More than 200 years later, research in neuroscience is confirming at least parts of Mesmer’s outlandish theory. No, there is not magnetic fluid coursing through our bodies. But the power of mere suggestion — of imagination, as Franklin phrased it — is a more effective treatment than many modern skeptics might expect, causing real, measurable changes in the body and brain. Hypnotism has been shown to be an effective treatment for psychological problems, like phobias and eating disorders, but the practice also helps people with physical problems, including pain — both acute and chronic — and some gastrointestinal diseases. Physicians and psychologists have observed this with their own eyes for decades; now, many of them say that brain-imaging studies (not to mention the deep respect people tend to have for all things prefixed by “neuro”) are helping them finally prove their point.
In most states, the practice of hypnosis is not regulated, so it's important to look for someone who's experienced. Many licensed health care professionals, such as social workers, psychologists, and medical doctors, have been trained in hypnotherapy. People who are not health care professionals can be certified at a number of schools, which may require 60 to more than 200 hours of training. In the United States, certified, experienced practitioners can be found at the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists (NBCCH). Although certification with the NBCCH is not a requirement for practicing hypnosis, the NBCCH was formed by hypnotherapists hoping to improve the standards and integrity of the hypnosis profession. Other countries have their own systems of certification.
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.

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.


Hypnosis is the induction of a deeply relaxed state, with increased suggestibility and suspension of critical faculties. Once in this state, sometimes called a hypnotic trance, patients are given therapeutic suggestions to encourage changes in behavior or relief of symptoms. For example, in a treatment to stop smoking, a hypnosis practitioner might suggest that the patient will no longer find smoking pleasurable or necessary. Hypnosis for a patient with arthritis might include a suggestion that the pain can be turned down like the volume of a radio.
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This state of awareness can be achieved by relaxing the body, focusing on breathing, and shifting attention away from the external environment. In this state, the patient has a heightened receptivity to suggestion. The usual procedure for inducing a hypnotic trance in another person is by direct command repeated in a soothing, monotonous tone of voice.
The analysis method of hypnotherapy, sometimes referred to as regression therapy, is more exploratory and related to uncovering the root of an issue, disorder or symptom. A hypnotherapist will hypnotize a patient by putting them into a relaxed state and exploring a past event in their life in order to explore the person’s subconscious and unconscious memory.
After hypnosis, participants’ memories were tested twice while the fMRI scanner recorded their brain activity. For Test 1, they were asked 40 questions about the content of the movie (for example, the actress knocked on her neighbor’s door on the way home) and 20 questions about the context in which they saw the movie (for instance, during the movie, the door to the study room was closed). These questions required a “yes” or “no” response. For Test 2, participants were asked the same 60 recognition questions, but first they heard the cue to cancel PHA. So Test 1 measured memory performance and brain activity while the PHA suggestion was in effect and Test 2 measured memory performance and brain activity after it was cancelled.
Not every person is hypnotizable to the same degree; some aren’t hypnotizable at all. “Hypnotizability … is modestly correlated with absorption, a personality construct reflecting a disposition to enter states of narrowed or expanded attention and a blurring of boundaries between oneself and the object of perception,” writes John F. Kihlstrom, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, in a 2013 paper in Cortex. “Absorption, in turn, is related to ‘openness to experience,’ one of the ‘Big Five” dimensions of personality.”
The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) is unique among organizations for professionals using hypnosis because members must be licensed healthcare workers with graduate degrees. As an interdisciplinary organization, ASCH not only provides a classroom to teach professionals how to use hypnosis as a tool in their practice, it provides professionals with a community of experts from different disciplines. The ASCH's missions statement is to provide and encourage education programs to further, in every ethical way, the knowledge, understanding, and application of hypnosis in health care; to encourage research and scientific publication in the field of hypnosis; to promote the further recognition and acceptance of hypnosis as an important tool in clinical health care and focus for scientific research; to cooperate with other professional societies that share mutual goals, ethics and interests; and to provide a professional community for those clinicians and researchers who use hypnosis in their work. The ASCH also publishes the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis
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.

Modern hypnotherapy is widely accepted for the treatment of certain habit disorders, to control irrational fears,[35][36] as well as in the treatment of conditions such as insomnia[37] and addiction.[38] Hypnosis has also been used to enhance recovery from non-psychological conditions such as after surgical procedures,[39] in breast cancer care[40] and even with gastro-intestinal problems,[41] including IBS.[42][43]
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