Clinical hypnosis is not a recent method; the Egyptians and Greeks used it for therapeutic purposes. However, it wasn’t until 1955 that the British Medical Association officially rehabilitated it. Later on, in 1958, the American Medical Association also recommended its used in the United States. Since then numerous studies have been made regarding its effectiveness, and today it is one of the most effective therapeutic tools used by psychologists.
What is hypnosis, and what is it not?
Hypnosis is a psychological technique employed to work with the unconscious. This is a part of the psyche that influences our behavior, makes decisions and influences mood, although we are not conscious of it. During the hypnotic state, the psychologists successfully accesses the deepest area of the mind, and through a series of questions can promote changes in habits or heal past traumas.
One of the greatest fears had by people who have never undergone clinical hypnosis comes from the erroneous belief that they would lose their will during the hypnotic state, and would be at the mercy of their psychologist. However, not even under hypnosis would someone do something against their values. There are also different levels of hypnosis and it is almost never necessary to go to the deepest level. In Ericksonian hypnosis, for example, the person plays a more active role in the entire process.
During hypnosis, what takes place is a change in the focus of attention. The person concentrates more and more on the psychologist’s suggestions and in their interior world, while the rest of the outside stimulants lose their intensity. Through this process, one normally experiences a tranquil and relaxed stated that causes the person to be more open to suggestions, although this does not mean that they lose control. In fact, hypnosis makes certain experiences flower more easily, but it does not force them.
Currently, hypnosis is used not only to discover past hidden traumas in the unconscious and to change the negative emotional memories associated with them, but it is also a very useful technique for changing certain habits and positioning oneself towards other, healthier ones. Everyone knows about how it is used to stop smoking or lose weight. Although every person has their own pace of healing, hypnosis has proven to be one of the fast and most effective techniques for changing habits. When combined with other psychological techniques, it provides excellent results in certain disease treatments, like phobias, addictions, or panic disorders.
Hypnosis application in the health field
One of the primary uses of hypnosis in the clinical setting is focused on pain treatment. In fact, when anesthesia was still unheard of, hypnosis was successfully used during surgical operations. Today we know that just a 15 minute hypnosis session prior to an operation can reduce half of the amount of anesthesia administered, it can diminish post-operative pain, and cut recuperation time.
Investigators at the University of Texas recently performed 13 studies that involved hundreds of people that suffered from back pain to arthritis, cancer and fibromyalgia. They came to the conclusion that hypnosis is a very effective technique for treating chronic pain, and is even a lot more effective that physical therapy. They were also able to observe that hypnosis helps deal with pain caused by serious burns.
However, beyond pain relief, hypnosis is also used to counteract symptoms caused by cancer, and the collateral effects that are caused by radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Several studies suggest that hypnotherapy reduces fatigue, nausea and hot flashes, as well as improving sleep quality in those patients. Although perhaps one of the greatest points in favor of hypnosis comes from the fact that it doesn’t cause adverse effects, like the medications that are frequently prescribed to control these symptoms.
Hypnosis has also been proven effective at treating irritable bowel syndrome. In fact, a recent study performed in the University of Minnesota revealed that its effects last over time. These researchers worked with more than 200 patients that suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, and after 12 sessions of hypnosis, 58% of the men and 75% of the women reported significant improvement. Six years later, more than 80% of the people that had improved, continued feeling well.
Hypnosis is also used to treat different dermatological problems, from acne to vitiligo, psoriasis, dermatitis, and simple herpes. In the hypnotic state, blood flow and other autonomous functions that we normally have no control over can be regulated. The relaxation that takes place during this process positively influences the neurohormonal system and reduces allergic reactions, which is why this technique is also useful as a complementary asthma treatment.
Psychologist and Hypnotherapist
Director of El Prado Psychologists