Product reviews for Practising Safe Hypnosis

Melvin A. Gravitz, PhD, George Washington University
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.
Guest | 16/06/2005 01:00
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