Utah hypnotherapists tapping power of the mind to help patients
By Jeremiah Stettler
Martha Harrison has been practicing hypnotherapy in Brigham City for 13 years and has yet to see a clinical use for making people bark like dogs or sing like Elvis Presley.
In fact, stage hypnosis is likely the last thing on Harrison's mind when helping clients overcome tobacco addictions or weight problems.
"People are concerned that hypnosis is a form of mind control," said Harrison. "But that is an absolute myth that comes out of stage shows. Most of us who practice medical hypnosis or therapeutic hypnosis feel like stage hypnosis gives us a black eye."
Although forms of hypnotherapy and visualization are used extensively in Cache Valley, Utah State University psychologist Mark Ziger explains that the public is skeptical about its use in the medical world.
"Many of the images surrounding hypnosis come from the movies where some guy in a black robe is putting a watch in front of someone's face," Ziger said. "It seems to have the air of mystery and even quackery in today's society. But my opinion is that it is legitimate for some purposes. The down side is that there are so many negative images about becoming zombies being controlled in some way."
Gaye Wilson, registered nurse and three-year clinical hypnotherapist, muses that patients will not leave doing the hula or a myriad of other silly things which would violate a person's behavioral code.
"Mind control is a popular myth surrounding hypnosis that many of us in the hypnotherapy field are working hard to dispel," said Wilson. "It is not true that someone can control your mind while you are in hypnosis. In fact, many hypnosis experts like to say that rather than lose control, you gain control while in hypnosis.
"Even though it is said the subconscious mind is open to suggestion and doesn't judge or discriminate against suggestions, it has been demonstrated time and again that people will not behave contrary to their moral/ethical beliefs or violate their core standard of behavior."
The National Society of Professional Hypnotherapists agrees, affirming that hypnosis is a natural state which can be most closely aligned to daydreaming, or the period just before going to sleep.
As explained by the society, "It is a state of deep relaxation during which the critical analytical mind shuts off making the unconscious mind more accessible."
This condition, says British hypnotherapist Charles Barr, PhD, creates an environment that allows things to happen through the subconscious mind rather than through the cares and concerns of consciousness. As a result, patients become more receptive to suggestions concerning behaviors or beliefs while under hypnosis.
"I think the reason why [hypnotherapy] is so effective is because there is a mind/body connection," said Harrison. "If you can lead a person to expect positive results, it will cause a physical response in their bodies."
"It is a tool," says Logan clinical psychologist Gary Sazama, "which allows patients to narrow their focus. It allows you to access more of the person's consciousness and subconciousness than we can on a day-to-day basis. As a result, one impulse can be replaced by another, effectively changing a behavior pattern."
Hypnotherapy has been approved by the American Psycological Association and American Medical Association for alternative forms of pain relief and stress management.
Weight management and stop-smoking programs have also been suggested
by local and national hypnotherapists, but the issue remains fairly
controversial in Cache County.