Hypnosis has been a subject of interest for well over a century and it has been used since the beginning of civilization. In the past it was just a trance or a dream state, a ritual dance or perhaps meditation. Anything you do that absorbs your attention and keeps distractions away puts you in that trance state. It is there to help us deal with the world we live in. It is a coping mechanism. Everyone relies on going into a trance some way almost every day. Hypnosis has also become a major tool in psychology and medicine, so if you are curious there is plenty to study.
Doctor James Braid coined the term "hypnosis" from the Latin word for sleep back in 1841. Ever since then, hypnosis has been studied in every way and written about extensively. Because it was not regulated as a medical science in the early stages, many unscrupulous people made outrageous claims about it which created a bit of its mysterious reputation. Then Hollywood popularized its fantasized powers in many movies where people were put under a "spell" or made into a walking zombie under the control of the hypnotist. That is just pure fiction, that is not hypnosis.
The truth is that this is a powerful technique which can be used for tremendous good purposes in the right hands. The well trained hypnotherapist can help his subject experience amazingly effective trances that can resolve mental, emotional, or physical problems. The hypnotic tools that have been developed over the past century have been studied very carefully. Even the most well respected universities such as Stanford, Harvard, and many others have set up special programs dedicated to the study of hypnosis. This has resulted in a wealth of information about this subject.
Hypnosis has many fascinating areas that are far from the conventional path of academics. Some of the research has been on gizmos, for instance, there are lots of spinning disks, pulsating lights, rhythmic sounds all supposedly designed to promote a trance state. Some of these things proved to be a powerful trance inducing mechanism, others were just a joke. Other research studies documented how trance can improve performance in a given task, or help people change a habit. The point here is that there is information about the science of how hypnosis works, what happens inside the brain, as well as how it can even help with serious medical problems.
There is a great amount of research about hypnosis, the various techniques and all the different approaches to psychological problems that it can solve. If you are interested in psychology, you must study hypnosis. Although anyone can read about hypnosis and learn about how it works. There are many good books on hypnosis and you are advised to read many if you are truly interested in expanding your awareness about this subject. If you want to become an expert, you should get into a graduate school program in one of the health professions. At that point, I suggest you take practical workshops with qualified experts that teach the techniques to you in a supervised manner. A good student will study with many different experts in order to develop a broad perspective of how hypnosis works and it can be used.
Caution! I do not recommend that you read a book or study with some unqualified hypnotist to start using hypnosis on others. However, it is easy learn about it and to use it on yourself, and it is safe to do so. Using this tool on others is unethical, irresponsible and may get you or the subject into trouble. So, don't try to hypnotize someone if you are not qualified to do it. It is just like going to a dentist, you want someone who is a licensed expert not some jerk who read a book about it and wants to experiment on you. The best professionals to go to are the highly trained and well experienced specialists. Although there are some very qualified lay hypnotists out there, it is generally recommended to go to a psychologist or other health professional that is certified by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH.net); you can locate many experts through them.
For the aspiring professionals out there, you can find a schedule of workshops sponsored by ASCH on their website. There are also conventions and seminars about hypnosis by nationally recognized groups like the American Psychological Association (APA), International Society of Hypnosis (ISH), Society of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, (SCEH), the Milton Erickson Foundation and the American Academy of Medical Hypnoanalysts (AAMH). There are many APA approved doctoral programs that teach about hypnosis from either or both the experimental and clinical perspective.
If you are just curious and want to know more in general, the APA.org or ASCH.net websites contain a good amount of accurate information. There are plenty of websites about hypnosis but most of them are just trying to sell you worthless stuff that wont work as expected. Below is a list of books that are reliable sources of information. Also, you are welcome to drop by this blog and learn more as well.
I am a certified by ASCH as a Consultant in Clinical Hypnosis which indicates that I have the knowledge and experience in clinical hypnosis and also, I can supervise others in studying these techniques: www.JohnRyderPhD.com (for more info).
There are two major academic journals about hypnosis that are published regularly:
American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis
International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.
There are many good books about this subject starting with classic texts and going to the more modern; here is a short list of my favorites:
Hypnotherapy by Dave Elman
Hypnosis and Suggestion in Psychotherapy by H.Bernhein
Hypnotherapy - An Exploratory Casebook by Milton Erickson and Ernest Rossi
Trance and Treatment: Clinical Uses of Hypnosis by Herbert Spiegel and David Spiegel.
Trance-formations Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the Structure of Hypnosis by John Grinder and Richard Bandler
Hypnosis - Trance as a Coping Mechanism by Fred Frankel
Handbook of Hypnotic Suggestions and Metaphors ed. D.Corydon Hammond
Manual for Self-Hypnosis by D.Corydon Hammond
Hypnotic Induction and Suggestion by D.Corydon Hammond
Casebook of Clinical Hypnosis by Steven.J. Lynn, I. Kirsch, J.W. Rhue.
Essentials of Hypnosis by Michael Yapko
Trancework: An Introduction to the Practice of Clinical Hypnosis by Michael Yapko