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Guide to complementary therapy - Hypnosis

A formula suggested as the mode of action for hypnosis is:

misdirected attention + belief + expectation + imagination = hypnosis

Misdirected attention is concentrating on something irrelevant to the hypnosis. Every induction technique involves distraction. With the mind focused on this 'diverting channel' a patient cannot harbour doubt. Imagination brings together belief and expectation.

Hypnosis is often described as a condition akin to sleep but the patient is never unconscious. It may be better described as a condition of considerably increased suggestibility. Patients who request the therapy allow themselves to be hypnotised.

Uncomfortable sensations like pain may be assigned to a separate level of consciousness distinct from central awareness. Hypnosis may also relieve pain by enhancing nervous system inhibitory processes attenuating pain.

How does it work and what is

the evidence?

Dr Tanvir Jamil explains


There has been much research on hypnosis. Significant examples are:

 · Fuchs K et al. Treatment of hyperemesis gravidarum by hypnosis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 1980;28:313-23

In 138 patients with severe vomiting in pregnancy not helped by medication, hypnosis helped 88 per cent.

 · Holroyd J. Hypnosis treatment for smoking: an evaluative review. International Journal of Clinical and experimental Hypnosis 1980;28:341-57

A review of 17 studies. Programmes including hypnosis as well as follow-up had success rates of more than 50 per cent.

 · Cochrane G, Friesen J. Hypnotherapy in weight loss treatment: Two groups of obese patients received hypnosis only or hypnosis and an audiotape. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 1986;54:489-92

A control group of obese

patients received 'attention' only. Both hypnosis groups lost an

average of 17 pounds in six months. The control group put on half a pound.

What hypnosis is used for

 · Pain Reduction and control of any painful condition (arthritis, terminal illness)

 · Pregnancy Pain reduction in labour, nausea, morning sickness, heartburn

 · Psychological Phobias, stress, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, functional sexual problems, weight

 · Learning/performance Shyness, blushing, concentration, studying, exam nerves, stage fright, selling, sports

 · Addictions Smoking, alcoholism

 · Habits Nail-biting, thumb-sucking, bedwetting, overeating, stuttering


nHow is it practised?

Induction is a term used for initiating a hypnotic state. There are several forms:

larm levitation. The practitioner induces the subject's arm to move and the hand to caress the face. The arm then drops to the lap and the subject sinks further into a relaxed state.

leye fixation. The patient fixes his gaze at an object, like a watch, while the practitioner speaks.

lthe 'dropped coin' technique. The patient holds a coin to concentrate on and feel while he is talked through the hypnotic state. As the subject's eyes close and body goes limp the coin should drop.

leye closure. The subject closes his eyes and tries to relax deeply while the practitioner tries to induce a trance by their commentary.

During the induction a subject will usually 'move through' definite stages of hypnosis: light, medium and deep or somnambulistic trance.

In the hypnotic state there is relaxation, increased suggestibility and an alteration in muscle activity. Induction uses counting numbers, deep breathing, and limb tension and relaxation methods to deepen the hypnotic trance.

A hypnotist speaks in a slow monotonous tone while repeating key sentences to reinforce suggestion. A further more detailed history may be taken while the patient is in the trance to gain a deeper insight into their problem. In a post-hypnotic state the patient may 'suffer' amnesia or any one of the numerous suggestions implanted in his brain during the trance.


nRelatively safe

nMany patients able to carry out self-hypnosis

nGood reputable training available in most of the UK


nMany patients worry they may do things in a trance that they would not normally wish to

nNeed to trust the therapist completely ­ some may find this difficult

nUnsuitable for very young children or those with learning difficulties or mental illness


British Society of Medical and Dental Hypnotists

Flat 23 Broadfields Heights

53-59 Broadfields Avenue

Edgware HA8 7ED

Tel: 020 8905 4342

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