Hypnosis has a definite value in the practice of medicine, which was shown very early in its history, and as medical men acquire a better understanding of psychology, its value will probably increase. In general practice the technique can be utilized to quiet and reassure the patient and to establish that desirable state of rapport between physician and patient .
In Europe, particularly in Germany and France, it has been used to some extent as a direct surgical aid in both major and minor procedures. In certain patients it can be used as a substitute for drugs in producing anaesthesia, and since the time of Esdaille it has been used repeatedly for this purpose. It has the advantage over anaesthetics of affording the patient peace of mind, a sense of security and confidence, and it has no afteraffects. However, even at the present day its application in the field of surgery should be limited properly to the minor field until the general medical practitioner as well as the laity have a better understanding of psychological manifestations.
It has also been used successfully in obstetrics and undoubtedly would be used much more if there were not such a misapprehensive, fearful attitude toward it. A primary objection to its use by the medical man, remediable by proper study of the practice, is the difficulty experienced in inducing and maintaining trances. No hypnotists know for a certainty whether or not they are going to succeed with a particular subject at a given time or whether their technique for the occasion will be sufficient for the maintenance of the trance. But this is more fortunate than otherwise, since the therapeutic and medical application of hypnosis should not be taken lightly or left in the hands of the dilettante.
In the field of psychological medicine, however, hypnosis offers a unique approach to many mental problems and difficulties. Its value lies in the fact that it allows the physician to approach directly the subconsciousness of the person with its disturbing conflicts. It often serves as a gateway through his resistances and allows indirect approaches to many difficulties which otherwise could not be attacked.
Also of paramount importance is the fact that the hypnotized patient is in a receptive state for psychotherapy. The difficulty involved in getting patients to accept therapeutic suggestions directly constitutes the greatest obstacle in psychotherapy. Hypnosis renders the person receptive. Indeed, as has been mentioned before, it is a state of enhanced suggestibility. Consequently, by means of hypnotism it is possible to implant therapeutic ideas upon the subconsciousness and to have them take effect when endless numbers of suggestions given in the waking state would be given no heed or even actively resisted. Thus the patient accepts hypnotic suggestions and acts upon them without conscious awareness and without building defense reactions. In so doing he allows them to become a valid part of his mental patterns, all the more so since fundamentally, if not immediately, he does desire aid against his conflicts. By this means patients can be given new mental equipment wherewith to deal with their difficulties, a new equipment which does not have to pass the protective scrutiny of their consciousness.
Hypnosis is not to be looked upon as panacea nor is it to be discarded because it has definite limitations. On the contrary, it is a valuable addition to the medical armamentarium, most particularly to that of the psychiatrist.
Perhaps the most fertile and productive application of hypnotism is in the sphere of experimental psychology. More and more laboratories are becoming interested in the peculiar and significant problems which hypnosis renders available for study. This rapidly increasing interest in experimental hypnotism both in this country and abroad may be taken as an indication of a growing realization of the fruitfulness of hypnosis as a field of scientific research. It constitutes almost a virginal territory for psychological investigations, and it appears to offer a good approach to an understanding of many mental mechanisms which have hitherto defied comprehension.