Guy Montgomery, director of the Integrative Behavioral Medicine program at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York and the leader of many studies on use of hypnosis for medical reasons once said, "Hypnosis is like a good kid with a bad reputation. Everybody is interested, but in the back of their minds, they're thinking of Bela Lugosi." Many people have images of hypnosis based on old movies, tv shows and comedy club hypnosis performances. Sometimes I will meet with a first time client and they will joke, "I don't want to bark like a dog, quack like a duck or cluck like a chicken." But people with illnesses also ask if hypnosis can be used for medical issues.
The good news is that hypnosis used for therapeutic purposes can be a valuable tool to give clients more control over their bodies. Over the past few years increasing studies have been done on hypnosis for medical issues. Studies have shown diminished side effects from chemotherapy after using hypnotherapy. Medical situations such as high blood pressure, asthma attacks, hot flashes and migraine headaches have been shown to improve with the use of hypnotherapy.
In 2012, two Swedish studies found that symptoms of irritable-bowel syndrome (IBS) eased 40% in patients after a one hour a week hypnotherapy session for twelve weeks. The researchers reported that the positive effects could last as long as twelve weeks after the hypnotherapy.
Over the years, I have worked with cancer patients. These people often undergo grueling treatments including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. These patients often work with me not only to control pain but also to control the anxiety that goes with the treatment and a frightening diagnosis. David Spiegel, a psychiatrist and director of the Center for Health and Stress at Stanford University who has studied hypnosis for 40 years, noted that "We can teach people how to manage pain and anxiety."
Hospitals are using medial hypnosis as part of a broad program of services for their patients. Tanya Edwards, director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic says that about half of the center's patients are referred, particularly by primary-care physicians, gastroenterologists and primary care physicians.
Anxiety is often an underlying problem for medical issues. Even taking the medical tests can provoke extreme anxiety in some people. Having an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a painless procedure unless you have a fear of enclosed spaces. MRIs are confining and the loud banging, clanging sounds that are a part of the procedure can also cause discomfort. A bronchioscope pushed down the throat in a lung exam can be frightening as can an instrument inserted to go down your throat in an upper-GI endoscopy. A hypnotherapy session before the test could make this much easier on the patient.
From trying to conceive, to dealing with nausea, to delivery, hypnobirthing is a specialty of medical hypnosis. Another specialty is dental hypnosis which is particularly valuable to patients who are phobic and have avoided the dentist for years. Preparing for surgery by doing a hypnosis session can be very valuable as well.
In my practice, I always ask for a medical referral before working on a medical issue. Sometimes people come in and say, "I'm having headaches. Can you do a session for me?" I always say that I would be happy to work with them on referral from their medical practitioner. I certainly don't want to help disguise a serious medical issue such as a brain tumor.
If you or a loved one has a medical issue, call a hypnotherapist to see how hypnosis could help you deal with the issue so you can BE WELL.