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Hypnosis enhances the positive effect of medical treatments

Report from the International Hypnosis Association's World Congress 2015


The World Congress in Paris 2015 provided an overview of how clinical hypnosis is currently utilized. In medicine and psychology, hypnosis is mainly used to enhance the effects of other treatments; for instance, in cancer treatment, hypnosis boosts other treatments and reduces side effects. This is reported by Michael Rundblad and Susanna Carolusson, psychologists and psychotherapists who attended the congress.

The chairman of the International Hypnosis Association, ISH, psychologist Julie Linden from the USA, known for her creative hypnosis work with children and teenagers and her feminist perspective on treatment, gave the introductory speech. In Paris, at the 1889 international hypnosis congress, Freud and Charcot were the main speakers. Julie emphasized the scientific basis of hypnosis.

French doctor Patrick Bellet discussed the history of hypnosis, starting from the 18th century's "animal magnetism," a concept F A Mesmer presented to the French Academy of Science. This explanatory model was not accepted by the authorities, so they abandoned the theory and stressed the importance of suggestions as an active factor.

Associate Professor Kata Varga, a researcher and teacher in Budapest, among other findings, mentioned:

Hypnosis increases responsiveness to subtle signals, thus enhancing the accuracy of a doctor's interventions. Patients who received suggestions of recovery before surgery recovered faster and needed fewer drugs compared to a control group.

In one study, experienced therapists hypnotized patients whose attachment patterns had been tested. Therapists were unaware that this was part of the study. Oxytocin levels were measured before, during, and after the hypnosis in both parties. To the researchers' surprise, it was found that the therapists' levels increased during hypnosis, especially when the patients had attachment issues!

The conclusion is that an unconscious care instinct is activated through non-verbal communication by patients with early relational deficiencies. And that hypnosis enhances the possibility that therapy becomes a so-called "corrective emotional experience."

Family therapy and hypnosis

Family therapy has a historical link to hypnosis, as much of the methodology evolved from collaborations between anthropologist-philosopher Gregory Bateson and physician-hypnotherapist Milton Erickson. Camillo Loriedo, a professor of psychiatry and psychotherapy, a family therapist in Rome, works with families and couples in hypnosis, which he demonstrated by having seminar participants role-play family members. Hypnosis is effective in breaking impasses and conflicts. Hypnosis strengthens empathy while the conversations proceed slowly.

He acknowledged the unique traits and contributions of the "family members" to the dynamics and noted minor changes in posture and tone, which were utilized for carefully balanced interventions to break fixed patterns.

Camillo Loriedo, a prominent figure in hypnosis and family therapy for several decades, mentioned during a break that his current project, dealing with conversion disorder, has led him to develop a treatment protocol consisting of three sessions. The intention is to initiate change without getting embroiled in the often intense family dynamics. So far, they have treated 256 cases with very positive results.

Nordic Contribution

From Sweden, three abstracts were selected: hypnosis and family therapy in Sweden by psychotherapist Inger Lundmark; hypnosis and pain by psychologist Gunnar Rosén; and Ego-state therapy, hypnosis, and relationships by psychologist Susanna Carolusson, psychotherapist Åsa Fe Kockum, and Danish psychologist Hedda Sandemose.

Carolusson started with the theme of transference and countertransference in therapies with active exploratory hypnosis interventions, emphasizing the importance of including transference aspects, especially when working with dissociative patients where different ego states can have various transfers to the therapist.

Sandemose and Kockum illustrated with case descriptions. They showed how they, through supervision and listening to their own emotional sensations, could become aware of and manage signs of projective identification, feelings of their inadequacy, and balance between active hypnosis/ego-state exercises and conversation with interpretations of experiences.

Carolusson tied everything together by pointing out the therapeutic interventions that enabled deeper change work. It was crucial for the therapists to recognize the patients' need to test the therapist's holding capacity and setting boundaries. In one case, a flexible change in the frame significantly deepened the therapy. The patient relapsed into total hopelessness after significant progress, which was addressed with an extended open-ended session! In another case, after the patient became symptom-free and ready to conclude, an erotic transference began, which the therapist managed by clarifying and emphasizing the boundaries, leading to profound long-term internal change work.

Joy, Flexibility, Rituals, and Trance States in Working with OCD Patients

Polish psychologist Krysztof Klajs talked about his work with OCD and began by discussing how he became considered an expert. When he became a parent, he wanted to reduce his working hours, which was not well-received. He then offered to take on the most challenging patients that no one else wanted, and in return, his request for reduced hours was granted. These patients had severe obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Klajs believes that the thoughts are the root problem, while the actions provide temporary anxiety relief and therefore must be continually repeated, thus occupying the patient. He described compulsive rituals as trance states that can be therapeutically captured.

Individuals with OCD place high demands on themselves. They avoid new contacts out of fear of criticism, leading to loneliness. In therapy, they avoid intimacy while also fearing rejection. The therapist needs to recognize the courage the patient musters for contact. They also need to recognize their own rituals, which can hinder creative development opportunities for OCD patients. Thus, Klajs tries to create unexpected ways of working. In one case, he asked a patient with compulsive hand washing to show him how. The patient wondered if it would be necessary, as exposing compulsive behaviors often feels shameful. "Of course," Klajs replied, "if I am truly to understand you." He stood at one sink, beside the patient, and asked the patient to show him the process and when to stop. This approach is seen as a typical "Ericksonian" way of initiating change, in this case concerning shame, loneliness, and trust in one's judgment.

Hypnosis and cancer

Éva Bányaï, a psychology professor in Budapest, listed publications on the subject and concluded that more evidence is still needed. Hence, she, along with a research team, is conducting a longitudinal RCT study where hypnosis is used as a complement to chemotherapy. Hypnosis boosts other treatments, reduces side effects, and restores and strengthens the immune system.

Bányaï emphasized that cancer also offers an opportunity to address existential questions. It's common for trauma or severe stress to occur a few months before the onset of the disease. She shared her experiences with breast cancer with metastases and how she retroactively saw a connection with a crisis in her work situation before the disease outbreak. Thanks to her hypnosis skills, she contributed to her own recovery and also found meaning in developing a treatment program.

In the ongoing study, patients were examined physiologically, immunologically, and psychologically before randomization. Cancer patients were significantly above average in sensitivity to exclusion and below average in emotional expressivity. After randomization, one group received hypnosis, another group listened to music during chemotherapy, and a third group only received extra attention during treatment sessions. About 50 individuals were included in each group. The design and various elements are described in interim reports.

The results so far show that the hypnosis group had the most significant effect;

the conditions for recovery and survival increased significantly, and they clearly improved in emotional expressivity and healing of trauma. The study is ongoing, but it's already evident that those who received hypnosis treatment feel much better, leading to a fully booked waiting list for hypnosis, and the hospital decided on a new psychologist position to meet the demand.

Legendary professor

Perhaps this was the last chance to hear Dabney Ewin, a 92-year-old psychiatry and surgery professor, method developer, and psychoanalytic pain doctor?

His most famous method is the finger signal for communicating with a patient's unconscious knowledge about their problems. Dabney Ewin outlined the most common causes of somatic symptoms, such as Unconscious conflict and Organ language.

For instance, a celibate Catholic priest had severely itching neurodermatitis for eight days. A beautiful woman had courted him, and Dabney Ewin interpreted the itching as denied desire. When he could accept desire as an expression of normal sexual needs, and that this did not hinder celibacy, the symptom disappeared.

”Past Experience”.

For instance, state-bound memory. A psychological trauma causes a stress state where sensory impressions from the situation are associated with fear. A man with a chocolate allergy recalled under hypnosis that the allergy started after a terrifying situation, and the next day Easter was celebrated with chocolate. Dabney Ewin emphasized the importance of psychological examination with the words: "If I were an allergologist, I would refer allergy patients to a hypnosis-skilled psychologist to rule out psychogenic allergy before treating."

Freeing Captive Souls

Steven Hassan, a psychologist from Boston, USA, helps those trapped in cults, controlling groups, or trafficking. Recently, he has developed methods to combat ISIS and terrorist organizations. What's common for such groups is their use of sophisticated methods, a kind of negative hypnosis, for influence and recruitment.

Steven Hassan began his presentation with a personal experience. He grew up in a well-organized and not particularly exciting Jewish family. At 18, he was recruited by the Moon cult. There, he felt special, chosen, and part of something significant. He distanced himself from his old life and viewed the cult leaders as his real parents. He quickly became a successful and devoted agitator for the cult. His sister hired a deprogrammer who, after five days of intensive conversations, restored his ability to think clearly. However, right up until the fourth day, he mentioned that he had said that even if the cult leader was worse than Hitler, he would follow him to death.

This experience got Steven Hassan interested in "mind control", treatment, and preventive measures. He found answers in social psychology and studies of hypnosis. He described how recruiters form a group identity where one's thoughts and feelings are evil. He described the "unfreezing" stage when the young, confused proselyte is sought out and made to feel chosen and adopt a new worldview. This is followed by "refreezing" with guilt, fear, and threats about the consequences for apostates.

Steven Hassan uses a very clarifying model for deprogramming and rebuilding critical thinking (BITE). He emphasized the value of psychologists' specific knowledge and also the value of self-therapy in treatment. Many affected suffer from PTSD, identity confusion, and dissociation between a cult personality and a suppressed original personality. The lecture aroused great interest, and the attack on Charlie Hebdo was still fresh in the memories of Parisians. Hassan received several invitations to participate in various events. What would happen on November 13th was unknown at the time.

Symptoms as a Solution - Hypnosis and Biofeedback to Help Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

This was the title of Laurence I Sugerman's presentation, a doctor and professor from Rochester, USA. The prevalence of ASD has increased, and one solution could be hypnosis and biofeedback. There's comorbidity for anxiety disorders, sleep difficulties, and IBS, each of which responds very well to hypnosis. His theory is that ASD is linked to an early disturbance of the autonomic nervous system, with sympathetic overactivity partly explaining deficiencies in language development and social ability.

Repetitive movement patterns are seen as attempts at self-regulation to calm the system. These behaviors can be used as resources in hypnosis to achieve relaxation and self-control. Laurence I Sugerman presented an inverted pyramid where the autonomic functions lie at the base and more developed functions are at the top. If one chooses to work only with higher functions like cognitive and social skills, there's a risk of further burdening the system.

First, the base should be broadened. He showed video sequences from the team's approach. For school-aged and computer-aged children, they made an animated instructional film about a boy who, after school, is greeted by his parents, goes to his room, and closes his door (the fact that he closes the door is essential, emphasized Laurence I Sugerman). In his room, he puts on a superman-like suit and becomes a "stress hunter". He then performs relaxation and biofeedback exercises on his computer.

The college where he is a professor includes similar exercises in their programs. Children and parents, who have often struggled with various methods beyond what they can bear, often find that hypnosis and biofeedback are easy to adopt and make the equation work.

Conclusion Xin Fang från Peking avslutningstalade

Xin Fang from Beijing concluded the conference. She thanked all from the west who taught hypnosis in China and plans to invite teachers from ISH (including Susanna Carolusson from SFKH) to train them in hypnosis-based Ego State therapy. Xin Fang talked about how hypnosis, under different concepts and in a religious guise, has long existed in Chinese medicine. One area where hypnosis and traditional medicine meet is acupuncture, where the methods reinforce each other. She mentioned that a hypnosis unit has been established in the Chinese health ministry, and hypnosis institutes have started in several provinces, so hypnosis is now an accepted method in Chinese medicine and psychology. Artikel in swedish is here

Writers: Michael Rundblad och Susanna Carolusson Psychologists and Psychotherapists.


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