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The Science of Hypnosis

In 1955 the British Medical Association finally approved the use of hypnotherapy and American Medical Association followed suit three years later. Approximately fifteen thousand doctors utilize hypnotherapy in the U.S. today and studies show that 94% of patients experience positive benefit from it.

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As reported by news service:

"Hypnosis is more than just a party trick; it measurably changes how the brain works," says John Gruzelier, a research psychologist at Imperial College in London. "Hypnosis significantly affects the activity in a part of the brain responsible for detecting and responding to errors, an area that controls higher level executive functions." The finding is one of the first to indicate a biological mechanism underpinning the experience of hypnosis. “This explains why, under hypnosis, people can do outrageous things that ordinarily they wouldn’t dream of doing,” says Gruzelier, who presented his study at the British Association for the Advancement of Science Festival in Exeter, UK. Gruzelier hopes it will also benefit emerging research showing, for example, that hypnosis can help cancer patients deal with painful treatments.

"Children make excellent subjects for hypnosis because they spend more time using their imaginations," says Florida counseling psychologist Paul Schauble. "But with practice most adults can learn how to enter into a therapeutic hypnotic state quite easily as well."

In 1998 Henry Szechtman of McMaster University in Ontario and his co-workers used PET to image the brain activity of hypnotized subjects who were invited to imagine a scenario in which they were listening to someone speaking to them, and who then actually experienced a scenario in which they were listening to someone speaking to them. The researchers noted that the act of imagining a sound, called hallucinating a sound, was experienced exactly the same as real hearing, both being experienced as coming from an external source.

18 separate studies found that patients who received cognitive behavioral therapy plus hypnosis for disorders such as obesity, insomnia, anxiety and hypertension showed greater improvement than 70 percent of the patients who received psychotherapy alone.

Stress Management and Making Lifestyle Improvement

A study being done by a team of University of Florida researchers is finding that learning self-hypnosis gives a patient greater control over the stress, anxiety and pain of medical operations and childbirth, overall. "Training patients in hypnosis prior to undergoing surgery is a way of helping them develop a sense of control over their stress, discomfort and anxiety," says Dr. Paul Schauble, psychologist. "It also helps them better understand what they can do to bring about a more satisfying and rapid recovery." He also said, "We've found, in working with individual patients, that they often feel literally stripped of control when they go into the hospital. The surgeon may do a good job of explaining the surgery, but patients' anxiety may make it difficult for them to absorb or comprehend. This can result in undue apprehension that can create complications or prolonged recovery."

In an ongoing pilot study being done by University of Florida counseling psychologist Paul Schauble, preliminary results show hypnotized patients with hypertension are more easily able to make lifestyle improvements that can lower blood pressure.

Self-Esteem and Test Taking

In a research study done with 60 college student volunteers (Spring of 2004 at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona), using hypnosis with ego-enhancement suggestions showed "significantly dramatic effects" in brain-wave patterns, subjective sense of self-confidence, and test scores.

In a research study on Self-hypnosis for relapse prevention training with chronic drug/alcohol users, (Am J Clin Hypn. 2004 Apr;46(4):281-97), individuals who played self-hypnosis audiotapes "at least 3 to 5 times a week," at 7-week follow-up, reported the highest levels of self-esteem and serenity, and the least anger/impulsivity, in comparison to the minimal-practice and control groups.

Cancer and Surgery

Research Study: A Method for Using Hypnotism with Persons Living with Cancer
This is a copy of Rev. Dr. C. Scot Giles' ten-year outcomes study of participants at his hospital program. Participants with cancer who received hypnotism in addition to conventional medical care had, at years ten and beyond, a survival that was significantly greater than the estimated five year survival for cancer patients according to the national outcomes database.

Hypnosis Reduces Pain and Costs in Breast Cancer Surgery
The use of hypnosis prior to breast cancer surgery reduced the amount of anesthesia administered during the operation, the level of pain reported afterwards, and the time and cost of the procedure, according to a study published online August 28 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

A Randomized Clinical Trial of a Brief Hypnosis Intervention to Control Side Effects in Breast Surgery Patients
Guy H. Montgomery, Dana H. Bovbjerg, Julie B. Schnur, Daniel David, Alisan Goldfarb, Christina R. Weltz, Clyde Schechter, Joshua Graff-Zivin, Kristin Tatrow, Donald D. Price, and Jeffrey H. Silverstein
J Natl Cancer Inst 2007 99: 1304-1312.

The Mind Prepared: Hypnosis in Surgery
David Spiegel J Natl Cancer Inst 2007 99: 1280-1281.

Clinical trials of therapeutic hypnosis confirm its potential benefits. Christina Liossi, a psychologist at the University of Wales in Swansea, recently conducted a study of 80 cancer patients aged 6 to 16. She found that those under hypnosis experienced far less pain during treatments than control children, who simply talked to the researchers normally.

Chronic Pain

Research using positron emission tomography (PET) scans, shows that hypnosis might alleviate pain by decreasing the activity of brain areas involved in the experience of suffering. Scientists have found that hypnosis reduced the activity of the anterior cingulate cortex, an area known to be involved in pain, but did not affect the activity of the somatosensory cortex, where the sensations of pain are processed.

Finer, B. (2002). The inner theater. Hypnos, 29(4), 164-168. Patients with chronic pain (e.g., back pain, whiplash-associated disorders, fibromyalgia) often develop psychological distress following the pain. A multidisciplinary approach to treatment, in collaboration with a physician, can, with advantage, include hypnotherapy, both to reduce, relieve, or abolish the symptoms and also to facilitate an improved quality of life despite the symptoms. The author presents a technique he developed during the last few years. Address for reprints: Basil Finer, M.D., Ph.D., Vastra Jarnvagsgatan 7, nb, SE-753 33 Upsala, Sweden. E-mail:


Palsson, O. S., Turner, M. J., Johnson, D. A., Burnelt, C. K., & Whitehead, W. E. (2002). Hypnosis treatment for severe irritable bowel syndrome: Investigation of mechanism and effects on symptoms. Digestive Diseases & Sciences, 47(11):26052614.

Talley, N. J., & Spiller, R. (2002). Irritable bowel syndrome: a little understood organic bowel disease? Lancet, 360(9332), 555-564.


A recent Israeli study showed that the success rate of IVF treatments doubled in his test group from 14% to 28%, when the subjects underwent hypnosis during implantation. Professor Eliahu Levitas conducted this study with 185 women. Read some of his findings on hypnosis for fertility.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has developed a technique called Body-Centered Hypnosis. Dr. Peterson has found that high anxiety states in the mother must be reduced in order to normalize pregnancy and birth. She sites several research studies that suggest a positive link between fertility and treatments based on hypnosis. She is a pioneer in the field of mind/body states and their effects on fertility, pregnancy and birthing. Click here to Read Dr. Peterson's article on fertility and depression. To read more about Dr. Peterson and her work, Click here.

Dr. Alice Domar has been published in several important journals, such as Fertility & Sterility (1990 and 2000) and the Journal of the American Medical Women's Association (1999). She emphasizes "mind/body" techniques that include self-hypnotic suggestions to reduce stresses that interfere with conception and healthy pregnancy. Domar is the author of Conquering Infertility, and other books on the topic. See more about Dr. Domar's research here.

At the Institute of Applied Psychology in Lisbon Portugal, a team of researchers led by Katharina Hirschenhauser has concluded that men who actively want to be fathers automatically adjust their testosterone levels at exactly the right time (the middle of their partners' menstrual cycles). Perhaps there is no better hypnotic suggestion for a male partner than the idea that he wants to become a father.

PTSD and Distress

Solomon, S. D., & Johnson, D. M. (2002). Psychosocial treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: A practice-friendly review of outcome research. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(8), 947-959. This is a review of the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment research which finds that several forms of therapy appear to be useful in reducing PTSD symptoms.

Walters, V. J., & Oakley, D. A. (2002). Hypnosis in post-abortion distress: An experimental case study. Contemporary Hypnosis, 19(2), 85-99.


According to published results of clinical studies (Am J Clin Hypn. 2004 Apr), the use of hypnosis facilitates a more uncomplicated birth process. In a separate research study done by University of Florida counseling psychologist Paul Schauble, it was also found that women who learn hypnosis before delivering babies suffer fewer complications, need less medication and are more likely to have healthier babies than are women without hypnosis. Schauble's first study involved adolescents getting prenatal care at a public health clinic. A group of 20 patients who received hypnosis preparation were compared with 20 who were given supportive counseling and 20 patients in a control group who received only the standard prenatal care. None of the women who received hypnosis required surgical intervention in their deliveries, compared with 12 in the supportive counseling group and eight in the control group, he said. "Patients who are prepared for labor and delivery in hypnosis are more likely to absorb and benefit from information because they are in a relaxed, highly focused state," he said.

Hypnosis and Genes

Dr. Ernest L. Rossi specializes in psychobiology, or the relationship between the mind and physical body states. He has done extensive research to suggest that human genes must be in a state of physical readiness for conception to take place, and that hypnotic-type suggestions can activate specific genes, including the IL-1, c-fos, and the CYP17 in a specific order. See a list of his research papers here. Read about his book, The Psychobiology of Gene Expressions.

More than 1000 scientific & medical hypnosis abstracts (copyright © Alberto Torelli (, 2002-2006)

Hypnosis cannot, and should not, stand alone as the sole medical or psychological intervention for any disorder. Hypnosis should not be used instead of appropriate medical, dental, or psychological treatment, and any individual with a medical or psychological problem should first consult a qualified health care provider for diagnosis and professional advice. Hypnosis should only be practiced by those who have been appropriately trained, who practice appropriately, and within the scope of their training.

Part of the information compiled by Gwyneth McNeil, Certified Hypnotist and Certified Instructor with the National Guild of Hypnotists and Managing Director of Academy of Life Management in Salt Lake City, Utah. 3098 Highland Drive Suite #317 - Salt Lake City, Utah 84117


Provided by World Hypnotism Day
World Hypnotism Day

(20 min. free phone consultation)