John T. Stallworth, J.D., Ph.D.
David S. Litton, Ph.D.
Carol Pierce-Davis, Ph.D.
Rebecca Redwood, LMSW-ACP
Theodore Carlos, M.A., LPC
Whitney Humphrey, M.A., LMFT-A
Dona Stallworth, Ph.D.


What is clinical hypnosis?

When hypnosis is used for treating a physical or psychological problem, we call the process clinical hypnosis. Hypnosis can be defined as an altered state of awareness, consciousness, or perception. In simple terms, hypnosis is a highly relaxed state in which the patient's mind is focused and receptive to therapeutic suggestion.

Almost everyone has experienced one form or another of hypnosis at some time in his or her life. Think of those times when you were driving on an expressway and caught yourself briefly unaware of what you were doing, or when you or your children were so engrossed in a TV program that you were unaware that someone else had entered the room. There is nothing to fear, because hypnosis is a safe procedure when used professionally. The relaxation you will experience will be pleasant and refreshing.

A brief history of hypnosis.

Hypnosis under various names has been used for as long as records have been kept. Suggestive therapy is perhaps the oldest of the therapeutic methods. Modern clinical hypnosis is usually dated from about 1773. The term hypnosis was coined by James Braid, M.D., approximately 1841. The American Medical Association approved of the use of hypnosis as a appropriate therapeutic technique in 1958.

How is hypnosis typically used to treat physical or emotional problems?

Some examples of the utilization of hypnosis by discipline are: 

  • Mental Health - smoking and weight control, phobias, depression, anxiety, sexual problems, alcoholism, speech disorders, age regression therapy, chronic pain, self- esteem/ego strengthening, memory/concentration improvement, forensic work with witnesses.
  • Medicine - psychiatry, anesthesia and surgery, psychosomatic diseases, obstetrics/gynecology, control of bleeding, burn therapy, dermatology, pain control, habit control.
  • Dentistry - fear of dentistry, dental surgery, bruxism, control of bleeding, saliva control, orthodontia, gagging, ease of dentures, general oral hygiene.

How long does hypnotic treatment take?

Length of hypnotic treatment is like most other treatment procedures. It will vary depending on the nature and severity of the problem. Treatment may be as short as one session for such things as smoking, to several sessions. Hypnosis is frequently used in conjunction with other forms of psychotherapy. Hypnotic treatment is only one tool, and when used by itself the treatment is usually short term.

Can I learn hypnosis by myself?

All hypnosis is self hypnosis. The professional acts as a facilitator or teacher to help you achieve this pleasant state. Some professionals make tapes for their patients, to be used in between sessions or in place of repeated sessions. A good example is the use of hypnosis in the treatment of chronic pain.

Misconceptions about Hypnosis

Loss of consciousness.

One of the major myths about hypnosis is that you will lose consciousness. Hypnosis is an altered level of consciousness, but you do not become unconscious. You will be aware of everything at all times and hear everything that the professional is saying.

Weakening your will.

Your will is not weakened or changed in any way. You are in control, and, if you wish for any reason to terminate the hypnotic state, you may do so simply by opening your eyes. You cannot be made to do anything against your will. Stage hypnotists like the audience to think that they have complete control over their subjects, professionals will make it clear that the patient has the basic control.

Spontaneous talking.

Patients do not spontaneously begin talking or revealing information they wish to keep secret. You can talk while under hypnosis and you and your professional may wish to use some talking procedure in order to assist you with your problem.


Hypnosis is not sleep; you will not fall asleep. the hypnotic EEG pattern is entirely different from the sleep EEG pattern.

What if I can't come out of hypnosis?

In the hands of a trained professional there is no danger in the use of hypnosis. Since the patient holds the control, there is no difficulty in terminating the hypnotic state. The professional will take a complete history before using hypnosis, and if there are any contra-indications to the use of this procedure, another form of therapy will be recommended.

What training is required?

In many states, the use of hypnosis for psychotherapeutic purposes is restricted to physicians, dentists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, marital/family therapists, and other health professionals licensed in their state. These professionals are permitted to use this technique in conformance with their own individual training and licensing laws.

Professionals using hypnosis should have taken postgraduate (professional) courses in hypnosis, along with appropriate supervision of the uses of this technique. Many professionals receive their training through continuing education workshops. The major professional hypnosis organizations recommend a minimum of 60 clock hours of instruction and supervised training. Ask your health professional about his or her training if you have any questions. The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) grants certification in Clinical Hypnosis. Certification provides recognition of the advance clinician who has met educational qualifications and required training in clinical hypnosis.

For information about specific standards of training or legal issues regarding clinical hypnosis contact ASCH.

Dr. Litton is a member of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) and will be happy to discuss any questions you may have concerning this useful procedure.

Call: 345-6781

Text � 1982, Revised 1994 Ohio Psychology Publications, Inc.

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