help reduce hot flashes in women who have had breast cancer.
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There are varying theories throughout both the medical and psychological arenas as to how the process of hypnosis works. Some experts believe that people who practice hypnosis effectively are predisposed to this therapy or have developed enhanced cognitive and interpersonal abilities that allow them to respond accordingly to hypnotic cues and conditions. Recent studies have shown that this form of communication actually alters elements of a person’s neurological and physiological mechanisms.
It appears that hypnosis, under other names, has been used since the beginning of time. In fact, it has been insinuated that the earliest description of hypnosis may be portrayed in the Old Testament and in the Talmud. There is also evidence of hypnosis in ancient Egypt, some 3,000 years ago. However, the man credited with the development of what has become modern hypnosis is Friedrich Anton Mesmer, an Austrian physician. One day, Mesmer watched a magician on a street in Paris demonstrate that he could have spectators do his bidding by touching them with magnets. Fascinated by the demonstration, Mesmer believed the magnets had power of their own and from this belief developed his theory of "animal magnetism." He also believed that good health depended on having correct magnetic flow and that the direction of one's magnetic flow could be reversed easily. He further believed that he could direct this magnetic flow into inanimate objects, that could then be used for the good health of others. The term "mesmerism" came to be applied to his mystical workings. He experienced much success in helping the people of Paris as well as visitors who came from other countries, upon hearing of his powers. Later he was completely discredited by a special commission of the French Academy appointed by the King of France, causing him to leave the country. Two of the more famous members of the French Academy at the time were chairman of the commission Benjamin Franklin, American ambassador to France, and Dr. Guillotine, the inventor of the execution device.
Hypnosis for weight loss or to quit addictive behaviors like smoking or drinking, is how most people think of hypnosis. While people do often seek hypnosis therapy for these reasons, there are other reasons too. People may see a hypnotherapist before and during childbirth or to increase self-esteem. It can also be used to deal with chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, or treat irritable bowel syndrome.
Visualization and imagery techniques involve the induction of a relaxed state followed by the development of a visual image, such as a pleasant scene that enhances the sense of relaxation. These images may be generated by the patient or suggested by the practitioner. In the context of this relaxing setting, patients can also choose to imagine themselves coping more effectively with the stressors in their lives.

We also serve Northern California with hypnosis courses meeting on weekend days. This includes the urban areas of San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento, and beyond. This includes the Greater San Francisco Bay Area counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma.
When you hear the word hypnosis, you may picture the mysterious hypnotist figure popularized in movies, comic books and television. This ominous, goateed man waves a pocket watch back and forth, guiding his subject into a semi-sleep, zombie-like state. Once hypnotized, the subject is compelled to obey, no matter how strange or immoral the request. Muttering "Yes, master," the subject does the hypnotist's evil bidding.

In this state, you are also highly suggestible. That is, when the hypnotist tells you do something, you'll probably embrace the idea completely. This is what makes stage hypnotist shows so entertaining. Normally reserved, sensible adults are suddenly walking around the stage clucking like chickens or singing at the top of their lungs. Fear of embarrassment seems to fly out the window. The subject's sense of safety and morality remain entrenched throughout the experience, however. A hypnotist can't get you to do anything you don't want to do.


Hypnotherapy is a powerful way to assist people in creating change in their lives. Hypnosis creates a highly relaxed state of inner concentration and focused attention for people, so they can make new choices based on awareness and clarity that arises as a result of a hypnotherapy session. Hypnosis has been documented to help reduce pain, sooth anxiety, create success with smoking cessation, and weight release. Self-hypnosis is an empowering skill to reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, or alleviate some symptoms of depression or anxiety.

We also serve Northern California with hypnosis courses meeting on weekend days. This includes the urban areas of San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento, and beyond. This includes the Greater San Francisco Bay Area counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma.

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]


Hypnosis is not a dangerous procedure. It is not mind control or brainwashing. A therapist cannot make a person do something embarrassing or that the person doesn't want to do. The greatest risk, as discussed above, is that false memories can potentially be created and that it may be less effective than pursuing other, more established and traditional psychiatric treatments.
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