May 23rd, Clinical Hypnosis Day!

Who is Franz Mesmer?

Franz Mesmer was a German physician with an interest in astronomy. He theorized that there was a natural energetic transference that occurred between all animate and inanimate objects, which he called animal magnetism. The short of it is: animal magnetism, was later referred to as mesmerism, which soon developed into modern day clinical hypnosis. You could say Mesmer is the father of clinical hypnotism!

But wait, what is clinical hypnosis?!

Here are a few of your questions, answered, by our national organization The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis:

What is clinical hypnosis?

According to American Psychological Association, Division 30 (Society of Clinical Hypnosis) hypnosis is defined as: “A state of consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness characterized by an enhanced capacity for response to suggestion.” (2015). Some maintain that hypnosis is not really a state of consciousness, but involves a set of skills and interventions that a trained clinician uses to elicit trance for therapeutic purposes. Trance is a natural human phenomenon that everyone experiences. For instance, daydreaming, being absorbed in a movie that seems life-like, getting lost in an engaging novel, or perceiving time fly by or crawl at a snail’s pace, all involve trance phenomenon. Hypnosis interventions intentionally elicit trance experiences for productive and therapeutic purposes for treating both medical and mental health disorders as well as enhancing performance (e.g., athletes, public speakers, performing artist).

 Is there a difference between hypnosis and trance?

Many licensed clinical professionals who employ hypnosis in their practice maintain that these two terms are synonymous. In essence for them, hypnosis is trance, and trance is hypnosis. As noted above, there are others who distinguish between the two terms and identify hypnosis as a set of procedures, interventions, or a set of skills that promote the facilitation of trance for therapeutic purposes. Trance is a natural human experience that occurs for most people during most of their “waking” day, and can be evidenced by daydreaming, getting lost in thought, being absorbed in a movie, music, or a conversation, or forgetting what you were about to do as you entered a room. Trance facilitated through hypnosis promotes access to the unconscious mind and its vast resources of knowledge, skills, and abilities within a person that may be challenging to access during more conscious states of mind. Trance also involves a suspension of critical thinking and judgment (typically associated with the conscious mind) permitting a greater sense of openness to suggestions offered by the clinician (aka hetero-hypnosis) or by the individual on their own (aka self-hypnosis).

Can everyone be hypnotized?

Everyone, including young children (and most animals) naturally experience trance during their “waking” day. Consequently, most people can benefit from hypnosis. Like most human traits and abilities, some people are naturally gifted when it comes to hypnosis and can be quantified as more hypnotizable. These individuals possess talents and abilities that allow them to go into trance more readily and perhaps more deeply than others. Some individuals are generally considered to be poor candidates for hypnosis, and include individuals with histories of intellectual disorders, dementia, and psychosis since they lack the capacity to focus their attention in ways that facilitate therapeutic trance.

Still curious? Check out (and print your own) clinical hypnosis Q & A sheet, by clicking here!             

Looking for more clinical hypnosis fun?! Check out these awesome sources:

To join the Hypnosis Listserv:

American Society for Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH): 

Membership application:

Society for clinical and experimental hypnosis  (SCEH): 

SCEH membership application:

Video Library:

Patrick McCarthy video interview: