One of the top questions we’re asked at The Wellness Institute is, “Does hypnotherapy work?” With more than 30 years’ educational experience offering hypnotherapy training to masters- and PhD-level students, we know it does.
But you don’t have to take our word for it. Many world-renowned medical and psychological organizations have endorsed hypnotherapy again and again as a credible, effective treatment. Beginning in the late 19th century and continuing through today, the chorus of supporters for this heart-centered therapy continues to grow.
Here’s what some of those associations are saying.
British Medical Association
The British Medical Association was among the first professional organizations to investigate hypnotherapy as a potential treatment. In 1892 (you heard that right...1892!), the association released the findings of a committee of nine doctors who had performed experiments involving hypnosis. That committee found that hypnotism “is frequently effective in relieving pain, procuring sleep, and alleviating many functional ailments.”
But despite their endorsement, medical professionals continued to dismiss hypnosis until the mid-20th century. Despite the use of hypnosis in comedy stage shows, clinical hypnosis was quietly becoming more and more commonly used behind closed doors by medical and psychological professionals.
In 1955, the BMA’s Psychological Medicine Group convened to ask itself the same question: “Does hypnotherapy work?” And once again, the 1892 committee findings were confirmed.
Two years later, their final paper was published in the British Medical Journal, one of the United Kingdom’s most established publications for the medical field. They published a paper titled “The Medical Use of Hypnotism” in June 1957, whose introduction read as follows:
If there is a future for an objectively oriented training in psychotherapy, hypnosis might well play a useful though by no means exclusive part. … It is on the whole a method which leaves few scars and makes no fundamental change in the personality that would not have occurred in the course of individual development. In responsible hands it is a safe method of treatment which can be combined with others and seems rarely to prejudice their use later in other hands.
American Medical Association
The American Medical Association followed suit in 1958, answering the question “Does hypnotherapy work?” for medical professionals in the United States. In that year, the AMA published a short report it had commissioned, which read:
“Hypnosis has a recognized place in the medical armamentarium and is a useful technique in the treatment of certain illnesses when employed by qualified medical and dental personnel.”
This was a major step for the AMA; by publishing the report, it recognized hypnotherapy as an orthodox medical treatment — rather than one relegated to the realm of alternative or holistic medicine.
In 1961, the AMA’s Council on Mental Health further upped the ante on its endorsement, recommending that medical students and doctors complete 144 hours of hypnotherapy training.
American Psychological Association
The American Psychological Association has also endorsed hypnotherapy, confirming its effectiveness. In fact, the APA’s Division 30, the Society of Psychological Hypnosis, is devoted entirely to the advancement of the practice.
Today, the APA’s website confidently endorses hypnosis as a valid form of therapy:
Although hypnosis has been controversial, most clinicians now agree it can be a powerful, effective therapeutic technique for a wide range of conditions, including pain, anxiety and mood disorders. Hypnosis can also help people change their habits, such as quitting smoking.
Recent publications have encouraged clinicians and the public to “look beyond the media portrayal” of hypnotherapy, encouraging therapists to educate and clarify for their patients what hypnotherapy is and isn’t.
British Psychological Society
Other medical associations have more recently joined the chorus of voices declaring hypnotherapy as effective for patients seeking relief, including the British Psychological Society.
In its 2001 report, “The Nature of Hypnosis," the British Psychology Society wrote:
Enough studies have now accumulated to suggest that the inclusion of hypnotic procedures may be beneficial in the management and treatment of a wide range of conditions and problems encountered in the practice of medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy.
The paper reported on “convincing evidence” that hypnotherapy could help manage “both acute and chronic pain,” and help relieve anxiety and discomfort related to medical and dental procedures as well as childbirth.
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