A medical consultation, online or in person, to review the history and provide information will be arranged prior to the first hypnotherapy session.
Physicians and nurse practitioners can fax referrals to 1-844-820-7073.
|Doctors David and Jannice Bowler||
A new 7-session private-pay Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy program is being offered via Telemedicine by Dr. David Bowler. Chiefly intended for irritable bowel syndrome, it can be adapted for GERD and for symptom reduction as an adjunct to conventional therapy for inflammatory bowel disorders, using the validated peer-reviewed North Carolina protocol. Patients must have been appropriately evaluated and referral must include all relevant investigations and GI consults if available. Initial session is 60-90 minutes, subsequent ones 30-45 minutes, at approximately 2-week intervals.
A medical consultation, online or in person, to review the history and provide information will be arranged prior to the first hypnotherapy session.
Physicians and nurse practitioners can fax referrals to 1-844-820-7073.
Fibromyalgia is a common long-term condition, affecting 2-4% of the population, more commonly women than men, that causes pain all over the body along with many other symptoms. People with fibromyalgia often have:
Books and articles often say that the causes of fibromyalgia are unknown. It may be that it is the final destination arrived at from a variety of different starting points. For some people it occurs after an illness such as influenza; for others after an accident or other traumatic event. For many it develops gradually after an overwhelming incident or as the culmination of years of accumulated stressful events, often dating back to childhood. Numerous studies have found that between 50 and 63% of patients with fibromyalgia also meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, frequently reporting adverse childhood events or subsequent physical or emotional trauma. Adverse childhood events (such as the loss of a parent, abusive or chaotic households, early hospitalizations, accidents, neglect etc), and later traumas all can prime the nervous system's fight/flight/freeze response, giving rise to a sense of being unsafe in the world, and cause the body to respond with physical symptoms. Chronically elevated stress hormones change the way our glucose metabolism and digestive function work, cause increased muscular tone (tight muscles), and affect our immune system function.
There is a complex inter-relationship between our nervous systems, our hormones, immune systems, gastrointestinal system, and our muscular function, including how the energy powerhouses (mitochondria) in our cells function. In other words, although it is a very real physical condition, the pain is being produced in the nervous system in response to (usually prolonged and cumulative) internal (such as the demands or expectations we place on ourselves) and external sources of stress. It can also be triggered by sleep deprivation in some people.
For this reason, it is possible to turn the pain down or even off, by means of techniques that address past trauma, anxiety, stress, beliefs and expectations, as well as by optimizing nutrition, sleep and general well-being through regular exercise (while avoiding extreme of activity). Coming to an understanding of the condition reduces fear, which in turn can substantially reduce pain intensity.
Fibromyalgia can be best thought of as a central nervous system condition in which the brain and spinal cord are sensitized and therefore respond to sensations which are perceived as much more painful than the same sensation would be experienced by someone without fibromyalgia. It is sometimes referred to as a Central Pain Amplification Disorder. Similarly, people with irritable bowel syndrome will perceive the same degree of gaseous intestinal distension as being much more painful than someone without IBS would do. It is as though the pain ‘thermostat’ or dial has been turned up to a very high level.
Unlike rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, fibromyalgia is not an autoimmune or inflammatory condition. It can co-exist with arthritis but it is not primarily a joint condition. It does not lead to any ilife-threatening disease.
Fibromyalgia may run in families to some extent but whether this is genetic or due to a common environment (similar stresses) or a learned response to adverse circumstances is not clear. A small subset of people with symptoms suggestive of fibromyalgia have been found on skin biopsy to have an abnormality of small nerve fibres. Genetics alone cannot explain fibromyalgia. Symptoms tend to be worse with stress, over-work, excessive exercise, or sleep deprivation.
1. symptoms as mentioned above, present for more than 3 months with no other explanation
2. pressure at certain common soft tissue points on physical exam can be helpful to detect tenderness and to exclude other causes of muscle pain.
There is no specific blood test or X-ray that can diagnose fibromyalgia. Commonly tests will be ordered to exclude other conditions, for example, sleep apnea, an underactive thyroid, or polymyalgia rheumatica, anemia, iron-deficiency, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
While there is no one specific cure for fibromyalgia, approaching it from a number of different angles – certain medications, carefully structured aerobic exercise within one’s capabilities, and mind-body approaches such as relaxation, stress-reduction, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, mindfulness, Tai Chi, and clinical hypnosis or guided imagery, can be helpful. Ensuring adequate sleep is essential. Some people have co-existent anxiety, depression, PTSD, panic disorder, all of which can also be treated. Proper nutrition is also important. Anecdotally, some patients report a correlation between pain intensity and diet, such as refined carbohydrates, gluten, nightshades, or meat. This may be an individual response.
A number of medications are often tried to reduce symptoms. Most of these are “off-label”.
Low doses of an antidepressant called amitriptyline (Elavil) or related medications (such as nortriptyline or trazodone) can often be very helpful for pain, sleep, and to reduce migraines.
A muscle relaxant such as cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) can be helpful. This is structurally similar to tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) such as amitriptyline.
A newer SNRI medication, duloxetine (Cymbalta) can sometimes help.
Additional medications include pregabalin (Lyrica) and gabapentin (Neurontin) can be used.
Another off-label medication is low dose naltrexone.
Opioid narcotic medications are best avoided as they have significant side-effects, are largely ineffective, addictive and can lead to a conditions known as opiate-induced hyperalgesia, a parodoxical increase in pain the more opiates one cosumes. Of the opiates Tramadol may be better than the others but shares all the same risks as other opiates and interacts with other medications.
Acetaminophen and anti-inflammatories (such as ibuprofen) are generally not effective for fibromyalgia but may help other co-existing pain. Sleeping tablets such as Zopiclone and benzodiazepines are not recommended.
One small study published in December 2018 suggested that some patients with fibromyalgia may respond to treatment with a diabetes drug called metformin if their average sugar level (HBA1C) was in the high normal or elevated range.
Gaining an understanding of fibromyalgia, engaging in self-care, ensuring good sleep, reducing stress, modifying behaviour, counselling, dietary modifications and supplements, and a judicious exercise regimen can all be helpful.
In my own practice a combination of tender point injections, counselling, relaxation techniques, clinical hypnosis, medication and nutritional advice, and patient-education (which may include recommended reading and journalling) can lead to a significant reduction in symptoms, periods of remission, or even resolution.
Steven Blake, a therapist in the UK, has skillfully woven together a number of therapeutic techniques by which it is possible for one to persuade the unconscious or subconscious mind to reduce or eliminate chronic pain which has outlived its usefulness.
This technique has a number of premises including the understanding that acute (new) pain is helpful and protective, even though unpleasant, inasmuch as it is a warning that something is amiss (like an alarm signal) and needs to be sorted out, whereas, chronic (old) pain in general no longer serves a purpose, rather like something that is past its "sell-by date", or like an alarm which has malfunctioned and continued to ring long after the cause has been dealt with. Once chronic pain has been appropriately and thoroughly investigated medically and it has been determined that conventional medical therapy is either not available, effective or needed, then alternative means of relieving the suffering are appropriate, provided they are safe and effective.
Steven describes this process on his website. This technique does not require a formal trance or hypnotic induction though it does require deep relaxation and can be combined with other therapies.
It goes without saying that cause of a pain needs to be appropriately investigated before using these kinds of techniques to relieve the pain. The advantages of this technique include its safety, speed of onset, and remarkable effectiveness, not to mention that no drugs are involved. This technique has been effectively used in my office for a number of patients with chronic pain. Not everyone responds but there is nothing to lose but your pain.
There has been extensive research into the use of hypnosis for pain management over the years.
A brief google scholar search bears this out.
Hypnosis for the Relief and Control of Pain
Hypnosis is likely to be effective for most people suffering from diverse forms of pain, with the possible exception of a minority of patients who are resistant to hypnotic interventions.FindingsHypnosis is a set of techniques designed to enhance concentration, minimize one's usual distractions, and heighten responsiveness to suggestions to alter one's thoughts, feelings, behavior, or physiological state. Hypnosis is not a type of psychotherapy. It also is not a treatment in and of itself; rather, it is a procedure than can be used to facilitate other types of therapies and treatments. People differ in the degree to which they respond to hypnosis. The key to becoming hypnotized is the extent to which a person is hypnotizable, which is a very reliable and stable individual difference trait that indexes one's openness to hypnotic suggestions.
Research shows that hypnosis works as part of a treatment program for a number of psychological and medical conditions, with pain relief being one of the most researched areas, as shown in a 2000 study by psychologists Steven Lynn, PhD, Irving Kirsch, PhD, Arreed Barabasz, PhD, Etzel Cardeña, PhD, and David Patterson, PhD. Among the benefits associated with hypnosis is the ability to alter the psychological components of the experience of pain that may then have an effect on even severe pain.
In recent years, the anecdotal and sometimes exaggerated evidence for the effectiveness of hypnosis to decrease sensitivity to pain - known as hypno-analgesia - has been supplemented by well-controlled experiments. In their 2003 review of controlled clinical studies, Dr. Patterson and fellow psychologist Mark Jensen, PhD, found that hypno-analgesia is associated with significant reductions in: ratings of pain, need for analgesics or sedation, nausea and vomiting, and length of stay in hospitals. Hypnosis has also been associated with better overall outcome after medical treatment and greater physiological stability. Surgeons and other health providers have reported significantly higher degrees of satisfaction with their patients treated with hypnosis than with their other patients.
Depending on the phrasing of the hypnotic suggestion, the sensory and/or affective components of pain and associated brain areas may be affected (as shown by the brain imaging research of neuropsychologist Pierre Rainville, PhD, and collaborators in 1999). Patients who are most receptive to hypnotic suggestions in general, or highly hypnotizable, have found the greatest and most lasting relief from hypnosis techniques, but people with moderate suggestibility (the majority of people) also show improvement. Factors such as motivation and compliance with treatment may also affect responsiveness to hypnotic suggestions.
Drs. Patterson and Jensen's review concluded that hypnotic techniques for the relief of acute pain (an outcome of tissue damage) are superior to standard care, and often better than other recognized treatments for pain. Furthermore, a 2002 cost analysis by radiologists Elvira Lang, MD and Max Rosen, MD, that compared intravenous conscious sedation with hypnotic sedation during radiology treatment found that the cost of the hypnotic intervention was twice as inexpensive as was the cost for the standard sedation procedure. Chronic pain, which continues beyond the usual time to recover from an injury, usually involves inter-related psychosocial factors and requires more complex treatment than that for acute pain. In the case of chronic pain, Patterson and Jensen's review found hypnosis to be consistently better than receiving no treatment, and equivalent to the other techniques that also use suggestion for competing sensations, such as relaxation and autogenic training (which is similar to self-hypnotism).
SignificanceA meta-analysis (a study of studies) in 2000 of 18 published studies by psychologists Guy Montgomery, PhD, Katherine DuHamel, PhD, and William Redd, PhD, showed that 75% of clinical and experimental participants with different types of pain obtained substantial pain relief from hypnotic techniques. Thus, hypnosis is likely to be effective for most people suffering from diverse forms of pain, with the possible exception of a minority of patients who are resistant to hypnotic interventions. Drs. Patterson and Jensen indicate that hypnotic strategies are equivalent or more effective than other treatments for both acute and chronic pain, and they are likely to save both money and time for patients and clinicians. Evidence suggests that hypnosis might be considered a standard of treatment unless the person fails to respond to it or shows a strong opposition against it.Practical ApplicationHypno-analgesia is likely to decrease acute and chronic pain in most individuals, and to save them money in surgical procedures. Hypnotic analgesia has been used successfully in a number of interventions in many clinics, hospitals, and burn care centers, and dental offices. For acute pain, it has proven effective in interventional radiology, various surgical procedures (e.g., appendectomies, tumor excisions), the treatment of burns (dressing changes and the painful removal of dead or contaminated skin tissue), child-birth labor pain, bone marrow aspiration pain, and pain related to dental work, especially so with children. Chronic pain conditions for which hypnosis has been used successfully include, among others, headache, backache, fibromyalgia, carcinoma-related pain, temporal mandibular disorder pain, and mixed chronic pain. Hypnosis can alleviate the sensory and/or affective components of a pain experience, which may be all that is required for acute pain. Chronic conditions, however, may require a comprehensive plan that targets various aspects besides the pain experience. The patient may need help increasing behaviors that foster well-being and functional activity (e.g., exercise, good diet) challenging faulty thinking patterns (e.g., "I cannot do anything about my pain"), restoring range of motion and appropriate body mechanics, and so on. Clinicians using hypno-analgesia should be up to date in other treatments for pain besides hypnosis, consult with other specialists as appropriate, and integrate different strategies to provide the most effective and enduring relief for pain.Cited ResearchLang, E. V., & Rosen, M. P. (2002). Cost analysis of adjunct hypnosis with sedation during outpatient interventional radiologic procedures. Radiology, 222, pp. 375-82.
Lynn, S. J., Kirsch, I., Barabasz, A., Cardeña, E., & Patterson, D. (2000). Hypnosis as an empirically supported clinical intervention: The state of the evidence and a look to the future. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol. 48, pp. 235-255.
Montgomery, G. H., DuHamel, K. N., & Redd, W. H. (2000). A meta-analysis of hypnotically induced analgesia: how effective is hypnosis? International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol. 48, pp. 138-153.
Patterson, D. R., & Jensen, M. P. (2003). Hypnosis and clinical pain. Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 129, pp. 495-521.
Rainville, P., Carrier, B., Hofbauer, R. K., Bushnell, M. C., & Duncan, G. H. (1999). Dissociation of sensory and affective dimensions of pain using hypnotic modulation. Pain, Vol. 82, pp. 159-71.
American Psychological Association, July 2, 2004
More than anyone else, Dr. Milton H. Erickson, a physician and psychiatrist, brought respectability to the use of clinical hypnosis within the medical and dental professions.
In his book The Practical Application of Medical and Dental Hypnosis, Erickson, along with Hershman and Secter, dispel a number of prevalent myths about hypnosis which should set at rest the minds of anyone concerned about experiencing it within a clinical setting with a trained professional for health-related purposes.
My friend and colleague, Lori Hammond, in Denver has published a rather lengthy but comprehensive post about hypnosis. It is well done and you can read it below or on her website. She offers some services that I don't offer as my focus is on musculoskeletal pain. She offers therapy over Skype or Zoom for weight-reduction amongst other things.
In her words:
What is Hypnosis?The other day I was texting, when I heard my sweet little nephew yell, “Aunt Lori!”
I was startled and he was visibly frustrated. He had been talking to me for several minutes and I hadn’t heard a word. I was so absorbed in my phone, I wasn’t even aware he had walked into the room.
Have you had a similar experience? Maybe you were so into a movie, book, or game that everything around you faded into the background. Almost seemed to disappear.
Guess what? That’s hypnosis. The word hypnosis has a magical, mystical feel to it, but the truth is you’ve been hypnotized many times.
Hypnosis, also known as trance, is focusing so intently on one thing that you don’t notice other things going on around you.
I didn’t hear my nephew talking to me because I was in a trance. I was so engrossed in my phone, that I was unaware that a human being had just walked into the space around me.
If you google “Invisible Gorilla,” you’ll find a video with several people tossing basketballs back and forth. An audience was asked to count how many times the players tossed the ball. Most of the participants didn’t notice a person in a gorilla costume walk through the scene. The gorilla even stopped and pounded it’s chest in the middle of the room!
The most focused participants were the most likely to miss the gorilla. The author of the study called this inattentional blindness. The audience was blind to what they weren’t focusing on.
Inattentional blindness is hypnosis.
This article will help you understand hypnosis and how you can use it to change your life.
Why does hypnosis freak people out?
The concept of hypnosis has been documented since prehistoric times but the word “hypnotism” was coined about 200 years ago. It comes from the greek word for “sleep” because sometimes (not always) hypnosis looks like sleep.
James Braid realized "hypnosis" was inaccurate and tried to change the word to “monoideism” but it was too late.
Monoideism is a much more accurate description since it means “single-thought-ism.” (Like when you’re thinking so much about writing a text you don’t notice your nephew.)
Two hundred years later, we understand a lot more about how the brain codes and interprets our experiences. But when “hypnosis” entered the scene in the 1800’s, people didn’t have access to the science and tools we have today.
When people saw how quickly hypnosis fixed problems, they assumed it was magical and mystical. Many people still erroneously associate magic or even witchcraft with the word hypnosis.
Hypnosis can be explained by neuroscience. That’s why anyone can learn hypnosis.
Subconscious vs unconscious:
I use the terms subconscious and unconscious interchangeably. They are different names for the same thing. That deep down part of us that directs almost everything we do.
You're already aware of this part of you on some level. Maybe you've said, "I did that subconsciously." or "There's a part of me that just wants to keep eating." This is the part of you that hypnosis accesses and heals.
What if I can’t be hypnotized?
You go in and out of trance every day.
If you flinch while when the bad guy jumps out in a movie, or cry when Bambi’s mom dies, you’re in a trance. You’re so absorbed in the story on a screen that you’re unaware of things in your environment.
When you miss your turn while driving, it may be because you’re so absorbed in the story inside your head that you didn’t notice your turn approaching.
When kids play dress up, tea party, or super hero, they’re in a hypnotic trance. They’re so engrossed in the activity, they really imagine being a different character. Everything else fades in the background.
People in an elevator go into trance almost immediately. They focus on one spot so they can tune out the strangers in their "bubble".
We all have our own story; our own trance
The way you experience the world is different from the way the person next to you experiences the world. We are all in our own hypnotic trance.
If you were able to hop into someone else’s body and see the world through their eyes, it would be like the craziest hallucinogenic trip ever.
The reality we experience is always the result of the story we tell ourselves. More on this below.
Anxiety is hypnosis
Anxiety happens when you focus so intently on what’s going on inside you (your thoughts) that you miss what’s happening around you. Just like the elevator trance, you “stare” so intently at a problem that you block out the present moment and the possibility that things may turn out great.
If you get in the habit of anxiety or focus on anxious thoughts for too long, you may have panic attacks or physical pain. Most people don’t know how simple it can be to stop anxiety in it’s tracks and experience peace in it’s place.
Before I learned hypnosis, I would often catch myself crying in my car. I thought about one of my kids and let myself imagine a worst case scenario, “What if she starts doing drugs and ends up on the street and I never see her again?”
I allowed myself to imagine this horrible future so vividly that I reacted as if it was true.
Your unconscious mind wants to help you. It's your own personal genie. When you think, "What if I mess up my speech later?" and vividly imagine yourself messing up, your genie (unconscious mind) says, "Your wish is my command" and makes it happen.
When you say, "This is going to be a hard day" your genie will only see things in your day that line up with that belief and you'll miss all the amazing things happening around you.
If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this.
Think about what you DO want. Not what you don't.
Imagine yourself giving your speech flawlessly. Tell yourself, something awesome is going to happen today. Your genie will make it happen.
If you're experiencing anxiety, you're probably already using your thoughts to imagine things. You're pretending bad things are happening while you drive in your car or sit on your couch.
You may as well start pretending your life is awesome. It may not change your life right away but it will change the way you see and feel about your life.
I dare you to try it. Play pretend!
If you think negative thoughts, you will only notice negative experiences.
You will re-interpret positive or neutral experiences to have a negative meaning.
You can become so addicted to feeling anxious that it feels wrong to feel good. This is the anxiety trance. Your thoughts are on autopilot.
The neuroscience of anxiety
Anxiety shows up as an electrical disturbance in one hemisphere of the brain. When energy is trapped in one hemisphere you experience the emotion without a time stamp. This means you feel the emotion as if the experience is happening right now.
There are simple exercises that quickly disrupt and dissolve the stuck energy so it can move freely between both hemispheres of the brain. The movement allows the disturbance to release so you can experience peace.
It’s like someone who’s been holding their breath, finally being able to exhale a sigh of relief.
Addiction is hypnosis
Your beliefs about life and your abilities are based on your own hypnotic trance. You’ve interpreted some past experience to mean you’re out of control.
You might think you’re addicted to food, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol etc and you can’t help but give in to that addiction.
You may be so focused on being an “addict” that you’re missing out on all the other possibilities around you. Remember, your mind considers your thoughts to be a wish or command. If you think, “I’m addicted” your body will act accordingly.
Your body does what it thinks you want by triggering cravings and behaving like an addict, which causes you to think you’re an addict. Talk about a vicious cycle!
How quickly can hypnosis fix my problem?
A good hypnotist can guide you to find freedom very quickly. Often in as little as one session.
Helping people understand how quickly they can change is one of the hardest parts of my job. They believe their problem is hard to get rid of because they’ve been doing it for years.
When people label themselves as “addict” or “alcoholic” it sends and even stronger subconscious message to their body. It is now their identity.
People often come to me when they’re at the end of their rope. Many have been in talk therapy for years and think they know why the problem exists but have been unable to solve it.
They’ve tried everything and they’re desperate. They want magic.
The “Magic” of Hypnosis
Hypnosis seems like magic because it quickly succeeds where talk therapy and other self-help methods often fail.
Imagine picking up a rock about the size of your palm. How long did it take to pick it up?
Almost no time.
Perhaps you carry that rock around for a few months, years, or even decades. Then you decide to drop the rock. How long does it take the rock to fall to the ground?
Almost no time.
Hypnosis is like this. There’s zero correlation between how long you’ve had the problem and how quickly it can be released.
It’s my job to un-hypnotize people so they can find freedom. I help people discover when they picked up the problem so they can quickly put it down.
We almost never consciously know when or why we picked up the rock (bad habit/addiction). In fact, the more we try to figure it out consciously, the more we reinforce the problem.
Every time we talk about our problem it becomes more ingrained in our identity. We go deeper into the trance of our limiting belief about ourself.
During trance your unconscious can go straight to the moment you picked up the rock then work out the solution so you can immediately drop the problem. Even if you’ve been carrying it around for years.
Hypnosis can change your life
I began researching hypnosis several years ago for help managing my out of control behavior with food. I saw a couple different hypnotists but didn’t feel confident they could help me so I took matters into my own hands and started studying hypnosis.
I got more than I bargained for. Yes, I learned to achieve and maintain my goal weight. More importantly, I learned how to control my moods and emotions.
I began to experience life in a completely new way, as if looking through new (happy) eyes. Hypnosis has enriched my life beyond anything I ever imagined.
How does hypnosis help?
Hypnosis accesses the part of you that knows how your problem formed and how to fix it.
When you drive, you may be aware of the car in front of you, the traffic signals, the song on the radio, etc. You are only consciously aware of about 7 things at a time.
Your unconscious mind takes in everything around you all the time. It notices every car you pass while you drive, the flowers on the side of the road, the smell of the french fry you dropped under the seat last week, and the phone number on the radio ad.
Your unconscious mind can process about 20 billion bits of information per second.
And this has been happening since the start of your life. Everything you’ve ever heard, seen, learned, or experienced is stored in your subconscious mind.
Sometimes the brain codes your experience in unhelpful ways. Your subconscious might think it’s in danger every time you feel lonely and send a strong, “MUST DRINK ALCOHOL” signal.
During hypnosis you tap into the part of you that knows why you feel compelled to do the problem. And you have access to the wealth of problem solving resources just below the surface of your awareness.
Your unconscious mind knows how to fix the problem.
The solution is inside you
Imagine visiting a colossal museum that stretches for miles and miles and is many stories high. The museum is filled with artifacts and books of knowledge. But the museum is dark.
Inside, there’s a security guard with a flashlight, but he can only illuminate 7 pieces of information at a time.
Hypnosis distracts the security guard so you can have access to everything in the museum.
In this museum you can discover the exact moment you began biting your fingernails, what happened to make you start biting your fingernails, and what your subconscious was trying to do for you by starting the unsavory habit.
Your subconscious always has some positive intention behind bad habits.
Most importantly, you can ask your subconscious to find new helpful behaviors to replace biting your fingernails.
A hypnotist does not control your mind but rather teaches you to control your own mind. A hypnotist will show you how to access the resources that already exist inside you.
There are enjoyable ways find and fix the problem without experiencing negative emotions from with past events. The subconscious mind can heal past experiences without you consciously being aware of them.
How does it feel to be hypnotized?
There are as many answers to this questions as there are people. Some people become so deeply relaxed that their body feels heavy, as if they’re sinking into the surface below them.
Some people feel light, as if they’re floating or detached from their body.
And some people experience the amazing sensation of. . . sitting in a chair with their eyes closed, listening to the hypnotist speak.
There is no feeling that means you’re hypnotized. Whatever you experience is right for you.
Most people remember as much from a hypnosis session as they would from any conversation. Sometimes my clients will say, “I don’t think it worked because I heard everything you said.” They don’t understand that they must hear everything in order for the process to work.
Hypnosis accesses your amazing unconscious mind but you remain conscious the entire time.
You’ll be aware of everything going on during hypnosis. But something totally different is happening on an unconscious level. Old programs are being rewritten. Old memories are being re-coded so you can quickly heal.
When you played pretend as a child, you were aware of everything about the experience. In fact, you were so absorbed in the experience you were able to imagine being Wonder Woman or Batman.
It’s also ok if you’re an analytical person and you evaluate your experience the whole time. “Am I doing it right?” “I don’t really think I can visualize.” etc. While your conscious mind is busy overthinking the experience, your subconscious will make the desired changes as long as you play along with the process.
What if I can’t be hypnotized?
This is my favorite question. Because I know you’re already hypnotized. Right now. You may be hypnotized to do the “nail biting” trance or the “drink too much” trance or the “overeating” trance.
Somewhere in the past, your subconscious decided it should pick up the rock (your bad habit or addiction) in response to something you experienced. You repeated that response so many times that it became automatic and now you believe you are an alcoholic, a food addict, a nail biter etc.
Of course you’re going to act accordingly.
This is why talk therapy isn’t always a helpful option. We talk about our problem over and over. This makes us sink into a deeper “I’m broken” trance.
We try to consciously figure out why we have the problem and what to do about it.
The answer resides in our subconscious and we can access it in a moment during hypnosis.
One of the hardest parts of my job is helping people understand how quick and enjoyable permanent change can be.
What if I get stuck in a trance?
Imagine being engrossed in a movie, playing pretend, or zoning out while you drive or play on your phone. What would happen if there was an emergency? You would immediately become aware of your surroundings and do what’s necessary to ensure your safety.
The same is true with hypnosis. You will probably enjoy hypnosis so much you don’t want to move. But you ALWAYS have a choice. A hypnotist can never make you do anything you don’t want to do.
Hypnosis doesn’t always look like sleep
NLP, or Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a way of helping people change quickly. NLP can be used during a hypnotic trance or when someone is wide awake.
Even when NLP is done outside of a formal trance, it’s still hypnosis. Remember, any time you’re fully engaged in your experience you’re hypnotized.
NLP uses your imagination to change the way your brain codes memories, the world around you, and your experiences. Your mind stores your perceptions and experiences as symbols and metaphors. NLP helps your brain re-code these things on the spot by changing the symbols and pictures.
I’ve seen countless people let go of an addiction to certain foods or drinks in 60 seconds using a simple NLP technique that re-codes the way they think about ice-cream, soda, fried chicken etc.
See the end of this article for a fun self-hypnosis exercise based on NLP.
You do not have to have to be in a deeply meditative state to be hypnotized, you don’t even have to close your eyes or sit still.
Children playing pretend are hypnotized to vividly imagine their experience.
A marathon runner is hypnotized by the steady pace of her feet and breathing.
My brother races motorcycles on the weekend. When he circles the track at 100mph he’s completely focused on his experience. He’s one with the bike and instinctively notices and responds to what's happening on the track.
He starts to feel depressed when he doesn’t race for awhile. This is because motorcycle riding is his meditation. It’s his trance. And trance is a truly healing and restorative state.
Meditation and trance are different words for the same experience.
When I work with clients I often have them imagine their thoughts and feelings somewhere outside their body. This can be hard for an analytical person. I know because I am one.
When I finally quit telling myself I couldn’t visualize or that I didn’t understand and just pretended I was doing it, my life changed significantly and permanently.
Here’s the cool thing about hypnosis. You don’t have to believe it’s working. You don’t have to feel anything in particular. In fact, you can think it’s total BS.
But if you play along and follow the hypnotist as they guide you, it’s nearly impossible to NOT change.
Playing pretend is hypnosis
Your brain codes experiences in the language of pretend. Dreams are full of symbols and metaphors and exaggerated adventures because that’s how our brain files and interprets events.
When you play pretend, you make quick changes. You change neural pathways in the brain. Your brain recodes the way it interprets life. This creates an immediate shift in physical and emotional pain, cravings, and addictions.
Hypnosis doesn’t change the past. It changes the way you perceive the past so you can experience a different present and future. It teaches you how to change your moods, emotions, cravings, and anxiety on command.
Perhaps you’ve seen a stage hypnotist make someone bark like a dog or quack like a duck.
The quacking, barking people volunteered to go on stage and accepted the suggestion to act ridiculous. They knew they were signing up to be silly. And the hypnotist almost always sends some volunteers back to their seat when they choose not to cooperate.
Hypnosis is not mind control. A hypnotist has no more control over your mind than anyone else. You always have a choice to accept their suggestions. You can allow them to guide you through a focused experience or you can say, “No way, I’m not barking like a dog.”
How do I use hypnosis to change?
Here's an awesome exercise you can use right away. Anyone can use this simple self-hypnosis technique. Don't disregard it because it's easy.
If you actually do the exercise and fully engage your silly playful imagination, you will see a difference.
NLP Exercise: Boost your confidence
1. Think about a time you lacked confidence in the past. Close your eyes and really remember how you felt. Notice your posture when you're not confident. Notice your thoughts. Notice the way you're breathing.
2. Where do you feel "not confident" in your body? (Just pretend you know.)
3. Pretend to pull that "not confident" feeling out of that part of your body and push it out across the room.
4. Look at the spot where you pushed "not confident".
5. Close your eyes again and think of the most supremely confident person you know. Someone who has the confidence you want. This can be a real or imaginary person or character.
Example: Batman is supremely confident. Calm and cool, he commands authority when he steps in the room.
6. Think about how the confident person would behave. Imagine them in a future situation where you want confidence.
Example: See Batman walking into the blind date you have later and notice how at ease he is.
7. Notice the way the confident person stands, breathes, and speaks. Notice their posture. Pretend you know the thoughts they're thinking.
8. Now pretend to step into that person's body, or let that person step into your body. Or you can pretend that person comes and whispers the secret of confidence in your ear.
You don't need to consciously know the secret. Just notice the way your own posture and breathing changes when you imagine being the confident person.
9. Now, while you're pretending to be this confident person, open your eyes look out at the spot where you pushed the "not confident" feeling.
10. Pretend to see that spot shrink or the not-confident feeling dissolve, or float away. Your creative brain can make it disappear in whatever way is right for you.
Ok, here's the cool part. Please don't read what's next until you've done the exercise because it's a bit of a spoiler.
The fact that you could imagine what it's like to be that confident person means it's a resource you can use anytime. You just changed from not-confident to confident in a moment. And you can do it again, whenever you want, just by playing pretend.
When you change your posture and your breathing it changes your moods and emotions. You think with your body as much as with your mind.
It's simple, but it works!
You can use this exercise to access any characteristic you want. If you want to have more patience with your kids, imagine Mother Theresa interacting with your kids and notice what it feels like to step into her body.
When you're about to lose it with your kids, pretend to be Mother Theresa (or whomever you choose) and deal with your kids as Mother Theresa.
Dr. Elvira Lang, a former Associate Professor of radiology at Harvard University is the founder of Comfort Talk, a process of clinical hypnosis proven to be useful in reducing pain, anxiety and claustrophobia during diagnostic procedures. Her clinical trials have been published in peer-reviewed journals. She demonstrated that it was possible for patients to experience a state of relaxation and calmness without claustrophobia during biopsies or other procedures in noisy MRI machines, thereby reducing cancellations and costs to the hospitals and making the procedures much more comfortable and pleasant for the patients. Drs. David and Jannice Bowler trained in Comfort Talk with Dr. Lang at the Canadian Society of Clinical Hypnosis, Ontario Division, in 2013.
Comfort talk uses several standard hypnosis scripts- a sort of one-size-fits-all approach suitable for training large numbers of x-ray or ultrasound technicians and nurses to use procedural hypnosis.
Another approach for the experienced clinical hypnosis practitioner is to tailor the hypnotic experience to each unique individual so that it is even more effective.
Counselling and Clinical Hypnosis
Supportive counselling and providing advice on matters of physical and psychological health are part and parcel of most medical visits. As pain physicians we often advise patients on general health measures, provide advice on nutrition, supplements, and ways of improving sleep as part of our holistic approach to pain-reduction and optimal health. Unfortunately, unlike other provinces, BC does not cover extended counselling, psychotherapy, or hypnosis by family physicians, so if an extended appointment is made specifically for counselling then the appointment is charged-for privately.
Clinical hypnosis is the use of hypnosis by a trained professional in order to assist a client or patient to make the changes they wish to make in order to relieve physical pain or emotional distress, change habits or behaviours, or improve skills or performance (generative change) or to obtain new perspectives. It can be combined with various other types of counselling such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or energy psychology techniques. It can also be used as a type of procedural anaesthesia to reduce discomfort during dental or medical treatments or childbirth.
In our office Clinical Hypnosis is used by Dr. David Bowler to reduce discomfort during procedures, to manage or eliminate chronic pain that has not responded to conventional measures, or to treat phobias or anxiety.
David is a fan of books and no doubt will be sharing some good reads here.