Hypnotherapy: The science behind the hype
By Amanda Dyer
News-Sentinel Staff Writer
Updated: Monday, May 19, 2008 6:45 AM PDT
Hypnotherapists Ginny and Frank Lucas don’t get tired of defending their method of therapy. What they do get tired of are the people who give their industry a bad name.
Ginny Lucas, who holds doctorates in psychology and clinical hypnosis, founded Evergreen Professional Hypnotherapy in 1992. Her husband, Frank Lucas, is also a trained hypnotherapist. He joined the practice soon after its start and now sees most of its patients.
Evergreen was named Small Business of the Year by the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce for 2003/2004.
By their estimation, Ginny and Frank Lucas find that there are a lot of hypnotherapists with little or no training out there. Sometimes their questionable ethics and professionalism make their brand of hypnotherapy guilty by association.
However, that dynamic has made Ginny and Frank Lucas experts in their field, who quell myths about their profession with a smile.
Ginny and Frank Lucas say hypnotherapy can be used to treat chronic pain or help people stop smoking.
In fact, Evergreen currently offers a free program, funded by First 5 San Joaquin, for smokers with children younger than five years old, or who live with someone who is pregnant.
Can you describe the difference between hypnosis as therapy and hypnosis as entertainment?
Hypnotism is what a hypnotist uses to help another person experience hypnosis. Hypnotherapy, a term coined by Freud, is hypnosis applied in a clinical setting, within the context of therapy.
Hypnosis is a natural phenomenon. It has existed as long as humankind has existed. A couple of hundred years ago physicians in Europe were able over decades to identify the components that allowed their patients to experience treatment with less or no discomfort, and then to recover more quickly.
Somewhere along the way, someone discovered you can have fun with hypnosis, and some practitioners began using, or misusing, it as a form of entertainment. They make it seem very spectacular. They actually scare some people away from hypnotherapy because they create illusions and misconceptions.
A stage hypnotist is interested in pleasing the crowd. They use techniques to achieve a quick but temporary reaction. A therapist is trained to use different techniques that help clients resolve problematic issues and to achieve important goals.
When you go into hypnosis, what’s happening?
Instead of processing information on a conscious level — which involves critical analysis and selectivity and limits you to a very small percentage of your brain power — you process on a subconscious level.
When the subconscious part becomes predominant, it accepts all information that is in your best interest, and interprets all information as real. The information doesn’t have to make sense.
Ideally, we want the conscious and subconscious to work together, like two horses pulling a cart. When they’re moving in the same direction, they take you where you want to go.
What most people don’t realize is that even though you look like you’re asleep or in some mysterious trance, you remain aware of everything around you during hypnosis, and you remain in control at all times.
How can hypnosis help you accomplish your goals?
You can think about quitting smoking, or staying away from fattening foods, or becoming more productive or whatever. However, if you have conflicting feelings stored subconsciously, they will overpower your thoughts.
In a relaxed state, during which your brainwave pattern changes safely and naturally to allow the subconscious mind to take over for awhile, hypnosis allows you to change your mind on a deeper and more meaningful level.
You change your mind. No one else changes it for you. As a result, it becomes much easier to improve physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually.
Hypnosis doesn’t make the changes happen; it makes it easier for you to make the changes the happen, but only if you want to.
Your Web site says that most people only need one session. It seems like “traditional” therapy takes years of sessions. What makes hypnotherapy different in this regard?
Hypnotherapy cuts to the chase. We bypass the conscious and work on a subconscious level. Come in with the problem, leave with the solution.
We like to say we fix flat tires so clients can continue their travels through life with comfort and confidence. If someone requires a major overhaul, we refer them to a psychologist or psychiatrist. That takes more time, and a different set of skills.
There are some hypnotherapists who insist on multiple sessions, or charge an inflated fee to generate more income for themselves, but that’s not our style.
We know from experience that most people provide pertinent information during a well-thought-out interview, and meet with success during a single session.
Reinforcement is advantageous, so we send a free hypnosis CD home with every client. They get more help from us that way, without spending more money.
Your literature says hypnosis can help with everything from allergies to chronic pain to irritable bowel syndrome. Is there anything that hypnosis can’t do?
Yes. If you’re five foot six and you want to be five foot three, for example, all the hypnosis in the world won’t make that happen.
Hypnosis can help you become more comfortable with your actual height, however. If your arm is broken, don’t come to us expecting to reset it using only relaxation and visualization. We’re not going to extract your wisdom tooth either.
It’s a fact that some dentists as well as doctors use hypnotherapy with their patients, but they usually refer them to us. We see quite a few patients for pre-surgery and post-surgery sessions, to improve patient compliance, or for fear of needles, etc.
How do you see the role of more “traditional” medicine? Is there a place for it along side hypnotherapy?
Goodness, where would we be without traditional medicine? Medical conditions require professional diagnosis, and that’s something we would never presume to do.
When there has been an official diagnosis, we request authorization from a treating physician before we use hypnotherapy with their patient — as an adjunct to conventional treatment, not as a replacement.
Hypnosis is taught in medical schools and is recognized by medical associations worldwide. It requires more time, however, than most medical practitioners want to invest.