For those who are interested in some of its origins, here is a brief history of Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy. It is by no means an exhaustive list but more of an overview.

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Franz Anton Mesmer.

1734 – 1815.

Franz Anton Mesmer was a German physician that invented the term ‘animal magnetism’. His technique was later coined with the phrase ‘mesmerised‘ and ‘mesmerism‘. In 1774 he produced an ‘artificial tide’ in a patient suffering from hysteria (Francisca Osterlin). He used magnets in this ‘tide’ and she was relieved of her symptoms for several hours. His theory that we had metal inside our bodies was proved false. It was only many years realised he had, in fact, caused a trance effect.

Marquis De Puysegr.

1751 – 1825.

Marquis De Puysegr studied ‘Mesmerism’ and was one of the first to produce a sleeping state with a client. This ‘sleeping trance’ state became more accepted with hypnotherapists of the day and the procedure was later known as ‘hypnotic induction’.

Ettienne de Cuvilliers.

1755 – 1841.

Ettienne de Cuvilliers began as a follower of Mesmer but did not believe in the existence of a ‘magnetic fluid’. He instead emphasized the role of the mental process of belief and suggestibility. He was later credited as using the prefix “Hypno” in words such as hypnotic, hypnosis and hypnotist.

James Braid.

1975 – 1860.

James Braid was a Scottish scientist who is considered by many to be the first genuine hypnotherapist and ‘father of modern hypnotism’. He developed an interest in Hypnosis after watching a demonstration on Magnetism but believed no ‘magnetism’ had taken place at all. He studied this constantly to gain a better understanding. He came to realise (via self-hypnosis), that it was in no way linked to the ‘gaze, charisma or magnetism’ of the operator.

John Elliotson.

1791 – 1868.

John Elliotson was a professor, an author, a teacher and one of the first men in Britain to use acupuncture. He developed an interest in Mesmerism after seeing demonstrations in 1837. He used his new found skills on two sisters (Okey sisters) who suffered epilepsy. During one session he inserted at large needle (painlessly) into the neck of Elizabeth Okey whilst she was mesmerised.

James Esdaile.

1808 – 1859.

James Esdaile was a Scottish surgeon, the son of a reverend. He suffered from bronchitis and asthma. He was also an advocate of Mesmer and began to use this on patients as a pain relief. The procedure Esdaile used took several hours and was mentally and physically exhausting for him. However, with his success rate growing, he gained a wide reputation for performing painless surgery.

Esdaile is thought by many to have been a pioneer in the use of hypnotherapy for surgical anaesthesia prior to the discovery of chloroform.

Sigmund Freud.

1856 – 1939.

Sigmund Freud is often described as the father of psychoanalysis but this was much later on in life. He began his career at the Vienna General Hospital, moved from department to department and spent time in the psychiatric clinic. In 1886 he set up his own practice dealing with ‘nervous disorders’. He developed an interest in the ‘unconscious’ and met Jean-Martin Charcot who was conducting scientific research into hypnosis. Freud accepted this and along with his mentor Josef Breur, began using hypnosis in his clinical work. One particular client (Anna O) was invited to talk about her symptoms whilst hypnotised and her symptoms reduced. Freud later moved into the ‘talking cure’. Here the client would remain awake and be encouraged to speak freely about anything that came into their mind. Freud called this ‘free association’. He later included dream analysis into his work.

Hippolyte Bernheim.

1840 – 1919.

Hippolyte Bernheim was a French physician and neurologist. He developed an interest in Hypnotherapy and in particular the theory of suggestibility with clients. He believed the more suggestible the client, the greater the greater the beneficial impact of the treatment.

Jean-Martin Charcot.

1825 – 1893.

Jean-Martin Charcot was a French neurologist and professor of anatomical pathology. He was known as the father of modern neurology and the ‘Napoleon of Neuroses’. He used hypnotism to treat hysteria and other abnormal mental conditions.

Emile Coue.

1857 – 1926.

Emil Coue was a French psychologist and pharmacist who leaned heavily towards ‘optimistic auto-suggestion’. In 1901 he studied under Bernheim. A famous quote of his is “I have never cured a patient in my life. All I do is show people how they can cure themselves”. He believed in the power of medication but also believed that by using auto-suggestion, he could amplify the action of the medication with a ‘thought of cure’. He believed that if we think ‘I am not feeling well’, then our state will remain, however, if we instead believed ‘I can feel healthy’ then our subconscious would radiate this to our being. He noted that children, in particular, seemed to benefit from this technique.

Milton Erikson.

1901 – 1980.

Milton Erikson was an American psychiatrist and psychologist. He is a corner stone in the world of Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy. He used stories from his past to show how powerful the unconscious mind really is (many in his book ‘My Voice Will Go with You’). Erikson was a late developer and was both dyslexic and colour blind. He developed Polio at 17 and recalls overhearing doctors telling his mother that he would be dead by the morning. He ‘mentally’ rebelled against that idea and was determined to see another sunrise. Needless to say, he astounded doctors by not dying but was paralysed. He began to focus on his body and willed it to return to its normal state. Slowly but surely this paralysis reduced albeit he never recovered completely.

He believed that the unconscious mind is always aware, always listening, whether or not the patient was in trance and suggestions could be made at any given time.

Dave Elman.

1900 – 1967.

Dave Elman began his career on stage and radio as a musician/comedian/hypnotist. He later believed he could assist the medical profession with hypnosis regarding pain relief and developed the ‘rapid induction’ (how to induce a hypnotic trance at speed). This was a huge leap in the world of hypnotherapy, as inductions up until that point took a long time to achieve. The speed in which he was able to induce a hypnotic trance, assisted many professions engaging hypnotherapy as an alternative therapeutic tool.

Gil Boyne.

1924 – 2010.

Gil Boyne was originally a stage hypnotist but found this unfulfilling. He too realised the therapeutic benefits and was the founder of ‘Transforming Therapy’. He was influenced by Erikson and counselling giants such as Fritz Perls and Carl Rogers. He had a regression-based approach and believed in the self-healing power of the subconscious mind. He also believed the mind can find its own solutions to its own issues. He fought tirelessly against legal frameworks that restricted hypnotherapy to the medical professionals which had been ignoring its therapeutic benefits.

A Few Celebrities Who Have Used Hypnosis

  • Tiger Woods – Concentration,
  • Fergie – Black Eyed Peas – Weight Loss,
  • Bruce Willis – Stuttering,
  • Mark Knopfler – Smoking,
  • Orlando Bloom – Weight Loss,
  • Sylvester Stallone – Lack of Confidence and Self Belief (before he made Rocky),
  • Drew Barrymore – Smoking,
  • Sophie Dahl – Weight loss,
  • Nigel Benn (Boxer) – Confidence before a championship fight which he went on to win,
  • Julia Roberts – Stuttering,
  • Matt Damon – Smoking,
  • Kevin Costner – Sea Sickness,
  • Kate Middleton – Childbirth (sometimes referred to as ‘Hypno-birthing),
  • Geri Halliwell – Weight Loss and
  • Reece Witherspoon –  Lack of Confidence and Insecurities.