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Has the medical community embraced hypnotherapy as an accepted modality?


by Rev Dr Casey CHUA

The origins and practice of hypnosis dates back thousands of years, since the times when ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians used the power of suggestion to heal their patients. Tribal dances, chanting and Shamanism were ancient ways of accessing the subconscious mind and were in actuality, a type of hypnosis. But the actual use of hypnosis in modern medicine spans only slightly over 200 years.

In the later part of the 18th century and early half of the 19th century, hypnosis became popular as a treatment for medical conditions when effective pharmaceutical and surgical treatment options were limited.

James Braid, an English physician, successfully shifted the perception of hypnosis from being viewed as black magic to a serious scientific discipline.

In the early 19th century, Dr. James Esdaille performed 345 major operations using mesmeric sleep as the sole anesthetic in British India. In his operations, the surgical mortality rate were lowered to less than 5 percent.

His unprecedented success was reported back to Britain, but comments were frosty. This was especially due to the fact that chemical sedations and anesthesia were growing in popularity at that time, and appeared to be reliable.

When Esdaille left India and returned to England, he found his methods could not work with his fellowmen. This was because the Indians were open and conditioned to allow hypnosis because of their culture, but the English were reserved and narrow minded and could not be hypnotized. The British Medical Society scorned his work, saying that pain was essential in toughening character and that he was interfering with nature. Esdaile never lived to see the success of hypnosis.

In 1892, the British Medical Association (BMA) stated hypnosis as a useful form of therapy.

During the First World War, German soldiers who were shell-shocked were treated through hypnosis. Hypnosis was also used in the same period to treat battle fatigue and neurosis.

Up to this point, American behavioural scientists Clark Hull and Dr Milton Erickson continued to bring hypnosis into medical practices as a viable treatment option for mental and physical illnesses.

But it was 1955 that marked the year of successful emergence of hypnotherapy into medical mainstream when the British Medical Society accepted and approved hypnosis as an adjunct modality to medical practice.

In the same year in April, the British Medical Journal published in a report, "Medical use of hypnosis", stating "...after consideration of the available evidence... hypnotism is of value and may be the treatment of choice in some cases of so-called psycho-somatic disorder and psychoneurosis. ...of value for revealing unrecognized motives and conflicts in such conditions. It has proved its ability to remove symptoms and to alter morbid habits of thought and behavior. [...] In addition to the treatment of psychiatric disabilities, there is a place for hypnotism in the production of anesthesia or analgesia for surgical and dental operations, and in suitable subjects it is an effective method of relieving pain in childbirth without altering the normal course of labor [...] there has been an abundance of evidence that psychological and physiological changes could be produced by hypnotism which were worth study on their own account, and also that such changes might be of great service in the treatment of patients.' [BMJ 1955]

In 1958, the American Medical Association (AMA) announced its official acceptance of hypnosis in the medical field. In the same year, AMA published and approved a report indicating that there could be "definite and proper uses of hypnosis in medical and dental practice" and recommending the establishment of "necessary training facilities" in USA.

In 1960, The American Psychiatric Association approved hypnotherapy for use by professionally trained and responsible individuals. The APA indicated in 1961, that "hypnosis has definite application in the various fields of medicine." and that "physicians would be seeking psychiatrists for training in hypnosis."

Various hypnosis clinics have been set up in the world since then, to aid patients in psychotherapy, manage their emotions and kick bad habits.

Hypnotherapy has been effective in eliminating phobias, ADHD, stress, depression and eating disorders.

In 1995, the National Institutes of Health recommended that hypnosis be incorporated to a greater degree in the delivery of health care. In 1996, a National Institutes of Health panel issued a statement published by the AMA indicating that there was "strong evidence for the use of hypnosis in alleviating pain associated with cancer"

In 1999, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a Clinical Review of current medical research on hypnotherapy, concluding that hypnosis aids the therapy of phobia, obesity and anxiety panic disorders, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and insomnia and is effective in cancer related anxiety, pain, nausea and vomiting, particularly in children.

In 2001, the British Psychological Society (BPS) published a report entitled The Nature of Hypnosis, stating "Enough studies have now accumulated to suggest that the inclusion of hypnotic procedures may be beneficial in the management and treatment of a wide range of conditions and problems encountered in the practice of medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy [...]

There is convincing evidence that hypnotic procedures are effective in the management and relief of both acute and chronic pain and in assisting in the alleviation of pain, discomfort and distress due to medical and dental procedures and childbirth. [...] Hypnosis and the practice of self-hypnosis may significantly reduce general anxiety, tension and stress.... may assist in insomnia.[...] There is encouraging evidence demonstrating the beneficial effects of hypnotherapeutic procedures in alleviating the symptoms of a range of complaints in the heading under...'psychosomatic illness.' eg tension headaches and migraine; asthma; gastro-intestinal complaints such as irritable bowel syndrome; warts; ... skin complaints such as eczema, psoriasis and urticaria [hives]. [...]There is evidence from several studies that its [hypnosis'] inclusion in a weight reduction program may significantly enhance outcome.' (BPS, 'The Nature of Hypnosis', 2001)

Recently, the American Journal of Gerontology published an article regarding the effectiveness of hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome. The medical research of hypnotherapy on IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) alone was so dramatic that Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, chairman of the National Women's Health Network in Washington D.C., said that hypnosis should be the treatment of choice for severe cases of IBS (Melissa Roth, CHT, DCH, "Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Hypnosis")

The educated medical community has already recognized the value of hypnotherapy.. Mistrust, suspicion, and a lack of conviction in hypnosis appear only in the uninformed and unenlightened. Resistance to this powerful technique is slowly being dissolved as doctors around the world come to discover its effectiveness and recognize the therapeutic value of hypnosis.

Many significant scientific societies exist today that aid in the promotion of hypnosis. The International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association (IMDHA, founded 1986) and American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH, founded 1959), provide and encourage education programs to further, the knowledge, understanding, and application of hypnosis in complimentary health care. They encourage research and scientific publication in the field of hypnosis and promote the further recognition and acceptance of hypnosis as an important tool in health care and focus for scientific research. They also provide a professional community for those complimentary health care professionals, therapists and researchers who use hypnosis in their work.

As alternative treatments for medical conditions become popular, contemporary medicine is being challenged to take a more integrative approach. There is a rapidly growing acceptance by doctors and medical staff for complementary approaches to health care, with a broader understanding of the profound connection between the physical body, the subconscious mind and the spirit.

In the last decade, many trials and case studies have been made to determine if hypnosis could sustain a longstanding role in contemporary medicine. The case studies range in the various medical fields, including allergy, dermatology, gastroenterology, healing from surgery, hematology, hypertension, headaches, obesity, obstetrics, oncology, rheumatology, and urology.

The conclusion of the findings is that acceptance of hypnosis as a mode of treatment in medicine is increasing as a result of "careful, methodical, empirical work of many research pioneers." Many of such trials have helped to establish the role of hypnosis in contemporary medicine, because the utility and efficacy of hypnosis have been observed.

Nonetheless, in spite of these positive results, skepticism may prevail and hypnosis may remain underused in some places because of the tendency to doubt or fear the unknown. Through greater awareness and acceptance of hypnosis, additional training and research can be inspired in pursuit of improved techniques and new areas of potential benefit.

Hypnotherapy has come a long way from the time where it was viewed suspiciously as witchcraft or in the domain of quacks and swindlers. In an era of greater *acceptance, hypnotherapy is now recognized by many institutions as useful and legitimate. But the full value of hypnotherapy has yet to be discovered and tapped. If the medical community could join hands with the hypnotherapy profession fully, that is to say, if every psychological and medical cases could incorporate hypnotherapy by bringing patients in touch with their subconscious minds, substantial whole mind/body healing could result.


This article is by Rev Dr Casey CHUA, MDiv, PhD, CH, CI, BCH, MNCH(UK), IACT, IMDHA, NBCCH, DipHT Center Director & Senior Hypnotherapist HYPNAE CENTER PTE LTD 1 Orchard Boulevard #13-01/02 Camden Medical Centre Singapore 248649 Tel: +65-63336776 www.hypnae.com




Posted: 07/05/2007

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