Hypnotherapy: Help for the Stress of Living With MS
Hypnosis is a legitimate therapeutic tool that can reduce stress, pain, and other symptoms associated with MS.
By Kate Jackson
Medically Reviewed by Samuel Mackenzie, MD, PhD
Don't Miss This
Sign Up for OurLiving with Multiple SclerosisNewsletter
Thanks for signing up!You might also like these other newsletters:
Everyone who has multiple sclerosis (MS) knows that living with the disease is stressful. If you need help reducing stress, you already have one of the best tools for doing so — your brain. It’s with you at all times, and the good news is that it’s open to suggestion. Hypnotic suggestion, that is.
In hypnotherapy, therapists guide clients into a relaxed state of deep focus and offer therapeutic suggestions to help them address behaviors or cope with emotional or physical issues.
Hypnosis appears to work by tapping into the unconscious mind in ways that are not fully understood. Yet it’s been demonstrated to be effective for a range of medical conditions and is widely used for managing stress.
Research published in January 2019 in theInternational Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, points to the potential of hypnosis specifically for individuals with MS. In the study of 60 women with MS, participants who engaged in self-hypnosis for no less than 10 times a day had significantly less pain than did those in a control group who did not practice self-hypnosis. But the pain reduction did not last beyond four weeks.
An earlier study published in theInternational Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis also showed that people with MS and chronic pain reported decreased pain after self-hypnosis training — significantly more than did those trained in progressive muscle relaxation. In this case, the benefits of hypnosis were maintained for at least three months.
A Hypnotherapy Program for Those With MS
According to Eva M. Clark, a clinical medical hypnotherapist in Santa Cruz, California, who specializes in MS, hypnotherapy can not only help reduce the stress that’s brought about by living with multiple sclerosis, but it also may be used to address the psychosocial factors many researchers believe underlie the onset of disease or the exacerbation of symptoms.
Clark conducted a two-year research project, which began in 2013 with 15 volunteers diagnosed with MS, to try to determine the most effective hypnotherapy treatment of the disease and its symptoms. Participants in the study noted not only a reduction in anxiety, but also improvements in pain, fatigue, depression, cognitive function, incontinence, and ambulation (walking or otherwise moving around).
Her research, Clark says, led to the creation of a program that she now teaches to other practitioners and uses when working with clients worldwide. A series about it, calledCreating Health, is filmed monthly at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s self-help group in Santa Cruz, California, and can be followed on Youtube.com or at HealingMultipleSclerosis.com.
RELATED: Treating Chronic Pain in Multiple Sclerosis
Changing Hopelessness and Negative Thinking
Hypnotherapy, says Clark, can do much more to relieve stress than can breathing exercises and relaxation tapes. Stress, she observes, isn’t caused by what we experience, but rather by what meaning we attribute to our experience, and the body can react positively or negatively to that meaning. Research, she says, has shown that hopelessness and negative thinking can be detrimental to health and worsen symptoms of disease.
“Thus, all work in gaining empowerment, confidence, control, and understanding is beneficial to the client — all areas that hypnotherapy works on.” Hypnotherapy, she adds, “can help clients alter the meaning and thoughts around the issues, symptoms, and adjustments that need to be made in their lives after being diagnosed.”
Hypnosis, says Clark, is similar to meditation — a relaxed state of inward focus. “However, whilst in meditation you stay in that state and try not to think of anything, in hypnosis we utilize that state to access information from the subconscious, such as past memories, emotions, and triggers, as well as to influence our unconscious beliefs, mindsets, and behavior.”
What Happens in a Hypnotherapy Session
A hypnotherapy session “will usually begin with the client updating the hypnotherapist on gains and issues that have come up since the last session,” says Clark. “Then the client and hypnotherapist establish the desired outcomes for the session. The hypnotherapist will help the client go into a gentle trance state, similar to meditation.”
When working with people with chronic illness, Clark calls on imagery pertaining to relaxation of the muscles or bringing light into each cell of the body. In that space, she says, the hypnotherapist will work on the issue at hand.
That work might be relatively simple — for example, delivering hypnotic suggestions to bring about a state of relaxation or targeting more specific symptom management, using “visualizations to change the sensation of symptoms.”
Often, she says, “the hypnotherapist will teach the client self-hypnosis techniques, not only to help reduce stress, pain, and spasticity, but also to ‘let go’ of worries, eliminate self-judgment, create boundaries with others, and reduce negative thoughts, all of which empower the client to manage their life and the symptoms.”
For clients wanting to explore the underlying environmental or psychological triggers of illness, the hypnotherapist might use other techniques, says Clark, such as gestalt therapy or regression therapy, to go back to when the condition, emotion, trigger, or symptom began.
The benefits of hypnotherapy can come quickly. “After only a few sessions, there are noticeable differences in symptoms,” says Clark. “Deeper work and more significant changes can take an average of nine months, with 90-minute sessions twice a month.”
Think You Can’t Be Hypnotized? Think Again
To those who are skeptical or believe they can’t be hypnotized, Clark explains that we all experience hypnosis on a regular basis.
“Hypnosis is a natural state we go in and out of all the time. When you first wake up and are still minimally remembering a dream, you are in hypnosis. When you are on the edge of falling asleep, you are in hypnosis. Daydreaming, where you forget the time and sometimes the exit on the highway, is also hypnosis.”
And, she adds, “vegging out in front of the television is also hypnotic.”
Hypnotherapists are able to tap into that natural state to provide suggestions that enhance healing and induce relaxation. Even better, they can teach you use this healing tool yourself in your daily life.
Video: Transformational Hypnosis for Living Stress Free
Healthy Skin Starts with Well-Moisturized Skin
How to Deal With an Under-the-SkinBlemish
The Best Chambray Staples for Summer
12 career tips from Team Marie Claire PassItOn
What to Wear to Yoga Class
How to Keep Your Dog from Being Exposed to Household Poisons
How to Get from Gatwick to London
How to Keep Oily Skin Under Control ThisSummer
The 6 Best Ways To Wear A Scarf
How This Tiny Horse Trots Will Leave You in Stitches
I Worked as a Dominatrix to Pay Off My Student Loans
Humulin R Kwikpen (Concentrated) Reviews
How to Use a Biscuit Joiner
See The Stunning Winners Of NatGeo’s Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
John Cena Said Hes Willing To Have Surgery To Give Nikki Bella A Child