Healthy Living > Hypnosis can be used in medicine

Written by Fred Cicetti

Wednesday, 13 July 2011 09:47


Hypnosis is one of several relaxation methods that was said to be useful by an independent panel of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The panel found it may be helpful for treating chronic pain, alleviated anxiety, reducing the frequency and severity of headaches, and controlling bleeding and pain during dental procedures.

Hypnosis is also promoted to change undesirable behaviors, such as smoking, alcohol dependence, and bedwetting. It is used along with other methods by some mental health professionals to help patients overcome common fears, such as the fear of flying or of meeting new people.

Hypnosis achieves focused attention. It is like using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun and make them more powerful. When our minds are concentrated, we are able to use them more powerfully.

Hypnosis—also known as hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion—has been a healing practice for thousands of years. The term comes from the Greek “hypnos,” which means sleep. The use of trance-like states and positive suggestion was an important technique used in the early Greek healing temples. Variations of those techniques were practiced throughout the ancient world.

Modern hypnosis can be traced to the German physician, Franz Anton Mesmer, who believed that imbalances in magnetic forces in the human body were responsible for illness. Mesmer applied a therapy, which he called mesmerism; it involved the use of tranquil gestures and soothing words to relax patients and restore the balance to their magnetic forces.

The evolution of Mesmer's ideas and practices led the Scottish neurosurgeon James Braid to coin the term hypnosis in 1842. Called the "father of modern hypnotism," Braid rejected Mesmer's theory of magnetic forces and instead ascribed the "mesmeric trance" to a physical process that resulted from prolonged attention to an object of fixation.

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychotherapy, found hypnosis useful for treating hysteria, but later abandoned the practice after observing that he stirred up powerful emotions within his patients.

Eventually, the notion of using a state of altered awareness gained greater acceptance in conventional Western medicine. Today, hypnosis is used widely in the United States and other Western countries. People who practice hypnosis are generally licensed and are often trained in several psychological techniques.

Under hypnosis, you're more open than usual to suggestions, and this can be used to modify your perceptions, behavior, sensations and emotions. Therapeutic hypnosis is used to improve your health and well-being and is different from so-called stage hypnosis used by entertainers. Although you're more open to suggestion during therapeutic hypnosis, your free will remains intact and you don't lose control over your behavior.

Some people are not able to enter a state of hypnosis fully enough to make it effective. Certain qualities may mean you're more likely to have success with hypnosis. These include the ability to be so engrossed in an activity that you aren't aware of your environment, the capacity to recall vivid memories through the sense of smell, and the ability to recall physical sensations of past events.

Before using hypnosis, you should wear comfortable clothing to help with relaxation, and make sure you're well rested so you won't fall asleep during the session.

Choose a therapist or healthcare professional to perform hypnosis. When you do find a potential hypnotherapist, ask lots of questions, such as:

* Do you have training in a field such as psychology, medicine, social work or dentistry?

* Are you licensed in your specialty in this state?

* Where did you go to school, and where did you do your internship, residency or both?

* How much training have you had in hypnotherapy and from what schools?

* What professional organizations do you belong to?

* How long have you been in practice?

* What are your fees?

* Does insurance cover your services?

In general, a hypnotherapist explains the process of hypnosis and reviews what you both hope to accomplish. The hypnotherapist usually induces you into hypnosis by talking in a gentle, soothing tone and describing images that create a sense of relaxation, security and well-being.

When you're in a deep trance-like state, the hypnotherapist suggests ways for you to achieve specific goals, such as reducing pain or eliminating cravings to smoke. The hypnotherapist also may help you visualize vivid, meaningful mental images in which you picture yourself accomplishing your goals. When the session is over, either you are able to bring yourself out of hypnosis or your hypnotherapist helps you end your trance-like state.

A typical hypnosis session lasts about 30 to 60 minutes. You may benefit from just one session or several sessions of hypnosis. You can usually resume normal activities immediately. You may eventually be able to practice self-hypnosis.

The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis recommends that you choose a healthcare provider who is properly trained, licensed and credentialed. This means that the individual has graduate training and holds a currently valid license in a healthcare field, such as medicine, dentistry, psychiatry, psychology, social work, or nursing.

This generally also means that the individual holds an academic degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher education, and has had supervised experience in offering professional services to clients and patients. An additional benefit of choosing a licensed healthcare provider is that your healthcare insurance may reimburse for services provided, although you should determine this in advance by contacting your insurer or asking your provider.