Olness thinks there must be something about the intense mental imagery that comes with a hypnotic state. One little boy she worked with told her he was imagining that he was touching the sun. Whether such visions activate different parts of the brain than those associated with rational thought is less clear. As Olness says, “We’re a long way from specifics on that.”
As with other treatment providers, recommendations from family or friends are a great place to start. You can also check with a therapist, naturopath, or acupuncturist for recommendations. There are several databases of certified hypnotherapists online too. Try checking the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis’s database, or the General Hypnotherapy Register. You’ll want to check the therapist’s website before you choose, making sure to look for credentials and testimony from previous patients if available.
Some hypnotists view suggestion as a form of communication that is directed primarily to the subject's conscious mind, whereas others view it as a means of communicating with the "unconscious" or "subconscious" mind. These concepts were introduced into hypnotism at the end of the 19th century by Sigmund Freud and Pierre Janet. Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory describes conscious thoughts as being at the surface of the mind and unconscious processes as being deeper in the mind. Braid, Bernheim, and other Victorian pioneers of hypnotism did not refer to the unconscious mind but saw hypnotic suggestions as being addressed to the subject's conscious mind. Indeed, Braid actually defines hypnotism as focused (conscious) attention upon a dominant idea (or suggestion). Different views regarding the nature of the mind have led to different conceptions of suggestion. Hypnotists who believe that responses are mediated primarily by an "unconscious mind", like Milton Erickson, make use of indirect suggestions such as metaphors or stories whose intended meaning may be concealed from the subject's conscious mind. The concept of subliminal suggestion depends upon this view of the mind. By contrast, hypnotists who believe that responses to suggestion are primarily mediated by the conscious mind, such as Theodore Barber and Nicholas Spanos, have tended to make more use of direct verbal suggestions and instructions.
During hypnosis, a person is said to have heightened focus and concentration. The person can concentrate intensely on a specific thought or memory, while blocking out sources of distraction. Hypnotised subjects are said to show an increased response to suggestions. Hypnosis is usually induced by a procedure known as a hypnotic induction involving a series of preliminary instructions and suggestion. The use of hypnotism for therapeutic purposes is referred to as "hypnotherapy", while its use as a form of entertainment for an audience is known as "stage hypnosis". Stage hypnosis is often performed by mentalists practicing the art form of mentalism.
Visualization and imagery techniques involve the induction of a relaxed state followed by the development of a visual image, such as a pleasant scene that enhances the sense of relaxation. These images may be generated by the patient or suggested by the practitioner. In the context of this relaxing setting, patients can also choose to imagine themselves coping more effectively with the stressors in their lives.
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".
In the brain, this state looks stranger still. A landmark study in the prestigious journal Science in the late 1990s, led by Pierre Rainville of the University of Montreal, described a study in which hypnotized people briefly placed their left hand in either painfully hot water, heated to 116 degrees Fahrenheit, or room-temperature water. Some of them had been told that they would be experiencing pain, but that they wouldn’t be very bothered by it — if, on a scale of one to ten, the hurt would normally register at an eight, they’d feel it as if it were a four. As all the participants placed their hands in the 116-degree water, their brains were scanned. The results were clear: Those who had been told that the pain would be less intense showed less activity in their brains — specifically, in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is associated with pain processing.
Surgery/Anesthesiology (In unusual circumstances, hypnosis has been used as the sole anesthetic for surgery, including the removal of the gall bladder, amputation, cesarean section, and hysterectomy. Reasons for using hypnosis as the sole anesthetic may include: situations where chemical anesthesia is contraindicated because of allergies or hyper-sensitivities; when organic problems increase the risk of using chemoanesthesia; and in some conditions where it is ideal for the patient to be able to respond to questions or directives from the surgeon);
Hypnosis is not a psychotherapeutic treatment or a form of psychotherapy, but rather a tool or procedure that helps facilitate various types of therapies and medical or psychological treatments. Only trained health care providers certified in clinical hypnosis can decide, with their patient, if hypnosis should be used along with other treatments. As with psychotherapy, the length of hypnosis treatment varies, depending on the complexity of the problem.