A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies

reader comments: hypnosis

23 Jun 2008

It's your website, and you are entitled to print what you want.

reply: Thanks for the insight.

However, I've been a hypnotherapist for 20 years. I have studied the pros and cons. And I do my best to stay informed of new studies and findings concerning hypnosis.

After practicing my craft with thousands of people, I still am amazed by the positive changes that take place in my office. Many times permanent changes. Many times the doctors had given up on these people and gave them pills to placate them.

I wonder how many people read your comments, and are convinced that hypnosis is useless. And take the pills anyway, or live with pain and suffering, because you denigrate hypnosis.

reply: According to my ISP, 347,920 unique visitors have been to my hypnosis entry over the past few years. How many of them came away convinced that hypnosis is useless, I can't say. Nor do I say it is useless, so if anyone interprets my article in that way they are not reading it correctly.

I don't tell people to take pills and, frankly, as a hypnotherapist you shouldn't be telling people not to take pills, unless of course you are also a qualified M.D.

Like you, I have tried to stay informed about hypnosis. We obviously read different kinds of material. The evidence, which dates back at least to the time of Mesmer, is overwhelming that hypnosis is a placebo therapy. That fact does not make it useless.

Since we are wondering, I wonder how many people have wasted their time with a hypnotherapist when they could have found relief from a pill, a good self-help book, or some other form of behavioral modification.

Yes, people can be highly suggestible. To positive and negative suggestions.

For years they've been receiving positive change through my suggestions through hypnosis. Through my years of experience and training.

And here you are, a skeptic that knows what you've read or heard about hypnosis, digging up what little dirt you can find to further the fears and doubts that already exist in many people's minds.

reply: What you consider "dirt," I consider evidence. I didn't investigate hypnosis to denigrate it. I investigated hypnosis to find out if any of the claims made about it were verifiable and if there was any evidence that might help us understand what hypnosis is and how it works, if it works. I think I make it clear that hypnosis works, as do other placebo treatments, by inducing behavioral changes through suggestion, reinforcement by a perceived authority, and the positive effect of providing concern, care, and the promise of relief. Unlike an antibiotic, for example, hypnosis requires that I actively participate in the process. The pill doesn't care what I believe or think; it attacks infecting agents regardless of my beliefs. If I don't believe the hypnotherapist can help me with hypnosis, I can't be helped by the therapist.

You also infer that hypnotists who post here are doing so for financial gain. Maybe, or maybe they're proud of what they do for a living. I see you sell a book. What other monetary compensation do you get I wonder?

reply: I don't know what you mean by posting here. Hypnotists don't post on my site. I assume you and most others in your field do not work for free and that you wouldn't be doing it if you thought it was bogus. I don't imply that you shouldn't be paid for your services. Nor do I imply that you don't help some people. I state that since you are offering what is essentially indistinguishable from a placebo, there are probably other treatments or therapies that work just as well or better, and are cheaper. Of course, there are other treatments that are more expensive and useless, but that is irrelevant to my claim.

I suppose that neither one of us does what we do just for the money. But unlike you, I  would probably keep on doing what I'm doing even if there were no money to be made from the enterprise.

Bottom line, I can see where people with little sense to make their own judgments about things could think they would benefit from adopting your opinions. But your opinion really means very little concerning a subject you know so little about.

reply: If you really believe what you write, why bother with taking me to task? Contrary to your belief, I think there will be many people who read my entry on hypnosis who will have plenty of good sense to make their own judgment about my arguments.

Care to come to my office sometime and see the results for yourself?


reply: You really don't get it, do you, Rick? I don't say or imply that hypnotherapists don't help people or have many satisfied customers. I do say that some hypnotists are dangerous and cause a lot of harm. Most important, I say that hypnosis exhibits many of the key features of what is termed a placebo by those who study this sort of stuff. I'll conclude by reminding you that much of conventional medicine works by the placebo effect, too. Medical doctors who admit this don't think it is denigrating, but a fact of life.


31 Dec 1997
Responding to your piece on hypnosis. I am in agreement with everything you say, especially with regard to all the repressed memory nonsense, trance-state theories, and the like. I use hypnosis in therapy with brain injured patients, chronic pain patients, and anxiety patients. Hypnosis, like you say, is not a special trance-like state, but it is an enhanced state of attention. Such a state can be induced by a good TV show, an interesting conversation, a good book, etc. In a hypnotherapy session, the therapist, with the help of the client, uses this state to help the client achieve behavior or emotional change. It is a client-centered process, and all clients are taught self-hypnosis, which is nothing more than teaching them how to gain better control of their own emotions, and apply it in the real world. Nothing mysterious. Well-controlled clinical experimental studies have shown that the addition of hypnosis to psychotherapeutic procedures makes them more effective.

You make a lot of good points, but don't throw it out entirely.
Robert M. Stein, Ph.D.
Center for Neurobehavioral Health, Ltd.
Lancaster, PA

reply: I agree that hypnosis has its uses in some forms of behavior modification. My main concerns are with claims that hypnosis brings about an altered state of consciousness and such associated claims as mind control or being able to communicate directly with the unconscious mind, reservoir of deep truths and memories of evil. 

12 Sep 1997

I am greatly impressed by your lack of scholarly understanding of hypnosis. I would like to refer you to the work of the late Dr Milton Erickson and Dr Ernest Rossi as well as the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (a nonprofit PROFESSIONAL organization). Regarding false memory syndrome: do you actually know of any hypnotherapist who "nurtures delusions of evil suffered" in their clients, thus doing "irreparable harm" ???? I think this is speculation on your part. People are motivated basically by two things: fear and/or self interest. It is obvious to me that you are misleading your readership.
Ken Steinmetz, CHT
San Franciso

reply: let me guess what motivates you: not fear. As for the reports of misuses of hypnotherapy, I refer you to Dr. Sanger's book on Crazy Therapies, to numerous reports from the American Psychological Association and to cases which have gone to trial and have been widely reported in the mass media.

14 Jan 1998
I wanted to respond to a comment made by Ken Steinmetz in his September response to the Hypnosis article. He said: "Regarding false memory syndrome: do you actually know of any hypnotherapist who 'nurtures delusions of evil suffered' in their clients, thus doing 'irreparable harm' ???? I think this is speculation on your part."

I know of one particular person who does precisely that: Budd Hopkins.

Well, OK, I don't know if he still uses hypnotism to do his dirty work, but I know that he used to. Perhaps he's been more careful lately to just "counsel" abductees rather than hypnotize them. I read a great book by Phil Klass (formerly of CSICOP) on the subject a few years back, and he detailed Hopkins' one-man crusade to convince the public that we were all abducted. Hopkins is one of those folks who are on my "people who should be stopped with a restraining order" list.

Budd fits Ken's description perfectly. He nurtures delusions of evil suffered, and does irreparable harm to his clients by making them think that they underwent horrible experiences that never really happened to them. People who've been convinced that they were abducted tend to be worse off than they'd be if they weren't. Would you hire somebody who put "anally probed by aliens" in the "extracurricular activities" section of his job application?

I know Budd is mentioned in the Skeptic's Dictionary, in the review of the Nova program on Alien Abductions. I was surprised, however, that he didn't get a direct link in the "H" section of the index.
Tony Fabris

reply: Hopkins fits the bill but he is not a therapist.

further reading

Is Hypnotherapy a Con? by R. T. Carroll.


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