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An Introduction to Hypnosis. An Introduction to Hypnosis. I. What is Hypnosis ? II. Common Myths about Hypnosis III. Theories of Hypnotic Responding IV. Key Theoretical Controversies in Hypnosis IV. Hypnotic Suggestibility VI. Hypnosis as a Clinical Tool. I. What is Hypnosis ?.

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an introduction to hypnosis1
An Introduction to Hypnosis

I. What is Hypnosis ?

II. Common Myths about Hypnosis

III. Theories of Hypnotic Responding

IV. Key Theoretical Controversies in Hypnosis

IV. Hypnotic Suggestibility

VI. Hypnosis as a Clinical Tool

i what is hypnosis
I. What is Hypnosis ?

A. Defining Hypnosis

B. Components of a Hypnotic Procedure

a defining hypnosis
A. Defining Hypnosis
  • Hypnosis is a procedure involving cognitive processes (like imagination) in which a subject is guided by a hypnotist to respond to suggestions for changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  • Sometimes people are trained in self-hypnosis, learn to guide themselves through a hypnotic procedure.
  • Psychologists hold a wide variety of opinions on how to define hypnosis and on how hypnosis works.
b two components of a hypnotic procedure
B. Two Components of a Hypnotic Procedure
  • It is useful to think of a hypnotic procedure as consisting of two phases or components:
    • Hypnotic Induction
    • Hypnotic Suggestions
what is a hypnotic induction
What is a Hypnotic Induction ?
  • An introduction to hypnosis  the subject is guided through suggestion to
    • Relax
    • Concentrate
    • Focus his or her attention on some particular thing.
  • Some hypnotists believe  purpose of the induction is to induce an altered state of consciousness.
  • Others believe it is a social cue that prompts the subject to engage in hypnotic behaviors.
v hypnotic suggestibility the individual difference variable
V. Hypnotic Suggestibility – The Individual Difference Variable
  • Hypnotic suggestibility is the general tendency to respond to hypnotic suggestions.
  • Can be measured with scales typically consisting of a hypnotic induction + a series of behavioral test suggestions.
v hypnotic suggestibility the individual difference variable1
V. Hypnotic Suggestibility – The Individual Difference Variable
  • The number of test suggestions that an individual responds to or passes indicates the person’s level of suggestibility.
  • It is a trait-like, individual difference variable
    • People differ in terms of how high or low they fall on suggestibility.
    • Scores in the population are arrayed in a bell-shaped curve.
  • Suggestibility tends to be very stable over time – researchers found that scores taken 25 years apart were correlated at r = .71. (correlations = 0.0 -1.0 )
what is a hypnotic suggestion
What is a Hypnotic Suggestion ?
  • The subject is guided to undergo changes in experience.
  • Types of Hypnotic Suggestions:
    • Ideomotor Suggestions – experience a motor movement.
    • Challenge Suggestions – subject is told he or she will not be able to do some particular thing and then is asked to perform the prohibited behavior.
    • Cognitive Suggestions – experience changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts or feelings.
ii common myths about hypnosis people in hypnosis
II. Common Myths about Hypnosis:People in hypnosis…..
  • …lose control and can be made to say or do whatever the hypnotist wants.
  • …may not be able to come out of hypnosis.


  • … only affects weak-willed or gullible people.
  • …reliably enhances the accuracy of memory.
  • …enables people to re-experience a past life.
  • …depends primarily on the skill of the hypnotist.
iii important theories of hypnotic responding
III. Important Theories of Hypnotic Responding
  • Psychoanalytic Approach
  • Neodissociation Approach
  • Socio-Cognitive Approach
  • Transpersonal Approach
a psychoanalytic approach freud s model of hypnosis
A. Psychoanalytic Approach: Freud’s Model of Hypnosis
  • Freud initially utilized hypnosis to help remove psychosomatic symptoms;
  • Patients suffered from what we would now call a somatoform disorder.
    • Patients suffered from medical complaints:
      • seizures
      • muscular spasms
      • paralysis of their limbs that was transient and/or was not thought to be the entirely the result of a general medical condition.

Freud’s Model of Personality

  • Divided into 3 parts- Id,
  • Ego, and Superego;
  • Believed that hypnosis
  • allowed him access to
  • memories within the
  • patient’s unconscious mind
  • which had been previously
  • repressed (blocked);
freud s model of hypnosis continued
Freud’s Model of Hypnosis continued…
  • Learned that he could temporarily or permanently reduce many of these symptoms using direct hypnotic suggestions for the symptoms to be reversed.
    • “Your arm is calm again and will no longer spasm.”
  • Eventually Freud used free association instead of hypnosis as a way of accessing the unconscious.
b hilgard s neodissociation approach
B. Hilgard’sNeodissociation Approach
  • Recent psychoanalytically-oriented theory.
  • Developed by Ernest Hilgard.
  • Theory: Under hypnosis, part of the mind enters an altered state of consciousness.
  • A second dissociated part of the mind--designated the “Hidden Observer”-- remains aware of what is going on during a hypnotic session.
  • Part of the mind in an altered state of consciousness = very open to hypnotic suggestions.
b neodissociation hidden observer experiments
B. Neodissociation – ‘Hidden Observer’ Experiments

Discovered in highly hypnotizable subjects during dissociative tasks such as hypnotic deafness and hypnotic pain analgesia.

If queried some subjects could nevertheless give realistic accounts of the dissociated experience as if a hidden observer was present within the person watching the whole time!

b hilgard s neodissociation theory
B. Hilgard’sNeodissociation Theory
  • These dissociations = evidence of separate cognitive subsystems that were operating during the experiment.
  • “The concept of a totally unified consciousness is an attractive one, but does not hold up under examination.”
  • Ernest R. Hilgard (1994)
a socio cognitive take on neodissociation criticisms of hilgard s approach
A Socio-cognitive take on Neodissociation(Criticisms of Hilgard’s approach)
  • “Hidden Observer” – was created by the subject in response to the hypnotic instructions given by the experimenter. (Spanos & Burgess, 1994)
  • Self or “identity is constructed, role-governed, and performed” (Lynn et al., 1994) as a “narrative process” in which we come to construct our experience as that identity as a “believed-in imagining” (Sarbin, 1998).
c the socio cognitive approach
C. The Socio-cognitive Approach
  • Principles of social psychology

explain behavior during hypnosis.

  • Not a single theory a group of theories.
  • Examples:
    • Role Theory – people naturally adopt the role behaviors of a hypnotized person.
    • Response Expectancy Theory – hypnotic suggestions alter expectations for nonvolitional outcomes (e.g., pain). Such expectations  then contribute to the experience of those outcomes (Kirsch, 1990).
d a transpersonal approach
D. A Transpersonal Approach
  • Many of humanity’s earliest views of hypnotic phenomena are described by various religious & spiritual traditions in the world. (Krippner, 2005).
    • Shamanistic Healing Rituals
    • Exorcism and Demonology
    • Advanced meditative practices to achieve Mind/Body unity within mystical aspects of:
      • Christianity
      • Tibetan Buddhism
      • Native American
      • Islamic Sufism
      • Jewish Kabbalah
      • Hindu Tantra.
d a transpersonal approach1
D. A Transpersonal Approach
  • An important diversity issue since many people around the world hold these beliefs.
class demonstration
Class Demonstration
  • Chevreul Pendulum
vii hypnosis as a clinical tool
VII. Hypnosis as a Clinical Tool
  • Used 2 ways as a clinical tool:
      • Making Direct Suggestions for Symptom Reduction;
      • Using hypnosis as an adjunct to other forms of psychotherapy (e.g., CBT).
a making direct suggestions for symptom reduction
A. Making Direct Suggestions for Symptom Reduction
  • Ex. – A hypnotist suggests to a patient undergoing a painful medical procedure ;

(e.g., surgery, a lumbar puncture, spinal tap) that the affected body part (i.e., the back) is numb and insensitive to pain.

  • This is a classic use of hypnosis.
gate theory of pain
Gate Theory of Pain

Pain reduction through hypnosis.

example hypnotic analgesia
Example: Hypnotic Analgesia
  • Hypnosis can alter and eliminate the psychological experience of pain and the brain’s neurophysiological processing of pain.
  • Data indicates that the sensory aspect of pain is diminished at the somatosensory cortex.
  • The suffering component of pain is diminished at the anterior cingulate cortex.
pain research
Pain research
  • Research shows that pain can be hypnotically induced in the brain.
    • What does that tell us about the nature of pain?
b presenting cognitive behavioral therapy cbt hypnosis
B. Presenting Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) + Hypnosis
  • Research suggests: Combining hypnosis & CBT improves outcomes for 70% of patients relative to using CBT alone! (Kirsch et al., 1995);
  • Additionally: Preceding the CBT technique with a hypnotic induction, delivered with the unique tone and cadence of hypnosis, is successful;
  • Ex.:
    • Progressive Muscle Relaxation becomes hypnotic relaxation.
    • Guided Imagery  hypnotic imagery.
    • Systematic Desensitization  hypnotic desensitization.
    • Coping self-statements  coping self-suggestions.
some clinical problems thought to be responsive to hypnosis
Some Clinical Problems Thought to Be Responsive to Hypnosis
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Acute Stress Disorder
  • Acute and Chronic Pain
  • Phobias
  • Performance Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
what about placebos why do they work
What about Placebos? Why do they work?
  • The power of placebos is fascinating…but why does it happen?
  • Once associated with fringe psychology and the supernatural hypnosis is now accepted as the valid subject of scientific research and as a useful clinical tool.
  • Psychologists hold a wide variety of opinions on how to define hypnosis and on how hypnosis works.
  • Research strongly suggests that hypnotic suggestibility is a trait that accounts for a portion of how much or how little people respond to hypnosis.
  • However, research strongly indicates that the vast majority of people can benefit from hypnosis interventions.
  • Research indicates that hypnosis is very effective for treating a wide range of clinical problems and symptoms

(pain, anxiety, depression, obesity, and smoking).

instructions for chevreul pendulum demonstration
Instructions for Chevreul Pendulum Demonstration
  • Obtain scissors, string, and ½ inch washers at a hardware store.
  • At the beginning of the presentation, distribute these materials to the class. Have students cut a 6-inch length of string and tie it to the washer.
  • Explain that you will be doing a demonstration in which students will have an opportunity to experience an imaginative suggestion.
  • Have students place their right elbow on their right thigh and hold the string between their right thumb and index finger so the washer is suspended beneath.
  • Have students hold their hand as still as possible.
  • Ask students to imagine that the washer is beginning to move from left to right. Continue repeating the suggestion until some washers begin to move. There will be a range of responses. Some students will show no response at all. Others will find that their washer moves quite a bit.
  • Cancel the suggestion by telling students their hands are back to normal.
  • Ask students what this has to do with what you were just discussing.
  • This should lead naturally to the next topic – hypnotic suggestibility.