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Hypnosis for Medical Purposes

July 30, 2015
NCCIH Blog Team

One of the goals of the NCCIH Integrative Medicine Research Lecture Series is to provide overviews of the current state of research and practice involving complementary health approaches. Recently, we were delighted to host David Spiegel, M.D., who presented on “Tranceformation: Hypnosis in Brain and Body.” At Stanford University School of Medicine, Dr. Spiegel is Willson professor and associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, director of the Center on Stress and Health, and medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine. His fields of clinical and research experience include psycho-oncology, stress and health, pain control, psychoneuroendocrinology, sleep, and randomized clinical trials involving psychotherapy for cancer patients.

Dr. Spiegel opened with a brief history of hypnosis, explaining that it is “a state of aroused, attentive, focal concentration with diminished peripheral awareness.” The brain has “an amazing ability” to alter not only how a person reacts to perceptions but what it is that the person perceives, which is very useful in many aspects of medical care, Dr. Spiegel said. During the lecture, he described research showing that hypnotizability is a stable trait over time; about 15 percent of the population is highly hypnotizable. Dr. Spiegel also highlighted a few examples in which hypnosis was used as an adjunct approach to address pain, anxiety, somatic complications, and smoking cessation.


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