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The International Society of Hypnosis (ISH)


Hypnosis is a naturally-occurring phenomenon that pre-dates theoretical debate on the subject. Mesmer hypothesized that ‘disease’ was a direct result of an imbalance of a physical force which he called ‘animal magnetism’. He believed that, by re-distributing these magnetic fluids, he could effect both psychological and physical change in the patient. Specifically, he believed that he was harnessing an ethereal force and that he could cause it to flow through his own body, into a series of iron rods and onto his patients’ bodies. During the process, the patient had one or more affected seizures, known as ‘crises’, and this led to a marked change in their physical well being. And, although Mesmer was forced to retire, following a Royal Commission, in 1784, which investigated the validity of his technique, both animal magnetism and hypnosis were subjects which continued to be investigated throughout Europe.

The First International Congresses

The First International Congress for Experimental and Therapeutic Hypnotism was held in Paris in August, 1889; at the meeting a range of scientists, physicians and theorists—including Charcot, Bernheim, Liébeault and Freud—formulated and elaborated on the theories of hypnosis at the time. This congress was followed by a second international meeting in 1900. However, it was not until 1959 that the International Society was formed. Dr Bernard Raginsky, a Canadian, set up the International Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, and this new organization worked alongside the already existing Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (SCEH) which was set up in 1949. Interestingly, SCEH had a journal which became the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (IJCEH), which has been, for many years, the gold standard for hypnosis research.

Moving to the Present Day

The society’s first congress, The International Congress for Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine, was also held in Paris in 1965. It is interesting that the hypnosis section at the Royal Society of Medicine, which was founded by David Waxman in 1978, bears a similar title—namely, ‘The Section of Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine’. Further congresses ensued in Japan (1967), Germany (1970) and Sweden (1973). It was in Sweden that the society changed its name to The International Society of Hypnosis (ISH). The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis became the society’s official journal and Martin Orne remained the editor for thirty years. Since then, a congress has been held every three years: it has been held in Philadelphia, Melbourne (twice), Glasgow, San Diego, Munich, Singapore, Acapulco and Rome. ISH has over 1650 members and a list of over 40 constituent members around the world.
In the present day, The International Society of Hypnosis continues to encourage health professionals and academics both to debate and research hypnosis in the scientific and clinical domains. It also provides up-to-date training for leading physicians, dentists, psychologists and registered psychotherapists in the field.

David Kraft PhD
Member of the Council for the Section of Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine
Member of Council for the British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis (BSCAH)
Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine
UKCP Accredited and Registered Psychotherapist
Accredited by BSCAH 


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