A History of Hypnotherapy in London

London has a long and fascinating history of hypnotherapy, and has long been a centre for excellence in the field. I’m sure this comes as no surprise, as some of the best practice and research hospitals are globally recognised to be based in the UK’s capital city.

Hypnosis was first used professionally in London by Dr James Braid in the 19th century. He gave it the name “hypnotism” and did much to promote professional standards for this emerging branch of medicine. Braid was instrumental in removing pseudoscientific ideas about hypnosis, and instead promoted tried-and-tested, science based hypnotherapy. He is sometimes known as the ‘Father of Hypnosis’. You can read more about him in our article on the global history of hypnotherapy here: https://www.davidsamson.co.uk/2021/04/20/the-history-of-hypnotherapy/

Dr John Elliotson, who practised before Braid, is also considered a pioneer of hypnotherapy in London, though the former’s career is a contrast of valid discoveries that have helped the field of hypnotherapy, and pseudoscientific ideas which have fortunately been left well in the past. Despite his mistakes, it is said that his work paved the way for later Drs such as Braid.

Elliotson was made a professor at University College London in 1831 and a physician at University College Hospital in 1834. He used an early form of hypnotherapy called ‘mesmerism’. Incredibly, he performed over 1,800 surgeries in London without administering any kind of pain relief to the patients. This was all down to keeping the patients in a mesmeric state.

Elliotson also founded two London-based medical societies – the London Medical and Physical Society, was a forerunner of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical
Society and London’s influential Metropolitan School of Medicine. He was also one of the first British physicians to advocate using a stethoscope.

Dr Elliotson was somewhat of a contradiction. Whilst he was happy to use humans in his demonstrations and scientific explorations, he was one of London’s first ‘anti-vivisectionists’; protesting against experiments on animals in public lectures. Whilst one can argue that the difference is that humans can consent to their use and animals can’t, the people Elliotson used were very often young women from poor immigrant backgrounds who led lives of poverty.

He was friends with London literary greats like Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. Dickens even learned to practice mesmerism himself, and Collins mentions Dr Elliotson in one of his most well-known novels – The Moonstone.

Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, Dr Elliotson had more than his fair share of scandals. He had feuds and rivalries with Dr Braid and Thomas Wakley; founder of the highly esteemed medical journal The Lancet. He left UCL and UCH after The Lancet discredited him and the university ordered that he cease practising mesmerism on patients. He died in poverty and disrepute when he took hypnotherapy past the point of science and accuracy and into the realms of prophesying and mysticism.

Despite this, the work he did at the peak of his career, and his influence on hypnotherapy in London, cannot be denied. He showcased what the human body can endure, and how pain can be blocked and managed, when the mind is in a calm and controlled hypnotic state.

John Milne Bramwell came later, and he followed in the footsteps of Dr Braid. He travelled widely across Europe, visiting experts in hypnotherapy, so that he could learn and compare different methods and find the best one for his patients. In 1890, back in the UK, he gave a public demonstration of hypnosis as a method of pain management and anaesthesia in surgical and dental procedures.

The early pioneers in London helped establish a powerful legacy for future generations, they cemented London’s position as one of the top places in the world for clinical hypnosis. Hypnotherapy can help with crippling phobias, anxiety, IBS and much more. What is so great is that it is a non-invasive method of curing such problems, and often saves patients from having to take medications.

London is still at the forefront of hypnotherapy and science, and many expert practitioners, including myself, are based in the capital, where we can treat and help as many patients as possible. I have 18 years of experience as a clinical hypnotherapist in my London practice. I hold a Senior Qualification in Hypnotherapy Practice (SQHP) and a Diploma in Advanced Hypnotherapy (Dip.Adv.Hyp). My work has been featured on television, radio and in the media.

My work comes from a strong desire to help people make positive changes that will vastly improve their quality of life. I work in a caring and sympathetic manner and offer free 30 minute initial online consultations to anyone that is interested in seeking my help.

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