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How to Make Hypnosis
a More Effective Therapeutic Technique

Hypnosis as in Hypnotherapy

Hypnosis, when used properly, is an effective therapeutic tool. The American Medical Association, for example, has since the late 1950s recognized hypnosis as a legitimate therapeutic tool that can be used for a wide variety of areas. Till this day, however, there are still many popular myths about hypnosis. Many people imagine that "under" hypnosis means losing control, losing one's self and submitting to the hypnotist's commands, barking liking a dog, crack like a chick, forgetting one's own name...

The reality is that in hypnotherapy, the client plays an active rather than passive role. "Hypnosis involves the participant thinking and imagining along with whatever is suggested, in an expectant manner," says psychologist Steven Lynn, PhD, of the State University of New York, Binghamton.

Therefore, there are things the client can be trained to do, in order for the client-therapist teamwork to be successful. What are these things?

Instructions to Clients

Dr. Lynn and his research team, supported by agrant from the National Institute of Mental Health, have established a clear, scientific understanding on this. The researchers
(1) explained how hypnosis works,
(2) cleared misconceptions (e.g., people under hypnosis are gullible and easily led),
(3) encouraged participants to use their imaginations, rather than to passively respond to the suggestions, and to actively immerse themselves in the experience of whatever is suggested, and
(4) taught participants how to interpret hypnotic suggestions.

The researchers found that the instructions did indeed help people respond better to hypnotic suggestions, although they have yet to determine which elements in the instructions are responsible for the effectiveness.


Mindfulness is a person's ability to be intentionally and non-judgmentally aware of his or her thoughts and feelings in the present moment and accept them in an un-attached way. The researchers believe that by cultivating mindfulness "individuals can come to desensitize themselves to unsettling thoughts and feelings."

Mindfulness correlates to strong hypnotic response. "If we had scales where we could pre-select people who tend to be mindful, and contrast them with people who in everyday life tend to not be especially mindful, we could see whether, for example, there were differences in the way they responded to hypnotic suggestions," Lynn said. "Or we could ask the question, 'Would combining a hypnotic induction with suggestions to be mindful increase people's suggestibility?'"

Qualities such as mindfulness, when encouraged, help people gain greater benefit from hypnosis, for the purpose of managing anxiety, losing weight, and making other positive changes.

Hypnosis is part of our consciousness. According to Dr. Lynn, "hypnotic responsiveness is associated with attitudes, beliefs, expectancies, motivation, using your imagination and the kinds of strategies people use." If he is correct, and if therapists can help subjects fine-tune those variables, that could increase the value of hypnosis as a therapeutic tool. For more details of the current state of the SUNY-Binghamton team's research on hypnosis, read the the article on


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Dr. Shelley Wu, PhD
Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist

What is hypnosis?

Why does hypnotherapy work?


How to make hypnosis more effective?

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