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.”
Hypnotherapy is a form of therapy used to reprogram the subconscious mind. When under hypnosis, you put your mind and body into a heightened state of learning, making you more susceptible to suggestions for self-improvement or behavior modification. The goal is to put the subconscious and conscious mind in harmony, which in turn helps give you greater control over your behavior and emotions.
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.”
Braid made a rough distinction between different stages of hypnosis, which he termed the first and second conscious stage of hypnotism;[43] he later replaced this with a distinction between "sub-hypnotic", "full hypnotic", and "hypnotic coma" stages.[44] Jean-Martin Charcot made a similar distinction between stages which he named somnambulism, lethargy, and catalepsy. However, Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault and Hippolyte Bernheim introduced more complex hypnotic "depth" scales based on a combination of behavioural, physiological, and subjective responses, some of which were due to direct suggestion and some of which were not. In the first few decades of the 20th century, these early clinical "depth" scales were superseded by more sophisticated "hypnotic susceptibility" scales based on experimental research. The most influential were the Davis–Husband and Friedlander–Sarbin scales developed in the 1930s. André Weitzenhoffer and Ernest R. Hilgard developed the Stanford Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility in 1959, consisting of 12 suggestion test items following a standardised hypnotic eye-fixation induction script, and this has become one of the most widely referenced research tools in the field of hypnosis. Soon after, in 1962, Ronald Shor and Emily Carota Orne developed a similar group scale called the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility (HGSHS).
According to Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus, speaking for Psychology Today, hypnosis is a “genuine psychological phenomenon that has valid uses in clinical practice … hypnosis is a state of highly focused attention or concentration, often associated with relaxation, and heightened suggestibility. While under hypnosis (i.e., in a hypnotic trance), it seems many people are much more open to helpful suggestions than they usually are.” The suggestions made in a therapeutic setting get deep into a person’s brain, beyond their conscious thinking, leading to behavior change and the ability to overcome challenges that might otherwise seem insurmountable.
Hypnotherapy has been used to stop self-destructive and addictive habits like smoking. It has also been used to curb the urge to eat for overeaters, to stem the disruptive actions of tics, cure insomnia , stop bed-wetting, and minimize anxiety. Excessive stress can be generated from any number of sources and can be the springboard for anxiety. Some of the more prominent sources of anxiety and stress for which people seek hypnotherapy are: public speaking, test taking, and job stress. Hypnotherapy also works well for other anxiety disorders such as phobias and has proven to be an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression. In one study, hypnotherapy was used in conjunction with traditional cognitive therapy, to assist persons who had severe aversion to needles. The treatment was necessary, because it was essential that each participant receive periodic medical injections. However, the participants would have become non-compliant without the adjunct intervention of hypnotherapy. In another case, involving care for terminally ill cancer patients, it was concluded that hypnotherapy was more effective at enhancing quality of life and relieving anxiety and depressive symptoms, when compared to others who received traditional care.
During a hypnotherapy session, the therapist will bring you into a state of deep relaxation in which the critical, conscious part of your brain recedes and the subconscious mind becomes alert and focused. The therapist will make suggestions, based on your intended goals, that will take root in your subconscious mind. These suggestions should affect your thinking in a positive way and empower you to make change.
This finding—that PHA temporarily disrupted some people’s ability to recall the past—echoes decades of hypnosis research. What is entirely new in Mendelsohn et al.’s study is their demonstration that PHA was associated with a specific pattern of brain activation. Consistent with what normally occurs in remembering, when people in the non-PHA group performed the recognition task and successfully remembered what happened in the movie, fMRI showed high levels of activity in areas responsible for visualizing scenes (the occipital lobes) and for analyzing verbally presented scenarios (the left temporal lobe). In stark contrast, when people in the PHA group performed the recognition task and failed to remember the content of the movie, fMRI showed little or no activity in these areas. Also, fMRI showed enhanced activity in another area (the prefrontal cortex) responsible for regulating activity in other brain areas.
Olness thinks there must be something about the intense mental imagery that comes with a hypnotic state. One little boy she worked with told her he was imagining that he was touching the sun. Whether such visions activate different parts of the brain than those associated with rational thought is less clear. As Olness says, “We’re a long way from specifics on that.”

It is far easier to describe what hypnosis is not rather than to describe what it is. For example, it is not one person controlling the mind of another. The patient is not unconscious and does not lose control of his or her faculties. People will not do things under hypnosis that they would be unwilling to do otherwise. The person being hypnotized is always in control. The hypnotized person decides how deep the trance will be, what suggestions will be accepted, and when to awaken. Therefore, a hypnotyized person cannot be forever "lost" if the therapist should fall dead during an induction or while the patient is deep in trance.

Jump up ^ For example, see Media Release 89/70: issued on 12/4/1989, by Peter Collins — who was, at the time, the NSW State Government Minister for Health — which announced that the N.S.W. Government had made "a decision not to proceed with plans to place controls on Hypnosis and to ban Stage Hypnosis". Also, see Dewsbury, R., "Reversal by Govt over hypnotists", The Sydney Morning Herald, (Thursday, 13 April 1989), p.8.

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The earliest definition of hypnosis was given by Braid[contradictory], who coined the term "hypnotism" as an abbreviation for "neuro-hypnotism", or nervous sleep, which he contrasted with normal sleep, and defined as: "a peculiar condition of the nervous system, induced by a fixed and abstracted attention of the mental and visual eye, on one object, not of an exciting nature."[21]


Ernest Hilgard, who developed the "neodissociation" theory of hypnotism, hypothesized that hypnosis causes the subjects to divide their consciousness voluntarily. One part responds to the hypnotist while the other retains awareness of reality. Hilgard made subjects take an ice water bath. None mentioned the water being cold or feeling pain. Hilgard then asked the subjects to lift their index finger if they felt pain and 70% of the subjects lifted their index finger. This showed that, even though the subjects were listening to the suggestive hypnotist, they still sensed the water's temperature.[180]
A trancelike state resembling sleep, usually induced by a therapist by focusing a subject's attention, that heightens the subject's receptivity to suggestion. The uses of hypnosis in medicine and psychology include recovering repressed memories, modifying or eliminating undesirable behavior (such as smoking), and treating certain chronic disorders, such as anxiety.
Several professional organizations and licensing agencies exist for hypnotherapy practitioners. Examples include the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) and the American Association of Professional Hypnotherapists. To be an ASCH member, practitioners must attend at least 40 hours of workshop training, 20 hours of individual training, and have completed at least two years of clinical practice as a hypnotherapist.
Hypnosis or deep relaxation can sometimes exacerbate psychological problems—for example, by retraumatizing those with post-traumatic disorders or by inducing “false memories” in psychologically susceptible individuals. Evidence, although inconclusive, has raised concerns that the dissociation necessary to participate in relaxation or hypnosis can lead to the manifestation of the symptoms of psychosis. Only appropriately trained and experienced practitioners should undertake hypnosis. Its use should be avoided in patients with borderline personality disorder, dissociative disorders, or with patients who have histories of profound abuse. Competent hypnotherapists are skilled in recognizing and referring patients with these conditions.
Charcot operated a clinic at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital (thus, known as the "Paris School" or the "Salpêtrière School"), while Bernheim had a clinic in Nancy (known as the "Nancy School"). Charcot, who was influenced more by the Mesmerists, argued that hypnotism was an abnormal state of nervous functioning found only in certain hysterical women. He claimed that it manifested in a series of physical reactions that could be divided into distinct stages. Bernheim argued that anyone could be hypnotised, that it was an extension of normal psychological functioning, and that its effects were due to suggestion. After decades of debate, Bernheim's view dominated. Charcot's theory is now just a historical curiosity.[59]
But for the comparison between PHA and functional amnesia to be most meaningful, we need to know that they share underlying processes. One way to test this is to identify the brain activity patterns associated with PHA. In a groundbreaking study published in Neuron, neuroscientist Avi Mendelsohn and colleagues at the Weizmann Institute in Israel did just that using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). They carefully selected 25 people to participate in their experiment. Although all were susceptible to hypnosis, earlier testing had shown that half could respond to a PHA suggestion (labelled “the PHA group”) and half could not (the “non-PHA group”). In the Study session of their experiment, participants watched a 45-minute movie. One week later, in the Test session, participants returned to the laboratory and were hypnotized while they lay within the fMRI scanner. During hypnosis, people in both the PHA and non-PHA groups received a suggestion to forget the movie until they heard a specific cancellation cue.
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).
The term "hypnosis" comes from the ancient Greek word ὕπνος hypnos, "sleep", and the suffix -ωσις -osis, or from ὑπνόω hypnoō, "put to sleep" (stem of aorist hypnōs-) and the suffix -is.[9][10] The words "hypnosis" and "hypnotism" both derive from the term "neuro-hypnotism" (nervous sleep), all of which were coined by Étienne Félix d'Henin de Cuvillers in 1820. These words were popularized in English by the Scottish surgeon James Braid (to whom they are sometimes wrongly attributed) around 1841. Braid based his practice on that developed by Franz Mesmer and his followers (which was called "Mesmerism" or "animal magnetism"), but differed in his theory as to how the procedure worked.
Throughout Dr. Sapien’s medical career he always had a sense that mind was the original foundation of healing.  After he trained at the Academy and began regularly using our methods in his medical practice, his premise was confirmed by how well his patients responded. He has stayed on as a practical skills coach to help new students in learning hypnotherapy and medical support hypnosis.
As a hypnotherapist, I've seen first-hand the incredible changes that this form of therapy can bring. I once had a client with an intense phobia of maggots who couldn't so much as utter the word without experiencing a strong physical and emotional response. But after just two sessions she found that she was able to talk about them comfortably and was also willing to watch videos of them online without feeling disturbed. She was hardly able to believe her progress.
According to many sources including the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) which is part of the United States National Library of Medicine and a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), hypnosis is scientifically proven to help relieve both mental challenges and physical pains. Hypnosis can alleviate stress and reduce pain after surgeries, has been shown to relieve anxiety in children in the emergency room, and can be useful for managing pain associated with everything from arthritis to migraines. Hypnosis is non-invasive and gives you a way to control pain or discomfort that might otherwise seem out of your hands. Hypnosis shouldn’t be used as a substitute for medical care, but may be an excellent complementary tool that is best provided by a trained therapist or licensed medical provider. The University of Maryland Medical Center shares many conditions for which hypnosis can be useful:
People have been pondering and arguing over hypnosis for more than 200 years, but science has yet to fully explain how it actually happens. We see what a person does under hypnosis, but it isn't clear why he or she does it. This puzzle is really a small piece in a much bigger puzzle: how the human mind works. It's unlikely that scientists will arrive at a definitive explanation of the mind in the foreseeable future, so it's a good bet hypnosis will remain something of a mystery as well.
This finding—that PHA temporarily disrupted some people’s ability to recall the past—echoes decades of hypnosis research. What is entirely new in Mendelsohn et al.’s study is their demonstration that PHA was associated with a specific pattern of brain activation. Consistent with what normally occurs in remembering, when people in the non-PHA group performed the recognition task and successfully remembered what happened in the movie, fMRI showed high levels of activity in areas responsible for visualizing scenes (the occipital lobes) and for analyzing verbally presented scenarios (the left temporal lobe). In stark contrast, when people in the PHA group performed the recognition task and failed to remember the content of the movie, fMRI showed little or no activity in these areas. Also, fMRI showed enhanced activity in another area (the prefrontal cortex) responsible for regulating activity in other brain areas.
During a hypnotherapy session, the therapist will bring you into a state of deep relaxation in which the critical, conscious part of your brain recedes and the subconscious mind becomes alert and focused. The therapist will make suggestions, based on your intended goals, that will take root in your subconscious mind. These suggestions should affect your thinking in a positive way and empower you to make change.
Although there are different techniques, clinical hypnotherapy is generally performed in a calm, therapeutic environment. The therapist will guide you into a relaxed, focused state and ask you to think about experiences and situations in positive ways that can help you change the way you think and behave. Unlike some dramatic portrayals of hypnosis in movies, books, or on stage, you will not be unconscious, asleep, or in any way out of control of yourself. You will hear the therapist’s suggestions, but it is up to you to decide whether or not to act on them.
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