The main theorist who pioneered the influential role-taking theory of hypnotism was Theodore Sarbin. Sarbin argued that hypnotic responses were motivated attempts to fulfill the socially constructed roles of hypnotic subjects. This has led to the misconception that hypnotic subjects are simply "faking". However, Sarbin emphasised the difference between faking, in which there is little subjective identification with the role in question, and role-taking, in which the subject not only acts externally in accord with the role but also subjectively identifies with it to some degree, acting, thinking, and feeling "as if" they are hypnotised. Sarbin drew analogies between role-taking in hypnosis and role-taking in other areas such as method acting, mental illness, and shamanic possession, etc. This interpretation of hypnosis is particularly relevant to understanding stage hypnosis, in which there is clearly strong peer pressure to comply with a socially constructed role by performing accordingly on a theatrical stage.

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.
The real origin and essence of the hypnotic condition, is the induction of a habit of abstraction or mental concentration, in which, as in reverie or spontaneous abstraction, the powers of the mind are so much engrossed with a single idea or train of thought, as, for the nonce, to render the individual unconscious of, or indifferently conscious to, all other ideas, impressions, or trains of thought. The hypnotic sleep, therefore, is the very antithesis or opposite mental and physical condition to that which precedes and accompanies common sleep
Research into hypnosis in military applications is further verified by the Project MKULTRA experiments, also conducted by the CIA.[149] According to Congressional testimony,[150] the CIA experimented with utilizing LSD and hypnosis for mind control. Many of these programs were done domestically and on participants who were not informed of the study's purposes or that they would be given drugs.[150]
People have been entering into hypnotic-type trances for thousands of years. In many cultures and religions, it was regarded as a form of meditation. Modern day hypnosis, however, started in the late 18th century and was made popular by Franz Mesmer, a German physician who became known as the father of ‘modern hypnotism’. In fact, hypnosis used to be known as ‘Mesmerism’ as it was named after Mesmer.
Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell (the originators of the human givens approach) define hypnosis as "any artificial way of accessing the REM state, the same brain state in which dreaming occurs" and suggest that this definition, when properly understood, resolves "many of the mysteries and controversies surrounding hypnosis".[29] They see the REM state as being vitally important for life itself, for programming in our instinctive knowledge initially (after Dement[30] and Jouvet[31]) and then for adding to this throughout life. They explain this by pointing out that, in a sense, all learning is post-hypnotic, which explains why the number of ways people can be put into a hypnotic state are so varied: anything that focuses a person's attention, inward or outward, puts them into a trance.[32]

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]
We have, however, come a long way from the days of Mesmer’s animal magnetism. The increasing interest in mindfulness meditation suggests that mainstream acceptance of the mind-body connection is growing. This year, two well-received books by serious science journalists, Marchant’s Cure, out in January, and Erik Vance’s Suggestible You, out this month, explore this territory — the demonstrable results of hypnosis, faith, and even magic — long dismissed as pseudoscience or explained away as the placebo effect. Just last month, NPR reported that placebo pills work even when people know they’re taking a placebo. “Those are real, biological changes underlying those differences in your symptoms,” Marchant told Science of Us earlier this year. It’s all in your mind. But that doesn’t mean it’s not real. 
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]
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]
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.

Before long, hypnotism started finding its way into the world of modern medicine. The use of hypnotism in the medical field was made popular by surgeons and physicians like Elliotson and James Esdaille and researchers like James Braid who helped to reveal the biological and physical benefits of hypnotism.[50] According to his writings, Braid began to hear reports concerning various Oriental meditative practices soon after the release of his first publication on hypnotism, Neurypnology (1843). He first discussed some of these oriental practices in a series of articles entitled Magic, Mesmerism, Hypnotism, etc., Historically & Physiologically Considered. He drew analogies between his own practice of hypnotism and various forms of Hindu yoga meditation and other ancient spiritual practices, especially those involving voluntary burial and apparent human hibernation. Braid's interest in these practices stems from his studies of the Dabistān-i Mazāhib, the "School of Religions", an ancient Persian text describing a wide variety of Oriental religious rituals, beliefs, and practices.
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’s important to remember that depression, along with severe and chronic mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, also affect a person’s physical health. Depression is more than just feeling sad or having negative thoughts. It’s a condition where the chemicals in your brain are imbalanced. Hypnotherapy is a complementary therapy, and it shouldn’t be the only therapy a person uses to enhance their mental health.

“With hypnosis, you might help someone stop smoking by suggesting the taste or smell of cigarettes is worse than it actually is. But a hypnotherapist can also use age regression to examine the impulse that fuels the client’s habit and discover old conclusions and behaviors. The healing will take place when the client creates new conclusions about old memories and chooses new behaviors rather than smoking.”


People who practice hypnotism in a clinical setting have long argued that the hypnotized patient enters an altered state of consciousness. Even if you’ve never undergone hypnotherapy, chances are you’ve experienced this state yourself. “It’s like getting so caught up in a good movie that you forget you’re watching a movie, and you enter the imagined world,” said Dr. David Spiegel, a psychiatrist and the medical director of Stanford University’s Center for Integrative Medicine.
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]
Our Clinical Hypnotherapy Certificate is a vocationally oriented program for those who have successfully completed the 100-hour Certificate in Hypnotherapy and wish to deepen their skills and strengthen their ability to establish a private practice. Students completing this program are eligible to take the certification processes for the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners (ACHE) and the International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association (IMDHA).

Olness thinks there must be something about the intense mental imagery that comes with a hypnotic state. One little boy she worked with told her he was imagining that he was touching the sun. Whether such visions activate different parts of the brain than those associated with rational thought is less clear. As Olness says, “We’re a long way from specifics on that.”


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.
Since hypnotherapy is an adjunct form of therapy, used along with other forms of psychological or medical treatment, there are many applications. Hypnotherapy can be used to treat anxiety, phobias, substance abuse including tobacco, sexual dysfunction, undesirable spontaneous behaviors, and bad habits. It can be used to help improve sleep, learning disorders, communication, and relationship issues. Hypnotherapy can aid in pain management and help resolve medical conditions such as digestive disorders, skin issues, and gastrointestinal side effects of pregnancy and chemotherapy. It can also be used by dentists to help patients control their fears or to treat teeth grinding and other oral conditions.
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