Over the past two decades the United States National Institute of Health (NIH) has documented extensive research in complementary health care to include medical hypnotherapy. Specifically, respected institutions throughout the world have conducted numerous scientific, controlled studies in the use of medical hypnotherapy in the treatment of such difficult illnesses as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Fibromyalgia Syndrome, as well as lupus, Crohn's disease, colitis, cancer, pain management, and others.
While accepted by the American Medical Association, generally much of the medical establishment takes the attitude that medical hypnotherapy is a "fringe" or experimental technique. This is for three reasons. First, most of the general public has a misconception about hypnosis. This is further fueled by portrayals of hypnosis in films and on TV. Unfortunately, most of the media coverage have resulted in the same fear that the public had of anesthesiology during the early years of the last century. Secondly, there is a great lack of understanding of hypnosis and hypnotherapy within the medical community. In fact, the definition of hypnosis in the currently official AMA encyclopedia reflects an outdated view which has been partly contradicted by the body of respectable research and the experiences of psychologists and hypnotherapists over the past twenty years. Thirdly, while most of the research has tracked the positive results of medical hypnotherapy, the exact knowledge of why it works is still theoretical and often disputed amoung researchers. Nevertheless, studies have shown that medical hypnotherapy can and does result in mental perceptions, which is vital to behavior modification, and directly related to physiological phenomena such as altering blood flow and the functioning of various organs.
How does hypnotherapy work? As stated above, this is a tricky question that has led to active discussions between our leading educational institutions. One school of thought states that the process of trance induction alters the production of certain hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain and lymph system. This in turn alters several of the autonomic bodily functions. Simultaneously, brain functioning is altered, resulting in a lowering of brain waves levels such as Alpha, which is associated with meditation, behavior modification, and accelerated learning, or Theta, which is associated with very deep relaxation, pain control, and surgery. Although some believe that the value of hypnosis is the suspension of the "critical facility" of the mind, there is still no conclusive evidence that supports how any of the preceding results are actually caused. All we have certainty about is the results of hypnosis rather than a full, reliable explanation of the causes.
Much of the research which we have gathered has centered on the use of medical hypnotherapy for the treatment of refractory (not responding to treatment)patients who suffer from syndromes (collection of symptoms) such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS). The problem that the medical community has had with IBS and FMS is that they are relatively hard to diagnose and very difficult to treat. As both are a collection of symptoms rather than a specific disease or illness, medical practitioners have focused on the alleviation of symptoms rather than actually affecting a cure. This is traditionally done through a combination of diet and medication -- with a focus on various medications, which subject the patient to potential side effects. Unfortunately, the side effects from medication and the fact that a large number of IBS and FMS patients fail to respond to traditional treatments has opened the door for the consideration of complementary health care treatment such as medical hypnotherapy. In clinical trials 80 - 85% of difficult, refractory IBS and FMS patients have experienced significant symptom reduction. This alleviation has been sufficient to allow many of them to return to a normal lifestyle.
The treatment of IBS and FMS follows a seven to thirteen session treatment protocols. Most sessions are spaced in two week intervals despite that the first and second sessions may be only a week apart. Patients are given an applicable audio tape or CD which must be listened to daily between sessions. Also, during the initial interview the patient will begin recording the severity of the symptoms. The patient will participate in symptom tracking throughout the treatment. Patients who suffer from IBS only will expect a seven session treatment. FMS patients will expect a full thirteen sessions. Any deviation of medications will only be authorized by their attending physician. Lastly, medical hypnotherapy should only be conducted by an experienced and certified clinical hypnotherapist who has been specifically trained to work with patients and who has received a proper referral from the attending physician.