In 1892 the British Medical Association (BMA) commissioned a team of doctors to undertake an evaluation of the nature and effects of hypnotherapy. The Committee have to report that they have satisfied themselves of the genuineness of the hypnotic state.
The Committee are of opinion that as a therapeutic agent hypnotism is frequently effective in relieving pain, procuring sleep, and alleviating many functional ailments i.e., psycho-somatic complaints and anxiety disorders.
In 1955 the Psychological Medicine Group of the BMA consulted several experts on hypnosis from various fields. After two years of study and research, its final report was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), under the title ‘Medical use of Hypnotism’.
It concludes from a systematic review of available research that they were satisfied that hypnotism is of value and may be the treatment of choice in some cases of so-called psycho-somatic disorders. It may also be of value for revealing unrecognized motives and conflicts in such conditions. As a treatment, it has proved its ability to remove symptoms and to alter habits of thought and behavior.
In addition to the treatment of psychiatric disabilities, there is a place for hypnotism in the production of anesthesia or analgesia for surgical and dental operations, and in suitable subjects it is an effective method of relieving pain in childbirth without altering the normal course of labor.
The report was officially ‘approved by the British Medical Association. In other words, it was approved as official BMA policy. This statement goes on to say that, for the past hundred years there has been an abundance of evidence that psychological and physiological changes could be produced by hypnotism which were worth study on their own account.
In 1958, the American Medical Association (AMA) commissioned a similar report which endorses the 1955 BMA report and concludes,
That the use of hypnosis has a recognized place in the medical armamentarium and is a useful technique in the treatment of certain illnesses.
Again, the AMA council approved this report rendering hypnotherapy an orthodox treatment.
The Reference Committee on Hygiene, Public Health, and Industrial Health approved the report and commended the Council on Mental Health for its work. The House of Delegates adopted the Reference Committee report.
In 1995, the US National Institute for health compiled an official statement entitled "Integration of Behavioral & Relaxation Approaches into the Treatment of Chronic Pain & Insomnia".
This is an extensive report that includes a statement on the existing research in relation to hypnotherapy for chronic pain. It concludes that: The evidence supporting the effectiveness of hypnosis in alleviating chronic pain associated with cancer seems strong. In addition, the panel was presented with other data suggesting the effectiveness of hypnosis in other chronic pain conditions, which included irritable bowel syndrome and tension headaches.
In 1999, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a Clinical Review of current medical research on hypnotherapy and relaxation therapies, it concludes, there is strong evidence from randomised trials of the effectiveness of hypnosis and relaxation for anxiety, pain, nausea, and vomiting, phobias, obesity and anxiety panic disorders and insomnia, both acute and chronic pain, asthma and in irritable bowel syndrome.
In 2001, the Professional Affairs Board of the British Psychological Society published a report entitled The Nature of Hypnosis.
It opens with the following introductory remark:
"Hypnosis is a valid subject for scientific study and research and a proven therapeutic medium."
The report said: "Enough studies have now accumulated to suggest that the inclusion of hypnotic procedures may be beneficial in the management and treatment of a wide range of conditions and problems encountered in the practice of medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy."
"There is convincing evidence that hypnotic procedures are effective in the management and relief of both acute and chronic pain and in assisting in the alleviation of pain, discomfort and distress due to medical and dental procedures and childbirth."
"Hypnosis and the practice of self-hypnosis may significantly reduce general anxiety, tension and stress in a manner similar to other relaxation and self-regulation procedures."
"Likewise, hypnotic treatment may assist in insomnia in the same way as other relaxation methods."
"There is encouraging evidence demonstrating the beneficial effects of hypnotherapeutic procedures in alleviating the symptoms of a range of complaints that fall under the heading 'psychosomatic illness." These include tension headaches and migraine; asthma; gastro-intestinal complaints such as irritable bowel syndrome; warts; and possibly other skin complaints such as eczema, psoriasis and hives.
"There is evidence from several studies that its [hypnosis'] inclusion in a weight reduction program may significantly enhance outcome."
In 2003, a meta-analysis of the efficacy of hypnotherapy was published by two researchers from the university of Konstanz in Germany.
The study examined data on the efficacy of hypnotherapy across the board, though studies included mainly related to psychosomatic illness, test anxiety, smoking cessation and pain control during orthodox medical treatment.
The authors considered a total of 444 studies on hypnotherapy published prior to 2002. These showed that on average hypnotherapy achieved at least 64% success compared to 37% improvement among untreated control groups.
According to the authors this was an intentional underestimation. Their professed aim was to discover whether, even under the most skeptical weighing of the evidence, hypnotherapy was still proven effective. They showed conclusively that it was.
From data for over 6,000 patients, the findings suggest an average improvement in 27% of untreated patients over the term of the studies compared with a 74% success rate among those receiving hypnotherapy.
This is a high success rate given the fact that many of the studies measured included the treatment of addictions and medical conditions. The outcome rates for anxiety disorders alone, traditionally hypnotherapy's strongest application, were higher still.
In 2007 a meta-analysis from the Cochrane Collaboration found that the therapeutic effect of hypnotherapy was superior to that of usual medical management, for abdominal pain and composite primary IBS symptoms.
The answer is conclusive; Yes, hypnosis does work.