Counseling and Hypnotherapy

In recent years, hypnosis has gained an increasing acceptance among the psychiatric profession, both as a therapeutic implement and as a research vehicle for the investigation of many complex aspects of human behavior. Hypnosis has been employed as a research tool in the study of emotions, psychopathological phenomena, dreams, defense mechanisms, physiological processes, and test validation.

Hypnosis wields its effects largely through the influence of suggestion. The degree of suggestibility in a particular subject is of greater importance than is the depth of trance. In extremely suggestible subjects one may obtain phenomena in waking life that are produced in most persons only in hypnosis, such as analgesia and even hallucinations. The virtue of hypnosis is that it reinforces suggestibility, rendering susceptible many of those who would not be responsive to suggestions in the waking state.

Hypnotic suggestion facilitates many behavioral techniques, such as systematic desensitization, role-playing, behavior rehearsal, time projection, emotive imagery, anxiety relief, Ellis Rational Therapy, Lazarus Emotive Therapy, Salters Assertion Training, modeling, logical problem solving, labeling and expressing the affect, and so forth.

Hypnosis has been employed for the correction of certain habit disturbances. In chronic ailments where the patient has lost the will to live, hypnotic suggestion may inspire him to keep up the fight; it may promote a shift in his attitude that spells the difference between survival and death. Proper hypnotic suggestion may lower or eliminate overt and subjective responses to painful stimuli.

Diagnostic Uses The diagnostic uses of hypnosis are founded on heightened suggestibility. Occasionally it is necessary to distinguish certain functional disorders from organic disorders for instance, where disposition is dependent upon diagnosis. Thus certain cases of abdominal pain severe enough to simulate surgical emergencies may be hysterically determined; although the patient may clamor for surgical interference, he will need to be treated by psychiatric means. Inconsistencies in signs and symptoms will encourage the cautious surgeon to seek psychiatric consultation, and hypnosis may aid in determining the functional nature of the complaint by temporarily removing it through suggestion.

Other symptoms that may call American Handbook of Psychiatry for diagnostic differentiation where signs of organic involvement are not clear are anesthesia, paresthesia, hyperesthesia, headaches, paralysis, spasms, ties, choreiform movements, gait disturbances, convulsive seizures, vomiting, hiccupping, urinary retention, and disorders of vision and hearing. In posttraumatic cases, residual pain may require diagnosis to determine if the pain is related to the original accident or whether it has been elaborated as a psychoneurotic symptom.

Hypnosis has been used to differentiate anorexia nervosa from hypo-physical cachexia, to distinguish an articulation disorder from stuttering and to detect malingering in cases of feigned color blindness and paraplegia. Hypnosis is also sometimes of diagnostic value in determining the dynamic meaning of symptoms. For instance, Rosen and Erickson (1954) have used suggestion to precipitate attacks in patients with convulsive and asthmatic symptoms. They then blocked the attacks; the effect was to mobilize anxiety, which in turn was repressed by direct verbal suggestion in order to allow the underlying fantasies to erupt into awareness.

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