Hypnosis Terminology1-3

Hypnotic Trance or Pre-Suggestion Component is a deeply relaxed state with increased suggestibility and reduced critical faculties. Trances involve attention focusing through the use of imagery, distraction, or relaxation. Subjects focus on relaxation and disregard intrusive thoughts.

Direct Hypnotic Suggestion is a proposal made to a person in a hypnotic trance or a deeply relaxed state, characterized by the introduction of specific goals. The suggestion encourages changes in behavior, in the perception of symptoms, or in the control of physiological bodily functions. Examples of therapeutic direct hypnotic suggestions include reducing anxiety during dental procedures, decreasing perception of pain during labor, and controlling bleeding during surgery.

Post-Hypnotic Component is a proposal made to a person during hypnotic trance or deeply relaxed state which involves continued use of a new behavior, following termination of hypnosis. The post-hypnotic component aims to alter behavior, perception, or physiological control. Examples are recommending smoking cessation and teaching the ability to self-hypnotize. The ability to create self-hypnosis is the most important outcome from hypnosis teaching because it allows patients to recreate what the therapist has taught them.

Hypnotizability is how readily people respond to hypnosis techniques. Measured on scales or tests that score responsiveness to suggestion, a person’s hypnotizability can be graded as high, medium, or low. The ability to respond to many or a few suggestions is distributed on a bell-shaped curve. People who are low on hypnotizability can improve their response with practice.

Hypnotizability Scales are qualitative and quantitative measures of a person’s ability to respond to suggestions following hypnotic induction. Typically a trained hypnotist will read a script consisting of a hypnotic induction, followed by a series of test suggestions that vary in difficulty level.


1. NIH Technology Assessment Statement. Integration of behavioral and relaxation approaches into the treatment of pain and insomnia. Bethesda, MD; October 1995.

2. Vickers A, Zollman C. ABC of complementary medicine. Hypnosis and relaxation therapies. BMJ 1999;319:1346-1349.

3. Holroyd J, Obarski SK. Hypnosis for the seriously curious. Available at: http://www.hypnosis-research.org/hypnosis/serious.html. Accessed December 28, 1999.