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Salem Hypnotherapy Reviews and the Medical Recognition

Salem Hypnotherapy Reviews

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The Medical Recognition of Hypnotherapy

Hypnosis was first developed as a therapeutic discipline by the Scottish physician James Braid. Braid, who coined the term ‘hypnotism’, categorically rejected any supernatural explanations of trance and grounded the study of hypnotherapy on a firm empirical and scientific basis, publishing his research in Neurypnology (1843).

Hypnosis, Medical Research & the BMA
In 1892, the British Medical Association (BMA) responded to growing interest in hypnotherapy by commissioning a special committee of eleven doctors ‘to investigate the nature of the phenomenon of hypnotism, its value as a therapeutic agent, and the propriety of using it.’ Their report was received and published by the BMA, it opens with a clear recognition of the phenomenon of hypnotic trance:

‘The Committee, having completed such investigation of hypnotism as time permitted, have to report that they have satisfied themselves of the genuineness of the hypnotic state.’ (BMA, 1892)

The BMA Committee proceeded to outline a detailed and accurate account of the physical and mental characteristics of hypnotic trance, concluding with a summary of its principal therapeutic benefits,

‘The Committee are of opinion that as a therapeutic agent hypnotism is frequently effective in relieving pain, procuring sleep, and alleviating many functional [i.e., neurotic] ailments.’ (BMA, 1892)

In 1955 the Psychological Medicine Group of the BMA commissioned a Subcommittee of experts to a deliver second report which was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) the same year under the title of ‘Medical use of hypnotism’. Its terms of reference were:

‘To consider the uses of hypnotism, its relation to medical practice in the present day, the advisability of giving encouragement to research into its nature and application, and the lines upon which such research might be organised.’ (BMA, 1955)


 

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The 1955 Subcommittee endorse the original BMA report, republishing it in the appendix to their work, they comment that its conclusions ‘showed remarkable foresight and are mainly applicable today.’ They agree that hypnotic trance is genuine and ‘a proper subject for scientific enquiry.’ They also provide a more extensive statement on the medical uses of hypnosis and conclude that it is definitely an effective technique in the psychotherapy of neurosis, psycho-somatic conditions and in the alleviation of physical pain:

‘The Subcommittee is satisfied after consideration of the available evidence that hypnotism is of value and may be the treatment of choice in some cases of so-called psycho-somatic disorder and psychoneurosis. It may also be of value for revealing unrecognised motives and conflicts in such conditions. As a treatment, in the opinion of the Subcommittee it has proved its ability to remove symptoms and to alter morbid habits of thought and behaviour. […]

In addition to the treatment of psychiatric disabilities, there is a place for hypnotism in the production of anaesthesia or analgesia for surgical and dental operations, and in suitable subjects it is an effective method of relieving pain in childbirth without altering the normal course of labour.’ (BMA, 1955)

They also comment upon the ‘remarkable and striking nature of the phenomena induced in hypnotism’, they accept that ‘profound and easily measurable changes of physiological function can be induced under hypnotism’, and emphasise ‘the relative simplicity and brevity of hypnotic techniques’ compared to other forms of psychological therapy.

The Committee also note, with regard to the breadth of application of hypnosis, that ‘the majority of people can be hypnotized but only in a minority is it possible to induce a deep trance in a single session.’ On the subject of the (perceived) dangers of hypnosis they note that hypnotism can, of course, be abused by unethical people, although ‘The dangers of hypnotism have been exaggerated in some quarters.’

Following this report the British Society of Medical & Dental Hypnosis (BSMDH) was formed and its training officially approved by the BMA. The BSMDH was subsequently recognised by the General Medical and Dental Councils, the Medical Protection Society and the Medical Defence Union. The Royal Society of Medicine now has a section devoted to the dissemination of research on ‘Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine’.


 

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Hypnosis & Current Medical Research
Over its lengthy history, hypnotherapy has been subject to innumerable research studies which lend clear support to its various therapeutic applications. For example, one of the most recent clinical reviews of hypnosis and ‘relaxation therapies’ published in the BMJ reports the following evidence:

· ‘There is good evidence from randomised controlled trials that both hypnosis and relaxation techniques can reduce anxiety, particularly that related to stressful situations such as receiving chemotherapy.’

· ‘They are also effective for panic disorders and insomnia, particularly when integrated into a package of cognitive therapy,’

· ‘A systematic review has found that hypnosis enhances the effects of cognitive behavioural therapy for conditions such as phobia, obesity, and anxiety.’

· ‘Randomised controlled trials support the use of various relaxation techniques for treating both acute and chronic pain,’

· ‘Randomised trials have shown hypnosis to be of value in asthma and in irritable bowel syndrome,’

· ‘There is strong evidence from randomised trials of the effectiveness of hypnosis and relaxation for cancer related anxiety, pain, nausea, and vomiting, particularly in children.’ [BMJ 1999;319: 1346-1349 ‘Hypnosis and relaxation therapies,’ Vickers & Zollman]

However, these conclusions would be considered by many hypnotherapists to be rather conservative in their scope as they deal primarily with the use of rather basic therapeutic techniques and with a narrow range of conditions. More and more benefits to hypnotherapeutic treatment are being established as new methods are introduced from current research in psychology and clinical psychotherapy.


 

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Hypnosis, Hypnotherapy & Hypno-Psychotherapy
More recently there has been a shift toward classifying the profession of hypnotherapy as a branch of psychotherapy, rather than complementary medicine. Whereas the BSMDH is mainly composed of doctors and dentists, there are many hypnotherapists who approach their practice from a background in psychology or psychotherapy.

In 1992 the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) was formed to act as an ‘umbrella body’ for psychotherapy organisations of all orientations. A section was established for ‘hypno-psychotherapy’, i.e., the practice of hypnosis as a technique integrated within a broader programme of psychotherapy. They recently reviewed their definition of ‘hypno-psychotherapy’ which now reads, in full.

‘Hypno-Psychotherapy originates in procedures and practices discovered and recorded over the last three hundred years. The first formal exploration and beneficial application of hypnotic phenomena began in the 1750’s. Increasing awareness, over the last 100 years, of the pervasiveness and importance in human experience of what are now more appropriately described as ‘altered state phenomena’ has led to huge shifts in theoretical understanding, convergence with discoveries emerging from modern neuro-science and much increased consistency in application. This has been accompanied by the creation of a substantial scientific literature.

Hypnosis describes a range of naturally occurring states of altered awareness which may vary from momentary distractions and ‘absences’ through much enhanced states of relaxation to very deep states of inward focus and awareness.. The mental processes which can occur in any of these states, appropriately utilised, are generally far more flexible and potentially far more powerful in effecting change than those we can achieve in most everyday states of active conscious awareness. These states may be induced quite formally or quite naturalistically, in an almost unnoticeable way, depending on the requirement of the problem, the capability of the practitioner and the needs of the client.

As well as alleviating a range of disadvantageous habits and many physical ailments, Hypno-Psychotherapy also deals in deep-seated problems involving themes and procedures in many ways similar to those addressed by many other branches of Psychotherapy. Hypno-Psychotherapists take a wide-ranging and eclectic view in helping clients to understand and to alleviate psychological difficulties.


 

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A variety of approaches are represented within the Section. At one end of the spectrum Hypno-Psychotherapists base their diagnostic work and therapeutic strategies in modern information processing models whilst others have emphases in other orientations ( e.g. Cognitive, Cognitive Analytic, Psychodynamic or Counselling modes ). In all cases, practice differs from other forms of psychotherapy in the deliberate ( direct and indirect ) use of altered mental states and supporting therapeutic structures as the principal medium for effecting change.

It should be emphasized that the methods and strategies used in Hypno-Psychotherapy, though powerful and often speedy in effect, also respect and are attuned to the qualities and characteristics of the individual client involved. They seek to utilize and enhance the resources and capabilities that reside in all people, and do not by any means require the client to respond to any standardized technique or to fit into any standardized pattern.

While flexibility is paramount, the working relationship in Hypno-Psychotherapy strives for equality between client and therapist, in providing a safe and supportive environment, where the client can explore and clarify relevant personal matters. In encouraging agreed modification of the client’s beliefs, emotional responses and behaviour, the problem may require the therapist to assume a more active or directive role. In shorter term engagements, it can be used to inculcate skills and overcome limiting habits or personal and social inhibitions. During longer-term therapy, the working relationship may present a dynamic context for the client to examine and work through important self-protection issues, including the reframing and resolution of challenging early experiences and liberation from previous blocks to personal development.

Hypno-Psychotherapy may be valuable to anyone seeking to resolve specific problems, or for personal development.'(UKCP, 1999)

Techniques employed in hypno-psychotherapy may range from analytic methods aimed at achieving personal insight, such as regression or dream interpretation, to future-focused techniques aimed at directly removing symptoms or modifying behaviour. It seems increasingly likely that in the future the hypno-psychotherapy profession will be regulated so that only practitioners trained in psychotherapy will be qualified to practice.


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