Hypnosis is “a social interaction in which one person, designated the subject, responds to suggestions offered by another person, designated the hypnotist, for experiences involving alterations in perception, memory, and voluntary action.”
Medical hypnosis incorporates hypnotic techniques to facilitate the treatment of a medical condition. Hypnosis has been used to treat a broad range of disorders and illnesses. It has been useful for treating phobias, depression, anorexia nervosa, psychotic disorders, posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD), obesity, smoking, insomnia, acute and chronic pain.
Common myths regarding hypnosis that need to be dispelled:
Even if a subject enters a deep trance, there is no loss of consciousness or awareness.
Loss of Control
Hypnosis is a state of inner absorption, where concentration and attention are focused. With this enhanced focus, the subject is able to use more of their mind’s potential. Hypnosis is actually a self-control skill, rather than a loss of control. One does not reveal things they do not wish to nor do they lose control of their actions.
Loss of Memory
The majority of subjects will remember everything, often with enhanced clarity. If amnesia is specifically desired by the subject and suggested by the hypnotist, subjects in deep trance may experience amnesia for the designated event.
“To liberate the potential of your mind, body and soul, you must first expand your imagination. You see, things are always created twice: first in the workshop of the mind and then, and only then, in reality. I call this process ‘blueprinting’ because anything you create in your outer world began as a simple blueprint in your inner world.”
-Robin Sharma, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
What is Medical Hypnosis and How does it Work?
Hypnosis is, in its essence, simply a guided meditation. With meditation being defined as one’s focus of attention and thought on one and only one subject, medical hypnosis is a technique in which the focus of meditation is selected by the patient in order to achieve a therapeutic goal. That goal may be to learn how to reinforce a particular behavior or to suppress and discontinue a behavior. The goal may be to to enhance a feeling or mood or it may be to suppress a feeling or mood. Examples of common medical goals for hypnosis include quitting smoking, avoiding overeating, gaining confidence in uncomfortable social situations or overcoming a phobia. In pain management, the goal for hypnosis is to reduce the perception and suffering of pain and reduce the intrusion of pain into one’s life.
The Hypnotic Process
As a guided meditation with a goal, the hypnotist will first discuss the patient’s intent and goal for engaging hypnosis. In a brief interview prior to beginning the hypnotic encounter, the clinical hypnotist will first identify the specifics of a patient’s concerns with the intent of establishing a working and achievable therapeutic goal. To achieve this goal, the clinical hypnotist will begin the hypnotic session by verbally guiding the patient into a calm, relaxed and comfortable state of mind. Once this is achieved, the hypnotist will “induce,” or direct the patient’s imagination to create a scenario in their mind intended to facilitate the specific goals that have been set out to be achieved (“the state of induction”). The hypnotist will guide the patient through a series of imagined experiences that will serve to provide the patient with a memorable experience directed at affecting the behavior, mood, phobia or symptom in the desired direction.
This guided meditative experience serves the patient as a memory infused with a beneficial, goal-directed outcome that the patient can then remember and return to at will. The hypnotist will provide the patient with the mental tools to re-engage their hypnotic experience as a form of self-hypnosis. As the patient acquires the skills with practice at home or in their chosen environment, the repetitive self-hypnotic sessions reinforce memory, experience and learning which ultimately results in carrying the meditative experience into real-world experience. Through successful, mindful experience the necessary skills to accomplish the goal become available and second nature to the individual.
Jet fighter pilots do not learn their skills in a real jet. They practice in flight simulators to gain experience in their minds to practice their skills so that the skills can later be applied in real world experience. The principles here are the same and they can be learned by anyone willing to invest a little time.
Who Benefits from Hypnosis?
A common misconception is that hypnosis is only effective in people who are highly suggestible. The truth is there are many variables that contribute to the “success” of hypnosis treatment and even patients identified as having`low’ hypnotizability can benefit from hypnosis treatment. Hypnosis is effective in both the young and the old.
Regarding provider (clinical hypnotist) factors, very little work has examined therapist skill in providing hypnotic analgesia but the studies that have been done have demonstrated no significant difference amongst trained providers.
Although we are not aware of any studies which have investigated the effects of home practice on treatment outcomes, it is likely that patient skill in self-hypnosis will increase and become more automatic with regular practice (as is the case with most human behaviour). Our clinical experience indicates that patients who practice more typically report greater benefit from their treatment. We recommend to our participants that they practice at least once a day, and advise that the more they practice, the more likely they are to achieve the maximum benefit in terms of pain relief and overall well-being.
Hypnosis and Management of Pain
Hypnosis has been demonstrated to be effective for many types of pain, both acute and chronic, as well as being effective for surgical or other painful procedures. The benefits of hypnosis for pain can persist, with long term benefits that are permanent in 20-30% of chronic pain patients. In fact, the benefits for acute pain appear to be shorter lasting than those for chronic pain.
Studies indicate that hypnosis is effective in reducing pain in 75% or more of subjects tested. Interestingly, even when patients indicate no pain benefit, the majority of these subjects nevertheless expressed high levels of satisfaction for hypnotic treatment and continued to practice on their own the self-hypnosis techniques they were taught. Non-pain-related benefits included improved positive attititude, relaxation, and increased energy. The use of hypnosis to improve quality of life in people with chronic pain often involves focusing on outcome variables other than just pain relief.
To summarize: the key findings from hypnosis clinical trials reveal three important implications for maximizing the benefits of hypnotic pain treatment. Specifically, benefits include both immediate and long-term pain relief, and there are benefits in addition to pain reduction.
“I’ve never formally trained for pain management, but I have a good understanding of how to conquer it. I just analyze the pain, feel it in the moment, and then mentally become numb to it.”
– Criss Angel
Hypnosis – Pain Management
Emphasis on Education
Accurate Clinic promotes patient education as the foundation of it’s medical care. In Dr. Ehlenberger’s integrative approach to patient care, including conventional and complementary and alternative medical (CAM) treatments, he may encourage or provide advice about the use of supplements. However, the specifics of choice of supplement, dosing and duration of treatment should be individualized through discussion with Dr. Ehlenberger. The following information and reference articles are presented to provide the reader with some of the latest research to facilitate evidence-based, informed decisions regarding the use of conventional as well as CAM treatments.
For medical-legal reasons, access to these links is limited to patients enrolled in an Accurate Clinic medical program.
Should you wish more information regarding any of the subjects listed – or not listed – here, please contact Dr. Ehlenberger. He has literally thousands of published articles to share on hundreds of topics associated with pain management, weight loss, nutrition, addiction recovery and emergency medicine. It would take years for you to read them, as it did him.
For more information, please contact Accurate Clinic.
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