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Hypnosis and Suggestion

Hypnosis and suggestion are powerful ways of altering sensation, perception, and cognition. Hypnosis has been an active area of investigation for over 100 years within distinguished university psychological and medical laboratories and is a helpful tool for understanding how the mind works (Oakley & Halligan, 2009). Clinically, hypnosis is best understood not as a form of therapy in its own right, but rather a set of tools that can be incorporated in to a model-driven therapy such as CBT or psychodynamic therapy. Read more
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What Is 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”(Elkins, Barabasz, Council, & Spiegel, 2015). Patients can be helped to engage in hypnosis with a hypnotic induction which is a sequence of instructions and suggestions that help an individual to become hypnotized, and which traditionally involve instructions for relaxation. Once hypnotized suggestions can be given for alterations in experience. With suggestions “one person is guided by another to respond to suggestions for changes in subjective experiences, alterations in perception, sensation, emotion, thought, or behavior”(Green, Barabasz, Barrett, & Montgomery, 2005). Suggestions are what lead to the most interesting effects in hypnosis. For example, if someone experiencing pain is hypnotized they may feel focused and relaxed, but it is not until they are given a suggestion such as ‘the painful area is beginning to feel numb and insensitive’ that they start to experience significant pain relief. One theory is that suggestions work by altering our expectancies of what is going to happen and our experiences follow from these response expectancies: a critical part of the hypnotic experience is that suggested effects are experienced as involuntary and effortless.


  • Elkins, G. R., Barabasz, A. F., Council, J. R., & Spiegel, D. (2015). Advancing research and practice: The revised APA Division 30 definition of hypnosis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 63(1), 1–9.
  • Green, J. P., Barabasz, A. F., Barrett, D., & Montgomery, G. H. (2005). Forging ahead: the 2003 APA Division 30 definition of hypnosis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 53(3), 259–264.
  • Oakley, D. A., & Halligan, P. W. (2009). Hypnotic suggestion and cognitive neuroscience. Trends in Cognitive Sciences13(6), 264–270.