Does Clinical Hypnosis Have Anything to Do with Experimental Hypnosis?


  • Michael Heap


Hypnosis, Mesmerism, Hypnotic Induction, Suggestion, Suggestibility, Altered state of consciousness, Relaxation, Unconscious mind, Memory, Psychosomatic medicine, Pain


Hypnosis originated as a healing practice and its historical roots can be traced back to the ideas and methods of the physician Franz Anton Mesmer in 18th century Europe. As we now understand it hypnosis is a normal psychological phenomenon that can be investigated in the laboratory and understood in terms of mainstream psychology and the neurosciences. Normally one would expect there to be continuity between experimental research and theory on the one hand and the practical application of hypnosis on the other. In this paper it is suggested that there is reason to question how much the clinical application of hypnosis is informed by the non-clinical scientific evidence and even whether clinicians can be said to be using hypnosis as it is now defined and understood in the academic literature. These matters are also briefly addressed by reference to certain other contexts in which hypnosis is applied.