The Society of Psychological Hypnosis, Division 30 of the American Psychological Association defines hypnosis as:
“A state of consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral
awareness characterized by an enhanced capacity for response to suggestion.”
This shift in consciousness enables us to tap into many of our natural abilities and allows us to make change more quickly. Hypnosis is a state of inner absorption, concentration, and focused attention. It is like using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun and make them more powerful. Similarly, when our minds are concentrated and focused, we are able to use our minds more powerfully. Because hypnosis allows people to use more of their potential, learning self-hypnosis is the ultimate act of self-control.
While there is agreement that certain effects of hypnosis exist, and with imaging we have shown that different parts of the brain are firing when a person is using hypnosis, there are still some differences of opinion within the research and clinical communities about how hypnosis works. Some researchers believe that hypnosis can be used by individuals to the degree they possess a hypnotic trait, much as they have traits associated with height, body size, hair color, etc. Other professionals who study and use hypnosis believe hypnotic ability can be learned and can be enhanced through practice. But research does demonstrate that hypnotic communication and suggestions effectively change aspects of the person’s physiological and neurological functions.
Well Psychotherapy uses tools of clinical hypnosis to help clients bring about both psychological and physiological change in three main ways. First, they may use mental imagery or one’s imagination. The mind is capable of using imagery, even if it is only symbolic, to assist us in bringing about the changes we are working toward. A second basic hypnotic method is to present ideas or suggestions to the patient. In a state of concentrated attention, ideas and suggestions that are compatible with what the patient wants have a more powerful impact on the mind. Finally, hypnosis may be used for unconscious exploration, to better understand underlying motivations or identify whether past events or experiences are associated with causing a problem. The effectiveness of hypnosis appears to lie in the way in which it bypasses the critical observation and interference of the conscious mind, allowing the client's intentions for change to take effect.
from American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (www.asch.net)