The Washington Post
Not a Stunt, but a
Focused Mental State
Tuesday, November 8, 2005; Page HE05
The following is adapted from materials compiled by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis,
an academic and professional group widely regarded as a source of legitimate scientific and
clinical information on the practice.
Hypnosis is a state of inner absorption, concentration and focused attention. Employing hypnosis
is like using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun. When our minds are concentrated
and focused, we are able to use them more powerfully.
Everyone has experienced trances, but we don’t usually associate those events with hypnosis. All
of us have been so absorbed in thought — while reading a book or riding the bus to work — that
we fail to notice what is happening around us. While we were zoned out, another level of
consciousness, our unconscious mind, took over. These very focused states of attention are
similar to hypnosis.
Clinical hypnotists do essentially three things with hypnosis.
They encourage the use of imagination. Mental imagery is very powerful, especially in a focused
state of attention. The mind seems capable of using imagery, even if only symbolic, to embody
the things we imagine.
They present ideas or suggestions to the patient. In a state of concentrated attention, ideas and
suggestions compatible with the patient’s desires seem to have a more powerful impact on the
They facilitate unconscious exploration, to better understand underlying motivations or identify
whether past experiences are associated with a problem. Hypnosis avoids the critical censor of the
Myths About Hypnosis People often fear that being hypnotized will make them lose control,
surrender their will and result in their being dominated. Many people base these assumptions on
stage acts but fail to take into account that stage hypnotists screen volunteers to select those who
are cooperative and responsive to hypnosis. Stage acts can discourage people from seeking
Another myth about hypnosis is that people lose consciousness and have amnesia. The majority
of people remember everything that occurs in hypnosis.
The Society lists the following uses for hypnosis in medicine and psychotherapy.
Treatment of gastrointestinal and skin disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, colitis,
eczema, herpes, psoriasis, warts.
Clinical Hypnosis: Not a Stunt, but a Focused Mental State – page 2
To relax patients before surgery . (In very rare cases — such as allergy or chemical sensitivity to
anesthetics, or if a patient must remain conscious and responsive during surgery — hypnosis is
used as the sole anesthetic.)
Pain relief from back problems, cancer, headaches and arthritis.
For burn patients, to reduce inflammation and promote healing.
To control nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and pregnancy.
During childbirth for relaxation and occasionally as the sole analgesic for labor.
To assist in therapy with victims of crimes such as incest, rape and physical abuse.
Other areas of application include: allergies; anxiety and stress management; asthma; bed-
wetting; depression; sports and athletic performance; smoking cessation; obesity and weight
control; sleep disorders; Raynaud’s disease; high blood pressure; sexual dysfunctions;
concentration, test anxiety and learning disorders.
Choosing a Provider Hypnosis is not regulated in most states. Lay hypnotists are people trained
in hypnosis but lacking medical, psychological, dental or other professional health care training.
A lay hypnotist may be certified and claim to have received 200 or more hours of training, but
licensed health care professionals typically have seven to nine years of university coursework,
plus additional supervised training in internship and residency programs. Their hypnosis training
is in addition to their professional degrees and training.
Ask if a potential therapist is licensed (not certified ) in their field by the state. If they are not
licensed, they probably lack the [formal academic] education required for licensure. Find out
what their degree is in. If it is in hypnosis or hypnotherapy, rather than a state-recognized health
care profession, the person is a lay hypnotist.
Check for membership in the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis or the Society for Clinical
and Experimental Hypnosis, the only nationally recognized organizations for licensed health care
professionals who use hypnosis, as well as membership in the American Medical Association, the
American Dental Association, the American Psychological Association, etc.
Further information on hypnosis is available on the Web site of the American Society of Clinical
For Hypnosis in Glasgow and East Renfrewshire Contact: Linda Alexander on Tel: 0141 632 1440, and 07875 493 358.
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