New York Resident Article

This article is reprinted with the permission of New York Resident . Much of the material and a direct quote are from Dr. Trudy Beers, founder of the Tribeca Hypnosis and Healing Institute.

By Katie Prout Matias, New York Resident Contributing Writer

Doctors Debunk the Myth of Hypnosis
Through Clinical Studies and Actual Cases

A gold pocket watch swings slowly before your eyes like a graceful pendulum. Warm and drowsy, you can barely keep your eyes open, and you feel yourself drifting off as a soothing voice tells you that you”re getting sleepy.

When most people think of hypnosis, they imagine such a scenario, or perhaps the stage hypnotist who convinces hapless members of the audience to publicly and willingly humiliate themselves.

Fed up with the stereotype, clinical hypnotherapists are out to debunk the myth. Many hypnotherapists have professional backgrounds in psychology and work with patients to resolve serious problems such as eating disorders, addictions and phobias; and clinical hypnotherapy has been approved by the American Medical Association, the National Institutes of Health and the American Psychological Association.

With hypnotherapy, the patient is always aware and in control, say practitioners. “You will not do anything not in your belief system,” says Dr. Trudy Beers, founder of the Tribeca Hypnosis and Healing Institute in Manhattan.

In a clinical session — which lasts from 45 minutes to 2 hours — the therapist will initially spend time talking with the patient to understand the issues needing resolution. The hypnosis is normally as simple as picking a spot on the wall, focusing and concentrating on breathing, or counting backward while closing the eyes. The therapist may then use imaging techniques in which the patient brings the problem into focus and then suggests positive thoughts to encourage positive behavior.

Suggestion is at the heart of the therapy, where specific goals can be introduced and the subconscious can be “reprogrammed” with positive affirmations. “Many colloquial terms, such as ‘I”m so stupid for doing this,” are negative programming. Instead, I teach people to say, ‘I”m brilliant,”” says Beers, who specializes in hypnobirthing for natural childbirth but who has also helped a policeman remember a license plate in a hit-and-run, writers get over a creative block and patients find jewelry they thought they had lost.

People vary widely in their hypnotic susceptibility. While 10 to 20 percent of the population is very susceptible, an equal amount seems to be very resistant. The Hypnotic Induction Profile test allows therapists to evaluate the degree to which someone can be hypnotized.

In order to deal with varying levels of capacity, multiple techniques have been developed, including imagery, or what Manhattan-based Dr. Stanley Fisher calls the “three-screen technique,” in which the patient visualizes a subject on the center screen, all the good things about the subject on the right screen and all the bad things on the left screen. The image appears on the left screen often helps the patient realize the true obstacle to achieving his or her goal.

Beers approaches patients according to whether they are visual, auditory or kinesthetic, using imagery with the visually inclined, words with the audio and touch with the kinesthetic. Beers also teaches her patients self-hypnosis. She tapes each session and encourages her patients to listen to the tape for 21 days, while they sleep.

One of the most promising discoveries with self-hypnosis is its ability to help patients who have gone through surgery heal quicker and live longer. Patients are taught to float along with the surgery and not fight it. They are also taught to become real participants in their healing and recovery and not to think that their bodies have betrayed them or that they are victims of the doctors. “People who used self-hypnosis were less anxious before surgery and less depressed after surgery so they lived longer,” says Fisher, who published a study in “The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine” on how self-hypnosis improved the quality of life of heart-surgery patients.

Fisher himself used self-hypnosis when he underwent heart surgery a few years ago; he says that as a result, the doctors were able to use less anesthesia with him than they”d ever used before on someone his size. “Anesthetics and muscle relaxants are poisonous. The less you need, the faster you can recover,” explains Fisher, who was able to leave the hospital in two days.

Beers also used self-hypnosis when she underwent surgery, listening to tapes during the actual procedure. She was back at work in two weeks. “People think hypnosis is voodoo and scary,” says Beers. “It”s really just a tool people can use.”

E-mail responses to editor in chief Mark Rifkin at

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