Forensic Hypnotist Information and Overview

Get the 411 on What Forensic or Investigative Hypnotism Is...and Isn't.

Forensic Hypnotism
Investigative or Forensic Hypnotists help police solve investigations. Johner / Getty Images

A little-known investigative tool, forensic - or investigative - hypnotism can be a useful technique to help criminal investigators gather testimony and obtain crucial clues. The process can help uncover missing facts and provide valuable leads for investigators to follow.

Though often misunderstood and met with skepticism by the so-called mainstream, hypnosis has actually gained scientific validity.

As a therapeutic technique, hypnotism can be used to reduce stress, aid in weight loss, and treat a host of other physical and psychological conditions.

For more than 40 years, investigative bodies have recognized and taken advantage of the potential benefits of hypnosis as a way to help break cases open. The technique has been used in many high profile cases, including those of Ted Bundy and Scott Peterson.

What Do Forensic Hypnotists Do?

Doctor Jerome Beacham, a forensic hypnotist, instructor and retired Detroit police sergeant says the purpose of investigate hypnosis is to refresh memory.

Through hypnotism, an investigator can help a witness hyper-focus on a particular memory, taking them back to a specif time and place and accessing details they may not otherwise recall.

As opposed to therapeutic hypnotic sessions, which are private, forensic hypnotic sessions are conducted in the presence of other witnesses and are typically audio or video recorded for future evidentiary purposes.

Investigative hypnotists help witnesses access memories that can help law enforcement pursue leads, locate clues and build a case. Forensic hypnotists also work as expert and consultative witnesses during court proceedings to confirm whether or not a hypnotic session was conducted correctly or whether or not any information gained is actually valid or valuable.

Who Hires Forensic Hypnotists?

Many forensic hypnotists work as private consultants for law firms or on a contractual basis for various law enforcement agencies. Others are law enforcement officers and investigators with special training in investigative hypnosis, working directly for a department.

The Texas Department of Public Safety is just one example of an agency that employs officers as forensics investigators. Members of the Texas Rangers are trained in these techniques to use in some of their investigations, particularly cold cases.

The Los Angeles Police Department, too, has used forensic hypnotists to augment case investigations. In fact, beginning in 1975, the department conducted a study to explore the efficacy of hypnosis as an investigative tool.

According to the LAPD Director of Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Martin Reiser, forensics hypnosis was shown to have a significant impact in providing new information and solving cases. 

Education Requirements for Forensic Hypnotists

If you're interested in becoming a professional forensic hypnotist, there are several avenues you can follow. With a graduate level degree in a relevant field such as sociology or psychology, you can pursue certified hypnosis and forensic hypnosis.

You may also become a police officer with a department that uses investigative hypnosis, such as the Los Angeles Police Department or the Texas Department of Public Safety. Once hired, you can work your way up to become an investigator and attend forensic hypnosis training courses.

You can learn much more about investigative hypnosis and certification through organizations such as the International Society for Investigative and Forensic Hypnosis.

Use of Forensic Hypnosis

Forensic hypnosis is not necessarily admissible in courts in every state, but it can be a very useful investigative tool nonetheless. Even if direct testimony is inadmissible, hypnosis can provide leads that may help develop probable cause. It is without a doubt a fascinating field, and may just be one of the most interesting jobs in criminology and criminal justice.