Benefits of Hypnosis

The Australian Psychological Society has published an interesting article on the benefits of hypnosis. Check it out below or follow the link for further information.
APS Hypnosis Article

Hypnosis has a complicated past, but emerging research is showing it to be a valuable treatment option for many psychological disorders, writes Associate Professor Stephen Theiler and Dr Barry Evans.

Whenever hypnotism is mentioned it elicits many different reactions. Some stem from a conception of hypnosis as being either a mysterious state or an altered state (Raz & Shapiro, 2002). If we disregard the connotations associated with the word hypnosis and focus on the science and applications, there are some interesting parallels with other psychological modalities. For instance, Yapko (2011) argues convincingly in his book, Mindfulness and Hypnosis, that there are such strong similarities between the two that they can be indistinguishable. Both have similar inductions and suggestions, and participants have similar sensory experiences and brain patterns.

There are fascinating papers appearing in line with advances in technology, such as using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to help us understand the different parts of the brain that are activated when a person is under hypnosis (Del Casale et al., 2012; Oakley & Halligan, 2009). Research in cognitive neuroscience now looks at the brain at baseline before a task and again once hypnosis is induced. Findings indicate that hypnosis changes the brain’s state by allowing external input (suggestions during hypnosis) to overrule internal goals (Posner & Rothbart, 2011). This type of research has opened up endless avenues for investigation in clinical psychology.

Hypnosis is used in clinical settings as an adjunct to a range of psychological and psychotherapeutic approaches to psychological disorders, such as a synergistic support to CBT-based interventions (Yapko, 2015). Hypnosis is effectively used with anxiety disorders (Evans & Coman, 1998), PTSD and sub-clinical PTSD (Barnard, 2002), pain management (Large, Price & Hawkins, 2003) and sleep disorders (Morin & Espie, 2003). Hypnosis works particularly well with children (Gardner & Olness, 1981) and is an ideal technique for developing self-esteem and ego-strength (Stafrace, Evans & Burrows, 1998).

Research studies and clinical work in psychoneuroimmunology also show the efficacy of hypnotic interventions (Spiegel, Kraemer, Bloom & Gottheil, 1989). It is also a powerful method to enhance mental and physical relaxation (Theiler, 2015). Hypnosis can be beneficial in dealing with attentional deficits (MacLeod, 2011), motivation, assertiveness and confidence-building, and enhancing psychotherapy and counselling (Yapko, 2011). It can help people modify behaviour, reduce symptoms and change dysfunctional attitudes (Gruzelier, Levy, Williams & Henderson, 2001).

Advances in technology and empirical evidence have reduced ignorance and brought hypnosis into the 21st century. It is undoubtedly a preferred adjunct to many psychologists’ existing clinical practice with many presenting issues. We are getting closer to discovering the mechanisms used in the brain during hypnosis, but there are still unchartered waters and exciting discoveries ahead.


About the Author: Peta Lilley

Peta completed the Clinical Psychology PhD Program within the School of Psychology, The University of Queensland (UQ). The focus of her research was the development of emotional and behavioural difficulties (particularly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD) in children and adolescents following trauma. Peta has also completed a post-doctoral research fellow position in the School of Medicine at UQ.


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