Clinical Hypnosis as an Empty Syringe

Knowing of my interest and training in clinical hypnosis, a friend recently asked, “Can you give me the best hypnosis scripts to make me stop eating ?” My (mildly obese) friend posed the question in a somewhat mocking and derisive manner. I smiled, and we soon found ourselves talking about something else.

My major professor during my internship at a regional medical school liked to say, “Hypnosis is an empty syringe. I do not teach anyone hypnosis unless I know what they are going to put in the syringe.” His emphasis, of course, was to teach the trance induction skills only to trained mental health professionals, who knew what to do with the trance experience once it had been achieved and were also prepared to deal with the lifting and re-living of repressed memories (i.e., abreactions), should this take place.

Clinical hypnosis can be an effective approach to habit control (e.g., smoking), weight control, and pain management. It can also facilitate progress in conventional psychotherapy but is not, in itself, psychotherapy.

Individuals who believe that clinical hypnosis may have something to offer them are encouraged to ask a potential therapist if their license reflects an endorsement in clinical hypnosis and/or if they are certified by either of the two professional organizations: the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis or the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.

— Andrew J. Billups, PsyD

About ajb

I am clinical psychologist and academic coach with more than twenty years of psychotherapy, academic coaching, and training experience. I operate from my base camp in the Chesapeake Bay Country of Tidewater Virginia. I have a long-term interest in the relationship among public policy, education, mental health, poverty, and change language.
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