Hypnosis, when using proven therapeutic procedures, can be a highly effective form of treatment for many mental, psychosomatic, and physical disorders. For example, through the use of regressive techniques, an adult patient may mentally voyage back to a point in youth that was particularly troublesome, allowing the healing of old emotional wounds. Another patient can be led to understand that emotional pain has been converted to physical pain, and that the pain can be eliminated once the source has been addressed. Or, a person suffering from chronic pain can be taught to control the pain without use of medications. There are a number of techniques for correcting dysfunctional behaviors such as self-destructive habits, anxiety disorders, and even managing side effects of various medical treatments and procedures.
Austrian physician, Franz Mesmer (1734–1815), is credited with being the first person to scientifically investigate the idea of hypnotherapy, in 1779, to treat a variety of health conditions. Mesmer studied medicine at the University of Vienna and received his medical degree in 1766. Mesmer is believed to have been the first doctor to understand the relationship of psychological trauma to illness. He induced a trance-like state, which became known as mesmerism, in his patients to successfully treat nervous disorders. These techniques became the foundation for modern-day hypnotherapy.
Hypnotic music became an important part in the development of a ‘physiological psychology’ that regarded the hypnotic state as an ‘automatic’ phenomenon that links to physical reflex. In their experiments with sound hypnosis, Jean-Martin Charcot used gongs and tuning forks, and Ivan Pavlov used bells. The intention behind their experiments was to prove that physiological response to sound could be automatic, bypassing the conscious mind.
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.
The American Psychological Association published a study comparing the effects of hypnosis, ordinary suggestion, and placebo in reducing pain. The study found that highly suggestible individuals experienced a greater reduction in pain from hypnosis compared with placebo, whereas less suggestible subjects experienced no pain reduction from hypnosis when compared with placebo. Ordinary non-hypnotic suggestion also caused reduction in pain compared to placebo, but was able to reduce pain in a wider range of subjects (both high and low suggestible) than hypnosis. The results showed that it is primarily the subject's responsiveness to suggestion, whether within the context of hypnosis or not, that is the main determinant of causing reduction in pain.
In the everyday trance of a daydream or movie, an imaginary world seems somewhat real to you, in the sense that it fully engages your emotions. Imaginary events can cause real fear, sadness or happiness, and you may even jolt in your seat if you are surprised by something (a monster leaping from the shadows, for example). Some researchers categorize all such trances as forms of self-hypnosis. Milton Erickson, the premier hypnotism expert of the 20th century, contended that people hypnotize themselves on a daily basis. But most psychiatrists focus on the trance state brought on by intentional relaxation and focusing exercises. This deep hypnosis is often compared to the relaxed mental state between wakefulness and sleep.
The hypnotized individual appears to heed only the communications of the hypnotist and typically responds in an uncritical, automatic fashion while ignoring all aspects of the environment other than those pointed out by the hypnotist. In a hypnotic state an individual tends to see, feel, smell, and otherwise perceive in accordance with the hypnotist's suggestions, even though these suggestions may be in apparent contradiction to the actual stimuli present in the environment. The effects of hypnosis are not limited to sensory change; even the subject's memory and awareness of self may be altered by suggestion, and the effects of the suggestions may be extended (posthypnotically) into the subject's subsequent waking activity.
Before people subject themselves to hypnotherapy they are advised to learn as much about the process and about the chosen therapist as is necessary to feel comfortable. Rapport and trust are two key ingredients in making a potential hypnotherapy patient comfortable. Therapists should be open and willing to answer all questions regarding qualifications, expertise, and methods used. A well-qualified professional will not undertake the use of hypnosis without interviewing the patient to ascertain their level of understanding of the process. This is very important for two reasons. First, it allows the patient the opportunity to have questions answered and to develop some rapport with the therapist. Second, it is important for the therapist to know the patient's expectations since meeting these expectations will enhance the likelihood of success.
Hypnosis might not be appropriate for a person who has psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions, or for someone who is using drugs or alcohol. It should be used for pain control only after a doctor has evaluated the person for any physical disorder that might require medical or surgical treatment. Hypnosis also may be a less effective form of therapy than other more traditional treatments, such as medication, for psychiatric disorders.
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.
This popular representation bears little resemblance to actual hypnotism, of course. In fact, modern understanding of hypnosis contradicts this conception on several key points. Subjects in a hypnotic trance are not slaves to their "masters" -- they have absolute free will. And they're not really in a semi-sleep state -- they're actually hyperattentive.
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.
Abnormal results can occur in instances where amateurs, who know the fundamentals of hypnosis, entice friends to become their experimental subjects. Their lack of full understanding can lead to immediate consequences, which can linger for some time after the event. If, for example, the amateur plants the suggestion that the subject is being bitten by mosquitoes, the subject would naturally scratch where the bites were perceived. When awakened from the trance, if the amateur forgets to remove the suggestion, the subject will continue the behavior. Left unchecked, the behavior could land the subject in a physician's office in an attempt to stop the itching and scratching cycle. If the physician is astute enough to question the genesis of the behavior and hypnosis is used to remove the suggestion, the subject may experience long-term negative emotional distress and anger upon understanding exactly what happened. The lack of full understanding, complete training, and supervised experience on the part of the amateur places the subject at risk.
Self-hypnosis happens when a person hypnotises oneself, commonly involving the use of autosuggestion. The technique is often used to increase motivation for a diet, to quit smoking, or to reduce stress. People who practise self-hypnosis sometimes require assistance; some people use devices known as mind machines to assist in the process, whereas others use hypnotic recordings.
At first, Freud was an enthusiastic proponent of hypnotherapy. He "initially hypnotised patients and pressed on their foreheads to help them concentrate while attempting to recover (supposedly) repressed memories", and he soon began to emphasise hypnotic regression and ab reaction (catharsis) as therapeutic methods. He wrote a favorable encyclopedia article on hypnotism, translated one of Bernheim's works into German, and published an influential series of case studies with his colleague Joseph Breuer entitled Studies on Hysteria (1895). This became the founding text of the subsequent tradition known as "hypno-analysis" or "regression hypnotherapy".
"Are you facing some challenging situations in life? Do you struggle with deep dissatisfaction or feelings of emptiness? Change and challenges are a part of life; however, sometimes, we need a little help getting through these difficult times. I believe that we all need someone to talk to who will really listen and accept us how we are. I provided a warm, nonjudgmental environment and a safe place to explore the issues you are facing so you can work towards healing your emotional pain. I work with adults, adolescents and couples who may be facing a wide variety of challenges."
During your first session, you will likely begin by telling the therapist about your goals and issues. You will then work together to come up with a treatment plan. Once you enter a state of hypnosis, your body will feel calm and relaxed, even as you enter a state of increased awareness, similar to the way you might feel when meditating. Your therapist will speak to you in a calm and gently assertive voice, and place the suggestions you agreed to in your treatment plan into your subconscious mind.
Hypnosis may be useful as an adjunct therapy for weight loss. A 1996 meta-analysis studying hypnosis combined with cognitive behavioural therapy found that people using both treatments lost more weight than people using cognitive behavioural therapy alone. The virtual gastric band procedure mixes hypnosis with hypnopedia. The hypnosis instructs the stomach that it is smaller than it really is, and hypnopedia reinforces alimentary habits. A 2016 pilot study found that there was no significant difference in effectiveness between VGB hypnotherapy and relaxation hypnotherapy.
A hypnotherapist can work with you to find the technique that can work best for what you're trying to accomplish. Although it's important to begin by working with a hypnotherapist, the hypnotherapist can then teach you self-hypnosis so you can practice at home. Once you have a firm grip on an issue like pain or fatigue with the therapist, you can continue on your own with self-hypnosis.
"At some point in our lives we might feel overwhelmed, stuck, as if the life has placed a roadblock on our way. Other times we created our own roadblocks. We are always busy, always running, often take care of others, do what others want us to do, and neglect our own fundamental needs of happiness, belonging, fulfillment, and joy. It is so important to stop for a moment and to create your own safe space for internal search and reflection that would lead to finding YOUR OWN answers and solutions. As a therapist, I offer such space for you."
Pierre Janet (1859–1947) reported studies on a hypnotic subject in 1882. Charcot subsequently appointed him director of the psychological laboratory at the Salpêtrière in 1889, after Janet had completed his PhD, which dealt with psychological automatism. In 1898, Janet was appointed psychology lecturer at the Sorbonne, and in 1902 he became chair of experimental and comparative psychology at the Collège de France. Janet reconciled elements of his views with those of Bernheim and his followers, developing his own sophisticated hypnotic psychotherapy based upon the concept of psychological dissociation, which, at the turn of the century, rivalled Freud's attempt to provide a more comprehensive theory of psychotherapy.
The Federal Dictionary of Occupational Titles describes the job of the hypnotherapist: "Induces hypnotic state in client to increase motivation or alter behavior patterns: Consults with client to determine nature of problem. Prepares client to enter hypnotic state by explaining how hypnosis works and what client will experience. Tests subject to determine degree of physical and emotional suggestibility. Induces hypnotic state in client, using individualized methods and techniques of hypnosis based on interpretation of test results and analysis of client's problem. May train client in self-hypnosis conditioning. GOE: 10.02.02 STRENGTH: S GED: R4 M3 L4 SVP: 7 DLU: 77"