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Washington State University
College of Education

Counseling Psychology Hypnosis and Attentional Processes

Hypnosis and attentional processes

General focus statement

The research and practice of hypnosis  has been an emphasis at Washington State University since 1984. More than half a century of science has demonstrated that hypnosis is one of the most versatile and useful of health care tools for both physical and mental health. Hypnosis has been used in psychological and medical practice for a long time. It is now routinely taught in over a third of accredited schools of medicine and in Ph.D. and diploma programs in both counseling and clinical psychology. A 2002 grant from APA to the Counseling Psychology (D 17) Multicultural (D 45) and Hypnosis (D 30) Divisions focused on the integration of hypnosis into Ph.D. programs.

Psychological Hypnosis is an essentially culture-free adjunctive treatment modality that has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of disorders.  It is grounded in an enormous foundation of empirical research. Hypnosis involves attentive perception and concentration, which leads to controlled imagination. It  might be explained to new clients as the kind of focused attention and concentration one can have when absorbed in a good book, a movie, or even watching cloud shapes change in the sky. Unfortunately, it is often misunderstood as the practitioner controlling the participant.

People can be taught to use their ability to enter the state of hypnosis for a wide range of psychological and medical interventions. Pain control, habit control (smoking cessation, weight reduction, increasing exercise), sport performance enhancement, enhancing the effects of cognitive-behavioral therapy, treatment of eating disorders, depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder as well as hypnosis to create a state of general being (relaxation, mindfulness) are some of the areas that have been effectively treated with hypnosis. Hypnosis has been approved as an intervention by the American Psychological Association (Division 30 of APA is the Society of Psychological Hypnosis), the American Medical Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the World Federation of Mental Health, among others.