The Many Uses of Clinical Hypnosis

by Paul Gustafson RN, BSN, CH

Did you know that Americans spend as much out-of-pocket for complimentary healthcare as they do for inpatient hospitalizations? The Eisenberg studies of 1991 and 1997 revealed that people are searching for alternatives and don’t mind paying for it. The authoritarian approach to western medicine assumes that health and wellness comes from others which minimize the importance of our own natural ability to not only enhance the healing process but to avoid illness to begin with.

If the rapid assembly line of mainstream healthcare has clinicians overwhelmed how about the emotional state of those being cared for, how are the patients coping with their situation? What expectations do they have for recovery? Do they see themselves as temporarily side tracked or powerless? Do they feel there is a role for them to play in their own recovery? This article describes how hypnosis works and reviews some of the clinical applications of this empowering technique.

What is Hypnosis?

The term “hypnosis” is a Greek word for “sleep” coined by scientist James Braid in 1843. It was an unfortunate choice of words because, as you will learn, hypnosis is not sleep at all. Nearly all clients hear and remember everything during a session. Hypnosis is better described as a form of communicating with the subconscious mind and offering it information and healthy direction.

The conscious and subconscious minds have two very different job descriptions. The conscious mind keeps us in the here and now; it is our short-term memory and gate keeper. It analyzes, critiques, judges, accepts or denies information for long-term storage in the subconscious mind.

Think of the subconscious as the hard drive where all the programming is stored. It’s the home of our imagination, values, beliefs, habits and patterns. It’s also our body’s control center. It tells the heart when to beat, lungs when to breath and controls every step we take every day of our life. It’s a very powerful place. A hypnotist uses soothing music and paints peaceful verbal images enabling clients to shift from conscious to subconscious thought. Once this is accomplished they are prepared with suggestions, affirmations and imagery supporting the desired goals. The client then integrates all accepted information and puts it into action. The three ingredients to effective hypnotherapy are how open the client is to relaxation, how motivated they are to make positive change and how well the hypnotist does their job.

How Clinical Hypnosis Works

Clinical hypnosis is the application of this technique to support medical concerns. It is not a mystical power nor is it something administered to you like medication. It is simply the natural process of tapping into our enormous self-healing resources.

Because the subconscious mind is the control center for all bodily function it can be led in many positive directions. The information offered with hypnosis mobilizes and maximizes a client’s physical and emotional response to recovery and maintaining health.

Clinical Applications

  • Intensive Care: Clients can block out distractions and reduce discomfort, which improves their ability to get quality rest and speed up recovery time. Clinical hypnosis reduces stress, balances blood pressure and heart rate, which minimize complications. It can also be used to reduce secretions, bleeding, improve immune response and make procedures more tolerable.
  • Oncology: Hypnosis lessens stress, anxiety, pain, nausea and vomiting. It reduces respiratory distress and even helps prevents hair loss. It increases confidence and self-image. Clinical hypnosis helps ease the acceptance of physical restrictions or even managing end of life transition.
  • Pediatrics: What better gift to give a frightened child than control during a time of crisis. Children have active imaginations and respond very well to hypnosis. It can melt away fear; increase their relaxation and focus making it easier for them to understand instructions, procedures and treatments.
  • Surgical: Clinical hypnosis can reduce anxiety, pain, stress and bleeding. It promotes rapid healing and improved immune response. These clients can better manage post-op pain and nausea. They use less medication and avoid the side effects that go with it. Those who are relaxed going into anesthesia are relaxed coming out of it.
  • Internal Medicine: It improves immune response, which minimizes infection; it can decrease inflammation, and relieves tension and migraine headaches. Hypnosis is also helpful for weight loss, arthritis, improved self-image and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Mental Health: Hypnosis relieves symptoms of despair or sadness, fears, phobias and addictions. It can put the client in control. They get to play an active role in their own recovery, which adds to an increased sense of fulfillment ensuring long-term success.
  • Dentistry: Hypnosis helps minimize anticipatory anxiety, bleeding, gagging, pain, excess salivation and distorts time perception making procedure seem to go by quickly. Hypnosis can also help establish a positive association with dental care promoting routine care.Summary

    Clinical hypnosis offers clients an oasis of relaxation and control when they need it most. They have a shorter length of stay, use less medication, have fewer complications and feel like they were a part of the team. Hypnosis can blend nature and science with dramatically positive results. And clients who go on to become practitioners of self-hypnosis can make positive changes in many other areas of their lives as well.

    Paul Gustafson RN, BSN, CH runs Healthy Hypnosis of Burlington, Massachusetts. He is a Registered Nurse and has 10 years of acute cardiac and hospice experience. Visit Healthy Hypnosis at, email or call toll free at 888-290-3972.