Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
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Thursday, January 31, 2013

When to Use Hypnosis and When Not to Use Hypnosis

In a copyrighted Web page, entitled, Dysfunctional Cognitions: Should we Dispute, Question, Analyze, Accept, Validate, Ignore, or be Mindful of Them? Dr. Milton Spett states that almost all cognitive-behaviorists are in agreement that dysfunctional cognitions are at the core of psychological disorders, and that changing these dysfunctional cognitions is the key to a cure. He goes on to poiint out that all of the other techniques of psychotherapy, including humanistic and psychoanalytical approaches as well as those which are rooted psychoanalysis or in Eastern traditions, are also aimed at changing cognitions. They simply employ a "softer" and less structured approach to accomplish this aim. He then concludes that since they are all fundamentally different forms of CBT, the question to ask ourselves is, "'Should we use behavioral or cognitive techniques.' And “Should we use disputation or indirect, gentle cognitive techniques, with this patient, with this dysfunctional cognition, at this point in treatment?”

I would merely like to add that if all psychological techniques are fundamentally aimed at changing cognitions,,it follows that hypnosis, which is based upon changing cognitions through the systematic application of suggestion, should also be included in the list. However, I would not disagree with Dr. Spett's conclusion that the choice of which technique to use depends upon the client and the stage of treatment.

With regard to the appropriateness of hypnotic interventions, I like to quote Steve Lynn's summary of our Induction chapter in the American Psychological Association's Handbook of Clinical Hypnosis, as a summary of contextual suggestion in clinical settings:
 . . .how clients respond to suggestions depends less on the nature and success of a particular induction than on the following variables: (a) clients' prehypnotic attitudes, beliefs, intentions, and expectations about hypnosis; (b) their ability to think, fantasize, and absorb themselves in suggestions; (c) their ability to form a trusting relationship with the hypnotist; (d) their ability to interpret suggestions appropriately and view their responses as successful; (e) their ability to discern task demands and cues; (f) their ongoing interaction with the hypnotist; and (g) the appropriateness of the therapeutic methods and suggestions to treating the presenting problem. . . . Accordingly, clinicians should devise inductions and suggestions with these variables in mind and tailor their approach to the unique personal characteristics and agenda of each client they encounter" (Gibbons & Lynn, 2010, p. 289).

Gibbons, D. E., &; Lynn, S. J. (2010). Hypnotic inductions: A primer. in S. J. Lynn, J. W. Rhue, & I. Kirsch (Eds.) Handbook of clinical hypnosis, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, pp. 267-291.