In what ways can hypnotherapy help individuals with multiple sclerosis cope with the stress of living with this disease?
Hypnotherapy can go much further than breathing exercises and relaxation tapes to reduce the stress of living with MS. How? By helping you change how you think about the disease. That is key because stress is not caused by WHAT happens to us but by the ‘meaning’ we put to what happened. And the body reacts to that meaning positively (its safe and ok therefore I can relax) or detrimentally (life is threatening and I am hopeless therefore I must be on guard).
Hypnotherapy can help alter the meaning and how we deal with the diagnosis, the presence of symptoms, and day to day issues that come up.
Many studies have shown that hopelessness and negative thinking is detrimental to our health and can make symptoms worse. When you change our thoughts and focus to what you can do and into positive steps to creating health, the sense of empowerment, confidence and control can reduce inflammation and lesson symptoms.
Additionally you can be taught self-hypnosis techniques to manage the day to day issues, such as letting go of worry, curbing the self-judgment, setting boundaries with others and staying focused on the possibilities, as well as learn self-hypnosis techniques to reduce pain and spasticity.
Can hypnotherapy mitigate the physical symptoms of MS, such as fatigue, spasticity, pain, tremor, and incontinence?
The independent study done in 2015 shows that both physical and well as mental symptoms of MS were positively effected by hypnotherapy. The improvements occurred both with relapsing-remitting MS as well as progressive forms of MS, recently diagnosed as well as those that have lived with MS for more than 30 years of debilitating symptoms (you can read the testimonials of those that participated in the study here)
Hypnosis can help manage symptoms but its strength resides in its ability to address the psychosocial factors determinant in the onset and exacerbation of the disease. By helping to resolve the underlying psychosocial factors behind the disease, we remove a large part of what ‘fuels’ the MS.
Could you describe briefly and in layman’s terms how hypnosis works?
Hypnosis is similar to meditation – a relaxed state of inward focus. However, whilst in meditation you stay in that state and try not to think of anything…in hypnosis we utilize that state to access information from the subconscious, such as past memories, emotions, and triggers. That state of imagination has a very powerful influence on our altering unconscious beliefs, mindsets and behaviors.
Can you describe what a session might be like? What should someone expect?
The session usually starts with the client updating the hypnotherapist on gains and any issues that have come up since the last session. Then client and hypnotherapist establish what are the desired outcomes for the session. After that, the hypnotherapist will help the client go into a gentle trance state similar to meditation (for chronic disease, I always use imagery of relaxing all the muscles of the body or bringing light into every cell) and, in that space of deep relaxation, the hypnotherapist would work on the issue at hand. Some of the work the hypnotherapist would do in hypnosis would be:
- Doing a visualizations to change the sensation of symptoms (symptom management)
- Use gestalt therapy in trance to talk to the symptoms or disease to understand what it is reacting to and what it needs.
- Use regression therapy to go back to when the condition, emotion, trigger or symptom began. Then do inner child work to resolve limiting beliefs, grief, guilt, trauma or other adverse childhood experiences that the body and emotions are still reacting to.
How many sessions might be necessary to begin seeing an effect?
After only a few sessions, there are noticeable differences in a greater sense of inner calmness and control and a lessoning of symptoms. Deeper work and more significant changes can take an average of 9 months with 90-minute sessions twice a month. This is based on the 2015 and my work with clients.
Can clients be trained to use self-hypnosis to help them with their stress or with other symptoms?
Yes, definitely. One of the goals of hypnosis is to empower the client to be able to manage their symptoms, emotions and triggers.
Is there anyone for whom hypnosis is not a good choice of therapy?
It is not recommended for those suffering serious mental health issues, such as schizophrenia and multiple personalities. Also hypnotherapy is not a panacea and is not a good choice if you are only looking for a one-stop solution. It should not be used in isolation. Clients must also be addressing the physical factors, such as toxins, food intolerances and environmental triggers with a skilled practitioner. You can find information on the physical factors in the Creating Health Series.
What would you say to those who may be reluctant to try hypnosis, who is skeptical about it, or who believes they can’t be hypnotized?
Hypnosis is a natural state we go in and out of all the time. When you first wake up and are still minimally remembering a dream, you are in hypnosis. When you are on the edge of falling asleep and worrying about what might go wrong, you are in hypnosis. Daydreaming while driving is also hypnosis.
For those that aren’t sure if this will help their disease – I always tell them that chronic disease is not viral but produced in the body by the body in reaction to environmental overloads (both physical and mental)… The subconscious mind is responsible for all the functions of the body. Who better to address the symptoms and what the body is reacting to than by working with the subconscious mind?
What should one look for when choosing a practitioner?
As with coaching, there are hypnotherapists that have only taken a 10-day course and already begin working with clients. For something such as multiple sclerosis where there is clear evidence of psychosocial factors behind the onset and evolution of the disease, you want to work with a practitioner with training in not just pain and stress management but also in regression therapy and parts work. Also you want to work with a practitioner willing to work with you for at least 6 months to get to the deeper cause of the disease in order to create lasting change.