by Désirée Meunier-Mallet
Désirée is based in Rose-Hill, Mauritius
Clinical Hypnotherapy is a powerful form of Psychotherapy combining cognitive therapeutic counselling with subconscious healing techniques. Hypnosis is commonly described as a natural treatment that uses guided relaxation, intense concentration, and focused attention to achieve a heightened state of awareness which is sometimes called trance. Through this trusted state, the client has an attention which is extremely concentrated whilst in the hypnotic state, so anything going on around that person is temporarily blocked out or ignored. In this naturally occurring state, a person may focus his attention with the help of a ‘trained therapist’ to specific thoughts or tasks. Hypnotherapy can cure phobias, fears, and anxiety. It can also help alleviate sleep disorders, depression, stress, post-trauma anxiety, grief and loss. This form of therapy can also be used to control pain and to overcome habits, such as smoking, drinking or overeating. It might even be helpful for individuals whose symptoms are severe or who need crisis and anger management. In this document, I am first going to give an overview of Hypnotherapy in Mauritius, talk about pregnancy/childbirth hypnotherapy and elaborate on physical pain alleviation.
Living on an island just in the middle of the Indian Ocean does not provide many prospects for a person choosing to pursue a non-conformal career as a Therapist. Mauritius is a small developing country where people fear the unknown as in many other African countries. Most of the people living here are reluctant to try new ways of seeing life, which means they are very sceptical when it comes to unusual methods of healing. Most Mauritians do not want to accept that there are other ways of walking through life and that being open to innovative practices will not necessarily harm them. Subsequently, convincing my people to trust and introduce a new technique in their daily life has been a very tricky task. Fortunately, my fellow citizens are opening themselves gradually to alternative therapies, re-affirming my decision of becoming a Therapist.
The first person that I had to convince to be my client was myself. I had to trust my abilities of being a perfect therapist, through self-hypnosis which was a very difficult task as I usually prefer to be ‘Master of my Self’. Being in control of my body and mind is a very important thing to me. On the other hand, everything about Hypnotherapy/Past Life Therapy is to let oneself go and that was a very complex situation for me to manage. Letting our inner self talk to us, connecting deep from within, letting our unconscious speak for us is the exact thing to do. That seemed very controversial to me at first, and very confusing but, gradually, I understood that listening to our subconscious is the key to controlling our ‘Self’. Without knowing oneself, we do not have a high level of self-esteem which could mean that we will have difficultly succeeding in life.
The second person to give his trust to me was my husband. He was very kind to accept many Relaxation exercises, Past Life Regression tests and Hypnotherapy sessions. The coordination with him was perfect because he completely believes that I would not harm him and, above all, he is someone who possesses a lot of imagination. Creative persons are indeed very good patients for these type of therapies. They easily connect to their soul and rapidly adjust and do the transition between the different stages of the session. For example, with suggestion and deepening, they do not hesitate to let themselves go, once they are in completely trustful situations. The good part of doing the first sessions with a person who is close to us and who trusts us is that we do not need to assess the person’s receptivity, suggestibility and the possibility of achieving the desired outcome. My husband had no unrealistic expectations, (only some misconceptions that he had because of some movies based on hypnosis). I was successfully able to clear those misunderstandings simply by listening and discussing with him to detect the root problem.
There are some members of my family, colleagues and friends who were curious to know about Past Life Therapy. It is an uncommon practice in Mauritius and is against some religious beliefs. Surprisingly, some religious persons are more open and non-judgmental towards those practices. Some of them are even willing to try regular Relaxation sessions to start with, just to know what it feels like to be guided by a stranger.
A cousin of mine, who was 3 months pregnant in November 2011, came to me for some guidance because she was bleeding. She asked me if I could do something for her and ,as I was new to this practice, I did not know what to say. Being a very intuitive and down-to-earth person, I told her that I would do some research work on pregnancy and hypnotherapy. Doing so, I came across a lot of interesting information and I really marvelled about the quantity of techniques which exist for pregnant women. I also read a lot about hypno-birthing. This helped me a lot, to guide my cousin who was beginning to be a little bit depressed. She was worried she might lose her baby. She did 4 – 5 visualization sessions with me, with mild relaxation, in order to feel good deep inside and to connect with her baby. She went swimming at the seaside every week and felt much better after some time. After having decided to stand on her own feet and feel stronger, my cousin indeed felt better.
In my research work related to childbirth/pregnancy/hypnotherapy, I learned that this type of hypnotherapy is commonly known as hypno-birthing. This is a process which decreases the use of pain medication, gives shorter labours, reduces the number of caesarean and forceps delivery and can give higher Apgar scores, used to assess the health of newborn children. Hypnosis has been used in obstetrics for more than a century and even after chemo-anaesthesia and inhalation anaesthesia were introduced in the late 19th century, this method became trendy again in recent years. South Australian researchers discovered that women having their first baby who were taught self-hypnosis in order to experience a good labour, did not necessarily require an epidural compared to other new mothers. These researchers taught 77 women in preparation for childbirth hypnosis and compared them to a group of 3,000 mothers who received normal ante-natal care. The differences were clearly marked in women having their first children. One of the researchers, Dr Andrew, exposed the findings of the case-controlled comparison study to an annual scientific meeting of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, Auckland. The latter claimed that the limited quantity of randomized regulated trials that had been done on an international level on the issue, showed that women who were taught hypnosis were inclined to need little pain relief and were more probable to have a normal labour.
Usually when a pregnant woman and her partner choose childbirth hypnosis programmes, they are also taught a new vocabulary to describe labour and birth; this is done to help breaking the traditional association of giving birth with pain. Thus, the mothers-to-be may refer to a contraction as a ‘surge’ or call a dilation ‘blossoming’.
When imagining oneself entering an altered mental state, this can give some people goose bumps, some hypnotherapists say, to encourage their clients that human beings experience this state in their everyday lives. For example, daydreaming, being deeply absorbed by a book or movie, driving someplace and having no memory of the journey when you arrive are described as common hypnotic states. Most hypnotherapists also stress the fact that one cannot be forced to do something that is against his/her will or ethics while in a hypnosis session. This means that a person can choose to come back to his normal state whenever he wishes, and that he is fully aware, awake, and in control during the whole experience.
Treating people with physical pain, such as arthritis will be a more serious part in my adventure as a Hypnotherapist. I came across a research work of 3 researchers, Gary Elkins, Mark P. Jensen, and David R. Patterson who tested the efficiency of hypnosis plus Jacobson’s relaxation for the decrease of osteoarthritis pain. 36 people were chosen randomly to test either hypnosis, relaxation, or no-treatment/standard care control condition. The hypnosis interventions comprised 8 sessions per week which began with a regular induction technique followed by suggestions for positive imagery. This included a memory from childhood that involved joint mobility. The patients assigned to the standard care control condition were administered the outcome measures and they were given the appropriate treatment after their last follow-up evaluation.
Concerning the hypnosis treatment, the clients revealed a significant and substantial reduction in the amount of pain after 4 weeks of treatment. This method of treatment was maintained over 3 months and, in the end, there was 6 months of follow-up. The persons who were in the ‘no treatment control condition’ reported not much change in their pain severity, during the 6 months of the test compared to those who were on hypnosis trial. Nevertheless, even though there were substantial differences between the standard-care control condition and the hypnosis, the dissimilarities between the standard care control condition and the relaxation control on pain alleviation were not much different statistically.
Hypnotherapy for the alleviation of pain can be a stand-alone programme or be combined with traditional medications. However, if someone is considering going through hypnosis, it is important that they consult a doctor for a medical evaluation before proceeding with this treatment. This is because pain can be a warning signal of a more severe underlying illness. An example of an underlying medical condition can be a person experiencing frequent migraines which may be a symptom of a brain tumour. In this case, a hypnotherapist would treat the migraine without knowing the root problem. The real condition would remain undiagnosed, thus untreated.
The appropriate steps to follow are to ask the patient to see his doctor first and when the source of the pain has been properly diagnosed with the more serious causes eliminated, the hypnotherapy treatment sessions can start. The types of pain conditions which can be alleviated by hypnotherapy are numerous and these include irritable bowel syndrome, sciatica, spinal stenosis, joint pain, neck pain and various other injuries as well as illnesses.
The elementary mission of hypnotherapy is to modify the perception of individuals towards ‘pain messages’ so as to reduce the uncomfortable sensation that they are recurrently feeling. A simple way of achieving this is to simply focus on our breathing and clearing our thoughts, which helps to manage stress according to many professional Hypnotherapists. In so doing, this helps to lower a person’s pain tolerance. Pain and anxiety are two emotions which consume a lot of energy, therefore when our body does not respond normally and we have a mild physical pain at the same time, the pain will normally amplify. We will be mentally unable to control our pain which is usually felt in what people commonly call the primary somatosensory cortex. (The somatosensory cortex is an area of the brain that processes input from the various systems in the body that are sensitive to touch. People often think of touch as a single sense, but in fact, several different sensory experiences are involved, including specific sensitivity to pain and temperature).
Management of pain tolerance can be achieved through numerous techniques. Apart from conventional medications, some practitioners may also use Neuro Linguistic Programming, Art Therapy and Psychotherapy to enhance their treatment. Some hypnotherapists will also include self-hypnosis as part of the treatment plan and this means that the latter will teach you how to practice techniques so that, once your sessions have come to an end, you will be able to use these skills in your daily life.
Dissociation, Trauma, Memory and Hypnosis book series – Steven Jay Lynn
Hypnotherapy for the Management of Chronic Pain – Gary Elkins, Mark P. Jensen, and David R. Patterson
Studies on Hypnosis for Childbirth – Dr Dick Grantly
On a personal note, I am re-locating from Mauritius and taking the plane for Auckland, New Zealand on the 4th of July. Hoping that this opportunity will help me to improve my skills and give a boost to my career. I have a 6 year old son, Lucas. My mum Marie-Noelle and my husband Benoit have always been of great support to me.
Désirée Meunier-Mallet has the following holistic therapy qualifications:
SNHS Higher International Diploma in Hypnotherapy, SNHS Dip. (Advanced Hypnotherapy) & SNHS Dip. (Past Life Therapy)