If you think of hypnosis as a cheap trick that magicians play on gullible audience members, you might dismiss it out of hand as a form of pain treatment. However, in reality, clinical hypnosis is a thoroughly researched and respected option for those struggling with acute and chronic pain.
What Is Clinical Hypnosis?
Clinical hypnosis can trace its roots to the 1700s, but its use has advanced exponentially in the last half-century. According to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, it is “an altered state of awareness” that is used to treat a psychological or physical problem. Clinical hypnosis is performed by a highly trained and licensed psychologist or health professional, usually to complement or facilitate other therapies or treatments. It has been used to help with a variety of issues, including alcoholism, anxiety, speech disorders, weight control, and pain management.
How Does It Help With Pain?
During the relaxed and focused state reached during hypnosis, an individual is unusually open to suggestion. A properly trained professional can then guide a patient’s attention to specific thoughts and tasks. In short, clinical hypnosis can help change relevant perceptions, sensations, and behavior to reduce pain and make it easier to manage. Clinical studies have found that using hypnosis to lessen a patient’s sensitivity to pain not only achieves that goal but also reduces the need for analgesics or sedation, helps avoid nausea and vomiting, and shortens the length of the average patient’s hospital stay.
If you decide to pursue clinical hypnosis, you can expect a series of half-hour or one-hour sessions — or, alternatively, one longer initial session followed by 10- to 15-minute follow-up sessions. Contrary to common misconceptions, you will be fully conscious and in control of yourself at all times. While your body is at rest, your mind will be active and alert. With time and practice, you might even learn how to self-hypnotize, much as you might learn the art of mindful meditation.
Will It Work for Me?
The effectiveness of clinical hypnosis varies from person to person, but it seems that most people can benefit to some degree. Some people are naturally more receptive to hypnotic suggestion than others, and those who are most receptive experience the greatest and longest-lasting relief. The majority of people fall into the category of “moderate suggestibility,” having at least some potential for clinical hypnosis to improve their condition. Although your level of suggestibility seems to be a genetic trait, your attitude — something you do control — can also make a difference.
Clinical hypnosis is considered safe in that there is little chance of negative side effects. However, hypnosis is not right for everyone. For instance, although hypnosis can be used to recover repressed memories, it also has the potential to plant false memories in those susceptible to them. For that reason, it is not usually recommended for those with psychotic symptoms, dissociative disorders, and certain other conditions. For most people, though, the biggest risk involved is that clinical hypnosis might not be the most effective treatment.
Whether you are still looking for a way to manage your pain or simply would like to experiment with alternative methods, clinical hypnosis is worth consideration. You might be surprised by just how effective it can be at reducing pain.