Using the PCI-HAP to Measure the Domains of Hypnotism

Following Weitzenhoffer (2002), we distinguish “hypnosis” from “hypnotism:”  “I will otherwise generally reserve the term, “hypnosis for the state, and the term, hypnotism, for the production, study and use of suggestion with the state of hypnosis presumably being present, whether or not it adds anything tangible to the situation” (p. 210).  In addition to mapping various aspects of subjective experience, such as imagery, affect, internal dialogue, and alterations in awareness and experience, the PCI-HAP operationalizes aspects or domains of hypnotism as defined by various theorists as essential to the nature of hypnotism:  suggestibility (Schumaker, 1991; Sheehan, 1979), altered state (trance state) effects (Holroyd, 2003; Weitzenhoffer, 2002), and expectancy (Kirsch, 1991, 2000).

The PCI-HAP measures what we (Pekala, 2010, 2011; Pekala et al., 2006; 2010a,b,) have elsewhere called hypnotic imagoic suggestibility, a subset of Kirsch and Braffman’s (1999, 2001) hypnotic imaginative suggestibility.  An item for the PCI-HAP asks that the client “go on a vacation somewhere to a beautiful place and have a very relaxing and very wonderful time.”  Imagery and fantasy has been implicated as an important part of hypnotism by many theorists (Hilgard, 1979; Kogon et al., 1998; Sheehan, 1979) and the aforementioned item maps an aspect of this ability.

Additionally, a pre-assessment form asks questions concerning estimated hypnotic depth (how hypnotized the client feels they are going to be) and estimated therapeutic efficacy (how helpful the client feels hypnotism is going to be for their problems and concerns.)  The aforementioned generates important data on expectancy (Kirsch, 2000); variables which, according to very recent research, account for about 30% of the relative variance associated with the perception of being hypnotized (Pekala et al., 2010a,b).  The post-assessment debriefing form further generates useful data concerning eye catalepsy effects, post-hypnotic therapeutic efficacy, self-reported hypnotic depth, and whether individuals may have fallen asleep during hypnotism.  This data is typed into an EXCEL program which generates a 5 page report on the various hypnotic “talents” endorsed by the participant.

Hypnotic Utilization Via the PCI-HAP

The data from the EXCEL print-out can be used to tailor subsequent hypnotic interventions to the client’s phenomenological talents.  Erickson talked about utilization of the client’s verbal and behavioral responses to generate hypnotic suggestions congruent with those responses (Erickson, Rossi, & Rossi, 1976).  For clinicians who may not have the genius of Erickson’s observational abilities, there is another way of determining what aspects of a client’s subjective experiences may be activated by hypnotism.

This is done by simply asking the client what phenomenological processes/contents they have experienced during hypnotism via the use of a standardized self-report instrument like the PCI, and comparing those processes/contents against a normative data base.  By knowing what phenomenological processes/contents are activated, the clinician can then generate process-congruent suggestions to help the client use hypnotism for their symptoms and their problems.  This approach may also be especially useful for the beginning hypnosis student (Pekala & Wickramasekera, 2007).