The Gradual Acceptance of Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy has survived into the modern age through various conspiracies, mistrust and sometimes open hostility, to reach its’ present, still somewhat insecure position among the healing arts. Whatever the particular controversy that happens to rage, most fair-minded observers would agree: Hypnotherapy has survived because enough determined men have fought on, and because enough people have benefitted from it.

Certainly a significant historical turning point for hypnotherapy, has been the gradual main stream acceptance of hypnosis as a viable, credible and reliable medical tool.

Hypnotherapy has been used in dental practice since the 19th century. It was used then in the form of hypnoanalgesia during surgical dental intervention. The first tooth extraction with the use of hypnoanalgesia was performed by Jean Victor Dudet in 1830. In the 1950s, the American Medical Association took notice of hypnosis after a patient underwent a thyroidectomy (removal of the thyroid) while in a hypnotic trance induced by a hypnotherapist (Blakeslee, 2005). No other painkiller or anaesthesia was used.

Since then, hypnotherapists have made powerful strides toward changing public perception about hypnosis. Doctors continue to use hypnosis to calm their patients, and to ease pain during procedures (Bierman, 1995). They regularly tell patients how easy recovery will be. Additionally, doctors tell patients that a procedure is common and meets with a high degree of success. Because these phrases are delivered by an authority figure, they act in exactly the same way as hypnotic suggestions, and become reality for the patient. More obvious hypnotic suggestions are also sometimes given to patients by doctors trained in hypnosis, and for over a century, dentists have used hypnosis to ease discomfort during dental procedures. In addition to using hypnotic techniques themselves, doctors and dentists regularly refer patients to hypnotherapists for help with weight loss, smoking cessation, and overcoming fears about dental and surgical procedures.

A very significant early contributor to this medical acceptance was James Braid (1795-1860). A Scottish surgeon of high repute, he gave the phenomena usually associated with mesmerism a respectable scientific rationale. It was he who coined the words: hypnotism, hypnotic and hypnotise, etc. (Gr. Hypnos-Sleep). Braid’s scientific approach to hypnotism, and his new terminology, made it possible for many influential people to embrace the subject, who would not previously have done so. Also important was Braid’s assertion that hypnotic effects were a subjective phenomenon and not directly produced by the hypnotiser.