In the past, I have used a working definition of Hypnosis that my clients could understand and follow. I have defined hypnosis as the internal focus of attention to the extent that you ignore your external environment (EE) and become hyper-receptive to suggestions within your field of focus.

Here is an example: You go to the theater and before the movie begins you are aware of your squeaky chair, the A/C blowing on you and a strange musty odor in the room (external environment). The movie begins, and you become involved in the film that you ignore the squeaks, A/C, and odor (ignoring your EE). Then a puppy runs out into the road and is hit by a car, a child runs out, picks up the crying puppy and it dies in the child’s arms. When I describe this scene, it probably doesn’t evoke any particular feelings in your body, but when you see it on the movie screen, you feel something, a tightness, crying, sadness or some other emotion. That is the hyper-receptivity to the suggestion that the dog was hurt and died.

That’s it! No magic, no supernatural, no demons, no mind-reading, no one is having control over your mind. You do not go under; hypnosis is a condition of your mind that you use to affect profound changes quickly and easily. The hypnotist is only your guide; YOU make the changes you want to make.

I have used this definition and example for years, and it seems to make it easy for people to set aside misconceptions they have heard through movies, news reports, and others who don’t understand what hypnosis is or how it works.

Here are a couple of other definitions. You choose which one resonates best with you?

When marketing Hypnosis as a treatment modality perhaps Definition One below may be slightly more acceptable as described in an article entitled Interest and Attitudes About Hypnosis in a Large Community Sample (Montgomery, Sucala, Dillon, and Schnur, 2010)

(Psychology of Consciousness 2017) Theory, Research, and Practice. © 2017 American Psychological Association 2018, Vol. 5, No. 2, 212–220 2326-5523/18/$12.00 Retrieved from

Definition One:

“Hypnosis is an agreement between a person designated as the hypnotist and a person designated as the client or patient to participate in a psychotherapeutic technique based on the hypnotist providing suggestions for changes in sensation, perception, cognition, affect, mood, or behavior” (Montgomery et al., 2010).

Definition Two:

“Hypnosis is a state of consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness characterized by an enhanced capacity for response to suggestion” (Elkins, Barabasz, Council,& Spiegel, 2015).


Elkins, G. R., Barabasz, A. F., Council, J. R., & Spiegel, D. (2015). Advancing research and practice: The revised APA Division 30 definition of hypnosis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 63, 1–9.


 Montgomery, G. H., Hallquist, M. N., Schnur, J. B. David, D., Silverstein, J. H., & Bovbjerg, D. H. (2010). Mediators of a brief hypnosis intervention to control side effects in breast surgery patients: Response expectancies and emotional distress.

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78, 80–88.

Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, research, and practice. 2017. American Psychological Association 2018, Vol. 5, No. 2, 212–220 2326-5523/18/$12.00 Retrieved from