General Psychology 1
Dr. Ralph Sneed
July 19, 2005
The Use and Value of Hypnosis
The practice of hypnosis has been credited to Austrian physician Franz Anton Mesmer, whose research in the 1700s became the basis for modern hypnosis. Believing there was a magnetic fluid in the air to be absorbed by the body's nerves through breathing, Mesmer used magnets, and later his hands, to increase circulation of this fluid by diminishing blockages caused by disease. Later, the University of Nancy's Hippolyte Bernheim emphasized the psychological nature of hypnosis, shifting perceptions to include both physical and cognitive applications of hypnosis. By the 1920s, psychologist Clark L. Hull suggested the human nature of hypnosis. According to Piccione (2005a), "the determining factor of successful hypnotism was the subject's imagination, and that some subjects were more responsive than others." Since 1958, the American Medical Association has voiced its support in the education and formal training of therapists in hypnosis as a method of alternative medicine (Piccione, 2005a).
The process of hypnosis is a matter of mind over body, involving a deep, focused concentration on a thought or image ("Hypnosis," n.d.). According to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (2005), the hypnotherapist usually applies one of three methods: mental imagery, suggestion, or exploration of the unconscious, depending on the subject's personal need requirements. An alternative to clinical hypnosis is self-hypnosis, taught by a trained therapist and self-led.
When properly led, hypnosis can be used as an aid in "unlearning" negative acquired behaviors. Reinforcement of constructive visions during hypnotherapy can help bring about positive changes in behavior. Piccione (2005b) states that the uses of hypnosis vary widely, ranging from stress relief to stuttering modification to relieving pain associated with abuse.
As medical research has proven, large amounts of suppressed stress resulting from difficulty in dealing with taxing situations or events may lead to ailments as minor as a headache or as severe as cancer. Hypnosis aimed at reducing headaches caused by stress and tension has been shown to modify the chemicals released by the brain and create a different physical state when the subject undergoes stress. Relaxation hypnosis is one method used to decrease levels of agitation or stress. According to Piccione (2005b), hypnotherapy treatment, when used with psychotherapy and counseling, "aids in addressing issues, making positive behavior changes, and learning new ways to react to anger-causing stimuli."
Studies have also shown that in cases of chronic pain, hypnosis may play a role in cutting dosages of pain medication in subjects. Chronic pain may create a "nerve signature" in the brain (Davis, J., & Nazario, B., 2004), which programs the brain to react to any and all pain, creating a vicious cycle. Interestingly, studies have shown that subjects most prone to this chronic pattern of pain tend to be most hypnotizable. According to Dr. Helen Crawford from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, "It's all about using your wonderful focus abilities to your benefit, and hypnosis helps you do that. It's all about learning how to control, how to inhibit this pattern" (as cited in Davis, J., & Nazario, B., 2004).
Hypnosis has been shown to help victims of severe burns in reducing the agonizing pain of the constant removal of bandages and scrubbing of burns, by creating a pleasant "cool" sensation using mental imagery during burn cleaning processes. Studies associating hypnosis with burn victims shows a 25%-30% decrease in pain. Dave Patterson, MD, a rehab specialist at the University of Washington Harborview Burn Center reports, "For most patients, it takes the edge off, making them feel better. With some, it's dramatic. IT works so well they don't need...