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Hypnosis

Alternate Names

  • hypnotherapy

Definition

Hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, is a therapy used to focus a person's attention so that he or she feels more in control. During hypnosis, a health professional suggests that a person experience a change in sensation, perception, thought, or behavior. The person's attention is drawn away from the outside world or the area that may be causing problems. Attention is then refocused to the inner self.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

Anyone who is hypnotizable may benefit from this procedure. Not all people are easily able to be hypnotized. Hypnosis may be used in many situations including:
  • decreasing the perception of pain, such as with back pain, severe burns, or childbirth
  • helping to treat certain behavioral conditions, such as cigarette smoking, alcohol dependence, overeating, and insomnia
  • decrease stress and symptoms often associated with stress
The very first session is usually used to see how well a person can accept suggestions. The therapist and person then set goals for each session.
There are several tests that are commonly used to see if a person is a good candidate for hypnosis. These include:
  • Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scales. The therapist asks the person to complete 12 exercises. For example, the exercises may range from the person closing his or her eyes and falling forward, to imagining that they cannot lift a limb because it is too heavy.
  • Barber Suggestibility Scale. This scale uses 8 tasks. A person is asked to imagine different scenarios or perform easy tasks when the therapist makes certain sounds. The more exercises a person can complete, the greater the ability to receive hypnotic suggestions.
  • The Eye Roll Test. A person is asked to open his or her eyes and roll them up. Then he or she is asked to lower the eyelids without rolling the eyes down.
  • The Light Test. A person is asked to gaze at a small spot of light in a dark room. The more frequently a person sees the light move, the more easily he or she can be hypnotized.
  • The Lemon Test. A person is asked to imagine cutting and tasting a lemon. The more he or she responds by salivating, the greater the chance he or she can be hypnotized successfully.
None of these tests are foolproof. They do help the therapist figure out how well a person is likely to do under hypnosis. These tests also help determine whether work needs to be done first on improving the person's ability to accept suggestions.

How is the procedure performed?

A therapist will ask a person about to be hypnotized to get comfortable. Often the person will lie down. The therapist may use several different techniques to put the person under hypnosis, including having the person:
  • count backwards
  • watch an item sway back and forth
  • concentrate on the voice of the therapist
As the person becomes more and more relaxed, he or she allows the conscious mind to release control and to accept suggestion. The therapist may suggest that the person begin to relax, visualize a peaceful scene, and move away from daily troubles and pains. Once the person is fully relaxed, the therapist will make suggestions about the goals the person wants to achieve.
For example, the goal may be to recall painful, yet buried memories. In this case, the therapist may ask the person to remember or regress into times past to find out what was going on when the uncomfortable feelings began. This is called regression hypnotherapy.
The therapist may also give posthypnotic suggestions that will help in achieving goals. For instance, a person may be asked to feel like exercising every time he or she smells fresh air. The therapist may suggest that a person ignore pain from a certain area of the body.
At the end of the session, a person is asked to wake up. The trancelike state is very similar to daydreaming. In this situation, a person may become so lost in what he or she is doing that time is forgotten. During hypnosis, a person concentrates deeply and focuses on a particular subject, memory, sensation, or behavior that he or she wishes to understand or change.

Sources

MedicineNet.com, Hypnosis, 1996-2000 [hyperLink url="http://www.medicinenet.com/" linkTitle="www.medicinenet.com"]www.medicinenet.com[/hyperLink]

Hypnosis FAQ, Roy Hunter, [hyperLink url="http://www.hypnosis.com/" linkTitle="www.hypnosis.com"]www.hypnosis.com[/hyperLink]

Hypnosis: A definition, Executive Committee of the American Psychological Association, Psychological Hypnosis: A Bulletin of Division 30, 1, p.7 1993

Hypnosis for the Seriously Curious, American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, [hyperLink url="http://www.hypnosis-research.org/" linkTitle="www.hypnosis-research.org"]www.hypnosis-research.org[/hyperLink]

Hypnotherapy, Yahoo Health, [hyperLink url="http://health.yahoo.com/" linkTitle="health.yahoo.com"]health.yahoo.com[/hyperLink]

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