Whether you're a patient or a loved one, cancer can affect every aspect of your life. You may have trouble sleeping and experience loss of appetite, anxiety and other problems.
One strategy that can help cope with cancer is clinical hypnosis, which is typically used as a part of counseling.
If you only know about hypnosis from stage shows or TV entertainment, you might be hesitant to try it. But when done with a trained mental health professional, hypnosis has many benefits for cancer patients. It's been shown to help reduce anxiety, enhance coping and even reduce your perception of pain. Think of it as another tool for your toolkit.
Hypnosis can help you feel better mentally and emotionally
A common misconception about hypnosis is that it leaves you in a state where you aren't in control of yourself. But actually, the opposite is true. Hypnosis requires a lot of focus and concentration. This helps you maintain better control of yourself and your emotions.
You may find it hard to believe that hypnosis can actually change the way you feel. But when used correctly, it can help you feel better mentally and emotionally.
Mastering hypnosis takes practice
If you want to see how your mind can cause changes in your body, try this:
Close your eyes and think of a dill pickle. Imagine the bright green color, the cool temperature, the crisp texture, the sound of that first crunchy bite and the mouth-puckering sour taste. Focus your mind on this experience for a minute and then continue reading.
Did you notice yourself start to salivate? This is a simple example of how thoughts can cause physical changes within our body. If you didn't notice any changes, don't worry. Mastering hypnosis can take practice.
Hypnosis is an active process that requires commitment from the patient. It is not something that can be done to the patient; it is something that is done with the patient. With time and patience, developing your clinical hypnosis skills can have a true positive effect on your coping through cancer treatment and beyond.
How to choose a hypnosis professional
When you look for someone to work with you on developing your hypnosis skills, it is important to choose a mental health or medical professional with special training in hypnosis. This person will take time to talk with you about your reasons for seeking out hypnosis. They also should address potential risks and benefits of this type of treatment, discuss if hypnosis is the best option for you and work with you to develop a plan to help you meet your goals.
If you're an MD Anderson patient or caregiver and would like to talk with someone about coping strategies such as hypnosis, call Social Work at 713-792-6195, or ask your nurse or physician to connect you with a social work counselor.