Helen J. Crawford, Ph.D.

Helen J. Crawford Ph.D. is Professor of psychology and director of the Psychological Sciences Graduate Program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg Virginia. Dr Crawford is one of the most highly visible and influential researchers in the field having published dozens of scientific articles and book chapters on complex aspects of the neuropsychophysiology of hypnosis. Dr Crawford received her doctoral degree in experimental psychology in 1974 from the University of California, Davis. From 1975 to 1978, Dr Crawford was a research assistant in the Laboratory of Hypnosis Research in the Department of Psychology at Stanford University, under the leadership of Dr Ernest Hilgard, a leading figure in hypnosis.

Dr Crawford's work is known internationally, and she has been an invited Visiting Professor and Scholar at some very prestigious institutions including the Imperial College of Medicine in England, Aalborg University in Denmark, the University of Rome in Italy, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Her scholarly work has earned her a number of awards, including the Bernard B. Raginsky Award for Leadership and Achievement from the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis for being a “Distinguished Teacher, Scientist, and Pioneer in the Field of Hypnosis.”

Dr Crawford’s enthusiasm for and commitment to her research is a contagious force when she describes what she does, despite her scientific modesty that sometimes lends itself to pleasant understatement.

On the biology of hypnosis:  “There are psychological changes that accompany hypnosis. When a person is controlling pain, for example, there are shifts in frontal lobe involvement that interact with other systems in the brain. It's not just the frontal lobe. With our fMRI, we see changes in the anterior cingulated. It's all reflective of something that's differing - the person is cognitively processing, but in a different manner.”

On whether hypnosis is a state or a trait: “There is a shift in cognitive processing in hypnosis. I think the use of the term 'state' is dangerously inaccurate. There is a shift in conscious awareness and that's as much as I can say about it. I'm not either in a ‘state’ or ‘trait’ camp.”

On using physical evidence of hypnosis to build client responsiveness: “Most people know very little other than what is in the media and they have many misunderstandings about hypnosis. So, I tell them, 'it looks as if hypnosis is focused attention,' and then I make an analogy to what they do when they're focused. In the process, I'm giving them facts about where I want to go with them. I explain that when a person is hypnotised, even though they're very relaxed, it appears as if the brain is quite active. Therefore, they have control over themselves, and they can make decisions as to whether they want to participate or not. It really goes over very well.... They like the idea that the getting more control.”

On going beyond Biology into the Social Context of Hypnosis: "The relationship with the subject of client is highly important. If a subject doesn't trust me, they won't be hypnotized. You have to develop rapport ahead of time. When I walk into a classroom or a setting where hypnosis is involved, I'll talk to them for 10 or 15 minutes before I ever start the experimental hypnosis session. I'll tell them about hypnosis, address their beliefs and any misunderstandings, and I usually tell them about working in the area of pain control, which I publish on. It gives them a feeling that, 'Oh, this is possible.' It's good for developing rapport and building expectancy."

On why psychotherapists should know about brain psychology:  “I think the more you know about brain physiology the better you are in recognising whether your patients problems are psychological or whether there might be some underlying neurological problem. I respect therapists a lot, but too often they just don't understand clinical neurophysiology, and they miss physical reasons for their patients problems. They need to be able to address the physical as well as the psychological.”

Source: Personal communication, June 17, 2002.
Yapko, M. (2003) Trancework 3rd Edition 91-93



Random Testimonial -

Professor Helen Crawford on Hypnosis


Helen J. Crawford, Ph.D. was director of the Psychological Science Graduate Program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg from 1996 to 2004, and was assistant dean in the former College of Arts and Sciences.

She was awarded with the title of "professor emeritus" in March 2006 after her nomination by the President of Virginia Tech, Charles W. Steger.