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The Zeitgeist Combining Mainstream Medicine and Contemporary Hypnosis
Richard Van Wagner CH.
                                                   Walden University

 With both the general public and the medical community searching for alternative ways to enhance health and healing, while simultaneously addressing the expanding awareness of mind-body medicine and the exponential growth in treatment costs, hypnosis has gained considerable interest in the medical setting.  This paper discusses and explores how hypnosis has been successful on a number of contemporary medical fronts as well as the important implications of utilizing hypnosis in the field of preventative medicine.  According to the information, gathered and presented, the author concludes that it appears as if that the stage is set for a major paradigm shift in mainstream medicine; one that may ultimately see common medical protocols integrating hypnotherapeutic techniques as a standard form of medical practice.

For further information about read below, there you will find an in depth analysis of how hypnosis and mainstream medicine appear to be converging.  

The Zeitgeist Combining Mainstream Medicine and Contemporary Hypnosis
As mainstream medicine appears to be floundering, awash in the rising costs of expensive tests and treatment protocols (Burner et al, 1992) both the medical establishment and patients are searching for alternatives to what is commonly accepted as standard medical care (Montgomery et al, 2007).  In the area of alternative medicine hypnosis has, in the recent past, gained substantial recognition and is currently on the way to becoming a viable option to some very difficult health-centered questions as a growing number of patients, who when treated with hypnotic techniques, continue to experience substantial benefits for a broad-range of medical conditions (Stewart, 2005).  Furthermore, within the contemporary framework of modern medicine, integrating the important and intimate connection between one’s mind and one’s body, in relation to one’s health, is a field of medicine that has prompted much research, debate and dynamic possibilities (Sobel, 2000; Broom, 2000); the extant of which may provided positive implications for the utilization of hypnosis in the medical arena (Stewart, 2005).  Decades of research have found that the processes and techniques of hypnosis can be utilized in diverse ways; whether such utilization comes in the form of a compliment to standard treatment protocols, or the technique is indicated as the treatment of first-choice medical practitioners have documented positive outcomes whether they are dealing with severe asthma (Hackman et al, 2000), to palliative care situations with terminal cancer patients (Liossi, 2006).  It is within this contemporary context that researchers are now delving into how hypnotic interventions can be utilized in the area of preventative medicine in the near future.  Within this realm researchers hypothesize that by modulating stress hormones, such as cortisol (Johansson & Unestahl, 2006) hypnotic interventions will not only be a benefit ongoing health issues, but a there is a likelihood that a measured level of protection from future illnesses, that are correlated to the presence of the chronically high cortisol levels associated with stress and trauma (Putnam, 2003), is possible.  When one combines the reality that hypnosis is well recognized as holding few known side-effects for the vast majority of the general population (Hammond, 2007); with the positive economic implications for both the medical establishment and the patient involved in a health crisis (Montgomery et al, 2007) a paradigm shift that mainstreams hypnosis as a preferred intervention/technique, in the contemporary medical setting, appears to be a win-win situation for all involved.         
Theoretical considerations
Hypnosis offers a number of rather unique qualities that range broadly, and whether one is merely the observer of the phenomena known as hypnosis, or an inductee, the behaviors associated with the hypnotic-state claim deep historical roots; roots that not only tap the characteristics of ancient and modern religious ceremonies, but can be found to have taken a place in the annals of philosophic writings for nearly one-thousand years.  First defined by Avicenna, an Islamic philosopher in 1027, hypnosis was recognized as special state, and although the trance-state was not yet termed hypnosis it was well understood that an individual could be induced into a sleep-like state that, while representing sleep, offered the opportunity for another to make suggestions that the inductee would be eager to respond to (Haque, 2004). From this ancient foundation two prevailing theories have been put forth to describe the trance state of hypnosis.  One perspective asserts the state of hypnosis is neurobiological in origin, (Nobre et al, 1999; Gruzelier, 1998); while the second perspective maintains that the hypnotic state is based on a set of specific social constructs, (Barber, 2000; Kirsch & Lynn, 1998).  Regardless of one’s theoretical orientation many contemporary researchers are calling for a collaborative approach between the sociocognitive and neurobiological perspectives as it appears that both together promise a more complete understanding of hypnosis then either offer alone (Gábor, 2003; Gruzelier, 2000).  Within this context of theoretical considerations it appears appropriate to momentarily delve into and establish just how hypnosis has been defined, within the field of science, as it seems that no matter one’s perspective, sociocognitive or neurobiological, two specific sets of behaviors are implicitly understood to be associated with the state of hypnosis.  The first set of behaviors has to do with the hypnotic subject’s response to test-suggestions, and while a subject may vary in reaction, all or some of the following will be exhibited in response, as each task mentioned, involves some level of trance if responded to.  The test responses include: muscular rigidness, anesthesia, analgesia, visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations, amnesia, and measurable responses to post-hypnotic behavior in reaction to a prompt established while in the state of hypnosis, (Winkel et al, 2006).  The second set of behaviors regard objective observations of the hypnotic subject’s physical appearance such as observable changes in posture and movements such as relaxation, lack of spontaneity, fixity of subject’s eyes, and/or psychomotor retardation, which simply put, means slowed movement of the subject’s body and/or limbs (Barber, 1969).  Having addressed the common two theoretical foundations of hypnosis as well as the standard, expected, and observable behaviors associated with hypnosis it appears appropriate to look deeper into the contemporary research literature available in regards to how contemporary hypnotic techniques are currently being employed in the medical and experimental research setting.   

Literary review
Research has constantly implicated that hypnotic techniques hold a number of health benefits when it comes to treating illnesses, addressing procedural pain, assisting with the various side-effects associated with standard treatment protocols, and/or helping patients manage many of the symptomatic complaints related to their illness, (Stewart, 2005).  In regards to contemporary research and hypnosis there are numerous national and international organizations that publish peer-reviewed journals that focus solely on hypnotic techniques.  From this broad array of reputable sources there is a veritable plethora of studies, to choose from, that attest to the positive attributes of hypnosis.  To exemplify this observation a brief overview of three articles, published in the most recent July 2009 edition of the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, will be utilized as the three together poignantly portray the field of hypnosis in a contemporary light.  The first article reviewed, in the journal, regarded current research that examined the efficacy of hypnotic techniques in treating gastrointestinal disorders. Within the article, the authors reported efficacious results and then concluded by stating that hypnotic interventions have considerable potential in aiding the management of such disorders and that hypnosis should be integrated into the ongoing medical regime of care that such patients are currently receiving (Viven & Whorwell, 2009).  Continuing within the same journal, another study centered on 37 adults with spinal cord injuries in order to find out if hypnotic techniques could be employed to help mange pain.  The research protocol utilized hypnosis, among other treatment modalities, to reduce pain, and according to the results obtained the researchers found that not only did hypnosis out-perform the other available treatments in helping, those with spinal cord injuries, live with less pain, but at the three month follow-up the positive results continued to be maintained (Jensen et al, 2009).  The third article chosen from the journal is one whose subject matter easily speaks to the diverse ramifications of hypnotic techniques.  The article in question reported on the feasibility of offering self-hypnosis as a treatment for depression in a primary care setting; the results of which revealed both high levels of treatment compliance as well as substantial positive effects for those involved.  From these results the researchers involved, in the study, concluded that the addition of a self-help/self-hypnosis program may be a valuable addition to depression treatments currently available in primary care settings (Alastair et al, 2009).
Having garnered a quick overview of the wide parameters of the viable hypnotic techniques contained in merely one professional journal, of the many available dedicated to fostering a greater understanding of hypnosis, it would seem appropriate to explore how both national and international health organizations view the topic of hypnosis.  In this regard the World Health Organization’s view is easily discernable as a paper from their organization’s archives speaks openly as to the effectiveness of hypnosis.  The paper in question, first presented at a regional meeting in South Korea, was meant to explore both traditional and alternative medicine in South-East Asia.  Authored by Dr. Bhushan Patwardhan, the director of the Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences at Pune University of India, the paper states, that in regards to non-medication therapies, there is ample evidence that both hypnosis and relaxation techniques are beneficial in reducing anxiety, preventing panic disorders and insomnia. Continuing, the author mentions that on the medical front randomized trials have shown hypnosis to be a valuable treatment for treating asthma and irritable bowel syndrome.  Lastly Dr. Patwardhan, also stated that there are many other findings, published in peer-reviewed journals, which substantiate the claims of how hypnotic interventions can positively impacting patients on a number of fronts (2005).  Moving a little closer to home, the National Institute of Health, in conjunction with the National Cancer Institute published, a nationally distributed, 67-page booklet specifically designed to help inform cancer patients about pain control methods, medications, and possible alternatives.  Within the scope of the publication one finds both the process of hypnosis explained, in-depth, as well as hypnosis being identified as a well-proven technique through which cancer sufferers can manage both the chronic and acute pain conditions that are often associated with their medical condition (National Cancer Institute, 2003).
Combine the afore mentioned journal articles with the recognition hypnosis has obtained by both national and international health organizations and one might be content to end here in regards to how contemporary literature is inundated with the positive attributes of hypnosis.  However, a brief mention from the cusp of contemporary research must be attended to as the plausibility of a cortisol connection in both the etiology of illness and possible preventions should be addressed, as it may very well be along this avenue that the most beneficial effects of hypnotic interventions may becoming to light in the very near future.  In order to do this however, one must first create a foundation from which to explore such a concept and in doing so one imperative point must be established.  That point would be that there is a general understanding, in the field of health, that high long-term cortisol levels, often linked to stress and trauma, have been correlated with a broad range of physiologic issues such as: asthma (Wolf et al, 2008), fibromyalgia (Weissbecke et al, 2006), and rheumatoid arthritis (Curtis et al, 2005), and breast cancer (Dettenborn et al, 2006) just to name a few.  Exemplified by the afore mentioned illnesses and the fact that cortisol is implicated as a causal factor there is ample opportunity for insight into just how intimately connected one’s life experiences are to one’s health.  From this general foundation of knowledge, researchers have sought to explore whether hypnosis may offer a preventative measure of protection by lowering plasma cortisol levels.  While longitudinal is as of yet unavailable, a recent pilot study revealed that simply by teaching participants how to perform self-hypnosis and having them practice, on a regular basis, a statistically significant decrease in blood-serum cortisol levels as well as an increase in dehydroepiandrosterone, a hormone anti-aging effects, has been documented and replicated (Johansson & Unestahl, 2006).  
As reflected within the literary review, implications of positive outcomes for patients utilizing hypnotic techniques appear across many fields of medicine.  It appears that whether one is addressing chronic or acute illnesses, or delving into the influential field of preventative medicine a climate change, of great potential, is possible in regards to integrating hypnosis into mainstream medicine.  Considering the broad possibilities that the unique characteristics of hypnosis hold, one could infer that numerous considerations of importance may spring forth, in the near future, as researchers weave together the effects of stress, cortisol, and disease with the modulating effects of hypnotherapeutic techniques (Johansson & Unestahl, 2006).  However, beyond the ramifications of future potentialities a paradigm of change appears to be occurring in our contemporary medical setting, a that change seems to be centering on the acknowledgement that an individual’s mental and emotional states play major role in the status of one’s health (Broom, 2000), and it is along this avenue of thought that hypnosis holds genuinely positive implications for both patients and the medical establishment.  Reflecting this win-win scenario some recent research preformed at Mount Sinai Hospital, in New York, revealed that patients undergoing a brief 15 minute hypnotic intervention, prior surgery, not only reported less nausea, pain, fatigue, discomfort, and emotional distress after surgery, but the experimental group receiving hypnosis, spent less time in surgery; a factor that culminated in total overall cost reduction of approximately $773 per patient (Montgomery et al, 2007). When one combines the ramifications of the evidence presented, in this short paper, with the steady stream of forthcoming studies, an inference that the proof, so to speak, that hypnosis is efficacious in numerous health related fields, seems assured to grow.  It will most likely be from drawing on this type of cutting-edge information that those directly associated with the medical field will continue to be able to affect significant positive and lasting change (Nash & Klyce, 2005).
Today, as both patients and the medical community search out alternative approaches, to better health and a higher quality of life, one can perceive a precipice of sorts in regards to mainstreaming hypnosis into the medical setting as a common-practice.  As it now stands the stage appears to be set in favor of adopting hypnosis into mainstream medicine, but the question still remains, will it?  To tip the balance in favor of fully integrating hypnosis a challenge for further studies concerning the preventative attribute of hypnotic techniques must be voiced as the positive long-term attributes, in both quantitative and qualitative terms, hold incredible potential for all involved.  In tandem with such a challenge, a call for programs to educate the public and, more importantly, the medical community about the positive characteristics of hypnotic interventions is needed.  Currently two of the major obstacles hindering the utilization of hypnosis stem from either the lack of professional knowledge concerning hypnotic techniques, or biases, often negative, linked to stage hypnosis; both of which are easily surmounted if quality information is disseminated appropriately (Thomson, 2003).  Certainly from the standpoint of available information, such as that presented in this brief paper, it appears that it is time to cast aside the biases that have limited the adoption of hypnosis ion the medical setting (Thomson, 2003; Johnson & Hauck, 1999) and move progressively forward; for when one combines the ever-growing cost of medical care today (Burner et al, 1992) with the need to integrate current understandings of mind-body interactions (Sobel, 2000) one finds that hypnosis holds key characteristics that can address both issues effectively.  Evidenced by the contemporary literature available it certainly seems as if the unique qualities of hypnosis and the various hypnotic techniques/interventions available can fill the gap in many of today’s medical settings and health protocols.  In addition to these important aspects and based on the contemporary research that links the mind-body connection to one’s long-term health (Verkuil et al, 2007; Broom, 2000) the possibility that hypnosis can, through prevention, allow a higher quality of life (Johansson & Unestahl, 2006) adds to the concept that a growing impetus of change is brewing, and rightly so.  However, for this change to come to full fruition it will be imperative that both medical professionals and psychologists, who are familiar with hypnosis, do the best they can to disperse their results and successes as they move forward.  One could say that the very zest of the contemporary zeitgeist, surrounding the concept of mainstreaming hypnosis into the today’s medical setting, depends on a steady stream of productive hypnosis information spreading both far and wide.  As to the near future, there is much to be optimistic about; with both the medical establishment and the population at large delving into alternative avenues of healthcare, whether treatment or prevention centered, the attributes of self-hypnosis and hypnotic interventions should remain easily visible, as the characteristics and qualities associated with the state have some incredibly exciting prospects to offer (Anbar, 2006).  

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Richard Van Wagner CH.

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To contact the author or to ask about 3rd party distribution rights please contact author
                         Richard Van Wagner CH.

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