Hypnosis Research

The hypnotic state remains a mystery to research scientists who are still trying to arrive at a consensus to define precisely what it is. This search for a definition and explanation of the hypnotic trance has revealed about 13 different theories, but because these theories are constrained within the mechanistic scientific paradigm, and are in conflict with one another a unified theory remains a primary objective for mainstream psychology.  However, the absence of a unified theory does not alter the simple fact that hypnosis can be a powerful tool in other research to investigate the nature of consciousness and many other aspects of human functioning, and of course in the application of hypnotherapy in psychological and physiological healing. Hypnosis research can be divided into five broad categories:

  1. To investigate the hypnotic ‘trance’ state as a psychological phenomenon and arrive at a consensus theory to explain it.
  2. To use the hypnotic trance state as a research tool to investigate aspects of human personality and consciousness.
  3. To apply hypnosis as a therapeutic modality in the treatment of specific diseases, which could be specifically sub-categorised as (a) mental (b) emotional (c) physiological and (d) spiritual. The big question here is, ‘does it work’?
  4. Hypnosis has been used as a means to uncover the causes of distress as a diagnostic tool. However, spontaneous reactions in the trance state can result in re-experiencing past lives through past-life regression and between-lives regression. It is unfortunate that such phenomena are deemed to be beyond the realm of scientific research and are therefore dismissed by mainstream psychology because they do not fit into the mechanistic framework of the medical model of health and disease.
  5. An even more difficult group of phenomena for mainstream science to consider are those of trance mediumship, remote viewing and Diagnosis at a Distance where a trance medium is able to ‘see’ into a person to determine the nature of their illness, either mental of physical. This tantalising area of research demands that the principles of epiphenomenalism (that the brain creates consciousness)  are not the only ones to be considered.

Other phenomena that medical science finds challenging include trance induction by the laying-on of hands or ‘energy’ healing and its relationship with Mesmer’s theory of ‘animal magnetism’ and the intriguing phenomenon of telepathic hypnosis, that is hypnotic induction at a distance. Although rigorously investigated by a long line of distinguished scientists in the past, a theory to explain these phenomena that can be accommodated within the physical framework of modern science has remained elusive. This means that it has effectively been abandoned in favour of research that has become known as parapsychology and the search for a theory to explain so-called ‘psi’ and ‘super-psi’. Research in this direction with the use of hypnosis has therefore been neglected and the concepts of animal magnetism and telepathy have largely been forgotten or avoided by mainstream psychology. To bring the use of the hypnotic trance, supported by Frederic Myers’ model of the Subliminal Mind (see Chapter 6 of this Thesis) back into the research arena to investigate such phenomena could potentially increase our knowledge of consciousness, how it relates to others’ minds and how it interacts with the body in the mind-body relationship. However, the search for the origin of consciousness is predominantly limited to the epiphenomenal  and has created an expansion in the science of neuro-imaging and the quest to solve the illusive mind-brain relationship problem within that domain of scientific experimentation. However, encouraging findings from experiments with mediums using neuro-imaging technology are beginning to point in another direction as these published papers will testify. These discoveries are encouraging for the scientific investigation of all aspects of consciousness and a call for a more open, informed study of consciousness has been initiated by Professor Etzel Cardena of Lund University, Sweden.

These domains of psychological research are difficult for the novice and a far easier test of the efficacy of hypnosis lies within easy reach of any student or practitioner of therapeutic hypnosis in the realm of stress-management. We all are subject to stress in daily living and some deal with it better than others. Hypnosis and self-hypnosis can be very effective in helping us deal with stress and its potentially damaging consequences and a protocol to test the efficacy of hypnosis for stress management is probably the easiest test of the efficacy of hypnosis to measure, and is something that all students and practitioners of hypnotherapy ought to be taught at the most fundamental level. When asked the question, does hypnosis work? the repeated measure with hypnosis as the method of intervention will provide a good answer.

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Below are links that may be useful for UK-based researchers and students of hypnosis.

UK Hypnosis Research Institutions

University of Sussex

Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science (University of Sussex)

Hypnosis Unit UK (University College London)

Hypnosis Research Societies and Journals

International Society of Hypnosis

British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis

European Society of Hypnosis

International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis

Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis

Hypnosis Training Schools and Colleges

Note: Only those hypnosis training schools in the UK that have scientific research institution, academic or professional accreditation are included here. If you are aware of any not listed here please make a comment and they will be inserted.

British Hypnosis and Research Training School

London College of Clinical Hypnosis

Royal Society of Medicine

Other Hypnosis Research Links

Dr Matthew Whalley