- Experimental and clinical hypnotists
will discuss the growing role of hypnotism in helping to treat medical
conditions at their annual conference in Birmingham this weekend, reports
BBC News Online's Mandy Garner.
- Hypnosis should be a core therapy in
the treatment of cancer, according to a leading psychologist.
- Phyllis Alden, consultant psychologist
in the department of clinical oncology at Derbyshire Royal Infirmary, believes
hypnosis can not only help ease the anxiety of being treated for cancer,
but can reduce its symptoms.
- "Psychology is becoming a key part
of cancer services," she said.
- She added that research was increasingly
showing that hypnosis could improve cancer results.
- However, she admitted many of the studies
- Hypnosis is now being used to treat a
wide variety of conditions in the NHS, including pain relief, irritable
bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression.
- Dentists are also using it to help patients
who have a phobia for the dentist's chair.
- Ms Alden, who is also honorary secretary
of the British Society of Experimental and Clinical Hypnosis (BSECH) which
is meeting this weekend, says hypnosis helps cancer patients in a variety
- "It helps people to achieve control
of their emotions and be calm and relaxed.
- "It can also help in symptom control,
for example, treating pain and nausea."
- One 76-year-old man she treated became
panicked at the thought of receiving radiotherapy.
- He had been urgently referred to her
with cancer of the eyelid and risked losing his eye without treatment.
- Even under hypnosis, he panicked so Ms
Alden tried to find out what was causing the panic.
- She traced it back to when the man was
10 years old and he was held upside down by his father because he had stopped
him hitting his mother.
- "He had felt very helpless and feared
for his life," said Ms Alden.
- The radiotherapy made him feel similarly
helpless. After finding the cause of his problems, he was able to have
- Ms Alden says recovering memories that
have been withheld from the past can help in only a small number of cases
and a risk assessment should be made before the technique is used.
- She decided not to use the technique
with a women who had no memory of her life before the age of 15.
- This was after taking tests which showed
the woman had a poor memory anyway, was extremely open to hypnosis and
believed she had been abused in the past, based on comments from some of
- One of these was dead and the other did
not wish to participate in the regression.
- "It was a recipe for disaster,"
said Ms Alden.
- "Hypnosis can facilitate fantasy.
People can relive experiences that may never have happened because fantasies
and dreams can seem very real.
- "Hypnosis can be very suggestive."
- She tries not to suggest any ideas in
her sessions. For example, if a person says they do not remember having
had any traumatic event in their past, she accepts this.
- Many qualified hypnotists believe that
people have a general distrust of hypnotherapy because of its use in entertainment.
- "People feel hypnosis will make
them do something stupid or something they don't want to.
- "But that is not the way it is used
clinically," said Cath Potter, a dentist from Thameside.
- "The idea is to give people more
control, not to take it away from them."
- She had used hypnosis for eight years,
after obtaining a masters in the subject.
- She wants to see greater regulation of
the profession to stop unqualified people from taking advantage of patients.
- "If you look in the Yellow Pages,
you have no idea if therapists are qualified. They may just have a read
a book on the subject and it is not illegal for them to operate."
- She hopes that more can be done to promote
the advantages of clinical hypnotherapy, for example, by training more
therapists and by spreading the word among other health workers.
- Most of her patients who have been hypnotised
have suffered from anxiety, but some are allergic to local anaesthetic
and need hypnosis to control the pain of an operation.
- "It is mind over matter," she
- She adds that hypnosis is the end stage
in a process of trying to ease patients' fears about the dentist's chair.
- She says most people fear the dentist
because of a bad experience in the past.
- She tries to suggest positive ways of
seeing treatment. For example, instead of saying "Open wide",
she will say "This will make the tooth numb and it will be more comfortable
- She claims many people have benefited
from the treatment and have learnt to hypnotise themselves.
- This can cut down time in the surgery.
People who are afraid of the dentist tend to take longer to treat as they
- Ball of sunshine
- Phyllis Alden uses tapes to help people
- They are very imagery-based, for example,
leading people to a warm, calm place where they can relax and feel safe
and where they can help their immune system do its job.
- She goes through the tape afterwards
with patients, working on the areas they found most useful.
- For instance, a patient with very bad
back pain worked on imagining a ball of sunshine which she could put on
her back to dull the pain.
- "It is all down to the power of
thought," she said.