It's all in your mind ? now let's
get it out of there
A trip to the subconscious may
be just the ticket for your patients' unwanted behaviours.
Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream
"You're getting sleepy. Your
body is more and more relaxed. Your eyelids are feeling
heavier and heavier."
Not exactly the sort of thing one
would expect to hear at the doctor's office, but some
FPs have opened their minds to hypnosis as a therapy
to help their patients curb some bad habits.
"You can really change people's
outlook on life with hypnosis," says Dr Allen Rodgers,
a family physician in Peterborough, ON. He's treated
about 100 patients with hypnosis, mainly on smokers
looking to get off the smokes and also on patients suffering
from a variety of phobias. "I've seen very good results
with some of my patients," he says.
Dr Rodgers learned hypnotherapy
back in the early 1980s at the Ontario Society of Clinical
Hypnosis and later upgraded his skills at the Ontario
Hypnosis Centre. "I've always been interested in complementary
medicine because it's an extremely powerful technique,"
Each session takes about 45 minutes
and, depending on the person and the problem, it may
take anywhere from one to several sessions before results
are seen. "We find the root cause of the issue and deal
with it," explains Georgina Cannon, director of the
Ontario Hypnosis Centre and an instructor for the National
Guild of Hypnotists, the International Medical and Dental
Hypnotherapy Association and the International Board
of Regression Therapy. She's taught doctors, nurses,
health practitioners and others learn how to use hypnotherapy
for pain management, smoking, overeating, alleviating
allergies, anxiety, and a host of other problems.
For someone looking to quit smoking, therapy would start
with a series of questions about how and when the patient
started smoking. "We're also trying to build a strong
relationship because for someone to go into the hypnotic
state, they have to trust us," says Ms Cannon. "And
it's not like what you see on TV or in the movies. People
are always fully aware of what's going while they're
in the hypnotic state."
Then, with the help of some soothing
music, she'll ask the patient to focus on her voice
and guides them to relax the facial muscles, neck, arms
and the rest of the body. Next, Ms Cannon tests to see
if the smoker reaches a deep state of relaxation by
checking if their breathing has slowed or if there's
a change in skin tone. "We're essentially looking for
a change and to see how calm and rested they are," says
Ms Cannon. According to Dr Rodgers, "It's a heightened
state of inner awareness that allows you to be open
The next step is to have the patient
visualize a fork in the road, with one leading down
the road of smoking, which is full of negative things,
like ill health and disease. The other road is smoke-free
and full of life, energy and good health. The therapist
then makes a suggestion such as "For the betterment
of your mind and body, smoking is a poison and you must
keep your body healthy at all times."
"We're trying to access the person's subconscious mind
and change how they see things," says Dr Rodgers. The
goal is to have these new messages replace the negative
ones so that if a smoker thinks of lighting up, the
subconscious mind kicks in and hopefully deters the
In Canada, there currently isn't
any regulation of hypnotherapy ? something both Dr Rodgers
and Ms Cannon would like to see changed.
Both practitioners feel that when
it's used properly, hypnosis can be a very effective
tool. And it has the added advantage of having no negative
side effects. "You can't really do any harm since it's
almost like meditation," says Ms Cannon. Dr Rodgers
wonders why more docs haven't given it a try.