Hypnosis – (Hypnotherapy) The History and Benefits

Hypnosis (sometimes called “hypnotherapy”) is a type of psychotherapy that is used on a person to help create unconscious change in that person’s thought patterns, habits, perceptions, behaviors, and responses.  When a person is hypnotized, he/she is in a trance like state that increases the subject’s willingness to cooperate and follow the instructions given by the hypnotist.

The traditional form that was practiced by many Victorian hypnotists, including James Braid, utilized direct suggestion of symptom removal via the use of therapeutic relaxation and even some taboo items, such as drugs and alcohol.

Hypnosis: Different Methods but Looking for the Same Results

However, Braid used the term “hypnotism” in 1841, mostly to differentiate his approach of focusing on the subject’s state rather than focusing on the hypnotist’s techniques and methods as others before he had done.  The term “hypnosis” only became widely used in the 1880s, about twenty years after Braid’s death, mostly by those who were affected by the developments in France.

In the 1950s, Milton H. Erickson came up with a very different way to hypnotize a person.  His method involved using an informal conversation approach with patients utilizing complex language patterns and therapeutic methods.  This method came to be known as “Ericksonian hypnotherapy” or “Neo-Ericksonian hypnotherapy.”  It is also credited by those who use Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) that Erickson’s work was adjusted to fit their methods.

Cognitive Hypnosis

Another main type of hypnotherapy is known as “cognitive” or “behavioral hypnotherapy.”  This type of hypnotherapy involves using a combination of clinical hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  Some claim that using the combination of the two results in better results (up to 70% more effective) when a person is put under hypnosis than when using CBT by itself.

In 1974, Theodore Barber and his colleagues published a review of the research that clinical hypnosis and CBT worked better together.  Barber also argued that hypnotism was the result of normal psychological variables rather than the “special state” that many people believed it to be.

Use Hypnosis to Relieve Pain During Pregnancy

Hypnosis has been used for many functions.  One such function is in giving birth.  Before a pregnancy, a mother might be put under hypnosis in order to help her calm her mind so that she can prepare for the challenging labor period ahead.  During childbirth itself, hypnosis may be induced to help reduce the pain and anxiety the mother feels during the actual delivery process.

The original function of hypnosis in the Victorian era was to treat hysteria, a condition where a person is very emotional about a specific condition and/or object.  This has been passed on to an extent in modern hypnotherapy, as it is used to help treat anxiety and control unfounded fears of objects or situations.

Hypnosis: Helps Treat Addiction & Insomnia

In addition, modern hypnotherapy helps to treat such conditions as addiction and insomnia, both extreme conditions (the one being forced by an uncontrollable desire to do something, while the other being unable to sleep).

There is also evidence that various types of hypnosis have been used to treat bulimia nervosa, as that same evidence also shows that the results using hypnosis were considerably better than using placebos and other treatments.

As you can see, hypnosis has had an extended history, with many forms.  Braid focused more on the subject compared to his predecessors, while Erickson introduced a type of interview process to induce hypnosis.  It was also combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to increase the effectiveness of both.

Hypnosis has been used for many purposes, including pregnancies, overcoming hysteria, anxiety, and addiction, as well as to battle bulimia nervosa.  Today, hypnosis is still relied upon by many to help overcome the stresses of their everyday lives.


Also published on Medium.