What is hypnosis?  National Guild of Hypnotists most acceptable version according to Donald J. Mottin, Vice President is “An altered state of consciousness where the subconscious level of the mind is in a state of hyper-suggestibility.  Hypnosis refers to a state or condition in which the client becomes highly responsive to suggestions. 


The hypnotized individual seems to follow instructions in an uncritical, automatic fashion and attends closely only to those aspects of the environment made relevant by the hypnotist.  If the client is profoundly responsive he or she hears, sees, smells, and tastes in accordance with the suggestions given, even though these may be in direct contradiction to the actual stimuli that impinge upon the client.  Furthermore, memory and awareness of self can be altered by suggestions. 


All of these effects may be extended post-hypnotically into the individual’s subsequent waking activity.  It is as if suggestions given during hypnosis come to define the individual’s perception of the real world.  In this sense the phenomenon has been described as a “believed-in fantasy.”

Demonstrating_pain relief therapy  0303.

Dr. Phelps teaching pain relief techniques

Hypnosis may assist with:

  • Phobias, fears, and anxiety

  • Sleep disorders

  • Depression

  • Stress

  • Post-trauma anxiety

  • Grief and loss

  • Pain Management & Addiction


Source: Cleveland Clinic

There are many theories about what hypnosis is or is not.  For example:

  • Hypnosis as a Permissive State.  This is an older, more traditional perspective.  Here the emphasis is on the passive nature of the client, and the stronger, authoritarian position of the hypnotist. 

  • Hypnosis as Role Playing.  This idea states that a separate state of hypnosis does not exist at all, but it is merely a person playing a role of what a hypnotized client is supposed to look and act like.  The client will carry out the hypnotist’s suggestions on this basis. 

  • Hypnosis as an Altered State of Consciousness.  Here the trance is considered an unique and separate state of consciousness, relative to one’s “normal” state of consciousness.  In the altered state, the trance is thought to be artificially created by the trance induction process.  This alters the person’s consciousness through the narrowing of attention to the offered suggestions.

  • Hypnosis as an interactional outcome.  Hypnosis according to this concept is a result of a meaningful interaction between hypnotist and client in the sense that they must be attentive and responsive to each other. 


If we were to discuss all the theories about hypnosis that have been presented, we would be forever postulating our hypotheses.  Suffice to say, a basic understanding of the concepts, listed will explain what hypnosis is to you.  This may help you when dealing with the main idea of hypnosis being related to the “Svengaili Effect.”  Presenting a well thought out idea on hypnosis will help therapists and clients alike.