Does the word hypnosis conjure the image of a Svengali-like character slowly swinging an object — usually a pocket watch — back and forth on a chain while intoning “you are getting s-l-e-e-p-y?” That’s the stuff movies and variety show performances are made of. In reality, hypnosis is a well respected therapy for better health.
Can you be hypnotized? Most people like to think they can’t, concerned that it could label them as weak-willed, naive or unintelligent. In fact, modern research shows that hypnotizability is correlated with intelligence, concentration and focus. Most people can be hypnotized to some degree — the only question is how far.
A hypnotic trance is not therapeutic in and of itself, but specific suggestions and images fed to clients in a trance can profoundly alter their behavior. As they rehearse the new ways they want to think and feel, they create groundwork for powerful changes in their future actions.
For example, in hypnosis, people who are trying to quit smoking are told they will go hours without even thinking of a cigarette, that if they should light up, the cigarette will taste terrible and they’ll want to put it out immediately. A hypnotherapist may talk a client through the imagery of whatever motivates that person to quit with some combination of breathing easier, having more energy, regaining the ability to taste and smell. Not to mention breath and clean-smelling clothing and even saving money on the cost of cigarettes.
The deep relaxation of a hypnotic trance is also broadly beneficial as many illnesses, both psychological or physical, are aggravated by anxiety and muscle tension.
Research over the last 40 years shows that such hypnotic techniques are safe and effective. Furthermore, a growing number of studies show that hypnotherapy can treat headaches, ease the pain of childbirth, aid in quitting smoking, improve concentration and study habits, relieve minor phobias, and serve as anesthesia — all without drugs or side effects.
About 95% of all people are susceptible to hypnosis, to varying degrees whether used to relieve stress, stop a headache or get over a bad habit. How well it will work depends on you. Here are some proven examples of how hypnotherapy heals.
Surgery: Hypnosis given during surgical radiology not only diminishes patients’ pain and anxiety, but also shortens surgical time and reduces complications from the procedure. (Lancet, 2000)
Cancer: Many cancer patients suffer nausea and vomiting not only after chemotherapy, but before treatment. In a study of 16 subjects who normally experienced these symptoms, hypnosis alleviated pre-chemotherapy sickness in ail of them. (Oncology, 2000)
Immunity: Hypnosis seems to significantly raise the activity of B-cells and T-cells — both key to immune response — in highly hypnotizable subjects. (American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 1995)
Smoking: Of almost 3,000 smokers who participated in one group hypnotherapy session, sponsored by the American Lung Association, to kick the habit, 22% reported not smoking for a month afterward. (The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis)
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD): Research shows that hypnosis is as effective as Ritalin in treating ADD in children. (Presented at the American Psychological Association Meeting, 1999)
Pain: In 169 patients, self-hypnosis was largely successful in alleviating chronic tension headaches. (International Journal of Clinical Experimental Hypnosis, 2000)
If You’re Looking for a Hypnotherapist … Seek out a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker who can administer hypnotherapy. Locate someone trained in the appropriate medical specialty if you want hypnotic pain control for, say, cancer, dentistry or childbirth. Most states don’t regulate the use of hypnosis, and anyone can call himself a “hypnotist,” “hypnotherapist,” or even a “certified hypnotherapist.” Two organizations keep lists of qualified hypnotherapists:
The Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (SCEH)
3905 Vincennes Rd., Suite 304
Indianapolis, IN 46268
Phone: (800) 214-1738
The American Society for Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH)
2200 East Devon Ave., Suite 291
Des Plaines, IL 60018-4534
Phone: (847) 297-3317
All books are available at amzon.com. Click on title to order
The Pregnant Man and Other Cases from a Hypnotherapist’s Couch and The Committee of Sleep
by Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D.
Trance and Treatment: Clinical Uses of Hypnosis
by Herbert Spiegel, Ph.D., and Daniel Spiegel, Ph,D.
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