Those in the know now call hypnosis “hypnotherapy,” a name the practice has earned by demonstrating real benefits to people with conditions ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety to irritable bowel syndrome.
It doesn’t work for everyone, though, David Spiegel, MD, Stanford’s hypnotherapy expert, emphasizes in a recent Refinery29 article. Patients may have a genetic disposition against the state of intense concentration that characterizes hypnosis. Or they may believe it doesn’t work, in which case, it won’t.
That’s why Spiegel says he starts each session by testing where each patient lies on a hypnotic susceptibility scale. He also explains the process and then prompts patients to relax and focus on soothing images, “to make them both physically comfortable and mentally alert.” He adds: “The ability to focus in this way gives you the ability to alter your attention. It can enhance the typical mind-body control.”
Spiegel says in the piece that he agrees there have been unethical uses of hypnosis. But, overall, it has many benefits, he says: “People are scared of the idea that they can be influenced that much, so they dismiss hypnosis as nonsense. But it’s vastly safer than any other medication we use.”
He urges people interested in exploring hypnosis to find a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in the practice.