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What is hypnosis? Why use hypnosis in therapy?

Clinical hypnosis within psychotherapy is an evidence-based, effective treatment for a number of problems. What is hypnosis and when can it be useful?

What is hypnosis?  Why clinical hypnosis?

Hypnosis allows you to focus intently on a specific problem and its resolution, while remaining in a comfortable state of physical relaxation. It also helps enhance your control over your body’s responses: the mind-body connection. It is a normal state of aroused, heightened attention and absorption, and imaginative involvement – similar to being so absorbed in a movie or novel that one loses track of time and details of one’s surroundings may fade into the background.

Clinical Hypnosis can help with:

  • Pain and physical symptom control

  • Procedural anxiety management

  • Managing stress of infertility treatments

  • General anxiety, phobias, obsessions

  • Anxiety-driven habits (especially in children)

  • Medical treatment side effects such as nausea and vomiting

  • Stress management

  • Performance enhancement (e.g., actors, singers, athletes, students)

Articles and Resources


"Treating children with IBS is complicated.

Hypnosis can help"

Article by Elizabeth Chang for the Washington Post, 10/4/2022


"The Medical Power of Hypnosis"

Article by Martha Henriques for the BBC, 05/19/2022


"Hypnosis Aids Pain Management in the Emergency Department"

Article by Vincent Richeux for Medscape, 07/08/2022

The Division 30 Definition and Description of Hypnosis

Hypnosis typically involves an introduction to the procedure during which the subject is told that suggestions for imaginative experiences will be presented. The hypnotic induction is an extended initial suggestion for using one’s imagination, and may contain further elaborations of the introduction. A hypnotic procedure is used to encourage and evaluate responses to suggestions. When using hypnosis, one person (the subject) is guided by another (the hypnotist) to respond to  suggestions for changes in subjective experience, alterations in perception, sensation, emotion, thought or behavior.  Persons can also learn self-hypnosis, which is the act of administering hypnotic procedures on one’s own. If the subject responds to hypnotic suggestions, it is generally inferred that hypnosis has been induced. Many believe that hypnotic responses and experiences are characteristic of a hypnotic state. While some think that it is not necessary to use the word “hypnosis” as part of the hypnotic induction, others view it as essential.

Details of hypnotic procedures and suggestions will differ depending on the goals of the practitioner and the purposes of the clinical or research endeavor. Procedures traditionally involve suggestions to relax, though relaxation is not necessary for hypnosis and a wide variety of suggestions can be used including those to become more alert. Suggestions that permit the extent of hypnosis to be assessed by comparing responses to standardized scales can be used in both clinical and research settings. While the majority of individuals are responsive to at least some suggestions, scores on standardized scales range from high to negligible. Traditionally, scores are grouped into low, medium, and high categories. As is the case with other positively-scaled measures of psychological constructs such as attention and awareness, the salience of evidence for having achieved hypnosis increases with the individual’s score.

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.

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