Nancy Narr had a serious fear of flying. She could get on a flight if she was accompanied by her husband or a close friend, but had to take prescription anti-anxiety medication and managed her panic with a death-grip on her seatmate’s hand. “We were planning a trip to Europe, and a friend of mine told me about Deb [Dr. Deb White,] who suggested we try hypnosis,” Narr says. “At first I said no. All I knew abut hypnosis was what I saw on TV as a kid, acts like The Amazing Kreskin, but after she described it to me I agreed to try.”
In a trance state, Narr was able to calmly rehearse flying and dealing with unexpected problems. “I knew I was there in Dr. White’s office,” she says, “but at the same time I truly was in [another] spot where I was practicing the steps.”
She attended several sessions, and Dr. White recorded the hypnosis sequence for Narr to listen to at home and on her flight. “The flight to Europe was re-routed, and there was a really rough landing but I was actually smiling,” Narr says. “It was wonderful. This has changed my life.” Narr has since taken a job requiring occasional air travel, which she does on her own and without medication, and feels what she has learned has helped her deal with stress in other areas of her life.
Used for healing since ancient times, hypnotism suffers a bad reputation. In movies, it’s been portrayed as a manipulative process used by villains to wrest free will from their victims, and on stage, entertainers appear to compel people to do foolish or comical things they would never do in public.
The reality is that clinical hypnosis is still widely used for an array of therapeutic purposes, and the person in the hypnotic state is always in charge. Hypnosis, says Ilyne Sandas, M.A, Eden Praire Licensed Psychologist, is quite similar to the trance state people often enter when driving a familiar route, and arrive at their destination without memory of the specific turns taken along the way. “[The difference is] that hypnosis allows the subconscious to focus on a certain area,” Sandas explains. “Hypnosis slows down all bodily functions, including a person’s thinking, relaxes the body and heightens the mind, so they can dig into root causes and use imagery to work through what they’re struggling with.”
Increasing evidence shows that hypnosis is also useful for issues considered to be more medical in nature. David Wark, Ph.D. and Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of Minnesota, in an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis (July, 2008) summarized the published research and found that hypnosis has been demonstrated to be an effective or better treatment for weight reduction, migraines and headache pain, surgery pain, cancer pain and anxiety about asthma attack; and that hypnosis, when combined with other treatment (e.g. “talk therapy,”) yielded better results than the other treatment alone for a wide variety of other disorders.
Deb White, Ph. D. who also practices in Eden Prairie and uses hypnosis with patients struggling with pain management, agrees. “Hypnosis helps a person tune into their issues,” says White, “whether it is pain or anxiety or fear. Under hypnosis a person can experience themselves as a person who has influence over anxiety or pain. Pain is subjective and combining mindfulness and hypnosis can have a very powerful effect on their experience.” By adding a hypnotic suggestion patients can use the imagery learned in the session to reduce pain when they aren’t in the office or in a hypnotic state.
More information about hypnosis and choosing a practitioner can be found on the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis website (asch.net) by clicking on the “Public” tab and then on “General Info on Hypnosis.”