Hypnosis: Parlor Trick or a True Therapy?


    By:William Butler


                A lot of people are put off by the topic of hypnosis. They associate it with stage magic or clucking like a chicken. Few are aware that we actually experience hypnotic trances every day from activities as simple as daydreaming to as complex as driving our cars. Even fewer are aware that these precious moments actually hold a lot of power and can be used for managing pain, anxiety, and depression.



    Let’s start with some definitions. Suppose we define medicine as the applied science which practices the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. Anything that cannot be supported by science would then be defined as alternative medicine. The American Psychological Association and Mayo Clinic both credit hypnotherapy as an evidence-based approach. That is, through decades of meta-analysis, it is generally accepted as a valid form of medical practice. A large recent analysis was done in 2003 by the University of Konstanz in Germany that showed hypnotherapy to have a 74% success rate for serious conditions such as addiction and pain management. In short, the effectiveness of hypnosis as a therapeutic technique is widely accepted.



    For years people have suspected this mental phantom as being a driving force behind our motivation. People often talk about expanding their minds or tapping into some creative energy. Hypnotherapy as a guided meditation that focuses the mind on solving problems has shown to produce wonderful outcomes. But what are the underlying mechanisms of hypnosis? This is the part that gets a little fuzzy. Thanks to cognitive and neuroscience, there is a growing body of evidence for the unconscious mind. Perhaps we can best understand these mechanisms through information processing or implicit memory. Perhaps it can be understood as firings of a more primitive region of our brain.



    To sample some of the benefits of hypnotherapy for yourself, try this simple exercise. Before going to sleep, take several deep breaths until you feel your body start to relax. Once in this state, try to maintain the trance between being awake and falling asleep. While in this state, let your minds drift naturally while coming back to certain mantras. They can be “I will wake up feeling refreshed”, “I no longer own the negativity that I carry”, or “this too shall pass.” Try this for a week and if you notice slight differences then perhaps hypnotherapy may be the practice for you.


    William Butler is a psychology and pre-medical student at the University of Central Florida. He works as a receptionist for UCF Health Services at the College of Medicine in Lake Nona, Fl. He also volunteers for the MIT-2 lab, IMAlive suicide hotline, and UCF Counseling and Psychological Services Student Advisory Council. He is interested in neuroscience, music, and spending time with his friends and family. Despite his wide range of interests, William is NOT a medical or mental health professional and all attitudes expressed are opinions and are not intended to be used as medical advice.