What is pediatric hypnotherapy?
As currently practiced, hypnotherapy most often involves teaching a child how to self-hypnotize in order to control bad habits, physical symptoms, and other conditions. The child learns to use relaxation techniques and mental images—similar to a daydream or fantasy—to enter an “altered mental state” (in other words, to induce hypnosis). Once in this altered state, the therapist makes suggestions aimed at producing the desired change in behavior, anxiety level, or symptom intensity. These may range from recalling times of feeling happy and well in a child with chronic pain, to thinking of the body as a “computer” that the child can “program” with his or her mind. The child may also receive specific teaching about their problem as a means of helping them learn to exercise control over their body. For example, a child with nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting) may be taught the basic anatomy and function of the bladder. Ultimately, the child is able to induce self-hypnosis when needed to achieve the desired changes.
What is the history of using hypnosis with children?
Hypnosis of children was first described in 1779 by Mesmer, who reportedly used hypnotherapy to treat a child with visual problems. Historically, hypnotherapy was rarely practiced with children, because people thought that children could not be hypnotized. In the 1970’s, however, observations suggested that children were easier to hypnotize than adults, and that hypnosis could be used in the treatment of behavioral and physical problems in children.
What are some uses of hypnotherapy in children?
Hypnotherapy has been used to treat hundreds of behavior disorders, chronic diseases, and pain and discomfort. Here’s a partial list:
- Habit/tic disorders including thumb-sucking, trichotillomania (hair-pulling), Tourette’s Syndrome. Evidence is currently limited to several small studies and case reports (reports of successful therapy in a few individuals, without comparison to another therapy).
- Nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting). Evidence includes case reports as well as one clinical trial, in which hypnotherapy was shown to be more effective than medication. Here is a review of this study.
- Sleep terrors, nightmares, and other sleep disturbances. Evidence is limited to case reports.
- Swallowing problems, food aversions, and choking (not related to anatomic problems or disease). Evidence is limited to case reports.
- Anxiety and stress.
- Asthma Case reports suggest that hypnotherapy may reduce episodes of wheezing or shortness of breath, and may decrease reliance on asthma medications.
- Cystic Fibrosis (CF) A study in adults and children with CF suggests that hypnotherapy can reduce symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, anxiety, and other problems commonly faced by these patients.
- Migraine headaches
- Chronic pain in cancer patients Initial results from small studies showing that hypnotherapy can be used to manage chronic pain in children with cancer; larger studies are likely underway.
- Nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy. Several studies comparing hypnotherapy to anti-nausea medications and simple relaxation techniques show that hypnotherapy plus medications was more effective than medications alone in reducing nausea and vomiting. Children treated with hypnotherapy had less pre- and post-chemotherapy nausea and vomiting.
- Treatments: pill-swallowing, injections, and medical procedures Hypnosis has been shown to be very effective in helping children through painful procedures like shots, IV pokes, even spinal taps and bone marrow studies.
For more information on pediatric hypnotherapy, Google the below: • American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) • Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis