What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a state of focused attention and receptivity which can be an extremely useful tool for individuals wishing to master certain abilities and accomplish specific tasks. it has a long history, going back hundreds of years, and was originally used by clergymen, physicians, neurologists, psychologists, and others involved in the healing arts. Currently it is most competently used by health care professionals and mental health specialists in assisting with a broad variety of problems and life issues.

Hypnotizability varies from individual to individual, yet most people are sufficiently endowed with this ability in order to achieve results in changing some aspect of their life.  In working with a trained and licensed mental health professional it is possible to make significant changes in problems, such as chronic pain, headaches, habit patterns (e.g. smoking, overeating), anxiety, and other issues. It is also useful in preparing for anxiety evoking situations, such as medical or dental procedures (e.g., labor and delivery, surgery, injections), taking examinations, or other events inducing apprehension.

Hypnosis is considered to be a normal and adaptive altered state of consciousness that occurs spontaneously for many individuals throughout life. Other altered states of consciousness that regularly occur are sleep, an intense emotional involvement with an engaging movie or piece of music, eliciting changes in one's heart rate, thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and even perception of time and space.

Hypnosis at first brings on a deeply relaxed and calm state, both physically and psychologically. You will notice such physiological signs as slowed respiration, a low heart rate, warm and dry hands, and relaxed muscles. Psychologically, you may feel calm, peaceful, and may have an "empty" mind, relatively free of negative or distracting thoughts. You may also be capable of vivid imaginative experiences, which include visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, and kinesthetic components. In addition, you may experience a significant time distortion and removal from your general reality orientation (e.g., indifferent to external sounds, distracting thoughts, unpleasant physical sensations).

Looking to learn more about hypnosis? 

Read more about hypnosis treatment.

Check out the list of winners of SCEH's Arthur Shapiro Award, given each year since 1970 to recognize the best books on hypnosis.

You may also benefit from subscribing to our International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (free with membership).

More Resources for Hypnosis Clinicians, Researchers and Students

Review clinical hypnosis resources to use in your practice or research on this page.

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