This popular representation bears little resemblance to actual hypnotism, of course. In fact, modern understanding of hypnosis contradicts this conception on several key points. Subjects in a hypnotic trance are not slaves to their "masters" -- they have absolute free will. And they're not really in a semi-sleep state -- they're actually hyperattentive.
When James Braid first described hypnotism, he did not use the term "suggestion" but referred instead to the act of focusing the conscious mind of the subject upon a single dominant idea. Braid's main therapeutic strategy involved stimulating or reducing physiological functioning in different regions of the body. In his later works, however, Braid placed increasing emphasis upon the use of a variety of different verbal and non-verbal forms of suggestion, including the use of "waking suggestion" and self-hypnosis. Subsequently, Hippolyte Bernheim shifted the emphasis from the physical state of hypnosis on to the psychological process of verbal suggestion:
In a July 2001 article for Scientific American titled "The Truth and the Hype of Hypnosis", Michael Nash wrote that, "using hypnosis, scientists have temporarily created hallucinations, compulsions, certain types of memory loss, false memories, and delusions in the laboratory so that these phenomena can be studied in a controlled environment."
Research on the effectiveness of hypnotherapy on a variety of medical conditions is extensive. In one study, the use of hypnotherapy did not seem to alter the core symptoms in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); however, it did seem to be useful in managing the associated symptoms including sleep disturbances and tics.
It would be difficult to find an area of scientific interest more beset by divided professional opinion and contradictory experimental evidence…No one can say whether hypnosis is a qualitatively unique state with some physiological and conditioned response components or only a form of suggestion induced by high motivation and a positive relationship between hypnotist and subject…T.X. Barber has produced "hypnotic deafness" and "hypnotic blindness", analgesia and other responses seen in hypnosis—all without hypnotizing anyone…Orne has shown that unhypnotized persons can be motivated to equal and surpass the supposed superhuman physical feats seen in hypnosis.
In 2002, the Department for Education and Skills developed National Occupational Standards for hypnotherapy linked to National Vocational Qualifications based on the then National Qualifications Framework under the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. NCFE, a national awarding body, issues level four national vocational qualification diploma in hypnotherapy. Currently AIM Awards offers a Level 3 Certificate in Hypnotherapy and Counselling Skills at level 3 of the Regulated Qualifications Framework.
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Tai chi is a gentle system of exercises originating from China. The best known example is the “solo form,” a series of slow and graceful movements that follow a set pattern. It is said to improve strength, balance, and mental calmness. Qigong (pronounced “chi kung”) is another traditional Chinese system of therapeutic exercises. Practitioners teach meditation, physical movements, and breathing exercises to improve the flow of Qi, the Chinese term for body energy.
Franz Mesmer (1734–1815) believed that there is a magnetic force or "fluid" called "animal magnetism" within the universe that influences the health of the human body. He experimented with magnets to impact this field in order to produce healing. By around 1774, he had concluded that the same effect could be created by passing the hands in front of the subject's body, later referred to as making "Mesmeric passes". The word "mesmerize", formed from the last name of Franz Mesmer, was intentionally used to separate practitioners of mesmerism from the various "fluid" and "magnetic" theories included within the label "magnetism".
Abnormal results can occur in instances where amateurs, who know the fundamentals of hypnosis, entice friends to become their experimental subjects. Their lack of full understanding can lead to immediate consequences, which can linger for some time after the event. If, for example, the amateur plants the suggestion that the subject is being bitten by mosquitoes, the subject would naturally scratch where the bites were perceived. When awakened from the trance, if the amateur forgets to remove the suggestion, the subject will continue the behavior. Left unchecked, the behavior could land the subject in a physician's office in an attempt to stop the itching and scratching cycle. If the physician is astute enough to question the genesis of the behavior and hypnosis is used to remove the suggestion, the subject may experience long-term negative emotional distress and anger upon understanding exactly what happened. The lack of full understanding, complete training, and supervised experience on the part of the amateur places the subject at risk.
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Hypnosis or deep relaxation can sometimes exacerbate psychological problems—for example, by retraumatizing those with post-traumatic disorders or by inducing “false memories” in psychologically susceptible individuals. Evidence, although inconclusive, has raised concerns that the dissociation necessary to participate in relaxation or hypnosis can lead to the manifestation of the symptoms of psychosis. Only appropriately trained and experienced practitioners should undertake hypnosis. Its use should be avoided in patients with borderline personality disorder, dissociative disorders, or with patients who have histories of profound abuse. Competent hypnotherapists are skilled in recognizing and referring patients with these conditions.
Hypnosis is not a dangerous procedure. It is not mind control or brainwashing. A therapist cannot make a person do something embarrassing or that the person doesn't want to do. The greatest risk, as discussed above, is that false memories can potentially be created and that it may be less effective than pursuing other, more established and traditional psychiatric treatments.
Hypnotherapy is guided hypnosis, or a trance-like state of focus and concentration achieved with the help of a clinical hypnotherapist. This trance-like state is similar to being completely absorbed in a book, movie, music, or even one's own thoughts or meditations. In this state, clients can turn their attention completely inward to find and utilize the natural resources deep within themselves that can help them make changes or regain control in certain areas of their life.