Based on my experience, hypnosis should be an essential tool in the kit of every health care provider. Without use of this tool, or another way of addressing patients’ psychological issues, the majority of patients suffer needlessly!
Every patient has a brain that affects how they process information. Even infants react negatively to painful medical procedures, and respond positively to being comforted, such as when they are caressed by their parent. These responses to physical sensations are processed in the brain.
The brain is an amazing organ that is designed to help guide us through life. As such, it is built to consider many inputs before it decides how to react. For example, if a patient is in pain, at the same time as he or she is being comforted, the brain can decide to pay attention to the comforting in addition to or instead of the pain. When this happens, the pain sensation can become less bothersome, and thus the patient’s reaction can change from becoming terrified to quiet acceptance.
As we grow older, our brains become better at guiding us, and consider more inputs before arriving at decisions. Thus, in deciding how to act, the brain not only thinks about physical sensations, but it also considers past experiences, emotions, thoughts about how life does and should work, and even spiritual matters.
When patients develop symptoms as a result of physical or psychological issues, these symptoms are what they report to their health care providers. The typical reaction in our Western medical culture is to treat the symptoms with a medication. And yet, keep in mind that the physical sensation or feeling caused by a psychological issue is only one aspect that the brain considers. Therefore, we should always consider how we can help patients by teaching them how to think differently. Sometimes, symptoms can resolve with a new thought pattern. And in virtually every situation, patients can feel better when they learn how to think differently.
There are many available psychological tools. Reassurance is a commonly used tool. However, its effectiveness can be limited by the providers’ or patients’ feelings that reassurance is insufficient. Yet, oftentimes patients do feel better after visiting their doctors, even if they are provided only reassurance.
The psychological tools that work best are ones that help patients help themselves. In this way, patients can treat themselves even in the absence of a health care provider. These tools include art therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, meditation, music therapy, and yoga, to name a few.
I believe hypnosis is the best of these because it takes only a few minutes to teach, and a few minutes for the patients to apply to themselves. In two-thirds of my medical patients, such brief application has brought about significant relief without use of medications! As might be expected, with long-term use of hypnosis and associated counseling patients and their health care providers can achieve additional and sometimes amazing results that cannot occur with brief use of hypnosis.
In contrast, most other psychological tools require at least several instructional visits with a professional, and sometimes require patients to spend 30 minutes or more a day engaged with use of the recommended approach. Many patients do not want to or cannot spend that much time in taking care of themselves.
Without use of hypnosis or another psychological approach, health care providers are limited to use of medications or physical procedures. With use of hypnosis patients learn to bring their own resources to help themselves. Often those resources are more powerful than medical treatments. How sad it is to realize that most patients in this country are treated without consideration of how they can help themselves.
With hypnosis, most patients feel better. A minority of them achieve resolution of their symptoms without medications. Most of the rest improve.
When health care providers teach hypnosis soon after they meet their patients, sometimes there is no need for further medical testing or treatments. This can save a lot of aggravation, discomfort, time, and money.
Ask your health care provider how you or your loved one can learn how to use hypnosis to help improve a medical or psychological symptom. If you are fortunate, your provider will know how to teach this skill. If not, they can refer you to a reputable clinician who can teach you this skill in 1-2 sessions.
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