Specially trained psychologists have been using hypnosis to facilitate behavioral change and good mental health for years. Even so, with comedy shows using "hypnosis" for a laugh, skepticism about the effectiveness of the technique still is wildly high. That all could change thanks to research that shows hypnosis is physiologically measurable.

Clinical hypnosis is increasing, and now experts know why it works

As Jackie Dives of The Globe and Mail reports, clinical trials have shown that hypnosis is a legitimate treatment option for a range of conditions, such as phobias, irritable bowel syndrome and pain. Major medical centers such as the Mayo Clinic now include it in their repertoire, as well. Experts also have a better understanding of exactly why hypnosis works--a 2016 Stanford University study that used fMRI imaging showed

  • Decreased activity in the brain's salience network (specifically, within the dorsal anterior cingulate)
  • Greater connectivity between the brain's executive control network (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) and insula
  • Reduced connections between the executive control network and the "default mode" network (includes the medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortex)

These areas of the brain are linked to stimuli processing, preparing for action, pain processing and self-reflection. Subsequently, hypnosis can affect how aware you are of what you're doing or experiencing, as well as the amount of discomfort or distress you're in. You can disassociate in a positive way that removes physical and mental hurdles.

Hypnosis for work

Given that science now has a picture of how hypnosis alters the brain, it's worth keeping it in mind when psychological or physical trouble is keeping you from achieving your best at work. For example, hypnosis could make distracting back pain symptoms--which roughly half of all working Americans admit to having--more tolerable. You also could use hypnosis to address crippling performance anxiety before presentations, or to tackle social anxiety that keeps you from networking well. It could even help you perceive your cramped cubicle as more inviting and open. In all of these circumstances, you could see your productivity and creativity take a jump.

But keep in mind...

The idea that you lose your will during hypnosis is largely a myth, as the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis points out. You won't reveal or do anything that, on some level, you don't want to reveal or do. But because hypnosis allows for disassociation, it's not something to play with. Only a professional should work with you, and you should have clear goals going into the process. You also should see it as a supplement to, not a replacement for, other medical, psychological or conflict management tools and resources.

Something else to consider is whether to disclose your desire for or use of hypnosis to your boss. You are not obligated to do so. But communicating to them about it might mean that they're better able to see your situation and needs, which could result in policy or daily operational change. You might need to talk to HR representatives to make sure that your insurance covers some or all of the cost of the hypnosis session, too.

Lastly, think about organizational ethics. Despite the fact that hypnosis could be incredibly helpful to certain individuals, no one should pressure you to undergo it to keep your job or to help the team. Do it for yourself after weighing all the pros and cons, and if it doesn't work, stay positive. Hypnosis is, after all, just one means toward an end.