Clinical Hypnosis

          A therapy approach provided by Brenda Rohren.     

History of Hypnosis.  People have been entering into hypnotic-type trances for thousands of years. Suggestive therapy is perhaps the oldest of the therapeutic methods.  In many cultures and religions, it was regarded as a form of meditation.  Modern-day hypnosis, however, started in the late 1700s when 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 (e.g., John Elliotson, James Esdaile) and researchers (e.g., James Braid) who helped to reveal the biological and physical benefits of hypnotism.  The term hypnosis was coined in the 1880s in France, some twenty years after the death of James Braid, who had adopted the term hypnotism in 1841.

The Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (SCEH) was founded in 1949.  In 1955, The British Medical Assocation (BMA) endorsed hypnosis as an acceptable treatment.  The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) was founded in 1957 as a professional organization dedicated to the use of hypnosis in clinical settings. (It is the largest U.S. organization for health and mental health care professionals using clinical hypnosis.)  The American Medical Association (AMA) approved of the use of hypnosis as an appropriate therapeutic technique in 1958.  The American Psychiatric Association (APA) endorsed hypnosis in 1961.  Then in 1969, the American Psychological Association (APA) formed Division 30 (the Society of Psychological Hypnosis).

What is Clinical Hypnosis?  Clinical hypnosis an approach used by licensed and trained clinicians for treating a psychological or physical problem and involves a set of skills that facilitate a natural, altered state of consciousness called trance.  During therapeutic trance, the conscious, critical mind, is usually relaxed and relatively inactive, while the subconscious mind is able to access resources, skills, and abilities that are otherwise unavailable to the conscious mind.  During trance, openness to suggestibility can be enhanced, senses heightened, mental absorption increased, and imagination activated in controlled manners that promote insight, ego strengthening, and activation of solution-focused skills.

Hypnosis elicits and makes use of the experience of a highly relaxed state of inner absorption, concentration, and focused attention. Using hypnosis and self-hypnosis can allow people to have increased control over their behaviors, thoughts, emotional responses, and even physiological responses and physical health.  Because hypnosis allows people to use more of their potential, learning self-hypnosis is the ultimate act of self-control.  Recent research supports the view that hypnotic communication and suggestions effectively changes aspects of the person’s physiological and neurological functions.  The use of hypnotism for therapeutic purposes is referred to as hypnotherapy.  (Clinical Hypnosis is not stage hypnosis which is a form of entertainment for an audience.)

What to Expect During a Hypnotherapy Session.  Clinical hypnosis is a collaborative experience and can be thought of as an invitation by the hypnotherapist for the client to experience ideas, feelings, sensations, and physical processes that are different than those that occur in the normal, waking state.  Most hypnotic processes can be accomplished in a light to medium state of trance, where the client has a clear memory of what was said and done. This shift in consciousness enables the client to access many natural abilities and allows changes to be made more quickly.  Because hypnosis allows people to use more of their potential, learning self-hypnosis is the ultimate act of self-control.

Professionals use clinical hypnosis to help clients bring about both psychological and physiological change in three main ways:

  • Hypnosis usually begins with a hypnotic elicitation involving a series of preliminary instructions and suggestion by the therapist, a means of heightening client expectation, defining the client’s role, focusing attention, etc.  The therapist may use mental imagery or one’s imagination to assist the client in bringing about the changes that the client wants (e.g., decreased anxiety).
  • A second basic hypnotic method is to present ideas or suggestions to the client.  In a state of concentrated attention, ideas and suggestions that are compatible with what the client wants have a more powerful impact on the mind and body and are therefore more readily translated into feelings of calm and desired changes.
  • Finally, hypnosis may be used for unconscious exploration, to better understand underlying motivations or identify whether past events or experiences are associated with causing a problem. Hypnosis avoids or bypasses the critical censor of the conscious mind, which often interferes with the discovery and ability to make use of new possibilities.

Use of Clinical Hypnosis.  In the mental health field, clinical hypnosis is used for treatment of trauma, phobias, anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, performance enhancement, memory and concentration difficulties, addictions (to include smoking cessation), test anxiety, speech disorders, weight control, chronic pain, self-esteem, ego strengthening, and forensic work with witnesses or victims.  In medicine, uses include anesthesia and surgery, obstetrics/gynecology, control of bleeding, pain control, burn therapy, dermatology, and habit control.  Use in dentistry is for control of fear, dental surgery, saliva control, gagging, bruxism, control of bleeding, tongue biting, and general oral hygiene.

Benefits.  Hypnosis is optimally effective when the client is highly motivated to overcome a problem and when the professional is well trained in both hypnosis and in treatment of the particular problem.  Some individuals seem to have higher native hypnotic talent and capacity that may allow them to benefit more readily from hypnosis.  It is important to keep in mind that hypnosis is like any other therapeutic approach.  It is of major benefit to some clients with some problems, but it may not be effective for all clients.  Clinical hypnosis is one of many approaches used by your health care professional who individualize your treatment to find best combination of treatment interventions that are most effective for you.

Qualifications of a Hypnotherapist.  Clinical hypnosis for the treatment of medical and psychological conditions should only be performed by licensed clinicians.  This includes mental health therapists, physicians, dentists, chiropractors, and masters level nurses.  Hypnosis is to be used in conformance with their own training and licensing laws.  Professionals using hypnosis usually take postgraduate courses in hypnosis, along with appropriate consultation in the use of this treatment approach.  Professionals should also receive additional training through continuing education workshops.  Most locales have a state or local professional society which can be contacted for names of professionals competent to provide hypnotic treatment.  To find a qualified hypnotherapist in your area visit the following website:  American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH);  or Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (SCEH).

How to Know if Hypnosis is for You.  To read an excellent article that describes the benefits of Clinical Hypnosis, click here.

Common Misconceptions.  There are two primary myths about hypnosis. One is the belief about loss of control. (The client actually remains in control of the process and cannot be made to do anything against his or her will.  The client will not begin to reveal information you wish to keep private.)  The second myth is that hypnosis always results in a deep state of unconsciousness, with no memory of what took place.  (Clinical hypnosis is not a state of sleep and is not stage hypnosis.  The client will be aware of everything at all times and cannot be made to do anything that is against his or her will.)  Hypnosis, particularly the deeper forms, can appear to be like sleep because the person’s body is typically very still and quiet.  However, there is usually a great deal of mental activity, and measurements of brain activity during hypnosis show a significant level of neurological activity.  (The hypnotic EEG pattern is entirely different from the sleep EEG pattern.)

Brenda Rohren is ASCH and SCEH Certified in Clinical Hypnosis

The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) was founded in 1957 by Milton Erickson, MD.  It is an interdisciplinary association of medical, dental, and mental health professionals interested in the clinical use of hypnosis. ASCH promotes greater acceptance of hypnosis as a clinical tool with broad applications in medicine, dentistry, and mental health. ASCH offers training and certification programs and provides practitioners with ethical and treatment guidelines for the clinical use of hypnosis by trained, licensed professionals.  Currently, ASCH has nearly 2,000 members in the US, Canada, and other countries.  To search for an ASCH member in your area, click here.

Founded in 1949, the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (SCEH) is an international organization of psychologists, psychiatrists and other physicians, dentists, social workers, nurses and other health care professionals who are dedicated to the highest level of scientific inquiry and the conscientious application of hypnosis in the clinical setting.  The mission is to promote excellence and progress in hypnosis research, education, and clinical practice.  A distinguishing feature of the Society is the emphasis on empirical inquiry and the evidence-base of hypnosis.  This is a selective society of 268 members that contains some of the best and most productive hypnosis researchers and clinicians in the field.

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