What is hypnotherapy?

The term “hypnosis” derives from the Greek word hypnos meaning “sleep”. Hypnotherapy is a brief therapy. Such treatment is employed to make subconscious change so that new responses, thoughts, attitudes, behaviours or feelings may emerge in response to an original stimulus.
Clinical Hypnotherapists employ techniques that cause feelings of profound relaxation and an altered state of consciousness. This state is known as a trance. One who is in such a trance is unusually responsive to an idea or image.However, it is not so that the hypnotist is able to control the mind and free will of the person in the trance. The opposite is true in fact. Hypnosis can give the person knowledge about how to master their own states of awareness. In this way they can affect their own bodily functions and psychological responses.

How does hypnosis work?

When something happens to us we remember it and learn a certain response to what happened. Every time a similar event happens our physical and emotional response attached to the memory is repeated. There are times when these responses are inappropriate. A clinical hypnotherapist can guide you to the event that initiated the first response, separate the memory from the learned behaviour and replace inappropriate behaviours with more appropriate behaviours. During hypnosis the body relaxes and the thoughts become much more focused. Hypnosis can lower blood pressure and heart rate and alter certain types of brain wave activity. When in this relaxed state the person feels at ease physically and yet is fully alert mentally. The person in hypnosis may be acutely responsive to suggestion. The unconscious mind becomes more focused.
The states of Hypnosis:
. Reframing the problem
. Becomingrelaxed, then absorbed…deeply engaged in the words and images presented by the hypnotherapist’s suggestions
. Dissociating…letting go of all critical thought
. Responding…complying with the therapist’s suggestions
. Returning to usual awareness
. Reflecting on the experience.

(University of Maryland Medical Center)

What is the history of hypnosis?

Trance states have been used by ancient races and tribes throughout history. They have been used in rituals and religious ceremonies. Today, however, we are aware that hypnotherapy was first associated with the work of Austrian physician Franz Anton Mesmer from which the word mesmerise derives. Mesmer in the 1700s held that illnesses were caused by magnetic fluids in the body becoming out of balance and so he used magnets and other hypnotic techniques to treat people. The medical community however was not convinced and Mesmer found himself being accused of fraud, his techniques called unscientific. Hypnotherapy only regained popularity in the mid-1900’s and this was mainly due to Milton H Erickson (1901-1980). Erickson was a successful psychiatrist and he used hypnosis in his practice.

Traditional Hypnotherapy

Most Victorian hypnotists, two of whom are James Braid and HippolyteBernheim, used direct suggestion of symptom removal and used therapeutic relaxation techniques. This is meant to embrace the client’s view of the world enabling involvement in the therapy process. In this way, changes are more easily accepted and more likely to be long lasting.

Ericksonian hypnotherapy

Milton H Erickson in the 1950s came up with a quite different approach to hypnotism which is known as Ericksonian hypnotherapy or Neo-Ericksonian hypnotherapy. Erickson chose the informal conversational approach and used complex language patterns and strategies. Such a new approach from traditional methods caused people like Andre Weitzenhoffer to dispute whether it was even appropriate for Erickson to say his work was hypnosis.

Later the founders of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) said to be similar to hypnotism claimed they had assimilated Erickson’s work into the concepts of NLP. Weitzenhoffer disputed this.

Cognitive/behavioural hypnotherapy (CBH)

Cognitive/behavioural hypnotherapy (CBH)combines both clinical hypnosis and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). A meta-analysis of eight different researches shows a 70 per cent greater improvement for patients undergoing an integrated treatment to those using CBT only (Kirch, I; Montgomery, G; Sapperstein, G. (April 1995. “Hypnosis as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy: A meta analysis”. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 63 (2): 214-220).

Theodor Barber in 1974 published a paper which held that hypnotism is not a “special state” but is the result of psychological variables, these being active imagination, expectation, appropriate attitudes and motivation. He introduced the term “cognitive-behavioral” to describe the non state theory of hypnotism. Many cognitive and behavioural therapies were originally influenced by older hypnotherapy techniques: the systematic desensitisation of Joseph Wolpe. Early behaviour therapy was originally called “hypnotic desensitisation” and derived from the Medical Hypnosis (1948) of Lewis Wolberg.

Other notable events in the history of Hypnotherapy

1892: British Medical Association (BMA) report: “The Committee…have satisfied themselves of the genuineness of the hypnotic state…are of the opinion that as a therapeutic agent hypnotism is frequently effective in relieving pain, procuring sleep, and alleviating many functional ailments ie: (psychosomatic complaints and anxiety disorders (British Medical Journal 2 (1647): 190-1).
1903: Dr John Kappas, Founder of the Hypnosis Motivation Institute, defined the status of the hypnotherapist in the Federal Dictionary of Occupational Titles:

“Induces hypnotic state in client to increase motivation or alter behaviour 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.” (Dictionary of Occupational Titles: Hypnotherapist (079.157-010).

1955: Psychological Medicine Group of the BMA report. “The Subcommittee is satisfied after consideration of the available evidence that hypnotism is of value and may be the treatment of choice in some cases of so called psychosomatic disorder and psychoneurosis. It may also be of value for revealing unrecognized motives and conflicts in such conditions. As a treatment in the opinion of the Subcommittee it has proved its ability to remove symptoms and to alter morbid habits of thought and behaviour…there is a place for hypnotism in the production of anaesthesia or analgesia for surgical and dental operations and in suitable subjects it is an effective method of relieving pain in childbirth without altering the normal course of labor (The Medical Use of Hypnotism” British Medical Journal 1 (5031): 1317-19).
1958: American Medical Association (AMA) report endorsed the 1955 BMA report concluding that: “the use of hypnosis has a recognized place in the medical armamentarium and is a useful technique in the treatment of certain illnesses when employed by qualified medical and dental personnel”.
1995: US National Institutes of Health (NIH) report entitled “Integration of Behavioral and
Relaxation Approaches into the Treatment of Chronic Pain and Insomnia” concludes that: “the evidence supporting the effectiveness of hypnosis in alleviating chronic pain associated with cancer seems strong. In addition, the panel was presented with other data suggesting the effectiveness of hypnosis in other chronic pain conditions, which include irritable bowel syndrome, oral mucositis (pain and swelling of the mucous membrane), temporomandibular disorders (jaw pain) and tension headaches (NIH, 1995).
1999: Clinical Review concludes: “There is strong evidence from randomised trials of the effectiveness of hypnosis and relaxation for cancer related anxiety, pain, nausea, and vomiting (side effects of chemotherapy) particularly in children. They are also effective for panic disorders and insomnia particularly when integrated into a package of cognitive therapy (including for example sleep hygiene). A review has found that hypnosis enhances the effects of cognitive behavioural therapy for conditions such as phobia, obesity and anxiety. Randomized controlled trials support the use of various relaxation techniques for treating both acute and chronic pain…shows hypnosis to be of value in asthma and in irritable bowel syndrome.”
2001: Professional Affairs Board of the British Psychological Society (BPS) report: “Enough studies have now accumulated to suggest that the inclusion of hypnotic procedures may be beneficial in the management and treatment of a wide range of conditions and problems encountered in the practice of medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy.”

2002: United Kingdom (Department of Education and Skills) developed National Occupational Standards for Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy approved as a stand-alone therapy.

2003: Meta-analysis of the efficacy of hypnotherapy by Konstanz, Flammer and Bongarts. Findings suggest an average improvement in 27 per cent of untreated patients over the term of the studies compared with a 74 per cent success rate among those receiving hypnotherapy.

2007: Metal-analysis by the Cochrane Collaboration found hypnotherapy was “superior to that of a waiting list control or usual medical management for abdominal pain and composite primary IBS symptoms in the short term in patients who fail standard medical therapy” (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4).