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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Whitaker

Where Did Hypnotherapy Originate?

Have you every wondered where hypnotherapy originated? Keep reading to find out!

In this article, we won’t be covering every person who contributed to the field of Hypnotherapy (that would take a good few books!) but will be looking at some significant contributors who have added to where hypnotherapy stands today.

1700’s - ‘Mesmerism’

You’ve probably heard of the term ‘mesmerism’, but have you ever wondered where it came from?

Well, there was an Austrian physician by the name of Franz Anton Mesmer (1734 – 1815), who started a movement known as ‘mesmerism’.

Mesmer believed that he could positively affect a fluid that was flowing through a patient’s body. He suspected that by removing blockages in the flow, he could help the patient to recover from emotional or physical disease.

He went on to name this phenomenon ‘Animal Magnetism’.

An image of Franz Mesmer performing magnetism
One of Mesmer's magnetism ceremonies

1800’s – Braid

James Braid was a Scottish surgeon (1795 – 1860) who some refer to as the ‘Father of Hypnosis’.

He introduced the term ‘hypnosis’ after becoming involved with animal magnetism for a short period of time – his interest began after watching a performance by Charles Lafontaine (a Swiss magnetic demonstrator).

He disagreed with Mesmer and believed that hypnosis caused the patient to be in a particular state of sleep, a trance. He believed that this sleep-like trance was a result of the eyes fatiguing.

The word ‘Hypnosis’

The word ‘hypnosis’ is related to Hypnos, the Greek God of sleep. Braid regretted naming it this after realising that hypnosis can be induced without sleep.

It was, unfortunately, too late to change the term as it had been spread and accepted widely.

Late 1800’s – Charcot & Bernheim

In the late 1800’s a French neurologist by the name of Jean Martin Charcot (1825 – 1893) believed hypnosis to be a special physiological state.

A fellow Frenchman, Hyppotite-Marie Bernheim (1840-1919) believed hypnosis to be a psychological state of heightened suggestibility.

1900’s – Milton Erickson

The psychiatrist, Milton Erickson (1901 – 1980),was the founder of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis. He developed the work of hypnosis, using positive suggestions to help his clients.

He believed that he could communicate with the subconscious mind – he was known to use stories, jokes and metaphors to do so.

A black & white photo of Milton Erickson
Milton Erickson


So, there we have it - A very brief history of hypnosis covering a few of the most significant contributors.

It’s likely that you’ve heard of at least one of these names. If not, at least you’ll now know where the word ‘mesmerise’ comes from, and hopefully understand a bit more about the history of hypnotherapy.


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