Hypnosis and it's role in medicine, dentistry and mental health
Hypnosis is effective in relieving pain. A recent article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine indicates even just one session of mindfulness training or hypnosis can be as effective as opioids in providing immediate pain relief. (Cahn 2017) We’ve actually known this for a long time.
One of the original uses for hypnosis in medicine was for anesthesia—before there ever was any kind of anesthesia. It was supplanted by the discovery of ether and nitrous oxide (laughing gas) which of course could be bottled and sold under a patent. Even today, some people choose hypnosis over anesthesia, often to the annoyance of physicians.
Of course, many doctors are aware of the effectiveness of hypnosis but hospitals aren’t accustomed to letting hypnotists occupy the same space as doctors and most doctors aren’t accustomed to working with hypnotists and they are accustomed to working with an anesthesiologist or prescribing pain medication.
Anesthesia has its dangers and complications and even the best anesthesiologist can’t entirely prevent them but they do know what to do if they occur. Increased reliance on pain medications, even to the point of dependency, is a problem only made worse by the possibility of numerous side effects.
The ability to avoid or reduce the need for analgesic medication is convenient for some, for others its imperative. Imagine having a bad reaction to anesthesia or even just Novocaine at the dentist. Imagine not finding relief from pain with traditional medications or constantly needing to increase the dosage to maintain effectiveness.
Doctors often understand that hypnosis is so individualized in its application that the results are less reliable. But they do see the benefits of using hypnosis to
- facilitate and speed up recovery
- cope with discomfort during physical therapy
- reduce pre-and post-surgical stress and anxiety
- control general stress and anxiety which suppress the immune system, disrupt gastrointestinal function and negatively impact sleep and which may result in depressio
- decrease or eliminate pain without side effect
- help reduce or eliminate destructive behaviors like smoking or binge eating or drinking
- improve the quality of life for those with chronic conditions like IBS, Crohn's Disease, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia and chronic pain.
The results of hypnosis depend on a number of factors.
Client Comfort: Some clients need time to establish hypnotic habit. Unlike chemical anesthesia, the client has a choice to follow or not. It may take some time and practice for a client to allow hypnosis to take full effect. I often have clients whose second visit to my office is far more productive than the first because they have become more comfortable with the process.
Hypnotist Training: The training of the hypnotist, is critical. There is more to it than just having learned a few hypnotic pain control techniques. A hypnotist engaged in medical hypnosis and pain relief has to be involved with the physician to the extent that symptoms aren’t being masked in a way to prevent or obstruct effective diagnosis. Whenever I’m working with a client who is under the treatment of a physician or mental health professional, I obtain permission to contact them.
The hypnotist works on the client’s experience of the condition, not usually the condition itself. In crude terms, we can help a client with cancer cope with chemo therapy but not eliminate the need for it. And in order to do that, the hypnotist must have a general understanding of the condition as well as the client’s experience of it. That understanding also facilitates communication between the physician and the hypnotist.
It’s all in your head?
The word psychosomatic has gotten a bad rap. It is not synonymous with hypochondria. It indicates a part of medicine of which we are only now beginning to take full advantage. Psycho, meaning mind, and somatic, meaning body, indicate that the condition or its resolution is in the mind-body connection. Well-trained hypnosis professionals are a firm bridge between the mind and the body. As medicine progresses, I predict we’ll see a growing relationship between the hypnotists and medical and mental health professionals.