Hypnosis mechanics: where the mind points, the body tries to follow
"The subconcious mind can be compared to the engineering section of a ship," says hypnotherapist Leif Birdsall when explaining the theory behind hypnosis. "The concious mind is the captain. Although the captain makes the decisions, it is the engineers who makes sure that it happens."
Similar explanations have inundated the therapeutic world when discussing the rationale behind hypnosis and other psychological exercises.
Tobacco addictions and weight management remain debatable issues for hypnotherapy, but a legitimate connection has been made between mental well-being and physical health.
"We know there is a connection between the mind and body," said clinical hypnotherapist and registered nurse Martha Harrison. "If you can lead a person to expect positive results, it will cause a physical response in their bodies."
Pain relief has been documented time after time, affirms the American Institue of Hypnotherapy, but other physical disorders such as cancer and heart disease are incurable through hypnosis.
On the other hand, hypnosis can effectively control nausea, reduce bleeding during surgery and decrease blood pressure.
"What the mind expects tends to be realized," said Harrison. "Take the immune system, for instance. We use visualization exercises to destroy unhealthy cells for cancer patients. We know that the mind has a direct effect on the body. It works in reverse, however. A person who hears he has cancer will instantly start dying because he expects it. That is the underlying principle."
On a smaller scale, however, hypnosis has been used as an alternative form of pain relief by dentists in Cache County.
"There are still dentists who use hypnosis," said Cache Valley dentist Daniel Boston. "But it has fallen out of practice a little bit. I think distraction techniques are used more commonly in this area. If you went to a dentist who said he was going hypnotize you, I think there would be a lot of skepticism."
Lance Gunnel, dentist for comprehensive dentistry, agrees. He admits that he has heard of hypnotherapy, but knows of no one who still practices the technique in Cache County.
Boston was aware of one dentist who practiced hypnosis several years ago, but explains that its popularity is decreasing.
"I think there is potential for it, but hypnosis requires a lot of training and the right type of patient," said Boston. "But the number of seminars presented on hypnosis has dropped, so I would imagine that it is not a high item anymore."
Insurance companies continue to debate the legitimacy of hypnotherapy as a medical alternative.
Presently, little coverage is available for patients pursuing hypnotism.
Harrison is disappointed, but believes that hypnosis will follow the trend of chiropractry and receive financial support within the next decade.
Birdsall shares Harrison's optimism, but explains that steps have already been made to ensure further coverage.
"It has been difficult for insurance money to go through for hypnotherapy," said Birdsall. "But Blue Cross is hiring a hypnotherapist to work under their plan."
Although public support is limited, Birdsall is confident that hypnotherapy will provide a more permanent solution to therapeutic concerns than would traditional counseling.
"People don't always get a lot of success out of traditional counseling," said Birdsall, "It's like putting a Band-Aid over a problem. It only scratches the surface. But hypnotherapy does not end with a session. It keeps going. When a person wakes up in the morning, they are closer to the resolution of their problem than they was the night before. All I can say is that [hypnosis] works. It really does."
Part One: What is hypnotherapy -- and what is it not? 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. Some people
think of swinging pocket watches and Svengalis in black suits.