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rjmason May 16th, 2006 01:10 PM

Vegas hypnotist -is this for real?
Newbie here looking for answers. My In-laws recently attended an "adults only" hypnotist show in Las Vegas. The hypnotist selected audience members to be hypnotized. I"m sure you all know the drill here. The selected individuals did all sorts of sexual (or inferd sexual acts) from masterbating a Teddy Bear to having an orgasm when another sneezes. My question here is are these acts real? I find it highly unlikely that a hypnotist could randomly select a group people everyday that can be hypnotized AND perform such acts. My rational thinking says these are likely actors and it is all in fun. ( I find it to be rather embarassing and certainly not something I would care to see) I would like to hear the opinions of the Drs. in this field- Do you find this type act degrades your profession? Is it ethical? Is it a form of abuse if these people were not in full control of their capacities? I would think in this day of lawsuit happy lawyers a participant could easily sue a hypnotist for "suggesting" this type of behavior. I know in the scheme of things this is really no big deal. But it really bothered me. Esp. that my In laws where so convinced that it was real. So, I ask the question- is it "real" or are these actors. Thanks for any input -Russ

William Reid May 16th, 2006 07:19 PM

Re: Vegas hypnotist -is this for real?
First and foremost, such performers and stage acts should never be confused with clinical professionals or therapeutic settings. Indeed, that behavior by a hypnotherapist -- even separate from his or her therapeutic practice -- would be considered unethical.

Second, stage hypnotists with a bit of talent do lots of things that seem surprizing and amazing, usually without actors so far as I know. They are having fun with the audience and making a living being entertainers. The audience volunteers are having fun, too. Count on it. Third, just in case anyone was thinking of learning to hypnotize people for their own exploitive pleasure, think again. There are several shysters who advertise such "teaching." You'll lose both your money and your pride.


Da Friendly Puter Tech May 17th, 2006 01:53 PM

Re: Vegas hypnotist -is this for real?
Hey Russ,

The short answer here is - I really dont know. *grinning*, But I do have a few thoughts on it.

Hypnotism is not "failsafe", and some people are a lot easier to hypnotize than others. There is basically a scale with some people being extremely easy to hypnotize, and a few people being completely impossible to hypnotize - with the majority falling in between of course.

For those who are extremely easy to hypnotize there are certain character traits that more or less goes with that ability. The same goes with the ones that are impossible to hypnotize.

So here are my thoughts on shows like the one you say.

1. It is entirely possible that several, all or some of the targets where hired by the hypnotist. Lets not kid ourselves - its a show and nothing more.

2. I can actually imagine a skilled hypnotist learning to gage the people in the audience and fairly accurately find the ones that are easier to hypnotize. I would think he then has some folks he knows or maybe even hires, and that he always knows he can count on if he doesnt think he sees someone hypnotizable enough.

As Dr. Reid said there is a HUGE difference between ethical and skilled hypno-therapists, and the people doing shows like that.

As you - I certainly dont feel comfortable with a hypnotist using his knowledge and skills for entertainment like that. Its pretty disgusting, and definitely questionable. If the person in the audience agree's to participate though, then I dont think there is anything illegal about it.

Da Friendly Puter Tech

rjmason May 22nd, 2006 05:21 PM

Re: Vegas hypnotist -is this for real?
Thanks for the input. My sister in law went to a hypnotist to stop smoking, it has been 9 weeks now and she has not smoked! Fantastic! I asked her how long the seesion took and she said about 2hrs total. She said it took about 45 minutes to "go under". This is one reason why I question the "ability" of a stage hypnotist. He is/was able to put these people "under" in about 1 minute. Possible? I don't know. Remember, this is a group- on a stage. No prior contact or consultation. Thanks again for taking the time to respond

William Reid May 22nd, 2006 05:53 PM

Re: Vegas hypnotist -is this for real?
Thanks for stopping by. Tell your friends.

Da Friendly Puter Tech May 22nd, 2006 07:03 PM

Re: Vegas hypnotist -is this for real?
Ohh, but that is why Dr. Reid said not to confuse stage shows with real hypnotic work.

Hypnotism in its pure form is really incredibly simple, and we all participate in it every day in some form or another. Good sales people use it, advertisement use it, the TV - dont even get me started on the tv... or the news for that matter....

Hypnotism is based on people being suggestible - ie you can get them to imagine something is real well enough that it becomes real for them.

A few years back I got into my car to go to work in the morning, and the radio talk show hosts had a hypnotist on the show. He was trying to explain how essentially simple hypnotism is.

He obviously knew that one of the radio hosts were easy to set off when it came to giggling. So in the middle of the conversation with the two radio show hosts the hypnotist told the one female host that he didnt think she would able to read the news, because she would be giggling.

Just that little suggestion to her, got her imagining having a giggle fit when trying to read the news.

Of course - when it came time to read the news the poor woman was in stitches laughing so hard. It was fairly comical to listen to, but it didnt sound all too pleasant for the radio host.

Whenever she tried to compose herself the hypnotist would say "see what I said, it really is impossible to read when you laugh so hard" or something similar to that. This started up the giggle fit again.

THis is VERY different from actually affecting a lasting change in someone with some real work.

The next day the radio talk show host could read the news with no trouble, so there wasnt a lasting effect to the suggestions imposed by the hypnotist.

Affecting lasting change in smokers is notoriously not easy..... And a totally different hypnotic ball game.

Da Friendly Puter Tech

William Reid November 23rd, 2007 11:51 AM

Re: Vegas hypnotist -is this for real?
Thanks for reading this thread! The Law, Ethics and Psychotherapy Forum gets a lot of readers, but few new posts. You are invited to contribute statements, comments or questions to keep the forum alive. Pick something you like, or something you don't like, but don't let the threads go stagnant! All I ask is that we avoid personal questions from patients (we can't do clinical work or second-guess therapists here, but we can have professional discussions among clinicians about ethics or forensic scenarios). We also avoid personal attacks.

The possibilities are endless. You can simply reply to a post in an existing thread, or start a new one. Do you have questions or experiences that involve the ethics or legal aspects of training? clinical work? termination? malpractice or malpractice lawsuits? forensic careers? criminal matters related to mental health? boundaries? work with courts or lawyers? work in correctional institutions? work with parolees or probationers? clinician impairment? laws affecting practice?

Choose something you're familiar with or something you want to know more about. If you want suggestions, you're welcome to check out my website at

Bill Reid, Forum Administrator

David Morgan July 8th, 2010 07:01 PM

Re: Vegas hypnotist -is this for real?
Stage hypnosis is a far cry from 'real' hypnosis. The same way that stage magicians aren't actually performing 'magic'.

From Wikipedia:

Stage hypnosis
Main article: Stage hypnosis

Stage hypnosis is a form of entertainment, traditionally employed in a club or theatre before an audience. Due to stage hypnotists' showmanship, many people believe that hypnosis is a form of mind control. Stage hypnotists typically attempt to hypnotise the entire audience and then select individuals who are "under" to come up on stage and perform embarrassing acts, while the audience watches. However, the effects of stage hypnosis are probably due to a combination of psychological factors, participant selection, suggestibility, physical manipulation, stagecraft, and trickery.[75] The desire to be the centre of attention, having an excuse to violate their own fear suppressors and the pressure to please are thought to convince subjects to 'play along'.[76][page needed] Books by stage hypnotists sometimes explicitly describe the use of deception in their acts, for example, Ormond McGill's New Encyclopedia of Stage Hypnosis describes an entire "fake hypnosis" act which depends upon the use of private whispers throughout.

[The hypnotist whispers off-microphone:] “We are going to have some good laughs on the audience and fool them… so when I tell you to do some funny things, do exactly as I secretly tell you. Okay? Swell.” (Then deliberately wink at the spectator in a friendly fashion.)[77]Las Vegas Hotels

Stage hypnosis traditionally employs two fundamental strategies Las Vegas:

1. Participant selection. Preliminary suggestion tests, such as asking the audience to clasp their hands and suggesting List of Vegas Attractions they cannot be separated, are usually used to select out the most suggestible and compliant subjects from the audience. By asking for volunteers to mount the stage, the performer also tends to select the most extroverted members of the audience.Adult Vegas Shows
2. Deception of the audience. Stage hypnotists are performers who traditionally, but not always, employ a variety of "sleight of hand" strategies to mislead their audience for dramatic effect.

The strategies of deception employed in traditional stage hypnosis can be categorised as follows:

1. Off-microphone whispers. The hypnotist lowers his microphone and whispers secret instructions to the participant on stage, outside of the audience's hearing. These may involve requests to "play along" or fake hypnotic responses.
2. Failure to challenge. The stage hypnotist pretends to challenge subjects to defy a suggestion, e.g., "You cannot stand up out of your chair because your backside is stuck down with glue." However, no specific cue is given to the participants to begin their effort ("Start trying now!"). This creates the illusion that a specific challenge has been issued and effort made to defy it.
3. Fake hypnosis tricks. Stage hypnosis literature contains a large repertoire of sleight of hand tricks, of the kind used by professional illusionists. None of these tricks require any hypnosis or suggestion, depending on physical manipulation and audience deception. The most famous example of this type is the "human plank" trick, which involves making a subject's body become rigid (cataleptic) and suspending them horizontally between two chairs, at which point the hypnotist will often stand upon their chest for dramatic effect. This has nothing to do with hypnosis, but simply depends on the fact that when subjects are positioned in the correct way they can support more weight than the audience assumes.
Of course, it is possible that there are some other factors, some suggestion used. Having someone up on stage etc, even if they aren't paid by the performer, does apply a certain sort of pressure.

I think it is interesting that there doesn't seem to be a ton of documentation about people who have been 'hypnotized' admitting that they weren't in fact hypnotized.

William Reid July 12th, 2010 08:20 AM

Re: Vegas hypnotist -is this for real?
Good point. Someone should do a study -- maybe some "exit interviews" of participants with follow up a few days later. I'll bet most were hypnotized, but having said that, trance is a very simple state and one that everyone can experience easily when willing.

I did clinical hypnosis a few years ago, with limited applicability and some success, but drifted away from it. One of the people who trained me said that everything a clinician can do in trance can also be done outside of trance.

sayuri August 16th, 2010 02:16 PM

Re: Vegas hypnotist -is this for real?

Originally Posted by William Reid (Post 7013)
Monte Carlo Vegas New York New York Hotel Vegas
Good point. Someone should do a study -- maybe some "exit interviews" of participants with follow up a few days later. I'll bet most were hypnotized, but having said that, trance is a very simple state and one that everyone can experience easily when willing.


Originally Posted by William Reid (Post 7013)

I did clinical hypnosis a few years ago, with limited applicability and some success, but drifted away from it. One of the people who trained me said that everything a clinician can do in trance can also be done outside of trance.

Ooooo sounds very interesting. Can you post any of this?

S. Wei
Luxor Vegas
Las Vegas City Center

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