Hypnosis is a mental state or a set of attitudes that is induced by a procedure called hypnotic induction. This inclides mostly preliminary instructions & suggestions. The suggestions may be administered by a hypnosis or "hetero-hypnosis" or by the subject themselves (autohypnosis).

Frank Mesmer (1734-1815) believed in a force or "fluid" within the universe that influenced the health of the human body. He used magnets to experiment a method of healing, by causing the magnets to influence the universe's force. In 1774 he did the same thing with his hands, & called it "Mesmeric Passes". The word mesmerize was obviously derived from Mesmer's last name.

James Braid wrote books on the subject, his first being published in 1843. He studied Mesmerism & interpretated it with a new thing called "common sense". His method of hypnotism was used in a more rational way, hence common sense was his alternative. Braid incorporated Mesmerism with his assistant, William Benjamin Carpenter's ideas & eventually turned out that the effect of focusing attention was to enhance the ideo-motor reflex response. Braid extended Carpenter's theory to encompass the influence of the mind upon the body more generally, beyond the muscular system, and therefore referred to the "ideo-dynamic" response and coined the term "psycho-physiology" to refer to the study of interaction between the mind and body in general.

Sigmund Freud was an enthusiastic proponent of hypnotherapy, and soon began to emphasise and popularise the use of hypnotic regression and abreaction (catharsis) as therapeutic methods. However, Freud gradually abandoned the use of hypnotism in favour of his developing methods of psychoanalysis, through free association and interpretation of the unconscious.

Émile Coulé (1857-1926) served for around two years as an assistant to Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault in his group hypnotic at Nancy. However, after practising for several years as a hypnotherapist employing the methods of Liébeault and Bernheim's Nancy School, Coué gradually began to develop a new orientation called "conscious autosuggestion." Several years after Liébeault's death in 1904, Coué founded what became known as the New Nancy School, a loose collaboration of practitioners who taught and promoted his views. Coué's method did not emphasise "sleep" or deep relaxation and instead focused upon teaching groups of clients how to use autosuggestion by trial and error learning involving a specific series of suggestion tests.

The next major event in the history of hypnotism came as a result of the progress of behavioural psychology in American university research. Clark L. Hull, an eminent American psychologist, published the first major compilation of laboratory studies on hypnosis, Hypnosis & Suggestibility (1933), in which he conclusively proved that the state of hypnosis and the state of sleep had nothing in common. Hull published many quantitative empirical findings derived from experiments using hypnosis and suggestion and thereby encouraged subsequent research into hypnosis by mainstream academic psychologists. Hull's behavioural psychology interpretation of hypnosis, in terms of conditioned reflexes, rivalled the Freudian psychodynamic interpretation in terms of unconscious transference.

Milton H. Erickson, M.D. was one of the most influential post-war hypnotherapists. He wrote several books and journal articles on the subject. During the 1960s, Erickson was responsible for popularizing a new branch of hypnotherapy, which became known as Ericksonian hypnotherapy, eventually characterized by, amongst other things, the absence of a formal hypnotic inductions, and the use of indirect suggestion, "metaphor" (actually they were analogies, rather than "metaphors"), confusion techniques, and double binds. However, the lack of resemblance between Erickson's methods and those of traditional hypnotism led some of his contemporaries, such as André Weitzenhoffer, to seriously question whether he was actually practising "hypnosis" at all, and the status of his approach in relation to traditional hypnotism has remained in question.

In the latter half of the twentieth century, two factors contributed to the development of what subsequently became known as the cognitive-behavioural approach to hypnosis. 1) Cognitive and behavioural theories of the nature of hypnosis became increasingly influential. 2) The therapeutic practices of hypnotherapy and various forms of cognitive-behavioural therapy overlapped and influenced each other.

(2009, January 6). Hypnosis. Retrieved January 6, 2009, from Wikipedia Web site:

Heather Vanportfliet
AP Psychology, 6th Hour