Practising Safe Hypnosis

A risk management guide

By: Roger Hambleton


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Size: 234mm x 154mm
Pages : 224
ISBN : 9781899836949
Format: Hardback
Published: July 2002

This unique book comprehensively explores the damage that can be caused by the misapplication of hypnotic techniques in therapy, laboratory, and stage performance settings. The laws of assault and negligence are used to assess the hypnotist’s criminal and personal injury liability in the English, American and Australian courts. Important reading for all hypnotherapists, hypnotists and members of the legal and medical professions, Practising Safe Hypnosis brings together a wide range of recent research and legal case histories. Topics include:

  • Civil and criminal assault
  • Induction
  • Informed consent
  • Hypnotic coercion
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Termination.

In addition, the reader will find commentary on the history of hypnosis; induction scripts for use in conjunction with best practice; theoretical comparisons and discussion on the nature of hypnosis, including the controversial debate surrounding hypnosis as an altered state of consciousness.


Picture for author Roger Hambleton

Roger Hambleton

Roger Hambleton had experience as both a prosecutor and defender in criminal cases as well as in civil law. He held a Bachelor's degree in psychology and criminology in addition to a Master of Laws degree. For his work on hypnosis he was awarded an MPhil research degree by Manchester Metropolitan University. He also held an advanced practitioner of clinical hypnotherapy diploma, retiring as a senior partner of a British firm of solicitors.


  1. The author, Roger Hambleton, is a retired British prosecutor and defense lawyer with experience in both civil and criminal matters. He holds degrees in law and psychology as well as an interest in hypnosis. In this monograph, he has produced a unique and useful addition to the literature in which he examines the legal implications of misused hypnosis mcthodology in clinical, experimental, and other settings. It must be noted, however, that he does so from the point of view of British common and case law; but since American jurisprudence was originally based on and has been influenced by these precedents, it is possible for American researchers and practitioners to derive benefit from this monograph, provided that caveat is observed. Indeed, seemingly to underscore that point, Hambleton includes separate chapters on Australian and American law as pertains to hypnosis. There is also a listing of noteworthy British legal cases, which are discussed in the text and which may serve as precedents in the courts of the United States and other countries.

    The book begins with a brief discussion of the history and theories of hypnosis. In so doing, the author repeats the frequent error of attributing to James Braid the origins of the term “hypnosis.” A more careful review of the literature would have revealed that such nomenclature began with French authorities in the early 1800s. More to the point, he includes entertainment “for the amusement of an audience” and experimentation “for fun” by amateurs as areas where hypnosis is used (p. vi). The potential damage resulting from such applications is somewhat considered in the text, again with reference to British statutes and landmark cases.

    There is a subsequent chapter on induction methods, which briefly summarizes techniques and susceptibility. The definition of hypnosis is acknowledged to be complex, and it is noted that there is no universal definition; in legal situations, that can be a vital sticking point. Hambleton himself prefers to offer a definition in terms of behavioral characteristics; that is, he attempts an operational definition which he asserts is likely to be admissible as evidence of hypnosis in a court of law. Many observers of the field would be inclined to agree with him.

    In the next chapter on potential risks, there is consideration of possible psychological injury to the client, patient, or subject, when the modality is inappropriately employed. Adverse effects, complications, and even “unusual” reactions can be regarded as assault in law. In the determination of emotional damage, the author utilizes the DSM-IV as a benchmark, and he reviews the various diagnostic DSM categories in that frame of reference. This is followed by abstracts of six illustrative case studies in which harm was alleged. The dangers of hypnosis per se are then considered in both clinical and research settings. This is accompanied by discussion of reputed coercion, failure to terminate properly, and stage performances as potential hazards. Psychological injury stemming from alleged criminal or civic assault is considered from a British forensic viewpoint; but even so this portion of the book is especially relevant, as is the chapter on negligence and breaching the duty to care. One does not have to be a lawyer to understand the issues presented, and clinicians and researchers will find these discussions important.

    There is a final section on the principles making for good practice. Every hypnosis professional and scientist should be cognizant of the points covered here.

    One area lacking sufficient consideration and discussion is the potential risks when hypnosis is attempted or undertaken by so-called “lay hypnotists.” Such persons generally lack the necessary education and understanding of the essentials required for proper application of hypnosis. Without appropriate and sufficient preparation and experience, the full benefits of hypnosis cannot be obtained and the potentials for risks are heightened.

    Hambleton's book is highly recommended for all who seek to utilize hypnosis properly, ethically, and legally in various settings. This volume truly belongs on the bookshelf of all serious practitioners and investigators who should be cognizant of possible pitfalls in using this valuable modality. Members of the legal community can also benefit from familiarity with the contents of this monograph.
  2. We all have read with satisfaction about the wonders of hypnosis. We may tend to neglect the important point of this unique book. In our modern litigious society it is useful. If not necessary, to consider “the risks and adverse psychological effects that can arise from hypnosis” (p.v) Mr. Roger Hambleton takes his data from solid sources. As a matter of fact, the six cases he analyses in detail are from work published by well-known names in the hypnosis specialty. On the basis of his study he outlines five risk categories in the use of hypnosis and guides the reader “to avoid some adverse effects by the application of good practice management” (p.v). In this categorization the author relies heavily on the famous and controversial DSM.

    The book contains an enlightening comparison of British, Australian and American law. Interestingly enough, the codes of ethical conduct of most occupations employing hypnosis are sufficiently specific to avoid the illegalities described by the author.

    This is an important volume. Practitioners shall consult it when legal questions arise in the use of hypnosis. Students of hypnotism and trainees shall find here a concise learning guide. Ethicists shall realize that it is not easy to break the law with hypnosis for the careful practitioner or researcher. All will be reassured: hypnosis is not merely effective as a healing modality but also safe. The investigation conducted by Mr. Humbleton has all the hallmarks of serious research. This book is well worth reading.
  3. All training in hypnosis that is asserted as vocational should attend to the issues covered in this book. It is well researched and goes further than any volume to date in covering the range of questions that we attend to in the professional application of hypnosis. Not all will agree with Hambleton's interpretations of the evidence, and some key questions are not attended to at all. However any trainer of ethical use of hypnosis and hypnotherapy might find aspects of the book to form useful springboards for classroom discussions. A copy in every practice would be a useful reference tool.
  4. Roger Hambleton draws on his very extensive legal knowledge, and hypnotic research to produce this clear account of the situation concerning hypnotism and the law in Britain, the USA and Australia. It should be essential reading for anyone using hypnosis, whatever the circumstances, and be a set book for training schools.

    Mr Hambleton evaluates the risks, and the legal implications of hypnosis used in the three major settings; for therapy, for entertainment, and for research. He also demolishes some of the myths surrounding hypnotic coercion in criminal acts.

    He emphasises the need for complete dehypnosis, and the dangers if this is not carried out. In general terms hypnosis is both safe and effective when practised ethically and with care.

    As a previous prosecutor and defender in criminal and civil cases, holding degrees in psychology, criminology, and law, in addition to a diploma in advanced clinical hypnotherapy the author is extremely well qualified in his subject. Nevertheless, this book is not merely for other lawyers or hypnotists. It is concise, factual, and easy to read for anyone interested in this subject.
  5. There are basically three principal areas for the use of hypnosis, but I wonder how often we have thought about this.

    The three areas are:
    The above are areas in which professionals work. but we should never forget the amateur” who plays with hypnosis, once again usually for pure entertainment. Hypnosis within Clinical Therapy is now being more accepted as complementary to orthodox therapies whereby even GPs now are more willing, in some areas, to refer patients to such practitioners.

    1. in a cliniical setting - where hypnosis is used as a therapy in the sense that we use it as Hypnotherapists in practice.

    2. Upon the stage and on TV where we see hypnosis used, it is alleged, for the amusement and entertainment of the members of the audience

    3. In a laboratory where it features in experimentation and research.

    Perhaps we naively assume that, at least in the three main areas of use, hypnosis is used safely and is carefully regulated. This book shows that our assumption may not be true as much as we would hope. In this highly original, unique and sometimes disturbing book, we explore the actual damage that can be caused by the improper application of hypnosis in all three of the highlighted areas - including. Worryingly, our own field of therapy.

    The book surveys the situation in England, America and Australia and studies the use of legislation over assault and negligence, which is used to assess the practitioner's criminal arid personal injury liability. You will see and appreciate just why it is important that you are fully insured within your own practice. You cannot afford not to be.

    The book is a disturbing but vital read to all of us in the Hypnotherapy profession, as well as to allied professionals, as it carefully brings together a wide range of research and case history for our examination and consideration.

    Topics included are: civil and criminal assault, induction, informed consent, hypnotic coercion, pre-existing conditions and termination.

    If you travel through this fascinating book you will discover commentary upon the history of hypnosis: induction scripts for use in conjunction with we collectively call “best practice” comparisons and discussion on the whole nature of hypnosis based on both real and theoretical issues.

    -˜What are your views on what is called -˜Altered state of consciousness”? Read the book and I am convinced that you will have a total reawakening of your own awareness and a reassessment of your beliefs and understanding. This is a book which MUST appear on all practitioner's book shelves as well as on all training courses. The book is well worth reading in its own right BUT I think it also makes us think as practitioners. and that is no bad thing. Don't be afraid that all your ideas and beliefs are going to be overturned. Hypnosis IS effective as a healing resource. It IS safe in the hands of the professional.

    This book gives the chance to the reader to learn more about the nature and development of hypnosis and its suitability as a healing tool.

    One of the most fascinating books I have read for a long time and well worth YOUR time in reading it too.
  6. The sub-title of the book is A Risk Management Guide, which didn't make me rush to pick it up because I'm an optimist by nature. It came as a pleasant surprise to find I really quite enjoyed it, and without doubt our profession is better for it having been written, and would be even better if therapists sat down and read it.

    The author is a retired solicitor with a strong background in hypnosis who explores the damage that can be done by the misapplication of hypnosis in clinical, stage, and experimental settings. He uses the laws of negligence and assault to assess our criminal and personal injury liability and covers research and legal judgments regarding coercion.

    For your money you also get a neat history of hypnosis, principle theories and a chapter on the nature of trance. Towards the end the author even includes some inductions and sensible advice about practice management that should keep us all out of trouble.

    The kind of book you should read before you need to, and a healthy book for trainers to recommend to their students.
  7. This book should be essential reading for any practising Clinical Hypnotherapist. It addresses the all important topic of safe practice and offers a comprehensive review of the potential damage which may arise from the unskilled application of hypnotic techniques.

    I particularly like the practical nature of this book. Roger Hambleton gives sound explanations to the hypnotist in how to avoid -˜adverse effects' and at the same time maintain a high standard of practice management.

    Commentary is offered on the history of hypnosis and the nature of present day hypnosis including a section on the controversial debate about hypnosis being an -˜altered state of consciousness'.

    The author has skilfully managed to draw together recent research together with legal case histories to give the reader a good understanding of the criminal and personal injury liability of the hypnotist. He writes from the perspective of an experienced prosecutor and defender in criminal cases as well as in civil law, and holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology and criminology in addition to Master of Laws degree. Each of the main legal points covered in the book is supported by relevant and interesting case histories.

    As a whole, this book offers a comprehensive and svstematic review of the issues surrounding the safe use of hypnosis within the context of laboratory research into hypnosis, hypnosis in a therapeutic setting and finally within stage hypnosis. Six detailed cases are helpfully included to illustrate the legal points in question.

    The text is well laid out and begins by exploring the history and theories of hypnosis and goes on to offer an explanation of the nature of hypnosis and the process of hypnotic trance induction. To the qualified practitioner, these early chapters will probably represent useful revision of basic concepts rather than any new learning. To the researcher, general medical or legal practitioner however, these early chapters offer a vital platform on which to build the detailed legal information which forms the core of the book.

    As the book progresses, the reader is given an overview of the risk of hypnosis and is introduced to the categories into which these known risks fall. Essentially these are:
    In chapter four, the author offers a particularly helpful discussion on the nature and definition of psychological injury and uses the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) as the benchmark. He gives some useful examples which are backed up with further definitions in the final appendix.

    • The inherent dangers of Hypnosis per se and its therapeutic use;

    • Failure to terminate;

    • Coercion; Performance on stage.

    The remainder of the book evaluates each of these risk areas in detail, with subsequent chapters dedicated to the topics of criminal assault, civil assault, consent and negligence.

    As the book draws to a close, two entire chapters are dedicated the subjects of Australian law and American law respectively. Whilst this may not be of particular interest to the UK reader, it none the less reinforces the importance of safe practice.

    Finally, there is a helpful summary of the key elements of good practice, providing a useful concise overview of the main points of learning throughout the book. For example it was interesting to learn that “informed consent cannot apply to the induction of a hypnotic trance and other hypnotic procedures, because among other things, it does not involve surgery or invasive tests.”

    Of particular interest to the practising hypnotist is an appendix giving good examples of both permissive and authoritarian induction scripts, a deepener and termination or awakening script, so gathering and putting into practice many of the concepts outlined in the body of the book.

    This is an important reference book and should be on the book shelf of every practitioner of hypnosis who is engaged in therapeutic work, entertainment or research. It would equally be of interest to those in the medical and legal professions.
  8. This book is a very brave attempt to cover what is a deserving subject of the culpability of damage to people from side effects due to having undergone hypnotic procedures. It is not, however, what the title professes it to be - a risk management guide. Hambleton, a lawyer who also holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology and criminology, a Master's degree in law, MPhil research degree from Manchester University, and an advanced practitioner diploma in clinical hypnotherapy, fails to grasp many of the principles of the application of hypnosis.

    The most profound mistake that Hamilton makes is that he normalises hypnosis. Damage that is caused to people under hetero-hypnosis is rarely initiated by the hypnosis itself but by the ineptitude in suggestion or negligence on behalf of the hypnotiser. The author gives almost no criteria by which hypnosis can be used in a profoundly safe manner and the reader is left with the sense that he is very poorly read in hypnosis and its applied therapeutic uses and contraindications.

    Hambleton's hypnosis research at the beginning of the book seems to have been guided solely by a literature search and never with contact with people who may have been damaged by hypnotic procedures. The literature search is selective and contradictory. He quotes major hypnotists saying they believe people can and are damaged during hypnotic procedures and others who believe the opposite. In his conclusions he ignores those who presents evidence that people can suffer damage during hypnotic procedures. He personally has plainly joined the lobby that deludes itself that all in the garden is rosy and hypnosis applied inappropriately will do nothing more then annoy people. Those using hypnosis would do well to remember the principles of do no harm, and this makes the first half of his book very dangerous.

    However, the book changes halfway through when he addresses the legal implications of accusations of damage due to hypnotic procedures in the fields of research, clinical practice and entertainment. Hambleton, who has been both a prosecutor and defender, clearly understands the artful dodger characteristics of the law in England, America and Australia where it is virtually impossible for those damaged during hypnotic procedures to gain redress via the legal system.

    It seems that courts have refused time and time again to recognise the grievances of those who have been damaged using hypnotic procedures in any circumstance. When hypnotists can never be sued for their mistakes and negligence, society is truly failing to uphold the safety of the public. I have during my career met many people who have been severely disturbed and damaged in the short and long term by the inappropriate use of hypnotic procedures both in clinical settings and due to stage hypnosis. I have also met many academics and people selling hypnosis trainings and services that refuse to acknowledge that the dangers of procedures applied inappropriately in co-ordination with hypnosis can be as harmful as running a car into a tree. When the car is driven properly it is a useful and often life-saving tool, but when the same car is driven recklessly it is a maiming and killing machine.

    This book is written by a lawyer who confirms the idiom that justice is really achievable in law. Those who win in the courts are normally the ones with the smartest lawyers, and who have the money to carry on legal cases until the other side is bankrupt or driven insane by the legal process.

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