Hypnotherapy is a very interesting form of therapy that involves a patient being in a trance-like state, causing them to be at a heightened state of awareness for therapy sessions.

This makes the patient more open to suggestions put firward by a therapist – which aims to lessen the symptoms and other psychological disturbances that a person may be facing.

Alternatively, a person may recall a traumatic memory based deep in the unconscious mind during hypnotherapy – there are many different possibilities.

Hypnotherapy serves a strong purpose in mental health – with this form of therapy able to treat many conditions. This can result in relief from debilitating symptoms of mental illness.

But it wasn’t always like this, with hypnotherapy having a rather chequered history. Even to this day, hypnotherapy continues to have detractors. Here, we take a look at the history of hypnosis.

Hypnotherapy is best associated with trauma based conditions.

The Origins of Hypnosis

Hypnosis has a history dating back to the early ages. It is even implied in the Bible that hypnosis was used. It is unclear as to how hypnosis was conducted in the early ages.

In the intervening centuries, hypnosis has gradually became what it is to this day. But to get to this point and level of understanding, a long road had to be taken.

Events in the 1700s

In the contemporary age, Franz Mesmer – an Austrian physician – is credited with ushering in a new era of hypnosis. Mesmer was in Paris in the 1700s, when one day he saw a magician in the street.

Mesmer was impressed by the magician, whom was using magnets as a way of entertaining the crowd. Having seen magnets thrill others and used for tricks, Mesmer was spellbound by their power.

He suggested health was linked to magnetic flow, and that this could help others. He tested out his theories in Paris – which proved to be a resounding success.

But the King of France at the time expelled Mesmer from the country, suggesting Mesmer was a fraud artist – rather than an innovative thinker.

Mesmer was unable to continue this momentum. He did however leave an indelible mark on the world – the term “mesmerised” is attributed to him.

Further Developments

Just over 25 years after Mesmer’s death, there was movement in the field of hypnosis. Scottish physician James Braid was giving a patient a routine eye-test, when the patient suddenly went into a trance. Braid noticed this strange state of awareness, and went on to investigate it further.

Braid already had a distinguished medical career by the time that this happened. He would continue researching this phenomenon. His research led him to a respected magnet-researcher named Charles Lafontaine. Lafontaine’s work impressed Braid, with Lafontaine showing the potential of hypnosis – again with magnets at the base of his ideas.

Over the next few decades, research would continue, with Braid holding many experiments. There was a lot of opposition to the veracity of hypnosis as a treatment, with many doubting its effectiveness – some even suggesting it was the work of Satan.

Several years passed, with Braid at the forefront of the interest of hypnotism. He passed away in 1860. Like Mesmer, he left a very strong legacy, with his work influencing others, and the continuation of research into hypnosis. A society named after James Braid exists in London, with members discussing hypnosis.

Hypnotherapy is founded

Hypnosis continued to be researched heavily, and was soon enough used in modern-day medicine. Milton Erickson – an American psychiatrist – used hypnosis as a base of his theory for Hypnotherapy.

This linked closely to the work of the founders of Neuro-linguistic programming – an area revolving around changing communication, choice and perception; and their effect on humans and their actions.

Other theories have been put forward, especially in the 21st century. Hypnotherapy has been gradually implemented into medicine, with many different suggestions put forward. In general, it is used for the aforementioned reasons – to help people overcome a fear or trauma.


Hypnosis has been portrayed rather exotically in the media – with many depictions of it being used as a method of mind control – or brainwashing.

Many misconceptions around hypnosis continue to exist. For instance, the patient is conscious throughout the process, and can exit the trance whenever they want. They must be willing to be hypnotised in order for the process to take place; the mind will not go into this state if a person doesn’t want to, the mind is too strong. When in the trance, in their heightened awareness, a person is capable of reaching deep recesses of the mind.

Hypnosis is a very interesting concept – and one that we probably won’t ever truly understand. It will continue to be researched, and more advancements are likely in the future.

For now, hypnotherapy continues to be a useful tool that helps many people overcome their mental health problems. It doesn’t have universal acclaim, but without doubt, hypnotherapy has the potential to be very effective.

See Also


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