Cognitive Behavioral Theory

Historical origins of the cognitive-behavioral hypnotic perspective can be most effectively explained through discussion of their split from the traditional state theories of hypnosis.

Thus, the history of the cognitive-behavioral perception of hypnosis can best be interpreted as a reaction to the established state theories of hypnosis. Criticisms of the state theories of hypnosis began with the Royal Commission that investigated Mesmerism in the late eighteenth century in France.

According to Mesmerism,disease was produced by an imbalance of fluids that permeated the body. Curative procedures consisted of passes made with the hands along a patient’s body in attempt to redistribute the imbalanced fluid (Ellenberger, 1970).

Traditional theorists cite the curative procedures used in Mesmerism as precursors to modern state conceptions of hypnosis. However, the Royal Commissioners concluded that the effects attributed by Mesmer to animal magnetism could be accounted for in terms of imagination and expectancy. In other words, these early critics reduced Mesmer’s ideas and the foundation of state theories of hypnosis to claiming that these early conceptions of hypnosis were a result of “faking” subjects and subjects who suffered from nervous or hysterical disorders rather than an imbalance of bodily fluids (Sarbin, 1962).

In the 1940’s and 1950’s, theorists explicitly began rejecting the notion that hypnotic responding could be explained as an altered state of consciousness or an imbalance of fluid, as was supported by state theorists (Lynn et al, 1989). However, not until the beginning of the early 1980’s did the controversies surrounding neodissociation and other traditional state theories warrant the labeling of this shift in thinking as the cognitive-behavioral hypnotic perspective. Early researchers (Sarbin and Barber) and more contemporary theorists (Spanos, Chaves, Coe, Lynn, Rhue) decided that instead of focusing solely upon the hypnotist or subject, more emphasis should be placed upon an interaction between the two. These researchers conceptualized hypnosis as a result of a unique interaction between hypnotist and subject. In support of this idea, researchers began to explore the interactional framework of hypnosis and heavily apply this emphasis to in depth studies of discrete hypnotic phenomena (Banyai, 1998).

As a result of this shift in thinking, the cognitive-behavioral hypnotic perspective arose as an explicit rejection of hypnotic state construct (Banyai, 1998). The support of a hypnotic state separates the more traditional views of hypnosis from the most modern conception of hypnosis, cognitive-behavioral, as a goal-directed behavior in which the subject is actively involved. Researchers such as Barber, Spanos, and Sarbin defined this non-state approach to hypnosis as hypnotic responding that is actively generated by subjects who used contextual information to create the experiences and behaviors that comprised the hypnotic role (Barber, 1969).