How Does Hypnosis Work? Applied Biosemiotics by Valerie Grimes, Clinical Hypnotist After the 2017 publication of “Fluid Biosemiotic Mechanisms Underlie Subconscious Habits,” the author V.N. Alexander traveled to Dallas to discuss hypnosis and the fluid dynamic of the brain, with the owner of The Flow Center for Hypnosis. The neurosciences in the past 10-15 years […]
Pioneers in this field, such as James Braid and James Esdaile discovered that hypnosis could be used to successfully anesthetize patients for surgeries. James Braid accidentally discovered that one of his patients began to enter a hypnotic state while staring at a fixed light as he waited for his eye examination to begin. Since mesmerism had fallen out of favor, Braid coined the term hypnotism, which is derived from the Greek word for sleep. Braid also used the techniques of monotony, rhythm, and imitation to assist in inducing a hypnotic state. As of 2000, these techniques are still in use.
"How long will I spend in therapy?", is like asking, "How long is a piece of string?" Everyone is different and everyone's individual needs and circumstances vary. There is no definitive answer. However, while some talking therapies can require commitments of a year or more, hypnotherapy tends to be a much faster solution. The average length of time I spend with a client is around 4-6 weekly sessions, to create sustainable changes which some have been trying to implement for years.
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He also believed that hypnosis was a "partial sleep", meaning that a generalised inhibition of cortical functioning could be encouraged to spread throughout regions of the brain. He observed that the various degrees of hypnosis did not significantly differ physiologically from the waking state and hypnosis depended on insignificant changes of environmental stimuli. Pavlov also suggested that lower-brain-stem mechanisms were involved in hypnotic conditioning.[166][167]
The use of hypnotherapy with cancer patients is another area being investigated. A meta-analysis of 116 studies showed very positive results of using hypnotherapy with cancer patients. Ninety-two percent showed a positive effect on depression; 93% showed a positive effect on physical well-being; 81% showed a positive effect on vomiting; and 92% showed a positive effect on pain.
As part of the comprehensive education we offer, our students get valuable hands-on training in the various Specialty Clinics that are open to the public. Hypnotherapy is one of these holistic healing modalities scheduled at specific times at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts. Sessions generally last one hour and the Hypnotherapy Clinic is completely complimentary.
Evidence from randomized controlled trials indicates that hypnosis, relaxation, and meditation techniques can reduce anxiety, particularly that related to stressful situations, such as receiving chemotherapy (see box). They are also effective for insomnia, particularly when the techniques are integrated into a package of cognitive therapy (including, for example, sleep hygiene). A systematic review showed that hypnosis enhances the effects of cognitive behavioral therapy for conditions such as phobia, obesity, and anxiety.
Hypnosis, when using proven therapeutic procedures, can be a highly effective form of treatment for many mental, psychosomatic, and physical disorders. For example, through the use of regressive techniques, an adult patient may mentally voyage back to a point in youth that was particularly troublesome, allowing the healing of old emotional wounds. Another patient can be led to understand that emotional pain has been converted to physical pain, and that the pain can be eliminated once the source has been addressed. Or, a person suffering from chronic pain can be taught to control the pain without use of medications. There are a number of techniques for correcting dysfunctional behaviors such as self-destructive habits, anxiety disorders, and even managing side effects of various medical treatments and procedures.
This method of hypnotherapy is commonly beneficial to hypnotherapists in discovering the psychological root of a problem or symptom, such as social anxiety, depression, or past trauma. These types of trauma are often hidden in unconscious memory and forgotten on a conscious level. Using hypnotherapy for analysis has proven particularly effective at digging into the subconscious memory to attempt to retrieve suppressed memories or early developmental trauma that could result in a wide range of psychological conditions or problematic behavior.
Around 1900, there were very few preoperative anesthetic drugs available. Patients were naturally apprehensive when facing surgery. One out of four hundred patients would die, not from the surgical procedure, but from the anesthesia. Dr. Henry Munro was one of the first physicians to use hypnotherapy to alleviate patient fears about having surgery. He would get his patients into a hypnotic state and discuss their fears with them, telling them they would feel a lot better following surgery. Ether was the most common anesthetic at that time, and Dr. Munro found that he was able to perform surgery using only about 10% of the usual amount of ether.
Jump up ^ Braid, J. (1844/1855), "Magic, Mesmerism, Hypnotism, etc., etc. Historically and Physiologically Considered", The Medical Times, Vol.11, No.272, (7 December 1844), pp.203-204, No.273, (14 December 1844), p.224-227, No.275, (28 December 1844), pp.270-273, No.276, (4 January 1845), pp.296-299, No.277, (11 January 1845), pp.318-320, No.281, (8 February 1845), pp.399-400, and No.283, (22 February 1845), pp.439-441: at p.203.

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)[54] 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:[55]


Hypnosis can be a highly effective form of treatment for many mental, psychosomatic, and physical disorders. Hypnosis is a trance state in which the hypnotized person is in a heightened, more receptive state of mind. During hypnosis, the patient is not unconscious, does not lose control of his or her faculties, and does not do things under hypnosis that he or she would be unwilling to do otherwise.
Despite briefly toying with the name "rational Mesmerism", Braid ultimately chose to emphasise the unique aspects of his approach, carrying out informal experiments throughout his career in order to refute practices that invoked supernatural forces and demonstrating instead the role of ordinary physiological and psychological processes such as suggestion and focused attention in producing the observed effects.
Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell (the originators of the human givens approach) define hypnosis as "any artificial way of accessing the REM state, the same brain state in which dreaming occurs" and suggest that this definition, when properly understood, resolves "many of the mysteries and controversies surrounding hypnosis".[29] They see the REM state as being vitally important for life itself, for programming in our instinctive knowledge initially (after Dement[30] and Jouvet[31]) and then for adding to this throughout life. They explain this by pointing out that, in a sense, all learning is post-hypnotic, which explains why the number of ways people can be put into a hypnotic state are so varied: anything that focuses a person's attention, inward or outward, puts them into a trance.[32]
In as much as patients can throw themselves into the nervous sleep, and manifest all the usual phenomena of Mesmerism, through their own unaided efforts, as I have so repeatedly proved by causing them to maintain a steady fixed gaze at any point, concentrating their whole mental energies on the idea of the object looked at; or that the same may arise by the patient looking at the point of his own finger, or as the Magi of Persia and Yogi of India have practised for the last 2,400 years, for religious purposes, throwing themselves into their ecstatic trances by each maintaining a steady fixed gaze at the tip of his own nose; it is obvious that there is no need for an exoteric influence to produce the phenomena of Mesmerism. […] The great object in all these processes is to induce a habit of abstraction or concentration of attention, in which the subject is entirely absorbed with one idea, or train of ideas, whilst he is unconscious of, or indifferently conscious to, every other object, purpose, or action.[52]

In 2013, the then-40-year-old amateur hypnotist Timothy Porter attempted to sexually abuse his female weight-loss client. She reported awaking from a trance and finding him behind her with his pants down, telling her to touch herself. He was subsequently called to court and included on the sex offender list.[161] In 2015, Gary Naraido, then 52, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for several hypnosis-related sexual abuse charges. Besides the primary charge by a 22-year-old woman who he sexually abused in a hotel under the guise of a free therapy session, he also admitted to having sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl.[162]
We know it is hard to sort out all the different claims made by some so-called “hypnosis schools and boards.” Stay away from “distance learning” or correspondence courses that claim to certify you as a clinical hypnotherapist. Hypnosis and hypnotherapy is a healing art based on scientific methods. Only basic hypnotherapy theory can be obtained from the right books or videos. Effectiveness is unlikely without live demonstrations, in-depth and advanced discussion, question and answer opportunities and supervised clinical practice.  Just as correspondence courses are inappropriate for counselors, medical doctors and massage therapists, they are wrong for people who want to be effective and successful clinical hypnotherapists.

Tai chi is a gentle system of exercises originating from China. The best known example is the “solo form,” a series of slow and graceful movements that follow a set pattern. It is said to improve strength, balance, and mental calmness. Qigong (pronounced “chi kung”) is another traditional Chinese system of therapeutic exercises. Practitioners teach meditation, physical movements, and breathing exercises to improve the flow of Qi, the Chinese term for body energy.
The person will immediately slump over and perhaps fall to you. It is important that you bring them close to you and guide them to your shoulder, turning their head to rest comfortably. It is important not to let them get hurt by falling on you. Now rub their back and say, "That's good, that's good. Now relax. Just feel yourself relax. You are fine." By reassuring them you give them a feeling it is all going to be okay. It is a very good idea to have a person help you seat them in a chair or lay them on a bed or sofa.
At first, Freud was an enthusiastic proponent of hypnotherapy. He "initially hypnotised patients and pressed on their foreheads to help them concentrate while attempting to recover (supposedly) repressed memories",[61] and he soon began to emphasise hypnotic regression and ab reaction (catharsis) as therapeutic methods. He wrote a favorable encyclopedia article on hypnotism, translated one of Bernheim's works into German, and published an influential series of case studies with his colleague Joseph Breuer entitled Studies on Hysteria (1895). This became the founding text of the subsequent tradition known as "hypno-analysis" or "regression hypnotherapy".
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.

There are numerous applications for hypnosis across multiple fields of interest, including medical/psychotherapeutic uses, military uses, self-improvement, and entertainment. The American Medical Association currently has no official stance on the medical use of hypnosis. However, a study published in 1958 by the Council on Mental Health of the American Medical Association documented the efficacy of hypnosis in clinical settings.[76]
As we celebrate 50 years in the field and 40 years as a leading school, hypnotherapy is transforming many aspects of the health professions and is truly revolutionizing the counseling professions. We are honored to have a major role in this, leading the way with powerful, innovative therapy methods and by using the insights and therapy methods of ourselves and others to train thousands of graduates from 50 countries, including many leaders in the field.
It appears to me, that the general conclusions established by Mesmer's practice, with respect to the physical effects of the principle of imagination (more particularly in cases where they co-operated together), are incomparably more curious than if he had actually demonstrated the existence of his boasted science [of "animal magnetism"]: nor can I see any good reason why a physician, who admits the efficacy of the moral [i.e., psychological] agents employed by Mesmer, should, in the exercise of his profession, scruple to copy whatever processes are necessary for subjecting them to his command, any more than that he should hesitate about employing a new physical agent, such as electricity or galvanism.[54]
Hypnotic music became an important part in the development of a ‘physiological psychology’ that regarded the hypnotic state as an ‘automatic’ phenomenon that links to physical reflex. In their experiments with sound hypnosis, Jean-Martin Charcot used gongs and tuning forks, and Ivan Pavlov used bells. The intention behind their experiments was to prove that physiological response to sound could be automatic, bypassing the conscious mind.[155]
There are numerous applications for hypnosis across multiple fields of interest, including medical/psychotherapeutic uses, military uses, self-improvement, and entertainment. The American Medical Association currently has no official stance on the medical use of hypnosis. However, a study published in 1958 by the Council on Mental Health of the American Medical Association documented the efficacy of hypnosis in clinical settings.[76]
Many of the clucking chicken images are the result of hypnosis’s forefather, Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). Mesmer believed that there was an invisible force, a cosmic energy, that could be harnessed by one person to influence another person’s behavior. While his theory was wrong, the techniques he used were effective. These techniques were picked up on and developed over the coming years for therapeutic and medical purposes. Sigmund Freud, for instance, used hypnosis techniques. In the mid-1900s, hypnotherapy as we know it evolved. Milton Erickson (1901-1980) pioneered “indirect hypnosis,” during which therapists work with individual patients to shift their perceptions of themselves and their issues.
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