Unlocking the Mystery of Hypnosis: A Journey Through the History of Hypnotherapy

A closer look at the history of Hypnotherapy

Jannik J. Overmeyer

8/21/20233 min read


In the realm of alternative therapies, few practices have captured the human imagination quite like hypnotherapy. It's a technique that's been portrayed as both magical and mystical in popular culture, but its roots delve deep into the annals of history. In fact, inscriptions have been found that are over 4000 years old that describe the hypnotic state.

Even the ancient Greeks and Romans successfully made use of hypnosis for therapeutic means, calling it temple sleep.

However, for this blog post, we'll explore the "modern" history of hypnosis and hypnotherapy to help you understand its evolution and potential benefits.

The Mesmeric Beginnings

Our journey into the world of hypnotherapy begins in the late 18th century with Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer, a German physician who also spend a few years of his life in Frauenfeld, Switzerland, and who had a penchant for mysticism. Mesmer believed in the existence of a universal fluid that could be manipulated to cure ailments. He called this fluid "animal magnetism."

Mesmer's practice involved inducing trances in his patients, often with dramatic hand gestures and intense eye contact. He believed that by doing so, he could balance the flow of this mystical fluid, thereby healing various illnesses. While his methods gained popularity and were successful in treating ailments and illnesses, and were known as "mesmerism", they were not recognized by medical associations, and his work was described as charlatanism. Today, the term "mesmerized" that is often used in the English language is based on Franz Mesmer.

The Pioneering Work of James Braid & Dr. James Esdaile

Hypnotherapy, as we know it today, took a significant turn with the contributions of James Braid & James Esdaile, two Scottish surgeons. In the 19th century, Braid was the first to coin the term "hypnosis," derived from the Greek god "Hypnos," the God of Sleep.

Braid recognized that the trance-like state induced by Mesmer and others was not sleep but a unique psychological phenomenon. He also discarded the notion of animal magnetism, suggesting that the power of suggestion played a more significant role in hypnosis.

Esdaile proved the power of hypnosis by being able to successfully perform surgeries under a hypnotic state. He was able to perform pain-free surgeries in Calcutta, India, which was revolutionary as anesthetics as we know them today had not yet been invented. The hypnotic method of his surgeries, not only took the patient's pain away but also gave them a 25% higher survival rate.

Hypnotherapy in the 20th Century

Hypnotherapy gradually evolved into a legitimate therapeutic technique during the 20th century. It gained recognition for its potential in treating various psychological and medical conditions. This period saw significant research and clinical work conducted by pioneers like Milton H. Erickson and Dave Elman, who further refined the practice.

Erickson's innovative approach emphasized the importance of tailoring hypnotherapy to each individual's unique needs and experiences. This patient-centered approach laid the foundation for modern hypnotherapy techniques.

Elman developed techniques around rapid induction of the hypnotic state and focused on the efficiency of hypnotherapy. His goal was to cure ailments as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Hypnotherapy in the Modern Age

In the modern age, hypnotherapy has found its place in mainstream healthcare. It is widely used to manage stress, anxiety, phobias, and even chronic pain. Moreover, scientific research has supported its effectiveness in many therapeutic contexts.

Recent advancements in neuroscience have shed light on the neurological underpinnings of hypnosis, further demystifying this ancient practice. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have shown that hypnosis can influence brain activity, making it a promising avenue for treating various mental health issues.

Book Your Hypnotherapy Session

Having explored the intriguing history and evolution of hypnotherapy, you might be wondering if it could be the solution you've been seeking. Hypnotherapy offers a unique approach to address a wide range of issues, from smoking cessation over to stress relief, chronic pain, anxiety, addictions, and much more.

If you're ready to experience the potential benefits of hypnotherapy, I'd like invite you to take the next step and book a session with me. Explore the power of your subconscious mind and embark on a journey toward personal transformation.


  1. "Franz Anton Mesmer and the History of Hypnosis"

  2. "Handbook of Medical and Psychological Hypnosis"

  3. "Hypnotherapy." Mayo Clinic