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Del Morrill, M.S. C.C.H


A Center for Counseling & Hypnosis
Tacoma, Washington, USA
(253) 752-1506

Stage Hypnosis: Helpful or Not?


      I have recently become interested in hypnosis and am considering a career change (to hypnotherapy and/or stage hypnosis). I am currently reading Michael Yapko's clinical hypnosis textbook "Trancework" and am intrigued by his rather critical attitude regarding stage hypnosis. As you may already know, he believes stage hypnosis is bad for the field of hypnosis in general, because it:

 * . . . promotes misconceptions about hypnosis. “Unrealistic concepts can lead to disappointment and disillusionment in the client.”

           * . . . promotes obedience and conforming to peer pressure and the giving up of personal responsibility to the hypnotist.”


          You have some links to stage hypnotists on your site and so, I assume, you do not have such a harsh attitude as Mr. Yapko, I would be very interested in any of your thoughts on the subject. I realize you must be very busy, but thanks for your time.



            First of all, let me say, that I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on what I’m about to say.  In fact, I hope it would raise a bit of discussion amongst hypnotists and hypnotherapists. Basically I have to agree with Mr. Yapko due to the amount of re-education I have to do with the clients who come in to see me. Most are very much influenced by seeing stage hypnosis done or by the movies and television versions of it.

             The reason I'm not quite as rigid about this is that stage hypnosis is like a 2-edge sword - one part promotes the awareness of how powerful your imagination is and therefore how powerful hypnosis can be.  An ethical Hypnotist lets his audience understand how that can be used therapeutically. However, the other side of the sword is that of promoting the impression that the hypnotist is actually making you do something, and you are in his/her power. 

             I suppose that if stage hypnotism can continue to get people to come to hypnotherapists who use hypnosis to help them make changes then I can't overly complain.  I just wish more of them would be more outward about the therapeutic value of what they are doing, for the larger understanding and future therapy of their audience members.

             One of the most effective things I ever saw done to dispel the idea that the hypnotist was making people do things they couldn't stop doing was this:

             First, after doing various silly things, he asked the group to "pretend" to take off their clothes in front of the audience, which of course, they went thru the motions of doing so. Then he left out just one word, saying, "Now, I want you to take off your clothes in front of this audience."  Everyone on the stage  emerged immediately, and the oldest lady in the group was so angry that she “gave him the finger” as she stomped off the stage.  He used that time, then, to remind the audience that they were in charge.

             Another hypnotist merely asked those on the stage, one by one, if they could hear him (after he had finished working with the group), and whether or not they felt they could stop at any time during the fun. Without exception, all could hear and all agreed they could have stopped “playing the game” at any time.

             Another stage hypnotist that I saw simply talked to the audience afterwards, dispelling the misconceptions and reminding them of how powerful hypnosis is for many issues, proceeding to give a list of symptoms/issues that hypnosis works well with.

             I consider these kind of stage hypnotists to be the most ethical.  Others need to learn more about how they are affecting their audience’s concepts of hypnosis and it’s therapeutic values.

             Good luck in your adventure.  I’m sure that you will find a way to make this part of your profession work in a healthy way.





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