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The History of Hypnosis: Relevance for Research and Practice

July 12 @ 11:00 am - 12:30 pm CDT

Presented by Barbara S. McCann, PhD

Friday, July 12, 2024

9am-10:30am PT / 11am-12:30pm CT / 12pm-1:30pm ET

Event held online via Zoom, link to access provided upon registration.

A description of the history of hypnosis usually follows the path of Western influences on medicine and psychology. Tracing the development of modern hypnosis from Anton Mesmer to our current era often seems like an obligatory chore of sifting through a dry narrative of names, places, dates, and people – – or paying our dues before getting to the good stuff of learning to do hypnosis. However, a closer look at this history affords us an opportunity to understand the origins of the myths and misconceptions that we continue to face – – and may inadvertently promote – – in our research and practice. During the Enlightenment period, when Anton Mesmer developed animal magnetism, medicine and related fields were dominated by reason, empirical observations, and the scientific method. In this context the rejection of his work is understandable, yet that rejection conflated the “why” with the “what,” failing to appreciate that something fascinating had occurred.

When James Braid picked up the thread of animal magnetism, he shed Mesmer’s mystical, supernatural mantle, emphasized the roles of attention, suggestion, and relaxation, and coined the term hypnosis. Yet something captivating in Mesmer’s work remained and is evident along with the emergence of psychiatry and psychology as distinct yet related disciplines. The integration of biological and psychological perspectives in the 20th century and our understanding of placebo, nocebo, and expectancy continues to inform our understanding of hypnosis and related states. As medicine and psychology evolve to current times, we see another shift toward integrative medicine, which reflects recognition of the interconnectedness of mind and body. Evidence-based practices, ethical considerations, and a patient-centered approach remain core tenets and continue to shape research and practice. An examination of the neglected roots of hypnosis in ancient cultures, spiritual traditions, and parallels in contemporary indigenous and non-Western cultures sheds light on the need for a broader understanding of the phenomenon Western thinkers have come to label hypnosis, and ironically, brings us back to where we started, with Mesmer.

Zoom link will be available on course page in “My Courses” upon event registration. 

This program, when attended in its entirety, offers 1.5 CEs for Psychologists, 1.5 IL CEUS for Counselors and Social Workers, or 1.5 BBS California CEUs for LPCCs, LPSW, and LMFTs.

Click here to view full course information.


July 12
11:00 am - 12:30 pm CDT