• Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic interaction between a therapist who uses clinical hypnosis and a patient.


  • As you have read in the previous lesson the following definition was taken from the Collins Concise Dictionary:

"hypnotherapy (noun) the use of hypnosis in the treatment of mental and emotional problems."


  • The U.S. (Department of Labor) Directory of Occupational Titles (D.O.T. 079.157.010) supplies the following definition of a hypnotherapist:

"Hypnotherapist - Induces hypnotic states in clients to increase motivation or alter behavior patterns through hypnosis. Consults with client to determine the nature of problem. Prepares client to enter hypnotic states by explaining how hypnosis works and what the client will experience. Tests subject to determine degrees of physical and emotional suggestibility. Induces hypnotic state in client using individualized methods and techniques of hypnosis based on interpretation of test results and analysis of client's problem. May train client in self-hypnosis conditioning.


Hypnosis has traditionally been defined as an altered state of consciousness, a trance like state, where responsiveness to suggestions is heightened and the recall of hidden memories is facilitated (Hilgard, 1986).


  • The rationale for its use is that in the hypnotised state the conscious mind presents fewer barriers to effective psycho-therapeutic exploration, leading to an increased likelihood of psychological insight (Heap, 1988).


  • Other opinions have considered the so-called “hypnotic trance” to be a very relaxed mental state attained via guided imagery and meditation (McMaster, 1992, 1996).


  • Discrepancies in the defining points of hypnosis have arisen due to the large individual differences in “hypnotisability” (Crawford, Brown, & Moon, 1993) and the vast number of competing theoretical models (Kirsch & Lynn,1998; Kihlstrom, 1998).


  • Further, theoretical explanations for hypnotic phenomenon have been found to be derived from dissociation theories (Hilgard & Hilgard, 1994).

Traditional definitions, though containing an element of truth, are very limited in their usefulness. Most tend to describe hypnosis from the client's position in the trance state without accounting for the role of the hypnotherapist. All imply a passive response to suggestions due to the state termed 'trance' (Yapko, 1989).


  • Commonly people consider hypnotherapy to only rely on the use of suggestions and suggestibility to induce change in people’s lives. This is one of the many theoretical perspectives that attempt to explain hypnosis and its therapeutic use i.e. hypnotherapy.


  • Many clinicians conceptualise hypnotherapy as persons wanting to be hypnotised, visiting a hypnotherapist and undergoing the process of hypnotic induction, in which typically they fixate on a target object (e.g., metronome, whirling disk, pendulum).


  • Specific induction wording directs client's’ attention inward to reduce vigilance of the external world. The induction’s wording is usually associated with passive mental states (e.g., relaxation, meditation, and sleep), and focuses subject’s awareness on concrete images, sensations, and behaviour, while also diminishing logical, critical, and abstract cognitive processes (Barnett, 1992; Lynn, Rhue, & Weekes, 1990).


In contrast, hypnosis has also been described as a state of increased awareness (Kroger, 1977; Yapko, 1989).


  • So if a person becomes more aware, their awareness of the message increases and as their awareness increases so will their appropriate response. The implication being the message communicated is transmitted and received more clearly.


  • Yapko (1989), defines hypnosis as a 'process of influential communication', where the hypnotherapist uses vivid and emotive words and gestures in a skilful manner to increase the potential for influencing healthy psychological change.


Hypnosis is therefore seen as a persuasive communication tool. Less emphasis is placed on ritualistic methods or on the attainment of different depths of trance.


There are numerous theoretical perspectives about the hypnotic phenomena and hypnotherapy (Kroger, 1977; Barber, 1996; Yapko, 1989). Hypnosis and hypnotherapy will be used according to how they are conceptualised. These different theoretical perspectives have both helped and hindered the application of hypnosis.


  • Theories are useful for a number of reasons but most importantly because they guide therapists in their work and in their choice of procedures (Dryden, 1991).


  • However, this is also a limitation when applied to hypnotherapy because some of the theoretical perspectives of hypnosis are more limited than others and currently no one single theory adequately explains its complexity.


Skilled hypnotherapists generally work in an integrative and sometimes eclectic way drawing upon the broad spectrum of psycho-therapeutic philosophies and treatments.


  • Hypnotherapy is therefore a form of psychotherapy where counselling skills are used, a full case history is taken, rapport or therapeutic alliance established, problems and goals defined, misconceptions dealt with and therapeutic strategies, for both the hypnosis and non hypnosis part of the session, discussed and agreed.


  • Hammond (1990), points out that therapists who rely on a limited range of methods and one approach only often tend to be inexperienced. He cites Lieberman, Talom, & Miles (1973) who suggest that problems are more likely to occur when the same approach is used with all clients.


Therefore how hypnosis, the mind and hypnotherapy are conceptualised determines the limits placed on their use and on clients (Yapko, 1989).


The American Psychological Association (APA), Society of Psychological Hypnosis, Division 30 in 2014 developed a new definition of hypnosis, hypnotherapy, hypnotic induction and hypnotizability. It can be read here:


  • Again, you may want to explore different definitions and decide whether you would agree with these.


Following on from the ICCHP's definition of hypnosis, we can further define hypnotherapy as:
During these naturally occurring hypnotic states the subconscious part of our mind (who we are) becomes more accessible and more receptive to positive suggestions that we find acceptable to us. So if you have a desire to be more motivated or to have more confidence, then in these states when suggestions are given to support what you desire, they become more amplified, helping you to achieve what you desire. Hypnotherapy uses these natural states to deliver therapeutic suggestions and therapeutic processes, which help you to achieve the positive outcomes that you desire


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