Understanding Hypnosis – Part One-July 8, 2003

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“Suzanne Gelb Image”

Dear Readers:


”’Despite much apparent skepticism about hypnosis, when properly utilized hypnosis can be a powerful resource. Over the next three days I would like to share with you an article I wrote several years ago on hypnosis. Titled “Understanding Hypnosis and Its Clinical Efficacy” the article attempts to eliminate some of the stigma about hypnosis. Part One below addresses questions that have been posed about hypnosis, definitions of hypnosis and hypnotherapy, and some of the mechanics of hypnosis.”’

“Many Americans are skeptical about hypnosis even though it is endorsed by the American Psychological Association (APA), the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Dental Association as a legitimate treatment method, and it is well represented in the scientific literature. This article addresses facts and myths about hypnosis and discusses its clinical efficacy. It is my hope that clinicians and educators will find this information useful to eliminate the stigma that has prevented many from benefiting from this powerful resource.

“During the past 12 years that I have been practicing hypnotherapy, clients, colleagues, and allied professionals have asked certain recurring questions of me. These include:

*What is hypnosis?

*How does hypnosis work?

*Can hypnosis resolve habit problems?

*Does research support the efficacy of hypnosis?

*Does hypnosis work for everyone?

“Hypnosis and Hyponotherapy defined. Merriam-Webster (1994) defines hypnosis as ‘a state that resembles sleep but is induced by a person whose suggestions are readily accepted by the subject.’ Hypnotherapy is defined as ‘psychotherapy that facilitates suggestion, reeducation, or analysis by means of hypnosis.’ It is important to clarify that psychotherapy is the discipline, and hypnotherapy is the modality by which therapeutic results are achieved.

“Hypnotherapist defined. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Dictionary of Occupational Titles (1991), a 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’ p. 70.

“Mechanics of hypnosis. Based on research and clinical application, I have found that an effective way to explain hypnosis is to review the workings of the conscious and subconscious mind. The conscious mind is the rational aspect of the mind, and is responsible for sanctioning behavior. It will not allow a person to adopt a new behavior unless it is consistent with that person’s frame of reference (i.e., attitudes accumulated from birth through adulthood). For example, the conscious mind will not sanction somebody biting an onion and eating it as if it were an apple. With hypnosis however, the conscious mind can be subdued, thereby rendering the subconscious amenable to the suggestion that ‘the onion is really an apple.’ The subconscious registers this suggestion and accepts the apple concept as the dominant message. The initial reality of the onion is subordinated as a less significant memory, and the subconscious is reeducated. Utilizing hypnosis, the conscious mind, which is essentially a gatekeeper, is by-passed, providing access to the subconscious, which functions as a dependable workhorse that obeys instructions.”