It appears that hypnosis, under other names, has been used since the beginning of time. In fact, it has been insinuated that the earliest description of hypnosis may be portrayed in the Old Testament and in the Talmud. There is also evidence of hypnosis in ancient Egypt, some 3,000 years ago. However, the man credited with the development of what has become modern hypnosis is Friedrich Anton Mesmer, an Austrian physician. One day, Mesmer watched a magician on a street in Paris demonstrate that he could have spectators do his bidding by touching them with magnets. Fascinated by the demonstration, Mesmer believed the magnets had power of their own and from this belief developed his theory of "animal magnetism." He also believed that good health depended on having correct magnetic flow and that the direction of one's magnetic flow could be reversed easily. He further believed that he could direct this magnetic flow into inanimate objects, that could then be used for the good health of others. The term "mesmerism" came to be applied to his mystical workings. He experienced much success in helping the people of Paris as well as visitors who came from other countries, upon hearing of his powers. Later he was completely discredited by a special commission of the French Academy appointed by the King of France, causing him to leave the country. Two of the more famous members of the French Academy at the time were chairman of the commission Benjamin Franklin, American ambassador to France, and Dr. Guillotine, the inventor of the execution device.
A typical hypnotherapy session has the patient seated comfortably with their feet on the floor and palms on their lap. Of course, the patient could choose to lie down if that option is available and if that will meet the patient's expectation of hypnosis. The therapist can even set the stage for a favorable outcome by asking questions like, "Would you prefer to undergo hypnosis in this chair or on the sofa?" Once patients make the choice, they are in effect agreeing to undergo hypnosis. Depending on the approach used by the therapist, the next events can vary, but generally will involve some form of relaxing the patient. Suggestions will lead the patient to an increasingly relaxed state. The therapist may wish to confirm the depth of trance by performing tests with the patient. For example, the therapist may suggest that when the eyes close that they will become locked and cannot be opened. The therapist then checks for this by having patients try to open their eyes. Following a successful trial showing the patient's inability to open the eyes, the therapist might then further relax them by using deepening techniques. Deepening techniques will vary for each patient and depend largely on whether the patient represents information through auditory, visual, or kinesthetic means. If the patient is more affected by auditory suggestions, the therapist would use comments such as "You hear the gentle patter of rain on the roof;" or, "The sound of the ocean waves allow you to relax more and more." For the visual person, the therapist might use statements such as, "You see the beautiful placid lake, with trees bending slightly with the breeze." Finally, with the kinesthetic person phrases such as, "You feel the warm sun and gentle breeze on your skin," could be used. It is important for the therapist to know if the patient has difficulty with the idea of floating or descending because these are sometimes used to enhance the experience for the patient. However, if the patient has a fear of heights or develops a feeling of oppression with the thought of traveling downward and going deeper and deeper, suggestions implying the unwanted or feared phenomenon will not be taken and can thwart the attempt.
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
Following the French committee's findings, Dugald Stewart, an influential academic philosopher of the "Scottish School of Common Sense", encouraged physicians in his Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind (1818) to salvage elements of Mesmerism by replacing the supernatural theory of "animal magnetism" with a new interpretation based upon "common sense" laws of physiology and psychology. Braid quotes the following passage from Stewart:
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
Although he rejected the transcendental/metaphysical interpretation given to these phenomena outright, Braid accepted that these accounts of Oriental practices supported his view that the effects of hypnotism could be produced in solitude, without the presence of any other person (as he had already proved to his own satisfaction with the experiments he had conducted in November 1841); and he saw correlations between many of the "metaphysical" Oriental practices and his own "rational" neuro-hypnotism, and totally rejected all of the fluid theories and magnetic practices of the mesmerists. As he later wrote:
That's not to say that hypnotherapy is a "quick fix." Unfortunately there is no magic wand, no miracle cure, and if I could just click my fingers and change lives then believe me, I'd be a lot richer! Hypnotherapy is something that we, my client and I, do together — they commit to their intentions and I give them the metaphorical assistance they need.
Mesmer developed a general theory of disease he called “animal magnetism,” which held that every living thing carries within it an internal magnetic force, in liquid form. Illness arises when this fluid becomes blocked, and can be cured if it can be coaxed to flow again, or so Mesmer’s thinking went. To get that fluid flowing, as science journalist Jo Marchant describes in her recent book, Cure, Mesmer “simply waved his hands to direct it through his patients’ bodies” — the origin of those melodramatic hand motions that stage hypnotists use today.”
Hypnosis for weight loss or to quit addictive behaviors like smoking or drinking, is how most people think of hypnosis. While people do often seek hypnosis therapy for these reasons, there are other reasons too. People may see a hypnotherapist before and during childbirth or to increase self-esteem. It can also be used to deal with chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, or treat irritable bowel syndrome.
As with other treatment providers, recommendations from family or friends are a great place to start. You can also check with a therapist, naturopath, or acupuncturist for recommendations. There are several databases of certified hypnotherapists online too. Try checking the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis’s database, or the General Hypnotherapy Register. You’ll want to check the therapist’s website before you choose, making sure to look for credentials and testimony from previous patients if available.
“My hypnotherapy business is humming along. Within less than a year of graduating, I am doing between 8 and 15 sessions per week now! I love my work and give thanks to God every day for the opportunity to help others. I wouldn’t be where I am today, having these successful outcomes, if it were not for the thorough training I received at the Hypnotherapy Academy. My confidence is strong and unwavering. It still amazes me how easily this all came together and continues to do so! And my thanks to Susan for the sessions I received while at the Academy, they worked wonders for me in so many ways.”
Braid later acknowledged that the hypnotic induction technique was not necessary in every case, and subsequent researchers have generally found that on average it contributes less than previously expected to the effect of hypnotic suggestions. Variations and alternatives to the original hypnotic induction techniques were subsequently developed. However, this method is still considered authoritative. In 1941, Robert White wrote: "It can be safely stated that nine out of ten hypnotic techniques call for reclining posture, muscular relaxation, and optical fixation followed by eye closure."
Placing persons in a drowsy, sleeplike state in which they allegedly become vulnerable to the suggestions made by the hypnotist. Hypnosis may also be used to tap into the unconscious and is often characterized by vivid recall of memories and fantasies. These properties make hypnosis a useful tool in psychotherapy. Hypnosis also has sinister implications, for subjects may be manipulated to perform embarrassing actions or be susceptible to carrying out the hypnotist's commands after the hypnosis session (posthypnotic suggestion).
After developing a substantial following — “mesmerism” became “the height of fashion” in late 1780s Paris, writes Marchant — Mesmer became the subject of what was essentially the world’s first clinical trial. King Louis XVI pulled together a team of the world’s top scientists, including Benjamin Franklin, who tested mesmerism and found its capacity to “cure” was, essentially, a placebo effect. “Not a shred of evidence exists for any fluid,” Franklin wrote. “The practice … is the art of increasing the imagination by degrees.”
Hypnosis is not a psychotherapeutic treatment or a form of psychotherapy, but rather a tool or procedure that helps facilitate various types of therapies and medical or psychological treatments. Only trained health care providers certified in clinical hypnosis can decide, with their patient, if hypnosis should be used along with other treatments. As with psychotherapy, the length of hypnosis treatment varies, depending on the complexity of the problem.