The impact of Medical Hypnosis
I am a huge fan of Professor David Spiegel, Professor of Medicine at Stamford University.
I recently read an article in the Stanford Daily about his research into medical hypnosis and the impact it makes. It reaffirms to me and perhaps to many others that this is a serious therapeutic tool having a huge impact and we will see it increase in popularity and momentum.
What have been some of the most influential changes you have seen in your field [psychiatry and behavioural sciences] throughout your professional career?
David Spiegel (DS): I think the field has moved from being bottom-up, as far as the body-mind relationship goes, to being more open to the idea of some top-down control … The field has also started to recognize that the way you use your mind can have an effect on your body. We can control pain and anxiety, and we can help people better, even with serious illnesses.
I think we have taken a less mechanistic view of what the mind-body relationship is like and are beginning to open up to the idea that how you live your life, how you manage your anxiety, stress and symptoms can have an effect on not just how you live with the disease but how long you live with the disease.
What drew your interest to hypnosis as a form of pain management and healing?
My father was a psychiatrist who learned how to use hypnosis in World War II, and he was practicing it when I was a kid. I used to hear him talk about his cases, and I was fascinated by what he did. I then took a hypnosis course in medical school, and I think the turning point was this patient I had. They told me, “Spiegel, your next case is an asthma patient, she’s in room something or other down the hall.” I just followed the sound of the wheezing down the hall, and there was this fifteen-year-old in bed, knuckles white and struggling for breath.
She was in bad shape, and her mother was crying. I asked her if she wanted to learn a breathing exercise, and she nodded. I had just started the hypnosis course and managed to get her hypnotized. Within five minutes, she’s lying back in bed; she’s breathing better; and her mother stopped crying. She had been hospitalized every month for three months and had one subsequent hospitalization and now is studying to be a respiratory therapist.
I thought that anything that can help a patient that much was worth looking into. I started exploring hypnosis to see how it could help people in stressful situations dealing with mind-body problems. I started doing randomized control trials to see if [hypnosis] worked and looked at the neurophysiology to see what was going on in the brain when you use hypnosis. In 1998, I opened the Centre for Integrative Medicine at Stanford, and hypnosis is one of the main treatments that we offer.
What would you like to see in the future for the use of hypnosis and its integration?
DS: I would like to see people use it as a regular technique to help them focus better, think better and manage stressors better. I use it as a therapeutic tool, but a lot of what I teach patients virtually anybody can learn. I would love to see it used as a teaching and learning technique that most people know how to do. I think there’s a lot we learn from helping people manage pain and anxiety and focus their attention. I’d like to see it not as just some weird historical footnote but as a standard technique.
I would love to see the UK follow this lead, utilise the holistic therapies that are becoming more readily available and educate patients on holistic options that may aid recovery or support rehabilitation of body and mind.
What are your thoughts?