Last week, as part of my internship training, I attended a three day intensive course on clinical hypnosis at Boston Behavioral Medicine, a private practice in Brookline, MA. This was the second hypnosis training we’ve had this year. The first of these, in September, focused on the basics of clinical hypnosis: how to bring someone into a trance, how to deepen the state, and how to do some basic relaxation exercises. This time around, we went into some more depth.
This training course focused on the clinical applications of hypnosis. Specifically, we discussed how to use hypnosis for habit breaking, pain relief, and “ego strengthening.” Although I think that all three of these areas have clinical utility, I’m probably most interested in using hypnosis for habit breaking. So many of my patients have trouble quitting smoking, using drugs/alcohol, or stopping other compulsive behaviors (such as nailbiting). If I could use hypnosis to help these patients stop their problematic behaviors, it would be hugely helpful.
Essentially, what hypnosis does is to create an imaginary experience that is felt vividly by the patient. I would describe the state of mind as akin to a dream, or a very deep daydream. To break a habit, one must create an imaginary experience of deconditioning the habit. This involves vividly describing a scene in which the problematic behavior leads to some negative consequences, and describing these consequences in great detail. With time, and with repetition, hypnosis can help a patient break the target habit.
I’ve done some hypnosis with a patient of mine, but we’ve only focused on creating a state of relaxation; we haven’t tried to do anything more targeted. However, now that I’ve had some more training, I’d like to try some hypnosis for habit breaking, so I’ll likely start doing so (or trying to, anyway), within the next few weeks. I’ll post about it and let you all know how it goes :)