by Tim Brunson, PhD
Frequently I hear or read therapists and members of the media loosely using the terms hypnosis and guided imagery. Rarely do their comments reflect any knowledge of the definition, similarities, or differences between the two. This gives the public the impression that they are two separate concepts. This is partially true and partially false.
Hypnosis has been defined many different ways. Many authorities, such as the American Medical Association, explain that hypnosis is an altered state in which the subject is highly suggestible. Others talk about increased access to the subconscious mind, a term which I often object to as an inaccurate concept. One of the definitions that I prefer is that hypnosis is a state where a person's critical faculty is bypassed and selective thinking can occur. This was David Elman's definition. There is another definition that I like even better – one that is based upon traditional thought as well as recent innovations in mind/body health and neurology. According to this train of thought, hypnosis is the process whereby resistance to change is reduced and selective thought becomes more efficient. It seems that final definition more closely explains why the phenomenon produces results. Note that with this view an altered state may occur. However, it is not a requirement.