A book review by Tim Brunson PhD
Whenever I encounter a thoughtful book that positively portrays the field of hypnotherapy, I enthusiastically welcome the hard work and effort that its composition entailed. That was my initial reaction when I picked up The Hypnosis Treatment Option: Proven Solutions for Pain, Insomnia, Stress, Obesity, and Other Common Health Problems by Scott D. Lewis, DC. My enthusiasm for such work almost always results in a hearty appreciation and unquestionable endorsement and recommendation. However, this time I am going to make an exception. Nevertheless, let me begin my review by sharing what I appreciate about this book.
The Hypnosis Treatment Option pretty much reads like a never-ending litany of reasons why an individual, coach, or clinician should incorporate just about anything that can be called hypnosis into their transformative efforts. Indeed, Dr. Lewis presents a seemingly endless cascade of evidence supporting the concept. Furthermore, based entirely upon his claims, he has benefitted numerous people as a result of what he refers to as his "hypnosis practice." And, when I read his assertion, despite beliefs to the contrary, that hypnosis is substantially supported by scientific research, I immediately decided that this was a book warranting serious attention. On the other hand, regardless of loads of cited studies, his enthusiasm, and his hubris, I quickly began to question his logic and motives for writing this book.
First of all, Dr. Lewis bases his book upon a definition of hypnosis that is not necessarily supported by many recent developments in neurology and human intelligence modeling. The "widely held" definition that is provided early in Chapter 1 – and later given again in a shortened form in the glossary – is neither operational nor up-to-date. This concern is exacerbated as he continually loosely uses terms such as "under hypnosis," which are more colloquial and anachronistic rather than precise and modern. Clearly, Dr. Lewis has over 25 years practicing something that has been generally referred to as hypnosis – albeit in terms of how it was understood back in the 1950's and 60's.
I was also puzzled by what he apparently saw as the necessity of including chapters on the history of hypnosis and his opinions of how someone should go about choosing a hypnotist. To some degree, his rendition of hypnosis history is much better than I have seen written by other mental health and medical practitioners, who have adjunctively delved into hypnosis as a sideline. However, some of the core issues and claims regarding Drs. Messmer and Esdaile would have been much more accurate had he actually consulted their writings rather than repeating the often misquoted "facts" that normally perpetuate less professional hypnosis training programs. Furthermore, although I appreciated the tangential comments that he made regarding Kroger and Hilgard, he abruptly ended his historical treatise with laudatory comments regarding Dr. Erickson as if his was the final word on the evolution of hypnosis. There were several other notables – both from the 19th century and Erickson contemporaries -- who should have been mentioned provided that this book was to be a relevant historical resource. Otherwise, he should have left the chapter out as it seems to be an odd addition to his book.
Additionally, his chapter on choosing a hypnotist did not seem to fit. Essentially, he was spouting opinions, inaccurate facts, and premature conclusions that are pretty much verbatim to what I have seen on several websites. This propaganda is proffered by one extremely small group that is predominantly found within the United States and does not represent the opinions of the majority of practitioners, who have a tremendous amount of experience in this field. This led me to question whether Dr. Lewis' motives for writing this book was limited to advocacy of the concept of hypnosis – as I will explore further below.
When assessing whether a book is indeed a contribution and should be recommended, I focus primarily what audience will best be served by the author's intentions and accomplishments. As this book does not provide an accurate or state-of-the-art level of information, it is clearly not an academic work that can or should be used to train future practitioners. As it does not provide clear how-to advice and procedures, it fails both as a self-help and clinical publication. As it does not discuss new hypotheses or future developments, it clearly does not contribute to the evolution of the field or its use within our societies or culture.
What this book does, however, is advocate. It advocates the use of hypnosis among a very limited number of potential practitioners, who, it appears, would only be effective should they mimic Dr. Lewis' path. It also seems to promote his stature among his narrowly defined group of peers. However, as I have recently read too many similar hypnosis books that seem to have that as their primary goal, I do not feel that the book is one that I could with clear conscience recommend to the general public or practitioners in the medical, mental health, or coaching professions.