I recently spoke to a friend who is battling cancer, and has been doing so for the last three years. She told me that the thing she has found the most difficult has been the way in which the surgeons and doctors speak to their patients.
"It is as if they have no concept that you are anything other than a piece of meat to carve up," she said to me, which was an interesting insight, considering that she had herself once been a nurse. A classic example of an exchange between her and the houseman in the hospital went as follows. (I have changed my friend's name to "Miss Brown" for her privacy):
Doctor: Ah Miss Brown, you are the patient with the prognosis of 2 years from commencement of treatment...
Miss Brown: Am I? Well, you're obviously doing something wrong. Your credibility is dropping in my eyes, as we speak.
Doctor: I'm sorry, how?
Miss Brown: (Glaring at him) I've been receiving treatment for three years already.
Doctor: (Oblivious to what he said) Oh, I can see you're upset. You can expect to feel depressed at a time like this.
Miss Brown: I'm not depressed. I'm angry, you stupid f***ing arsehole. I'm angry because you aren't seeing a human being, you're seeing a symptom and a prognosis, you dick!
Which I think rather put the whole situation in context.
Thanks to her rather feisty character, my friend didn't succumb to his extraordinarily insensitive and unhelpful suggestions. "But," she said to me, "there are plenty of people who would just sit there and dwell on his words, or just get upset. At such a time some people can be vulnerable and open to bad suggestions. Thankfully, all I saw was an arsehole who doesn't understand how words can affect people."
The "bad suggestions" this doctor unthinkingly spoke at my friend is only part of the story. In the NHS now, hypnosis treatments are becoming increasingly recognised as having real value. Not only therapeutic value. Hypnosis could save the NHS millions of pounds, according to a group of medical experts.
The Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine Section of the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) are clear that the hypnosis can help relieve pain and stress.
Jacky Owens, the president of the RSM's Hypnosis Section, said: "Conditions such as depression, pain and irritable bowel syndrome affect millions of people in the UK and at great cost to the NHS. But hypnosis can often work where other treatments have been unsuccessful."
"If doctors were able to refer patients to properly trained hypnotherapists, it would save a cash-strapped NHS a great deal of money."
A qualified nurse, Ms Owens uses hypnosis in her work with cancer patients. She added: "If doctors were able to refer patients to properly trained hypnotherapists, it would save a cash-strapped NHS a great deal of money."
Of course, as hypnosis comes out of the shadows, and doctors begin to appreciate how their very words can affect patient outcomes, then we should expect to see more training in how to interact with patients skilfully.
As Garner Thompson demonstrates in his extremely useful handbook for anyone in the medical world, "Magic In Practice", raising expectations, dealing with mood, and bringing a patient's attention to their recovery rather than their problems can have a powerful influence on their progress. Even the way that you present the possible side-effects of a medication can have an influence on how the patient perceives those side-effects to be affecting him or her.
Meanwhile, another report from Belgium shows that a combination of hypnosis and local anaesthesia can help the healing process for patients who have undergone surgery.
In a study recently presented at the European Anaesthesiology Congress in Amsterdam, researchers used hypnosis and local anaesthesia on patients who had breast cancer surgery and in thyroidectomy (removal of all or part of the thyroid gland).
...The medical profession is finally starting to wake up...
In the breast cancer study, 18 out of 78 women had hypnosis and local anaesthseia in combination, while the rest had general anaesthetic. The study found that although the patients who were hypnotized and had local anaesthesia spent a few minutes more in the operating theatre, drug use in the first group was greatly diminished, as was time in the recovery room and hospital stay.
In the thyroid study, the researchers compared the outcomes of 18 patients in the hypnosis and local anaesthesia group with 36 who had general anaesthetic. Once again drug use, recovery room and hospital stay times were greatly reduced among the hypnosis and local anaesthesia group.
The medical profession is finally starting to wake up to the possibility that medicine occurs not between a doctor and a set of symptoms, but between two whole human beings - and that the mind is a powerful factor in aiding wellbeing. This, if anything, is at the heart of how NLP and hypnosis can change patient / doctor interactions.
It's an exciting time for hypnosis, for NLP - and for the future good health of humankind!