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Hypnotherapy for Relaxation

Hypnotherapy has been used as a healing method and dates back to 18th century. It is commonly practiced as a way to cope with stress and reduce fear and anxiety. Hypnosis is based on the theory that there is a mind-body connection where the mind is able to influence the health and wellbeing of the body.


Myths about hypnotherapy

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about hypnotherapy, but these negative connotations and skepticism are mainly due to media portrayal. When people think of hypnosis, one of the first things that come to mind is lack of control or free will.  This couldn’t be any further from the truth.


Relaxing with hypnosis

Hypnotherapy is a relaxation technique used to quiet the conscious mind while still maintaining a state of alertness and awareness. Although hypnosis stems from the Greek word “hypnos” meaning sleep, individuals who are hypnotized are not sleeping. They are in a deep relaxed state and able to focus their attention on a single thought or imagery. Those in a hypnotic state are relaxed and more open to suggestion. Hypnotherapists give suggestions that help their patient to make positive changes in perception, cognition, mood, or behavior. For this reason, hypnosis is commonly used to help modify undesirable behaviors such as smoking and weight loss, as well as some phobias. Those in a hypnotic trance are still in control and will not say or reveal anything unknowingly. In fact, it is used to help the individual gain control so that they feel empowered to make the desired changes.


Hypnosis for cancer patients

Hypnosis has become increasingly popular as a complementary therapy with mainstream cancer treatment to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. In addition, some cancer patients claim that the practice can help with pain management and ease some of the side effects of treatment such as nausea and vomiting [i][ii]. Although there is limited clinical research and mixed results supporting the role of hypnotherapy in cancer care, supporters claim it helps improve wellbeing and as a result leads to greater quality of life.


Does it work for everyone?

While most people respond to hypnosis, there are some who do not. This is due to the fact that levels of suggestibility vary individually. Attitude toward hypnosis has also been shown to be an indicator of responsiveness. Hypnosis may not be appropriate for people with a history of psychosis, including hallucinations and delusions. Side effects are rare, making hypnotherapy a safe and effective therapy for patients actively undergoing treatment for cancer. For those individuals who are looking for alternative methods to help with symptom management, hypnosis may be a good option to try.

It is important that all patients consult their oncologist or healthcare provider before starting or undergoing any complementary therapy [iii].

[i] Bardia A, Barton DL, Prokop LJ, Bauer BA, Moynihan TJ. Efficacy of complementary and alternative medicine therapies in relieving cancer pain: a systematic review. J Clin Oncol. 2006;24(34):5457-64.
[ii] Kravits K. Hypnosis: Adjunct therapy for cancer pain management. J Adv Pract Oncol. 2013;4(2): 83–88.
[iii] American Cancer Society.  Hypnosis. http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/mindbodyandspirit/hypnosis. Accessed October 5, 2014.
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