Mind-body therapies are based on the premise that there is a dynamic relationship between the mind and the body, and that tapping into that relationship can promote self-healing. Hypnotherapy, a type of mind-body therapy, is being studied for its use in managing the chronic pain associated with cancer.
What is Hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy, or what is more commonly referred to as hypnosis, makes use of certain exercises to put the individual into a state of deep relaxation and a different level of consciousness. This kind of heightened state is sometimes called a trance. The individual becomes completely focused and is responsive to suggestions made by the therapist.
There is some misconception about a person in this focused state having lost their free will. In actuality, the person is still very much in control as the therapist functions as their guide. They are not aware of what is going on around them because all of their thoughts have been redirected on specific ideas or tasks.
How Does Hypnotherapy Work?
The relaxation brought on by the hypnotic state lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and changes some brain wave activity. The goal is to put the individual at ease physically while creating a heightened consciousness that will allow the individual to center their mental activity on the problem.
A hypnotherapy session is broken down into several components:
- The problem is restated
- The patient becomes relaxed, and then deeply focused on the ideas or images presented by the therapist
- The patient starts to remove other thoughts from their minds, what is called dissociating
- The patient begins to follow the therapist's suggestions
- The therapist returns the patient to their usual conscious state
- The therapist and the patient discuss the experience
A hypnotherapy session typically lasts about an hour, and results are achieved within 4 - 10 sessions.
How Did Hypnotherapy Originate?
The University of Maryland Medical Center provided the following synopsis of the beginnings of modern day hypnotherapy:
“. . . hypnosis as we know it today was first associated with the work of an Austrian physician named Franz Anton Mesmer. In the 1700s, Mesmer believed that illnesses were caused by magnetic fluids in the body getting out of balance. He used magnets and other hypnotic techniques (the word “mesmerized” comes from his name) to treat people. But the medical community was not convinced. Mesmer was accused of fraud, and his techniques were called unscientific.
Hypnotherapy regained popularity in the mid-1900s due to Milton H. Erickson (1901 - 1980), a successful psychiatrist who used hypnosis in his practice. In 1958, both the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association recognized hypnotherapy as a valid medical procedure. Since 1995, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has recommended hypnotherapy as a treatment for chronic pain.”
Researchers Acknowledge Mind-Body Therapy’s Role in the Treatment of Lung Cancer Patients
In an article discussing the American College of Chest Physicians’ practice guidelines published September 2007 in Chest, researchers noted that lung cancer patients are extremely susceptible to heavily promoted claims for unproven alternative therapies because of their poor prognosis. However, after reviewing alternative therapies, the committee developing these guidelines said that mind-body therapies “can reduce anxiety, mood disturbance, and chronic pain.”