Important Notice Regarding Hypnosis and the American Medical Association


Introduction: 

The Presidents of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) and the Society of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (SCEH) have received a communication from the American Medical Association (AMA) that raises issues of concern for all three organizations.  At the request of the AMA, we are publishing the following notice through our Newsletters in order to bring this important information to the attention of all our members.

Concerns of the American Medical Association (Summarized):

The American Medical Association (AMA) has brought to the attention of both the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) and the Society of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (SCEH) that many individuals using hypnosis, some of whom may be members of one or both Societies, may be making the inaccurate statement that hypnosis is approved by the AMA as a legitimate therapy for medical or psychological purposes.  The Societies have been advised by the AMA that this statement is inaccurate, and refers to a 1958 Council on Mental Health report that was rescinded by the AMA in 1987.  If any members of the Societies are utilizing the name or initials of the AMA, they are requested to remove the name or initials of the AMA from those products, services, and/or promotional materials.  The AMA objects to the use of its name in connection with hypnosis as it could imply the AMA's endorsement of those specific products and/or services and could violate the rights of the AMA including significant infringement of its trademark.

Background:

In a 1987 review, the AMA rescinded almost all the policies it had endorsed from 1891 to 1958.  The only policies the AMA retained concerned internal matters and AMA members’ representation of the AMA and its position to the government. All policies related to diagnostic and therapeutic modalities were rescinded. Among those rescinded by the AMA was its 1958 report on hypnosis. As a result of that decision, the AMA now has no official position on the use of hypnosis.  Since the AMA had rescinded its policy about hypnosis, and members of the Societies must be accurate in their presentations about hypnosis, it is not appropriate for members of either ASCH or SCEH to state that the AMA recognizes or endorses hypnosis for any purpose.

While ASCH and SCEH respect the current position of the AMA, the Societies acknowledge that the 1958 AMA report, now rescinded, had long been considered a landmark contribution.  Many of its observations remain relevant and persuasive.  For example, the 1958 report stated that "the use of hypnosis had a recognized place in the medical armamentarium and is a useful technique in the treatment of certain illnesses when employed by qualified medical and dental personnel."  Further, it said that health care professional "might find hypnosis valuable as a therapeutic adjunct within the specific field of their professional competence."  The report "emphasized that instruction limited to induction techniques alone should be discouraged and that integrated teaching programs should include the indications and limitations for its use within the specific areas involved."  Importantly, the report urged that providers should utilize hypnosis for purposes related to their particular specialties and within the range of their competence.  In addition, it said: "The use of hypnosis for entertainment purposes is vigorously condemned.  Active participation in high-level research is to be encouraged." 

Both ASCH and SCEH endorse that report's conclusions.  Indeed, those statements form the basis of many of the principles of our Codes of Ethics and Standards of Professional Behavior.  The Societies also believe that their members have a clear ethical obligation to be accurate in the statements about hypnosis.  While the AMA has rescinded its endorsements of its 1958 report and policy, this in no way invalidates those statements in this report that are firmly grounded in scientific knowledge and clinical experience.  Despite the decision of the AMA to rescind this among many of its policies, members of ASCH and SCEH are aware that since 1957 a body of evidenced based research has been published, documenting the cost effectiveness and efficacy of hypnosis in specific clinical settings.  In addition, fundamental advances in neuroscience and brain function in health and illness are made possible by utilizing medical hypnosis in the laboratory.  This body of literature is extensive and is relied on by licensed clinicians and university researchers alike. ASCH and SCEH will continue to review and develop evidence on the efficacy of hypnosis as an adjunct to the treatment of numerous conditions, working toward all professional societies' recognition of the benefits of hypnosis.

Conclusion:

ASCH and SCEH join hands in urging their members to respect the concerns raised by the AMA by reviewing any promotional materials used in their practices and, if they discover statements which misrepresent the current stance of the AMA, making appropriate corrections. ASCH and SCEH also urge all members who teach hypnosis to review their teaching materials and take steps to insure that the current stance of the AMA toward hypnosis is represented accurately in their educational endeavors.