Essentials of Hypnosis
eBook - ePub

Essentials of Hypnosis

Michael D. Yapko

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eBook - ePub

Essentials of Hypnosis

Michael D. Yapko

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Essentials of Hypnosis Second Edition provides a warm and rich introduction to the fascinating field of hypnosis by one of its leading experts. Readers may be surprised to discover that some of the most important methods in modern integrative health care have a foundation in hypnosis, and that modern neuroscience is regularly learning new things about brain functioning from brain scanning studies of hypnotized individuals. The emphasis in Essentials of Hypnosis Second Edition is on the use of hypnosis as an effective tool of treatment. Thus, readers will enjoy and benefit from the wealth of clinical insights and helpful hints Dr. Yapko offers for the skilled use of hypnotic principles and methods. The essentials of this dynamic field are well captured in this practical volume

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Part 1 Developing your Perspective About Hypnosis

1 Discovering Hypnosis and the Reasons Why its Value Keeps Growing

DOI: 10.4324/9781315747606-2
Hypnosis is an innately fascinating topic to most people. It’s a phenomenon that invites lively discussion, curious speculation, and even profound philosophizing about the nature of human consciousness and the complex, often puzzling interrelationships between mind, brain, and body. Hypnosis challenges thoughtful professionals to ask questions that are difficult, if not impossible, to answer each time we watch someone perform some unusual behavior manifested by someone in hypnosis. Hypnosis continues to confound the general public who, understandably, can’t readily grasp how hypnosis can be in the spotlight in cheesy stage acts, yet still be taken so seriously by prominent researchers and clinicians who study it in depth and enthusiastically declare it an effective vehicle of treatment when used skillfully by well-trained health care professionals.
Defining hypnosis would seem a good starting point for a book on the subject. This is much easier said than done, however. Hypnosis has no single agreed upon definition simply because it is difficult to precisely define something so abstract that also varies greatly with circumstances and suggested qualities of subjective experience. It’s like trying to precisely define equally abstract terms such as “love” or “patriotism.”
A widely cited definition is this one offered by the American Psychological Association’s hypnosis division (Division 30), called the Society of Psychological Hypnosis: “Hypnosis is a procedure during which a health professional or researcher suggests that a client, patient, or subject experience changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, or behavior.” This broad definition acknowledges the role of the person doing hypnosis, the context in which it is done, and the role of the person experiencing hypnosis. What happens in the mix of these three factors that makes it possible for someone to essentially direct someone else to have an experience that, under normal conditions, would seem, at the very least, unlikely? For example, encouraging someone suffering pain to focus attention on allowing a comforting sense of numbness to develop in a particular part of his or her body is not typical conversation! Something very special is going on in the world of hypnosis, as I hope and expect you will discover here.
I’m a clinical psychologist, regularly treating people with a wide range of problems who are looking for advice, information, and relief. I have spent my entire professional life—more than 40 years—fascinated by hypnosis and its merits in a wide variety of health care applications. I learned early on in my career how powerful relationships can be and how powerful words can be. I’ve had countless opportunities to watch people do things during experiences of hypnosis that, even while I’m watching them, I’m thinking, “No way!” A clinician introduces a suggestion, say, for stemming the flow of blood to an area, and the client in hypnosis responds by doing so. Now, how does that happen? What does it say about that particular person, and what might it say about people in general? Not everyone can do that, it seems, but I am regularly amazed by people showing all kinds of abilities I—and they—wouldn’t have thought they’d have. Hypnosis provides a focused context for mobilizing and using these often hidden skills, empowering the person in the process.
Studying hypnosis will likely change your understandings of people and their problems by encouraging you to look for client strengths in ways you may not have considered before. Acquiring skills in the use of clinical hypnosis will be an invaluable means for enhancing your clinical abilities. Integrating hypnosis into your treatment plans can allow you to obtain better and more lasting results in the therapy work you do. Perhaps best of all, use of hypnosis can be a way to promote self-sufficiency and independence in the people you work with, helping them to feel more in control, resourceful, and self-assured.
I wrote this book holding the assumption that you, the reader, want to learn about hypnosis in order to possibly apply it in your work with others. Thus, in this book, I will pay attention to the clinical context in which hypnosis is applied. By focusing on the clinical uses of hypnotic principles and approaches, I will be paying greater attention to the essential skills of how you engage and amplify people’s attention, and how you then use your words and gestures in particular ways to help people achieve their goals. This is not to say that hypnosis is only about the skills of the clinician, particularly when it is well established that hypnosis only happens when the client is willing to engage in the experience and can get absorbed in the possibilities the therapist suggests. But, you are undeniably a full half of the relationship with your client. Thus, the skills of the clinician are a large part of the hypnosis equation, and these skills are the focus of this book.

Is there Evidence that Hypnosis Really Works?

The field of hypnosis has been directly influenced by the push in the health care system for delivering what are generally termed “empirically supported treatments,” that is, treatments that have a proven value. In recent years, substantial high-quality research has been done in order to assess what, if anything, hypnosis can contribute to the positive effects of treatment. Thus, a growing body of good hypnosis research is becoming available to clinicians of all types, especially since this valuable research is no longer being published only in hypnosis specialty journals. Topnotch journals across disciplines regularly publish valuable hypnosis research.
Let’s pose the question directly: Does hypnosis work, that is, is it an effective therapy? The question seems deceptively simple, as if there should be a single, clear response. Unfortunately, though, the issue isn’t clear because of one confounding factor: The debate still goes on to this day as to whether hypnosis should be considered a therapy, or simply a therapeutic tool but not a therapy in its own right. There are prestigious and persuasive advocates for both positions. For those who view hypnosis as a therapy in its own right, any therapy that employs hypnosis is termed “hypnotherapy” and it strongly implies that hypnosis is the principal mechanism of intervention. Hypnotherapists view hypnosis as a style of treatment that is as well defined and as distinct in character as, say, behavior therapy.
On the other side of the issue are those who view hypnosis as a tool of treatment, integrated into a larger conceptual and practical framework that transcends the hypnotic procedures themselves. Rather than hypnosis or suggestive procedures being “stand alone” methods, hypnosis is used to further the aims of other, more well defined interventions, such as cognitive therapy. (It may seem like an annoying semantic issue to some, especially in the United States, but in many European countries the issue is substantial because how you define your work determines whether or not you are eligible for payment from government insurance resources.)
Whether hypnosis enhances treatment results is not dependent on resolving the issue of whether to define hypnosis as a therapy or a therapy tool. The dividing line between a therapy and a therapy tool in this case is sufficiently ambiguous to arouse debate by the experts. What matters more is the growing body of objective evidence that when hypnosis is part of the treatment process, it generally increases the benefits of treatment. Hypnosis has been effectively applied in the treatment of far too many conditions and disorders to name them all, but some of the best-known applications are in the treatment of pain, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, phobias, children’s disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, and dissociative disorders.
Hypnosis can differ dramatically from the way one clinician applies it to the way another clinician applies it. This is one primary reason why some professionals don’t much care for the term “hypnotherapy.” It doesn’t say enough about what sort of treatment the clinician is actually providing once hypnosis has begun. Thus, when one researcher concludes hypnosis did not significantly increase positive effects, or, conversely, when another researcher concludes it did, it bears more careful scrutiny by the reader to determine what kinds of procedures were used, and whether they reflected a particular style or orientation to hypnosis that enhanced or diminished the value of the findings.
So, the question, “Does hypnosis work?” is a complicated question. Is it the hypnosis itself that “works,” or is it the larger treatment plan of which hypnosis is only a part that is effective? In the most general sense, though, it can be said with confidence that hypnosis helps improve treatment outcomes. The research shows that when a treatment is delivered without hypnosis, and the same kind of treatment is delivered with hypnosis, the addition of hypnosis enhances treatment response. This point alone justifies the time and effort it takes to learn hypnosis.

The Value of Hypnosis Keeps Growing

As the pace of life keeps getting faster for most of us, and as our attention spans collectively get shorter, it has become obvious to many researchers and clinicians that much of what ails us is the disconnect from ourselves. Too many of us don’t know we’re tired until we’re exhausted, or that we’re stressed until we’re on overload, or that we’re lonely until we’re desperate for some attention, even negative attention. Here in the United States, we have the highest rates of stress-related illnesses of any country, but in this planetary “global village” we all share, other countries are quickly catching up to this unfortunate position of distinction.
It has never been more important to take the time to focus, to discover the richness and complexity of our inner world, and to be connected to positive and helpful abilities you thereby discovered but never knew you had. Hypnosis provides each of us an opportunity, not a guarantee. Hypnosis invites you to stop and go inside and focus on what’s right with you, amplifying it and using it in new ways that not only make you feel better, but be better. Your quality of focus may well be the single greatest factor determining your quality of life, and that of the people you hope to help. Learning hypnosis will be a gift that keeps on giving in more ways than you could have ever expected.

2 Hypnosis can be Used in Many Different Contexts

DOI: 10.4324/9781315747606-3
Wherever there is involvement of the person’s mind in a particular problem, which is everywhere to one degree or another as far as I can tell, there is some potential gain to be made through the application of hypnotic patterns. With that point in mind, this chapter will consider specific contexts where hypnosis may be used to help people in meaningful ways.

Medical Hypnosis

In general, hypnosis can be a useful adjunct to more traditional medical treatments for several reasons, the first of which relates to the mind–body relationship and the role of the mind (attitudes and related emotions) in medical disorders. Hypnosis amplifies the mind–body relationship, encouraging greater healing, increased control over physical processes such as immune functions and circulation, and better coping with pain and distress.
A second reason for making use of hypnosis in the medical context is because of its emphasis, by its very nature, on the responsibility of each person for his own health and well-being. Use of hypnosis gives people a direct experience of having some control over their internal experiences, whether of pain or distress. I have worked with many people who actually cried tears of joy or relief in a session for having had an opportunity to experience themselves as relaxed, comfortable, and positive when their usual experience of themselves was one of pain and despair. Finding resources of comfort or the ability to shift perceptions of their body within themselves was a dramatic experience, and allowed them to take on a new and higher level of care for themselves.
Hypnosis in the treatment of serious diseases, as an adjunct, not a replacement, for more traditional approaches, has demonstrated the necessity of addressing the emotional needs of the patient while mobilizing his or her mental resources as a part of treatment. This is true even for diseases that seem, and probably are, entirely organic in nature. The exact mechanism whereby a doctor can verbalize a few hypnotic phrases and effect changes in the patient’s condition or physiology is unknown. In general, hypnosis is thought to strengthen the body’s immunological functions and assist in fighting disease. How it does this exactly has been the focus of a relatively new field called psychoneuroimmunology. Much research still needs to be done, of course, but the lack of precise explanations for mechanisms of action should not inhibit the use of techniques that can assist in the healing of a human body. Hypnosis doesn’t replace other treatments—it adds to them.

A Few Words of Caution

There are a couple of special issues associated with hypnosis and mind–body healing approaches that I’d like to bring to your attention. The first concerns the responsibility of a patient for his or her health. The goal is to positively encourage a person to use all of his or her resources to help him- or herself. Pointing out responsibility for one’s self is not meant to translate into blaming the person for his or her condition. The second issue relates to the use of hypnosis in the treatment of medical problems. Specifically, unless you are a physician, or have the proper training and credentials to treat a person’s physical disorders, you are working out of your field and are inviting trouble for both you and your patient. If you want to assist someone in the treatment of a physical disorder, it is imperative from an ethical, legal, and humane standpoint that you have the support and involvement of the appropriate medical practitioners. You cannot simply assume, for example, that a patient with migraines is “just stressed” or a child with a stomach ache is “just trying to get out of going to school.” With those symptoms, and all others, the patient should have a thorough physical examination, and you should have medical backup as you treat individuals with what may well turn out to be organically induced symptoms. Call the patient’s doctor directly, and ask if your treatment plan will interfere with his or hers, at the very least. Rarely, if ever, will it interfere and treatment can be coordinated between you. Knowledge of medications the patient may be taking and the physical impact of his or her symptoms is also essential to effective suggestion formulation.
The growing use of hypnosis in a broad range of medical conditions is evidence of the influence of all those who have called for a more person-centered practice of medicine. Physicians, to their credit, have generally evolved a style of practice that invites the patient to be an informed and active participant in treatment. Hypnosis amplifies this partnership and thereby empowers patients to mobilize their own resources to supplement whatever other treatments they might also be receiving.

Dental Hypnosis

Many of the desired outcomes sought in medical contexts are also desirable in the dental setting because of the physical nature of dental work. Physical parts of the body (i.e. teeth, gums, and associated structures) are under treatment. Furthermore, attached to every mouth under treatment is a human being whose attitudes about the work being done, the dentist, and his or her self (self-image) will affect the outcome of the intervention.
Dentists are aware, perhaps acutely, that most dental patients do not mark their calendar months in advance of their appointment and wait with eager anticipation for the big day to arrive. Far more common is the patient coming for treatment who can be described as somewhere in between mildly reluctant and terrified.
Hypnosis as a means of effectively communicating with and enhancing the treatments of the dental patient has been well documented. Helping a pat...


  1. Cover Page
  2. Half-Title Page
  3. Title Page
  4. Copyright Page
  5. Dedication
  6. Table of Contents
  7. Note from the Author
  8. Acknowledgments
  9. Other Works by Michael D. Yapko
  10. Introduction
  11. PART 1 Developing your Perspective About Hypnosis
  12. PART 2 Putting Hypnosis to Work
  13. Appendix: Key References and Suggested Readings
  14. Index