Building Bridges of Understanding

History of ISH

In order to understand the origins of The International Society of Hypnosis it is useful to first place hypnosis in the proper scientific context. Clinical hypnosis has been the subject of research and investigation for as long as modern science has been conducting empirical research. The scientists conducting this research have approached hypnosis from many different perspectives, and while not always in agreement theoretically, they shared both a fascination with the topic and respect for one another’s research efforts. It was this shared interest that encouraged collegial collaboration and the birth of a society.

The earliest studies of hypnosis in western medicine that received worldwide attention originated with the work of a Viennese doctor, Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). He theorized that disease was caused by imbalances of a physical force, which he called animal magnetism. Mesmer believed that cures could be achieved by redistributing this magnetic fluid — a procedure that typically resulted in pseudoepileptic seizures known as “crises”.

Mesmer’s claims of miraculous cures from the iron wands in a baquet of iron filings was investigated by a Royal Commission in France, chaired by Benjamin Franklin, in 1784. The interest in Mesmerism did not stop in spite of the commission’s verdict that the cures were the result of the “pure gold of imagination”. Instead, this phenomenon continued to be investigated with great vigor.

In France, there were two competing schools of thought on hypnosis. The Nancy School, founded by Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault (1823-1904), a French family physician, is considered by many the father of modern hypnotism. Liébeault subscribed to the work of James Braid (1795-1860), a Scottish ophthalmologist, who  had begun his own research on Mesmer’s magnetism.

Braid perceived the experience of his patients to be a psychological phenomenon resulting from suggestion, and coined the term “nervous sleep” or Neuro-Hypnosis to note the neurological basis. While Braid is often credited with originating the term hypnosis, there is evidence that the prefix “hypn” existed in French prior to Braid.

In the Nancy school, first Hippolyte Bernheim (1840-1919) and then later Emil Coué (1857-1926) focused on ego building and suggestion in hypnosis, and considered hypnosis to be a natural phenomenon. This was in opposition to the theories of another physician, Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893).

Charcot, Chief of Neurology at the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, considered hypnosis to be pathological, a form of induced hysteria.  He took issue with the School of Nancy.  However, because of his powerful position, his paper in l882 at the Académie des Sciences rehabilitated hypnosis as a subject for scientific study. In addition, Pierre Janet, a General Practitioner and psychologist who studied under Charcot, laid the early foundation for dissociative reactions and ego states with his important paper in 1889 on the desagregation mentale of the ego.

There were many other important contributors to the rising interest in researching the scientific basis of hypnosis and its therapeutic effects, not mentioned in this brief overview. The focus here has been on the competing schools of natural versus pathological hypnosis in France. It was in this scientific climate that the First International Congress for Experimental and Therapeutic Hypnotism was held in Paris, France August 8-12, 1889. Attendees included Jean-Martin Charcot, Hippolyte Bernheim, Sigmund Freud and Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault. This was followed by another international hypnotism congress in August 12-16, 1900.

It was not until 1959, however, that an international society was formed. Canadian physician, Bernard B. Raginsky was the founding president of the International Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, paralleling the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (SCEH) which had been founded in 1949 in the United States. SCEH produced a journal which after its 6th volume was called the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.

The founding secretary of ISCEH was John C. Watkins, PhD, whose initial job was to gather an international community of researchers into the ISCEH fold. In 1960, during the World Mental Health Year, he was awarded a plaque recognizing his “wise and outstanding contributions to the development of this world-wide organization” by the 24 countries that were the national divisions of ISCEH. These were: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chili, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany (west), Great Britain, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Turkey, Union of South Africa, United States, and Venezuela.

The first congress held by the ISCEH in 1965, was again held in Paris–a tribute to France’s long history of leading the way in hypnosis research. That congress was called The International Congress for Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine. Initially, efforts were made to hold International Society meetings every two years in different nations with affiliated societies sponsoring the conferences. While several were held in that format, the more successful were those specifically organized as international congresses, including Kyoto, Japan in 1967; Mainz, Germany in 1970; and Uppsala, Sweden in 1973.

It was at the congress in Uppsala, another city long associated with hypnosis research, that the society underwent a constitutional and a name change to The International Society of Hypnosis (ISH). Its presenters included Ernest Hilgard, Martin Orne, Ainsley Meares, Josephine Hilgard, Kay Thompson, Herbert Spiegel, John Hartland, Per-Olaf Wikstrom, P. Brugnoli, and Erika Fromm to name just a few of the stellar lineup of professionals from around the world. Ernest Hilgard served as the first president of this reorganized society. The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis was designated as the official journal of the society, and was edited for 30 years by Martin Orne. In addition, awards were created to honor the outstanding contributions of hypnosis researchers and clinicians from around the world, which bear the names of historically significant persons.

International Congresses of Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine traced their lineage from the first congress on hypnotism in 1889 as did the renamed ISH.  A congress has been held every three years since Uppsala, Sweden, the 6th ISH congress.  Philadelphia, USA was the 7th ; Melbourne, Australia the 8th; Glasgow, Scotland the 9th; Toronto, Canada the 10th; Leiden, The Netherlands the 11th;  Jerusalem, Israel the 12th (not held until 1992); Melbourne, Australia the 13th; San Diego, USA the 14th; Munich, Germany the 15th; Singapore the 16th(not held until 2004); Acapulco, Mexico the 17th; Rome, Italy the 18th.  ISH has boasted a membership of 1600 members, and 40 constituent societies from around the world.

In an ever changing world of economic and political upheavals, with vast technological and administrative challenges, the ISH remains dedicated to its mission to stimulate and to improve research, discussion, and publications pertinent to the scientific study and clinical application of hypnosis. It continues to encourage cooperative relations among scientific disciplines with regard to the study and applications of hypnosis, and to bring together persons who use hypnosis, and to set standards for professional training and adequacy in the field.

Julie H. Linden, PHD,  Chair, History Committee 2013


Ewin, D. (2005). Basic Workshop on Hypnosis, American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, slide presentation as part of the Standards of Training for ASCH.

Gravitz, M.A. & Gerton, M.I. (1984). Origins of the term hypnotism prior to Braid.American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 27, 107-110.

Hilgard, E. (1993). History of Research Centers and Professional Hypnosis Societies in the United States. IJCEH, July 1993, pp.173 – 190.

Loriedo, C. & Monacelli, G. (2011). From “Magical Sleep” to New Hypnosis. In, Loriedo, C.; Zeig, J.; &  Nardone,G. Transforming Ericksonian Methods. Milton Erickson Foundation Press. pp 23-42.

Spiegel, D. (2006). Editorial, Am J Psychiatry, September 2006; 163: 1646.

Watkins, J. (2010) Personal communication to ISH.

van der Kolk, B.A. & van der Hart, O. (1989). Pierre Janet and the breakdown of adaptation in psychological traumaAm J Psychiatry, Dec 1989; 146: 1530 – 1540.

 Letter from Jack Watkins 2010

History of the IJCEH

Compiled by the ISH Board of Directors

November 2013

From time to time individuals have asked about the International Society of Hypnosis and its relationship to the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. There is a long, complex, and exciting relationship between the IJCEH and ISH, which we have researched through interviews with past Editors, ISH and SCEH officers, as well as looking through archives of the journals. What follows is a result of these endeavors and we hope a summary to which others will add their collective memories.

In 1953 the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis was founded under the Editorship of Milton Kline. In 1959 its name, and reach, changed to the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. Several people championed this cause, led primarily by Bernard Raginsky, Jack Watkins and Jerome Schneck .

In 1959, there appeared two editorials, one from the editor as well as one from Bernard Raginsky, President,  International Society of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. The officers of both SCEH and ISCEH then were listed on the masthead of the journal. The SCEH and ISCEH worked together to support the journal. In 1960, an Editorial appeared referring to IJCEH as the “official journal of SCEH” perhaps thereby underlining the “ownership” of the journal.

Milton Kline remained its editor until 1960. Then Frank Kirkner became Editor, but was only able to do so for the year 1961. He was followed by Martin Orne, who edited the journal for 30 years, from 1962 until 1992. During Orne’s editorship, in 1965 all IJCEH subscriptions billings were processed through the editor’s office and after the IJCEH printing bills were paid as well as the subscriptions’ assistant, the remaining funds were used to cover the expenses of the editorial assistant and a part-time referencing assistant; as subscriptions grew, many back issues which had run out were reprinted from those funds so that full paper volumes could be sold to libraries and other institutions.

During the time that Orne was editor the journal was printed first by Waverly, which then merged with Williams & Wilkins, and later by Clark. It was during Orne’s tenure that ISCEH was dissolved and reconstituted as the ISH in 1973, with Hilgard as President and Watkins having worked to bring together the many societies around the world to join under the ISH umbrella. The close relationship and shared vision of the SCEH, ISCEH/ISH included the ISH presenting the IJCEH as a benefit to its members. For some period of time, at least from 1974 to 1993, one could even pay for the dues to ISH and subscription to the journal when joining the ASCH and SCEH. Jack Hilgard had felt strongly that the IJCEH must be included as part of the ISH dues in order to preserve the continuance of the IJCEH which he saw as the flagship of ISH and SCEH. Therefore, while it was possible for an ISH member to pay ISH dues with no IJCEH, the difference in savings was minimal, deliberately arranged by Hilgard to push IJCEH subscriptions to ISH members in the hopes of furthering research throughout the world.

The ISH logo appeared prominently on the cover of the IJCEH from 1973-1999. From 2000-2012 a much smaller ISH logo appeared on the cover as a symbol beside the ISH name.

Appointment of the Editor is done by SCEH and included SCEH members who were also ISH members. The SCEH Constitution and By-Laws (1955/revised 2004) state the appointment is done by the SCEH Executive Council (Article V, Section 4) . As per the SCEH Constitution, the Executive Council is made up of elected officers, committee chairs and the editor-in-chief of the IJCEH. The SCEH By-Laws state:

ARTICLE VIII – Publications

Section 1: The Executive Council shall authorize publications as it sees necessary. The Editor-in-Chief of each publication shall be appointed by the Executive Council (Article V, Section 4).

ARTICLE XVI – IJCEH Editor-in-Chief

Section 1: The Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis shall be responsible to Executive Council for the general welfare of the Journal but shall function independently of the Executive Council in all fiscal, scientific, and editorial matters.

(a) The Editor-in-Chief shall be appointed for a five-year term. There is no limit on the number of terms of reappointment.

(b) The Editor-in-Chief shall be a member of the SCEH Budget Committee and Publications Committee.

Fred Frankel assumed the Editor position in 1993 and remained through 1997. The publisher during this time was Sage. The cost of the journal and marketing were expensive, but as publisher Sage now provided an annual stipend to the Editor of IJCEH to cover the cost of the editorial assistant as well as other editorial expenses.

Mike Nash became Editor in 1998. The third year he was Editor the prominent ISH logo was removed from the cover and a much smaller ISH logo appeared beside the ISH name. The Publisher during this time was Dutch and The Netherlands Hypnosis Society (NvvH) also appeared on the cover of the IJCEH.

Arreed Barabasz was appointed Editor in 2002, and his contract is through 2017. The journal moved to the Taylor and Francis publishing company, which specializes in journal publishing. The ISH appears on the cover with the IJCEH as its official journal, and several other societies have been added. These include Division 30, Psychological Hypnosis, of the American Psychological Association, The Canadian Federation of Clinical Hypnosis-Alberta, and the Canadian Society of Clinical Hypnosis-Ontario.

Taylor & Francis has proudly been the publisher of IJCEH since 2003. Subscriptions to the journal are extended to institutions, libraries, and individuals and are offered as a benefit to members of SCEH, ISH, and several other organizations. Actual subscription figures are not made available by the publisher, but through these subscriptions and through sales packages offered by Taylor & Francis to university libraries, the journal is accessible to thousands of students, professionals, and researchers across the globe. Additional information about the journal can be found on the publisher’s website,

ISH is proud to have the IJCEH as its official journal and we are working with the current editor to restore the standard-sized ISH logo to the IJCEH cover.

List of Editors

Milton V. Kline  – 1953 – 1960
Frank J. Kirkner – 1961
Martin T. Orne   – 1962 – 1992
Fred H. Frankel – 1993 – 1997
Michael Nash     – 1998 – 2002
Arreed Barabasz – 2002 – 2017

List of Presidents of ISCEH

1959 – 1960    Bernard B. Raginsky, MD
1961 – 1962    Ainslie Meares, MD
1963 – 1964    A. C. de Moraes Passos, MD
1965 – 1966    John G. Watkins, PhD
1967 – 1970    Jean Lassner, MD
1971 – 1972    Yujiro Ikemi, MD, PhD
1973                 D. Langen, MD

Beginning of ISH

1974-1976      Ernest R. Hilgard, PhD Founding President

Interestingly, already in the October, 1955 IJCEH issue, Bernard B. Raginsky, MD makes a plea in his editorial for SCEH to become a truly international society and sponsor international meetings:

“…envisioned as SCEH grows and holds meetings…., it will eventually be able to sponsor a World Congress on Hypnosis and draw to this Congress investigators from all over the globe.” (p. 169)

“…the society [SCEH} already has members from Canada, Britain, Denmark, Yugoslavia, and the Netherlands.”

The ISH, ISCEH and the IJCEH together are each threads of a larger cloth, that has formed an international mantel for the hypnosis community  — members, researchers, clinicians and the colleagues yet-to-benefit from its resources and expertise.