What is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a procedure during which a health professional suggests changes
in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, or behavior. The hypnotic context is generally
established by an induction procedure. Although there are many different hypnotic
inductions, most include suggestions for relaxation, calmness, and well-being.
Instructions to imagine or think about pleasant experiences are also commonly
included in hypnotic inductions. People respond tohypnosis in different ways.
Some describe their experience as an altered state of consciousness.
Others describe hypnosis as a normal state of focused attention in which they feel
very calm and relaxed. Regardless of how and to what degree they respond,
most people describe the experience as very pleasant.
Some people are very responsive to hypnotic suggestions and others are less responsive.
A person's ability to experience hypnotic suggestions can be inhibited by fears and
concerns arising from some common misconceptions. Contrary to some depictions
of hypnosis in books, movies, or on television, people who have been hypnotized do
not lose control over their behavior. They typically remain aware of who they are
and where they are, and unless amnesia has been specifically suggested, they usually
remember what transpired during hypnosis.
Hypnosis makes it easier for people to experience suggestions, but it does not
force them to have these experiences. Hypnosis is not a type of therapy, like
psychoanalysis or behavior therapy. Instead, it is a procedure that can be used
to facilitate therapy. Because it is not a treatment in and of itself,
training in hypnosis is not sufficient for the conduct of therapy. Only properly
trained and credentialed health care professionals who have also been trained
in the clinical use of hypnosis and are working within the areas of their
professional expertise should use clinical hypnosis.
Hypnosis has been used in the treatment of pain depression, anxiety, stress,
habit disorders, and many other psychological and medical problems.
However, it may not be useful for all psychological problems or for all
patients or clients. The decision to use hypnosis as an adjunct to treatment can
only be made in consultation with a qualified health care provider who has been
trained in the use and limitations of clinical hypnosis. In addition to its use in
clinical settings, hypnosis is used in research with the goal of learning more
about the nature of hypnosis itself, as well as its impact on sensation,
perception, learning, memory, and physiology. Researchers also study the value
of hypnosis in the treatment of physical and psychological problems.
(This definition and description of hypnosis was prepared by the Executive
Committee of the American Psychological Association. Division of
Psychological Hypnosis. Permission to reproduce
this document is freely granted.)