Hypnosis for First Responders

A review article in Medical Acupuncture stated that first responders should be trained in integrative medicine approaches, including hypnosis, to help relieve pain and stress.

The first recorded use of hypnosis for anesthesia during surgery was by Recamier in 1821. In 1829 Cloquet used hypnosis to perform a breast amputation before the French Academy of Medicine. Around the same time in the U.S. a nasal polypectomy was performed on a patient under hypnosis by P. Wheeler. John Elliotson (who introduced the stethoscope to England) reported numerous painless operations using hypnosis in the journal Zoist. The Scottish surgeon James Esdaile reported over 2,000 minor and 345 major operations using hypnosis in the 1840s and 1850s. In 1849, Crawford Long (who pioneered the use of ether in America) stated that physicians were recommending hypnosis for pain relief during surgery. It was in recognition of the established use of hypnosis for anesthesia that Liston, who performed the first surgery under ether in England, remarked, “Gentlemen, the Yankee trick beats the French one.” He was referring to the American discovery of ether as being more reliable than hypnosis (under the name of “mesmerism”) and developed by French physicians, neurologists, and psychologists.

Chemical anesthetics proved more reliable, but that’s not to say that hypnosis is not useful. Hypnosis has been in use for pain far longer than ether, chloroform, and later chemical anesthetics. Consider that chemical anesthetics are not 100% reliable, either. A report of the Royal College of Anaesthetists suggested that in 1 of 19,000 operations a person becomes conscious while under general anesthesia. In the case of a caesarian section, the odds increase up to 1 in 670.

There is nothing new about using hypnosis for emergency pain and trauma. Hypnosis was in great use as anesthesia during the Civil War, then fell out of use with the development of ether and other chemical anesthetics. The need for rapid treatment of war neuroses during World Wars I and II and the Korean conflict brought renewed interest and activity in hypnotherapy, and resulted in the merging of hypnotic techniques with psychiatry. The British Medical Association, in 1955 reported its approval of hypnosis for the relief of pain in childbirth and surgery. Since then, hypnosis has been widely used and studied.

In 2002 the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health published a study by Levenson and Acosta, two mental health clinicians associated with the NYPD, who were at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center beginning on September 11, 2001 to assist with crisis intervention and Critical Incident Stress Management. Their study considers the stress-response of police officers on site and offers clinical techniques and guidelines for emergency mental health practitioners and first responders for use with victims of critical incidents.


Tips for Achieving Your New Year’s Resolutions

The beginning of a new year is a time when we think about our goals for the year to come. The practice of making resolutions for the new year goes back at least 2,000 years to the ancient Romans, and continued in America with the Puritans. Today, new year’s resolutions continue to be an important routine for the personal and professional growth of many Americans. Popular areas of focus are:

• Health & habits (smoking, drinking, eating, sleeping)
• Career and education
• Finances
• Relationships, family, friends, and social life
• Personal qualities (kindness, patience, helpfulness)

Achieve your resolutions using these strategies:

1. Focus. Don’t try to accomplish everything at once. Unless your goals are interdependent, pick your most important goal and concentrate your entire will on it.

2. Write it down. Putting pen to paper leaves a greater impression on the mind than a passing thought. Write your goal in bold letters on bright paper, and put it where you will see it regularly. A written goal that you see visually is not only a good reminder, but a powerful suggestion to the mind.


3. Be specific. Identify both your long-term goal and the individual actions that you must take to reach it. Focus on the specific actions and steps that you have to take next.

"In human affairs of danger and delicacy successful conclusion is sharply limited by hurry. So often men trip by being in a rush. If one were properly to perform a difficult and subtle act, he should first inspect the end to be achieved and then, once he had accepted the end as desirable, he should forget it completely and concentrate solely on the means. By this method he would not be moved to false action by anxiety or hurry or fear. Very few people learn this.”― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

4. Accept it. Most changes require work and adjustment, which create stress. Acknowledge and accept any feelings of frustration and discomfort you might feel, then...

5. Release the stress. Try these classic relaxation exercises, tips, and recordings.

6. Don’t skip a beat. If you get off track, get right back on immediately. Do not spend time worrying or beating yourself up. Juts focus your mind again on whatever was working best.

7. Share. People who share their new year’s resolutions are more likely to keep them. Share your goal with people who will be supportive. It adds accountability to your goals.

8. Track your progress. Use a visual representation of your goal. If your goal involves progress over time (e.g., losing weight), a journal, or better yet a chart or graph that you see and update daily, can work wonders.


10. Trust that you will adjust. No matter how hard it may seem today, humans break habits and take on new ones more quickly than we expect. Be persistent, and you are likely to feel that it is automatic and normal in less than a month.



A Daily Practice


New Year’s resolutions remind me of one of the best daily practices I could recommend for someone who wants to hold themselves accountable until conscious practice makes unconscious habit.


Pythagoras of Samos (570-495 B.C.) was the first to be called a philosopher (i.e. “lover of wisdom”). He recommended two moments for thoughtful reflection, when one goes to sleep and when one awakens. According to Porphyry (VPyth 40), he recommended singing these verses before going to sleep:


Also, do not receive sleep on your tender eyes,

before you have thrice gone through each of the day’s deeds:

Where have I fails myself? What have I done? What duty have I not fulfilled?



But before getting up, these:


When you awaken from sleep, the honey to the heart,

first watch very carefully, what deeds you want to perform this day.


More on the practice of Retrospection



Medical and Psychological Associations Approve Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy has been approved by the medical and scientific establishment as far back as the nineteenth century, and especially since the 1950s. The world’s most respected medical associations have long recognized the validity of hypnotic phenomena and the effectiveness of hypnosis as a therapeutic intervention. Instruction in hypnosis has been recommended for medical and psychology students, and thousands of physicians, psychologists, and dentists have received training in hypnosis from universities, medical schools, and leaders in the field. The following is a chronological summary of significant medical institutions that have stated their support of hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

1892 The British Medical Association (BMA) commissioned a committee to investigate hypnosis. Their report, published in the British Medical Journal, stated that they “satisfied themselves of the genuineness of the hypnotic state” and recognized that hypnotism is “frequently effective in relieving pain, procuring sleep, and alleviating many functional ailments.”

1955 A BMA subcommittee issued a report in the British Medical Journal endorsing the 1892 report and stating that hypnosis is a effective in treating psychosomatic disorders, revealing unrecognized motives and conflicts, removing symptoms, changing morbid thoughts and behaviors, and alleviating pain. The report also recommended that medical students be introduced to hypnosis as part of standard psychiatric training, and that specialists in psychology should receive instruction in hypnotism.

1958 The American Medical Association (AMA) approved a study by its Council on Mental Health, which recognized hypnotherapy as an orthodox medical treatment (as opposed to an “alternative” or “complementary” treatment). The AMA committee stated their agreement with the report of the BMA, and it recommended that instruction in hypnosis be included in the curricula of medical schools and postgraduate training centers. [In 1987 the AMA rescinded almost all policies from 1881–1958. As a result of that decision the AMA now has no official position on the use of hypnosis.]

1960 The American Psychological Association endorsed hypnosis as a branch of psychology (it should be understood that the practice of psychology emerged from the field of hypnosis)

1961 The AMA Council on Mental Health recommended that medical students should receive 144 hours of training in hypnosis over a 9- to 12-month period at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

1978 The Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) formed a section for “Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine”.

1983 The RSM approved a diploma level training course of hypnotherapy.

1984 The RSM commissioned a report entitled “Symposium on Psychological Influences and Illness: Hypnosis and Medicine.”

1986 The BMA emphasized that hypnotherapy is “part of orthodox medical treatment.”

1995 The United States’ National Institute of Health (NIH) issued an extensive report, which concluded that hypnosis is effective in alleviating chronic pain associated with cancer and other conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and tension headaches.

2000 BMA stated to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology that “Hypnotherapy and counseling may be considered as orthodox treatments.”

2001 The British Psychological Society commissioned a group of psychologists to publish a report on The Nature of Hypnosis, which reported that hypnosis is a proven therapeutic medium. The report stated that “hypnotic procedures may be beneficial in the management and treatment of a wide range of conditions and problems encountered in the practice of medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy.”

2005 The American Psychological Association published a formal definition of hypnosis.

Kroger, W. (1977). Clinical and experimental hypnosis in medicine, dentistry, and psychology (2d ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott.

Robertson, D. (2000-2006). The Medical & Scientific Approval of Hypnotherapy. Retrieved November 30, 2015, from


Hypnosis and Fibromyalgia

I am not a physician and do not "treat" or "cure" fibromyalgia. As a hypnotist I use hypnotism to induce trance and deliver suggestions, which have been shown to provide significant relief from the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Any person suffering from chronic pain should consult a physician first before seeking hypnosis. I use hypnotism for chronic pain only with a referral from a qualified medical professional.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder affecting over 5 million Americans, with 80-90% of those affected being women. Symptoms include widespread muscle pain, tenderness, painful trigger points, problems sleeping, fatigue, and depression. This article presents the scientific evidence that hypnosis is effective in providing relief from the symptoms of fibromyalgia. As this fact has become well established, the focus of research has shifted to the role of the brain, the comparison of hypnotic methods, and the effects of hypnosis when combined with other interventions. From the controlled studies on hypnosis and fibromyalgia, the hypnotist and hypnotherapist can draw conclusions concerning the best hypnotic approach and the likely results when using hypnosis for fibromyalgia.

Studies are conclusive
In the 1990s there were a number of studies on fibromyalgia and mind-based interventions, such as hypnosis, mindfulness meditation, and stress reduction exercises.[1] Generally, results have shown that psychological treatment is more effective than the conventional pharmacological approach, especially when hypnosis is added.[2] Hypnosis has proven so effective that German and Israeli guidelines for the treatment of fibromyalgia now include hypnosis.[3]

Two meta-analyses have assessed the effectiveness of hypnosis for fibromyalgia based on the combined results of multiple studies. One considered six separate studies with 239 subjects and concluded that hypnosis with guided imagery does reduce pain.[4] A more comprehensive meta-analysis considered the results of all known controlled studies and concluded that hypnotherapy and guided imagery are recommended.[5]

The findings that hypnosis reduces fibromyalgia symptoms are supported by the observation that cerebral blood flow in patients with fibromyalgia changes during hypnotic analgesia, compared to the waking state. Studies indicate the involvement of multiple areas in the brain and suggest an interplay between the cortical and subcortical brain structures.[6]

Length of treatment
Treatment protocols in these studies are based on experimental design, rather than evaluations of the individual patients. Nevertheless, it may be helpful to know the length of treatment used. In the largest meta-analysis, patients had a median of nine hypnosis sessions.[7] In one study fibromyalgia patients saw a significant decrease in physical and mental discomfort with 12 weeks of hypnotherapy and a follow up at 24 weeks.[8] In another, the patients experienced better overall change and significant improvement of sleep with five sessions over two months, and were also encouraged to practice self-hypnosis.[9]

Which symptoms are affected most?
Hypnosis does reduce strong feelings of physical and psychic pain from fibromyalgia.[10] Using hypnosis, fibromyalgia patients have also experienced significant improvements of sleep[11] and less fatigue on awakening.[12] There is less evidence that hypnosis reduces the general fatigue and depression that can accompany fibromyalgia. In one study hypnosis reduced pain but did not significantly improve the patient’s perceived quality of life as it relates to health.[13] This may suggest that the hypnotist should focus specifically on the reduction of pain, better sleep, and less fatigue on awakening, instead of the patient’s perception of quality of life, general fatigue, or depression.

While hypnotherapy patients did show significantly better outcomes with regard to overall pain, the pain response to manual pressure remained the same.[14] This may be communicated to the patient in order to establish reasonable expectations, lest the patient attempt to test the effectiveness of hypnosis by pressing upon tender areas.

Comparison of hypnotic approaches
Studies on hypnosis and fibromyalgia indicate that certain methods of hypnosis work best.

Relaxation exercises help fibromyalgia patients, but hypnotic trance is distinct from mere rest and has been found particularly effective. Fibromyalgia patients in hypnosis experienced less pain during hypnosis than patients at rest.[15] One study showed that the Ericksonian hypnosis method of analog marking (giving verbal or nonverbal cues to emphasize certain words) was more effective than Schultz’s Autogenic Training method, which is a self-directed form of relaxation with autosuggestion.[16]

Suggestions alone (without a hypnotic induction) can significantly reduce pain, but patients report greater reduction of pain and claim greater control over their pain when suggestions follow a hypnotic induction.[17] Suggestions of analgesia have a greater effect than suggestions of relaxation. In fact, the effect of hypnotic induction followed by suggestions of relaxation was no greater than the effect of relaxation alone.[18]

When working with someone who suffers from chronic pain, it is important to remember that there is more to hypnotic analgesia than direct commands for diminished pain or increased comfort. The scientific study of pain makes a distinction between two components of pain, the sensory component and the suffering component. Sensory pain is the perceptual response to irritation or injury; suffering is the reaction that follows such pain.[19] When the suffering is removed, the sensory aspect tends to become tolerable or may even disappear.[20] Suggestions to relieve the suffering component of pain may be directed, for example, at alleviating the subject’s non-acceptance or fear of the condition, separating sensory from suffering and quality of life, or placing a time limit on suffering. Where appropriate, suggestions may also be directed at releasing self-destructive feelings like guilt and resentment, and addressing any secondary benefit that the subject might gain from the condition or the limitations that it may place on carrying out the responsibilities of life.

Hypnosis and other interventions
Recognizing the effectiveness of both cognitive behavioral training (CBT) and hypnosis for treating fibromyalgia, several studies have investigated the combined effects of CBT and hypnosis. It has been found that psychological treatment provides greater relief from symptoms than conventional pharmacological treatment only, especially when hypnosis is added.[21] A 2012 study of 93 patients with fibromyalgia concluded that hypnosis enhanced the effectiveness of CBT to show greater improvements than drug intervention in terms of pain, catastrophizing, psychological distress, functionality, and sleep.[22]

Hypnosis for fibromyalgia should be considered as a way to alleviate symptoms. A hypnotist is not a physician and does not “treat” or “cure” fibromyalgia.
• Cognitive behavioral therapy is most effective when combined with hypnotherapy.
• Stress reduction and relaxation (in the form of Jacobson’s Progressive Relaxation technique, for example) can alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms. The hypnosis subject should be taught relaxation techniques and/or self hypnosis.
• Hypnotism in which a hypnotist or hypnotherapist induces trance and delivers suggestions (such as Ericksonian analog marking) is more effective than a self-directed approach (such as autogenic training).
• The trance state is particularly important and should be maximized.
• Suggestions should focus on the improvement of generalized pain, sleep, and fatigue.
• Suggestions for analgesia can address both the sensory and suffering components of pain.
• Experimental treatment designs generally employ weekly sessions for 2-3 months.
This approach learned from understanding hypnosis and fibromyalgia may also have application to other chronic pain disorders.


[1] Lauche, R., Cramer, H., Häuser, W., Dobos, G., & Langhorst, J. (n.d.). A Systematic Overview of Reviews for Complementary and Alternative Therapies in the Treatment of the Fibromyalgia Syndrome. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 1-13.

[2] Martínez-Valero, C., Castel, A., Capafons, A., Sala, J., Espejo, B., & Cardeña, E. (n.d.). Hypnotic Treatment Synergizes the Psychological Treatment of Fibromyalgia: A Pilot Study. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 311-321.

[3] Ablin, J., Fitzcharles, M., Buskila, D., Shir, Y., Sommer, C., & Häuser, W. (n.d.). Treatment of Fibromyalgia Syndrome: Recommendations of Recent Evidence-Based Interdisciplinary Guidelines with Special Emphasis on Complementary and Alternative Therapies. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 1-7.

[4] Bernardy, K., Füber, N., Klose, P., & Häuser, W. (n.d.). Efficacy of hypnosis/guided imagery in fibromyalgia syndrome - a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders BMC Musculoskelet Disord, 133-133.

[5] Thieme, K., Häuser, W., Batra, A., Bernardy, K., Felde, E., Gesmann, M., . . . Köllner, V. (2008). Psychotherapie bei Patienten mit Fibromyalgiesyndrom. Der Schmerz Schmerz, 295-302.

[6] Wik, G., Fischer, H., Bragée, B., Finer, B., & Fredrikson, M. (n.d.). Functional anatomy of hypnotic analgesia: A PET study of patients with fibromyalgia. European Journal of Pain, 7-12.

[7] Bernardy.

[8] Haanen HC, Hoenderdos HT, van Romunde LK, Hop WC, Mallee C, Terwiel JP, Hekster GB. Department of Rheumatology, Sint Antonius Ziekenhuis, Nieuwegein, The Netherlands. Controlled trial of hypnotherapy in the treatment of refractory fibromyalgia. J. Rheumatol. 1991 Jan;18(1):72-5.

[9] Picard, Jusseaume C, Boutet M, Dualé C, Mulliez A, Aublet-Cuvellier B. Hypnosis for management of fibromyalgia. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2013;61(1):111-23.

[10] Haanen.

[11] Picard.

[12] Haanen.

[13] Bernardy, K., Füber, N., Klose, P., & Häuser, W. (n.d.). Efficacy of hypnosis/guided imagery in fibromyalgia syndrome - a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders BMC Musculoskelet Disord, 133-133.

[14] Haanen.

[15] Wik.

[16] Rucco V, Feruglio C, Genco F, Mosanghini R. Servizio di Terapia Fisica, Ospedale di Medicina Fisica e Riabilitazione, Udine. Autogenic training versus Erickson's analogical technique in treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome. Riv Eur Sci Med Farmacol. 1995 Jan-Feb;17(1):41-50.

[17] Whalley MG, Oakley DA. Fibromyalgia pain and its modulation by hypnotic and non-hypnotic suggestion: an fMRI analysis. Eur J Pain. 2009 May;13(5):542-50.

[18] Castel, A., Pérez, M., Sala, J., Padrol, A., & Rull, M. (n.d.). Effect of hypnotic suggestion on fibromyalgic pain: Comparison between hypnosis and relaxation. European Journal of Pain, 463-468.

[19] Hilgard, E., & Hilgard, J. (1975). Hypnosis in the relief of pain (pp. 27-28). Los Altos, Calif.: W. Kaufmann.

[20] Ewin DM, “Relieving suffering—and pain—with hypnosis” Geriatrics. 1978 Jun; 33 (6): 87-9.

[21] Martínez-Valero.

[22] Castel, A., Cascón, R., Padrol, A., Sala, J., & Rull, M. (n.d.). Multicomponent Cognitive-Behavioral Group Therapy With Hypnosis for the Treatment of Fibromyalgia: Long-Term Outcome. The Journal of Pain, 255-265.


How Psychology Emerged From Hypnosis

Until the late 1800s psychology was a branch of philosophy dealing with speculations about the human mind. There was no experimental or therapeutic practice of psychology as it is known today. Many people think that depth psychology originated solely from Freud’s analytical insights presented in his work The Interpretation of Dreams in 1899. However, depth psychology and psychoanalysis actually originated from the practices of hypnosis, mesmerism, and earlier esoteric disciplines.

Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815)
“The great thing of the eighteenth century is not the Encyclopedia…it is the sympathetic and miraculous physics of Mesmer.”
- Alphonse Louis Constant
Franz Anton Mesmer was a medical doctor in Austria around the time of the French Revolution. He followed the ideas of the sixteenth century Swiss physician Paracelsus (1493-1541). Paracelsus rejected the idea that illness was due to an imbalance of bodily humors, and was the first to theorize an “unconscious” that could cause disease. Influenced by Paracelsus' ideas, Mesmer produced an altered state of consciousness in his patients to establish communication with the unconscious, then removed their symptoms. He called his process “mesmerism,” which in a later form gave rise to “hypnotism.” Mesmer demonstrated that there are deeper portions of the mind that are not accessible in the usual state of consciousness, and that in certain altered states of consciousness the mind has the power to do extraordinary things, such as healing illnesses.

Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893)
Mesmer’s discovery was a matter of great interest in medicine, especially in France, where he did much of his work. It was here that Jean Martin Charcot, a French medical doctor and the founder of modern neurology, inspired depth psychology. Charcot was a highly regarded teacher who gave lecture demonstrations of hypnotism. By suggestion, he produced various symptoms (ex: blindness, deafness, the inability to speak, paralysis) in his hypnotic subjects, and invited his medical students to verify their authenticity. Then when he brought his subjects out of the hypnotic state, their symptoms disappeared. Mesmer had demonstrated that the unconscious could heal illness; Charcot’s lectures made it evident that the unconscious could also produce symptoms of disease.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
As a young, recently graduated medical doctor, Sigmund Freud attended Charcot’s lectures in France. He considered that if one could produce symptoms by giving suggestions to the unconscious, as Charcot did, then it is also possible that the unconscious might produce illness on its own. From this Freud theorized that a patient might be freed from symptoms by gaining access to the unconscious. He practiced hypnosis for a time, but was unable to get his patients into trance effectively. Freud determined that since sleep is an altered state of consciousness like hypnosis, and dreams occur during sleep, one could gain access to the material of the unconscious through dreams. He published his theories on The Interpretation of Dreams in 1899, which was the beginning of modern psychoanalysis.

Freud's couch. The traditional image of the psychoanalysis patient reclining on a couch remains as a relic of hypnosis.

Carl Jung (1875-1961)
Carl Jung was a young Swiss medical doctor specializing in mental illness. After Freud, he could be considered the second founder of psychology. Jung and Freud agreed that the unconscious speaks in the language of symbols, but for Freud the unconscious forces are almost always of a sexual nature. Jung was deeply in touch with his own unconscious. Like Mesmer, Jung studied Paracelsus. He recognized that there are unconscious forces which are not of a sexual origin, but which originate from a “collective unconscious,” and which are of a transcendental, symbolic, mythological, poetic, and inspirational nature. Jung arrived at these insights from his own dreams and visionary experiences. He also put his cousin under hypnosis repeatedly, and from her trance communications he determined that different parts of her psyche presented themselves as different personalities, but all with the same intention of coming together. He concluded that these parts were trying to unify and become a whole person. From this Jung theorized that there are unconscious forces within us trying to come together, and that the work of our lives is to be in communication with these deeper parts of ourselves and become more whole. This process he called “individuation,” referring to becoming an indivisible unity. Jung published his work Transformations and Symbols of the Libido in 1912, which precipitated his break from Freud.

Originally it was Paracelsus who presented the idea of the unconscious. Mesmer discovered that in altered states one could heal diseases. Charcot demonstrated Mesmer’s discovery, also showing that one could induce symptoms by suggestion in hypnosis. This led Freud to the idea that symptoms might be caused by internal unconscious forces, so he explored the unconscious through hypnosis and then dreams. Jung then returned to Paracelsus and the process of using trance to communicate with the unconscious. In this way, the theory of the unconscious, mesmerism, and hypnosis became great contributions to human knowledge and tremendously important influences in modern psychological theory.

Man is a vast being of mind, and a substantial portion of this mind is inaccessible during ordinary waking consciousness. In a way, we are alienated from our own inner natures and incomplete. Wholeness and happiness occur when we come to know our inner natures through non-rational processes, such as trance and meditation, for example. That knowing is not intellectual knowledge, but the empirical knowledge of experience, a “knowledge of the heart.” When you stop to listen to your innermost self and learn to maintain communication with your unconscious, your life is enriched.

This article is inspired by and adapted from a lecture entitled “Wisdom Beyond Psychology” from the C. G. Jung Lectures of Dr. Stephan Hoeller.


Hypnosis for Fertility

Each year in the U.S., approximately 6.7 million women have an impaired ability to become pregnant or carry a baby to full term,[1] and over 176,000 in vitro fertilization cycles are performed.[2] With the average cost of an in vitro fertilization cycle ranging from $10,000 to $15,000, women are using hypnosis to make the procedure more effective and nearly double the odds of conceiving.[3]

What the research shows
Several studies have demonstrated that hypnosis promotes fertility:

▪ In 2006 a significant study on the impact of hypnosis during the in vitro procedure compared pregnancy and implantation rates between two groups: 98 procedures using hypnosis versus 96 procedures without hypnosis. The group using hypnosis obtained 52 pregnancies (53%) with an implantation rate of 28%. The group without hypnosis had 29 pregnancies (30%) with an implantation rate of 14%. Researchers concluded that the use of hypnosis during embryo transfer may significantly improve pregnancy and implantation rates.[4]

▪ In 1999 a study of 1156 women having in vitro fertilization, women who received psychological support, including hypnotherapy, had a higher rate of pregnancy (56%) than those who did not (42%).[5]

▪ The most recent study in 2013 followed 554 couples with “unexplained” reproductive failure (meaning stress-related or otherwise psychosomatic) over a period of 28 years. Using hypnosis to alleviate the stress of infertility as well as marital stress yielded a pregnancy success rate of 72%. Researchers concluded that unexplained reproductive failure is reversible when stress is alleviated with hypnosis.[6]

How does it work?
The human body is built for survival and can adapt to almost any condition. When a person is under physical, mental, or emotional stress, the body responds by mounting an automatic response, called the ‘stress response’ or ‘fight or flight response’ in the central nervous system and endocrine system. The stress response is great for dealing with short-term dangers, but long-term stress can cause serious conditions, including infertility, menstrual problems, and sexual dysfunction. Under stressful conditions, the body undergoes the following changes, which prevent fertilization/conception and carrying a baby to full term:

▪ The stress response prioritizes blood supply to peripheral muscles and the heart, which means decreased blood supply to the digestive and reproductive systems.

▪ When the body is under stress it uses up the pregnancy hormone progesterone to make the stress hormone cortisol. The resulting progesterone deficiency is a problem because progesterone is needed to conceive and to maintain pregnancy.

▪ Cortisol also inhibits the body’s main sex hormone, gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), suppressing sperm count, ovulation and sexual activity.[7]

▪ Physical stress can increase levels of the hormone prolactin, which may disrupt or stop ovulation.

These are some of the mechanisms nature uses to prevent pregnancy under unsuitable (i.e. extreme stress) conditions. The primary mechanism by which hypnosis promotes fertility is probably the reduction of stress hormones by relaxation. Also related to reducing stress, it has also been theorized that hypnosis helps the fallopian tubes relax and dilate so that the ovum can travel successfully down the tube to implant in the uterus.[8] To address the stress that causes infertility, the hypnotic procedure should be relaxing (and train the patient to relax on their own), and posthypnotic suggestions should be given to eliminate stress and tension in general.

Some women have seen remarkable evidence that stress and belief prevent pregnancy when they become pregnant after the misdiagnosis of “blocked tubes.” As soon as they stop worrying about their infertility, they conceive. It can be helpful to give the patient the suggestion that she can stop worrying about becoming pregnant.[9]

Hypnosis can also address other psychosomatic causes of infertility. Sometimes behind the outward desire to get pregnant is a fear of pregnancy, fear of childbirth, or fear of being unprepared for motherhood. The conflicting emotions are a form of stress that affects the physiology and prevents fertility. When appropriate, hypnotherapy for fertility can encourage feelings of motherliness and help the patient resolve fears.[10]

Finally, hypnosis can help soon-to-be mothers stop smoking, eat better, and sleep better, all of which promote better health overall. With so many benefits of hypnosis for pregnancy, it’s no wonder that more women are using hypnosis as a natural approach to increase the odds of conceiving and delivering healthy babies.

[1] Lepkowski, J. M., & National Center for Health Statistics (U.S.), National Survey of Family Growth (U.S.). (2010). The 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth: Sample design and analysis of a continuous survey. Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics.

[2] National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (U.S.). (2012). Assisted reproductive technology surveillance --- United States, 2012. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[3] "You're getting sleepy ... and pregnant". (2006). Psychology Today.

[4] Levitas, E., Parmet, A., Lunenfeld, E., Bentov, Y., Friger, M., & Potashnik, G. (2006). Impact of hypnosis during embryo transfer on the outcome of in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer: a case-control study. Fertility and Sterility, 85(65), 1404-8.

[5] Poehl, M., Bichler, K., Wicke, V., Domer, V., & Feichtinger, W. (1999). Psychotherapeutic counseling and pregnancy rates in in vitro fertilization. Journal of assisted reproduction and genetics, 16(6), 302-5.

[6] Vyas, R., Adwanikar, G., Hathi, L., & Vyas, B. (2013). Psychotherapeutic intervention with hypnosis in 554 couples with reproductive failure. Journal of the Indian Medical Association, 111(3), 167-9, 173.

[7] Stress increases putative gonadotropin inhibitory hormone and decreases luteinizing hormone in male rats. E. D. Kirby, A. C. Geraghty, T. Ubuka, G. E. Bentley, D. Kaufer. Journal: Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences 2009

[8] Everly, G. S., & Lating, J. M. (2003). A clinical guide to the treatment of the human stress response. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.

[9] Kroger, W. S. (1977). Clinical and experimental hypnosis in medicine, dentistry, and psychology. Philadelphia: Lippincott.

[10] Kroger, 1977.


The Signs of Hypnosis

A person in hypnosis can experience a variety of phenomena. The following summary lists the outward signs that a person usually exhibits under hypnosis. Not all of these are experienced by every person in hypnosis, so one should not dismiss the presence of trance if some signs are absent. Many of the signs of hypnosis are subtle and could be recognized by an experienced hypnotherapist, while the person in hypnosis or an observer might miss them altogether.

The muscles relax, and the subject makes efforts to become more comfortable. A person in hypnosis does not remain physically tense. Muscular relaxation is often most noticeable in the facial expression. A person in hypnosis has a smooth, ironed out expression on the face, which usually goes along with a vacant look in the eyes.

Stillness. A person does not have to be frozen still to experience trance, but a person in hypnosis does not make restless movements such as hand wringing or foot shaking, for example. Even people who normally experience tics or twitches do not usually manifest them while in hypnosis. When a person in trance does move, they will be slow and efficient in their movements.

Body warmth is frequently an indication of hypnosis.

A person entering trance begins to blink more slowly.

Fluttering of the eyelids occurs during the initial phase of trance. This is one sign of hypnosis that cannot be imitated.

The eyes sometimes roll upward, so that you see only the whites of the eyes.

Increased lacrimation (watering of the eyes).

In hypnosis there is often a reddening of the eyes.

Though not observable outwardly, a person in trance often reports fogging or blurring of the vision. Hypnosis can also cause tunnel vision, or even changes in the colors, sizes, and shapes of things.

A person in hypnosis will be less distracted by outside sounds. To the extreme, the subject may become so inwardly absorbed that he or she no longer make the effort to listen to the hypnotherapist.

Pulse and respiration
Pulse rate and breathing slow down, although sometimes a person entering hypnosis will experience a temporary increase in pulse and respiration caused by the realization that they are in hypnosis.

The swallowing reflex slows or disappears during trance. Of course, if attention is drawn to it, the subject will usually swallow.

Psychomotor retardation
There is often a lag of time between the time when a suggestion is given and when the subject in hypnosis carries it out.

Signs of reorientation
When the feet and hands begin touching each other restlessly it is a good sign that the subject is exiting trance. Other signs of a person reorienting themselves to the body and the waking state are wetting the lips, shifting the posture, opening the eyes, blinking, yawning, and stretching.

A checklist for meditation and self-hypnosis
Many of the common instructions for meditation and relaxation imitate the signs of hypnosis. Here is a very simple checklist of things you can do to facilitate meditation and trance states.

1. Make sure you are not cold.

2. Find a comfortable position.

3. Be still. If you must move, do it slowly and efficiently.

4. Relax your body, especially your face.

5. With your eyes open, stare at something slightly below eye level. Notice the loss of detail in objects in your peripheral vision.

6. Roll your eyes upward gently.

7. When you cannot keep your eyes open any longer, close your eyes and relax them.


The Phenomena of Hypnosis

The following is a summary of the basic hypnotic phenomena, as described in Dr. William S. Kroger’s classic text Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (1963).

Suggestion Phenomena
Suggestibility is probably the most well known phenomenon of hypnosis. One of the most basic ideas in hypnotherapy is that suggestibility is heightened under hypnosis. But there is more to verbal suggestion than the idea that the subconscious mind hears and accepts words literally. While much of the hypnotherapy field focuses on the precise phrasing of verbal suggestions, semantics, and “neurolinguistic programming,” suggestions can also take the following forms:
- Preverbal (sounds)
- Nonverbal (gestures)
- Intraverbal (modulation of the voice)
- Extraverbal (meanings and implications of words and phrases)

Beyond these modes of suggestion given by Kroger, I have also found that the musical tone, rhythm and resonance of words – and of the spaces in between them – can have powerful effects.

Not all suggestibility relies on trance. Suggestibility heightened without hypnosis is “waking suggestion.” Other methods that heighten suggestibility are reflex conditioning, abstract conditioning (the compounding of suggestion), repetitive sensory stimulation (I often use repetitive ocean waves in the background of my sessions), rapport, the use of imagination, and misdirection of attention (in a similar sense to how magicians use misdirection, thus some hypnosis could be called “mental magic”). Mass suggestion, subliminal projection, brainwashing, propaganda, and, of course, advertising all depend on such methods of suggestion that do not rely on trance. Much of suggestibility can depend on the character, intention, ability of the hypnotherapist to express an idea meaningfully.

A posthypnotic suggestion is a suggestion delivered in hypnosis that is carried out afterward. Some theories see the carrying out of a posthypnotic suggestion as a self-induced miniature replica of the original hypnotic situation, different only in the depth of trance. Some subjects carry out the posthypnotic suggestion as a conscious act, and others do so automatically. Some subjects have amnesia of the posthypnotic act, or remember it only after it is carried out. Posthypnotic suggestions usually do not rely on the depth of hypnosis. A person in a light or medium state of hypnosis can receive and then carry out posthypnotic suggestions. Periodic reinforcement increases the effectiveness of posthypnotic suggestions.

Sensory Phenomena
The brain under hypnosis has the capacity to experience or block sensory activity, referred to as ideosensory responses. People often use the term “imagery” to refer to a visual ideosensory response with the eyes closed, and “hallucination” to describe a more vivid visual ideosensory response, but not all ideosensory responses and hallucinations are visual. They can also be tactile/kinesthetic (feeling), olfactory (smelling), auditory (hearing), or gustatory (tasting). A positive ideosensory response and positive hallucination occurs when you experience something that it not there. A negative ideosensory response and negative hallucination occurs when you do not experience something that is there.

Hypnotic analgesia (reduction of pain) and anesthesia (complete elimination of pain) are negative ideosensory responses, or negative hallucinations. The opposite is hyperesthesia, or increased sensitivity to touch.

Motor Phenomena
Like ideosensory responses refer to sensory experiences in response to hypnosis, ideomotor responses refer to motor phenomena (i.e. actions and behaviors). With an ideomotor response the muscles respond instantaneously to thoughts and feelings. The responses are involuntary reflexes mediated by the subcortical structures of the brain (the unconscious, autonomic control center). A striking example of an ideomotor response is when the pupils contract in response to hallucinated light.

Automatic Writing. “Doodling” while talking or listening is the most common manifestation of automatic writing. On a more advanced level, a hypnotized subject can be told that the writing hand is dissociated from the rest of their body, and engage in a normal conversation while the hand is writing about something completely different. Some techniques then take the subject back into hypnosis to interpret what was written.

Somnabmbulism. Somnambulism is one of the deepest stages of hypnosis. It is what sleepwalkers experience. Generally, after the experience the person has no recollection of it. Hypnotic suggestions that are given in this state become convictions automatically because the subject does not remember them. Somnambulism is not sleep and does not resemble sleep. The subject appears awake, but is hypnotized and will follow directions just as if he or she was awake.

Catalepsy. Catalepsy is one of the most interesting of all hypnotic phenomena. It is the involuntary tonicity of the muscles. The limbs remain in almost any position in which they are placed. During eyeball catalepsy, if you turn the head slowly, the eyes will remain fixed. Catelepsy is possible even in light and medium states of hypnosis.

Memory Phenomena
Amnesia. Many people think that the indication of whether they were under hypnosis is whether they “blank out” and have amnesia. However, amnesia may or may not occur spontaneously during hypnosis. When amnesia does occur spontaneously, it usually indicates the deep state of hypnosis known as somnambulism. Most of the time, amnesia is the result of specific hypnotic suggestions to have amnesia, and is only temporary.
Can hypnosis make you forget someone?

Hypermnesia (Memory Recall). Hypnosis enables memory recall greater than at nonhypnotic levels. However, the material can be inaccurate or false.
Can you lie under hypnosis?

Age Regression (Pseudorevivification). Age regression is a form of hypermnesia. The subject experiences events as past, but identifies with them in the first person. Recall is improved greatly when a memory has a strong emotional component.

Pseudo-regression. This is similar to age regression in that recall is improved, but instead of identifying with the experiences as directly, it is as if the subject is watching the events from another perspective (as if on a television or movie screen). Much of our everyday experience of memory is like this.

Revivification. Revivification is the reliving of an incident at the time at which it occurred, in the present tense. In a true revivification, the memories after the age to which the subject is regressed are eliminated. Under hypnosis a subject may even demonstrate the personality traits or handwriting of the earlier age.

Retrogression (Dynamic Regression). Retrogression is a spontaneous age regression with some element of revivification mixed in.

Age Progression. During age progression the subject hallucinates living in the future. Interestingly, he or she still retains the present chronologic age. Age progression can be a great tool in hypnotherapy to understand how a person might react to a situation in the future.

Perception Phenomena
Dissociation. Dissociation is the inherent ability of a subject to detach from the immediate environment. Dissociation is used frequently for hypnoanesthesia, to separate the subject from the portion of the body that is the source of pain.

Depersonalization. In hypnosis a subject can experience depersonalization, forget his own identity, and even assume that he is another person. Using depersonalization in hypnotherapy a person can see things from a new perspective, which can have a profound effect on thoughts, feelings, or behaviors afterward.

Time distortion. Time Expansion/Lengthening is when time seems longer (2 minutes seems like 20 minutes). An everyday example of time expansion is when a boring lecture or wait seems much longer than it actually was. Time Contraction is the opposite (making 20 minutes seems like 2 minutes), just like the old saying goes that “time flies when you’re having fun.”

By considering the phenomena of hypnosis, we observe that hypnotism and hypnotherapy are much more than helping a person to relax while repeating verbal suggestions countless times. Hypnosis involves many complex aspects of human experience, including the senses, thoughts, actions, memories, sleep, emotions, and even the perception of time and space. Hypnosis truly utilizes and demonstrates the power and mystery of the human mind.


Board Certification, “Dr. Zomb,” and Rachmaninoff’s Hypnotherapist

I am very pleased to announce that in August I was named a Board Certified Hypnotist of the National Guild of Hypnotists, the oldest and largest professional association of hypnotists. I had been a Certified Hypnotist since 2004, and this change in my title represents advancement in my field. NGH Board Certification is the highest and most prestigious certification in hypnotism, and recognizes professional standing as a highly qualified, expert, and ethical practitioner. Only about 500 of 14,000 NGH members (less than 4%) are Board Certified.

Part of the board certification process was an interview and examination at the NGH Convention. It reminded me of my first NGH Convention years ago when, at the opening session, a small 91-year-old gentleman sat next to me and struck up a conversation. When I told him that it was my first hypnosis convention, he encouraged my becoming more involved in hypnotism. I then recognized him as Ormond McGill, the world famous hypnotist and magician who performed under the stage name “Dr. Zomb” in the 1940s and 1950s. He was known as the “Dean of American Hypnotists” and wrote the Encyclopedia of Genuine Stage Hypnotism, the authoritative book on the subject.

Ormond McGill, far right, performing stage hypnotism.

McGill wrote that with mastery of hypnotism “you will have at your command the greatest magic in the world, for beyond question there is no greater magic than the magic of the human mind.” Originally, before I made hypnosis my profession, I had learned traditional hypnotism by studying McGill’s books and recordings and performed stage demonstrations following his instructions For anyone seeking to learn genuine hypnotism, whether for the stage or for hypnotherapy, McGill’s work is foundational. Meeting “Dr. Zomb” was exciting, and to hear his supportive words as I was entering the hypnosis profession was inspiring, to say the least.

At the end of my first convention I experienced a synchronicity that made a lasting impression. During the last session I attended, the presenter played a recording of Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto. and said that the composer overcame fits of depression and apathy about composing with the help of Dr. Nikolai Dahl, a prominent hypnotherapist in Russia. In fact, Rachmaninoff dedicated the concerto to Dr. Dahl. I took interest in the story, being a pianist and having my master’s degree in music. On the hour-long drive to the home of friends, I thought about the use of hypnosis with musicians and artists. That evening my friends took me to visit a local couple, Dr. and Mrs. Maurice Kouguell. Dr. Kouguell was a hypnotherapist who had served on the faculties of Columbia University and the City College of New York, and he was also a certified instructor of the NGH. He took interest in my background in music because he was a viola player, and because the person who aroused his own curiosity in hypnosis as a child was also a hypnotherapist and musician. Dr. Kouguell then brought out an old photograph of an orchestra conducted by his father, and he pointed to a man in the viola section. It was Rachmaninoff’s hypnotherapist! Dr. Dahl was a close friend of Dr. Kouguell’s parents and gave Dr. Kouguell his first toy violin. We then had a conversation about using hypnosis with artists and musicians, which has influenced my work in several ways.

Dahl Hypnosis
Dr. Nikolai Dahl, 1917.

Reflecting on these experiences surrounding my first hypnosis convention years ago, and also on my recent experience with board certification, I can say that members of the NGH are some of the most accomplished, interesting, and encouraging professionals one could ever hope to meet. I feel honored to be recognized as an NGH Board Certified Hypnotist, and I am grateful to the Examining Committee and to my clients, family, and friends for their support.


Can You Lie Under Hypnosis?

A former radio DJ is on trial for allegedly killing his girlfriend, and his psychologist says that his version of the story is probably true it was tested under hypnosis.

The case is taking place in South Africa, but it may surprise many people to know that the admissibility of testimony retrieved under hypnosis has been ruled on by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Rock vs. Arkansas (107 S.Ct. 2704).

Rock, who was charged with shooting her husband, sought to introduce testimony recalled in hypnosis. The trial court ruled, and the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed, that the testimony was inadmissible because it was unreliable. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ruling, basically because a person has a right to testify on their own behalf, including testimony that is refreshed by hypnosis.

The opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court was that “Hypnosis by trained physicians or psychologists has been recognized as a valid therapeutic technique since 1958…” and “the procedure has been credited as instrumental in obtaining particular types of information.” However, the Court also recognized that “Hypnosis does not guarantee the accuracy of recall.” A person can lie or confabulate (i.e. fabricate false memory without being aware of it and without an intent to deceive) under hypnosis. Therefore, testimony retrieved in hypnosis is not “immune to the traditional means of evaluating credibility.” It is treated as any other testimony, “subject to verification by corroborating evidence and other traditional means of assessing accuracy.”

Forensic hypnosis can be valuable for victims and witnesses of crimes, and for the wrongly accused who may remember some detail that will help their case. However, I would be surprised to see a case where a criminal defendant incriminates himself or herself under hypnosis. A hypnotized person knows what they are saying while they speak, just as in non-hypnotic states, and the psychological principle of self-preservation is not eliminated for a person in hypnosis. Hypnosis can not make someone speak while in an unconscious state and with no control over what they say.