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Transcript – Programme 65: Hypnosis and Unexplained Pain

Bring­ing mind and body togeth­er to reduce pain with self-hypnosis

To lis­ten to this pro­gramme, please click here.

In this edi­tion of Air­ing Pain we hear how health­care pro­fes­sion­als can use hyp­not­ic tech­niques to help peo­ple in pain. This is not the hyp­no­sis of stage per­for­mances, but rather sim­ple skills that can be mas­tered by most people.

When patients enter the ‘med­i­ta­tive-type’ state of hyp­no­sis they are able to use the imag­i­na­tion to change the per­cep­tion of their pain and even reduce its inten­si­ty, says retired GP Dr Ann Williamson. More than just relax­ation, hyp­no­sis, she argues, gives us access to ‘mind-body links’ that are ide­al­ly suit­ed for address­ing both the phys­i­cal and emo­tion­al dimen­sions of pain. 

Dr Jane Boissiere, also a doc­tor prac­tis­ing hyp­no­sis, calls the lack of avail­abil­i­ty of hyp­no­sis on the NHS ‘a tragedy’. She believes it is the most effec­tive way of address­ing med­ical­ly unex­plained symp­toms by tar­get­ing emo­tion­al trau­ma in a way that puts the patient in control.

Issues cov­ered in this pro­gramme include: Hyp­nother­a­py, self-hyp­no­sis, med­i­ta­tion, alter­na­tive ther­a­py, mind­ful­ness, CBT: cog­ni­tive behav­iour­al ther­a­py, psy­chol­o­gy, mir­ror ther­a­py, neu­ro­science, neu­ro-engi­neer­ing, fibromyal­gia, pain per­cep­tion and men­tal health.

Paul Evans: Hel­lo, I’m Paul Evans and wel­come to Air­ing Pain. A pro­gramme brought to you by Pain Con­cern; the UK char­i­ty that pro­vides infor­ma­tion and sup­port for those who live with pain and health care pro­fes­sion­als. This edi­tion is being fund­ed by a grant from the Dorothy Howard Char­i­ta­ble Trust.

Har­ness­ing the pow­er of the mind to con­trol or man­age pain is some­thing we have explored many times on Air­ing Pain, be it through mind­ful­ness, cog­ni­tive behav­iour­al ther­a­py, mir­ror ther­a­py or even ground break­ing research into neu­ro-engi­neer­ing where patients have trained them­selves to iden­ti­fy the part of the brain that con­trols their pain and then reduce that pain. With such inno­va­tion, it is tempt­ing to think that only now, in this age of dis­cov­ery, are we begin­ning to ful­ly under­stand the poten­tial of the mind to man­age pain but, go back through the mil­len­nia, even to pre- his­to­ry and we find that priests, shamans and witch­doc­tors have attempt­ed to bring about heal­ing by induc­ing an altered state of con­scious­ness, in effect, hypnosis.

Now, you might asso­ciate hyp­no­sis with enter­tain­ment pro­grammes where mem­bers of the pub­lic are induced to per­form weird and won­der­ful acts of stu­pid­i­ty in front of an audi­ence – that is stage hyp­no­tism, not to be con­fused with any­thing beyond the shal­low realms of showbiz.

The British Soci­ety of Clin­i­cal and Aca­d­e­m­ic Hyp­no­sis pro­motes the safe and respon­si­ble use of hyp­no­sis in med­i­cine, den­tistry and psy­chol­o­gy. Its aim is to edu­cate both pro­fes­sion­als and the pub­lic about hyp­no­sis and its uses. In the British Pain Society’s Annu­al Sci­en­tif­ic Meet­ing of 2014, I met Dr Ann Williamson, a retired GP who’s been involved in hyp­no­sis since the late 1980s and who has been train­ing health pro­fes­sion­als for more than twen­ty years. So what is hypnosis?

Dr Ann Williamson: My way of think­ing of hyp­no­sis is that it is a med­i­ta­tive type state, I sup­pose, where you have your nor­mal out­side aware­ness and you have your inter­nal aware­ness. In hyp­no­sis you focus inter­nal­ly, but with­in a ses­sion that can go up and down, so that some­body can be more aware of what is going on out­side and then less aware. It is a bit like read­ing a good book, you get lost in a good book and you lose aware­ness of what is out­side, but if some­one was to call your name or shout ‘fire’, you’d be off and up.

Evans: So how does it dif­fer from meditation?

Williamson: The aim is dif­fer­ent – the aim in med­i­ta­tion is to emp­ty your mind and become one with the ‘life force’, God, how­ev­er you want to lan­guage it – in hyp­no­sis, the aim is emo­tion­al man­age­ment of some sort or expe­ri­enc­ing a goal. Hyp­no­sis is very expe­ri­en­tial – you step into the you that you want to be and asso­ciate with it and feel it. It is a much more expe­ri­en­tial way of work­ing with something.

Evans: So the me that I want to be could well be a com­plete­ly fit person.

Williamson: It has got to be real­is­tic. If I am twen­ty or thir­ty stone and my goal is to climb Ever­est, that is not going to be real­is­tic, but when I step into that imag­in­ing, I’ll know it is not real­is­tic – the intu­itive part of me will under­stand that. For instance, a pain patient will be want­i­ng to reduce their pain, feel com­fort, feel calm, so you can go in the hyp­not­ic state and you can go to places and times when you had those feel­ings and re-access them. You can link them to things that you can bring to the front of your mind which will then take you back into it.

There is inter­est­ing work being done with phan­tom limb pain by col­leagues – I don’t know whether you are aware that one of the treat­ments for phan­tom limb pain is the mir­ror box. Well, what she does is get the per­son to imag­ine mov­ing that hand, or that arm, or that leg in hyp­no­sis. And we know from neu­ro sci­ence find­ings that what you imag­ine in hyp­no­sis – the same parts of brain light up as in real­i­ty or very sim­i­lar – where­as just think­ing about it, it doesn’t. So, there is some­thing there that is giv­ing us access to – if you like – to these mind body links. So hyp­no­sis is more than just relaxation.

Evans: I sup­pose think­ing about being well, being with­out pain, is maybe wish­ful think­ing – it is think­ing about some­thing that is not there and maybe think­ing about it, is not a good thing to do any­way because you are try­ing to imag­ine what will nev­er happen.

Williamson: That’s why I think it’s got to be tai­lored to the indi­vid­ual case. I have met peo­ple with fibromyal­gia, for instance, who have had a lot of pain and been very dis­abled by it. Giv­ing them the tool of self-hyp­no­sis, using imagery to help reduce the pain direct­ly (which some peo­ple can do) and then also to look at the psy­cho­log­i­cal dri­vers of the fibromyal­gia – like any­thing else, mind and body and it is very inter­linked – that can actu­al­ly reduce the pain, not just through relax­ation. It can actu­al­ly reduce the pain intensity.

We know peo­ple can mod­u­late pain inten­si­ty from … you know … they can have surgery under hyp­no­sis – some peo­ple can, who have got that abil­i­ty. It is wish­ful think­ing, yes, but if you focus on the pain, then you are just going to focus more and more into the pain. If you focus on what you want which would be com­fort or a greater degree of com­fort or being more able to cope, feel­ing more able to take an inter­est in some­thing out­side of your pain, then that will in itself reduce the pain.
Evans: How does this dif­fer in out­come from a talk­ing ther­a­py like accep­tance and com­mit­ment therapy?

Williamson: I think that any talk­ing ther­a­py, if you are in deep rap­port with some­one and talk­ing, they enter, if you like, a semi-hyp­not­ic state any­way. So, I think a lot of good ther­a­pists are using the hyp­not­ic state, even though they are not aware of it. When some­one is in a great deal of pain or a great deal of anx­i­ety, they are already in/or work­ing… their brain is already pro­cess­ing in, if you like, a hyp­not­ic state. That is why hyp­no­sis can be used very effec­tive­ly in things like, emer­gency med­i­cine – when some­body is already in that frame of mind. I think hyp­no­sis facil­i­tates lots of dif­fer­ent ther­a­peu­tic approaches.

Hyp­no­sis on its own is just a state of mind – it’s what you do with it that’s impor­tant. It is alter­ing the person’s focus of atten­tion and by alter­ing their focus of atten­tion inter­nal­ly in that hyp­not­ic state, sug­ges­tions are more read­i­ly tak­en on board because they can expe­ri­ence them, they can feel them. If you like, anoth­er way of look­ing at it, would be a sto­ry teller – I don’t know whether you have ever expe­ri­enced a real­ly good sto­ry teller com­ing in to the room and hold­ing a whole audi­ence entranced – we say it is ‘entranced’, it is the same way – they are all in that kind of hyp­not­ic state at that point – but what they are doing with it is dif­fer­ent than in clin­i­cal hyp­no­sis. So it is a state we go in and out of, quite naturally.

Evans: Sports­men refer to ‘the zone’…

Williamson: Yes, being in the zone, same thing.

Evans: … and it’s that busi­ness I guess of being able to shut off all the pres­sures, all that is going on around…

Williamson: it’s just total­ly focused.

Evans: I’m think­ing of some­body kick­ing a penal­ty at Wembley.

Williamson: Yep.

Evans: If that were me, the fear of humil­i­a­tion, of failure…

Williamson: But of course, it’s as soon as you start think­ing of that, that will put your per­for­mance off, so they learn to be com­plete­ly focused. That’s why hyp­no­sis and hyp­not­ic tech­niques are used in a lot of sports and ath­let­ics – by a lot of Olympic ath­letes – because to get that edge, you need to be able to do that and some peo­ple are more able to do it than oth­ers. Some peo­ple find it real­ly hard to actu­al­ly focus atten­tion but every­one has got an abil­i­ty – if you use a right-left brain mod­el – if we are func­tion­ing nor­mal­ly in our con­scious wak­ing state in our left brain then going into a relaxed state or focus of atten­tion tends to be a right brain process…

Evans: I’ve got one brain and I know it’s got two sides, what’s going on?
Williamson: If you think of the left side of the brain as our intel­lec­tu­al, ratio­nal, rea­son­ing, con­scious aware­ness part (I mean this is a mod­el, it’s not the truth – it’s just a way of look­ing at things) and the right side of our brain is the emo­tion­al, cre­ative, intu­itive, mem­o­ry part.
Take, say, a pho­bia of a spi­der – log­i­cal­ly it is total­ly crazy to be so ter­ri­fied of that lit­tle spi­der down there, but telling myself that, doesn’t real­ly help – I still get that over­whelm­ing feeling.

We know some of the brain path­ways of why that hap­pens but to be able to work with both types of pro­cess­ing, you need some­thing that links them and one thing that links is visu­al­i­sa­tion. You can paint a word pic­ture and the right brain thinks in pic­tures, sym­bols, metaphor and the left brain uses words. So, we can talk if you like, to both types of our pro­cess­ing, to our heart and our head by using imagery – I mean if you think of all the great teach­ers, they use para­bles, sto­ries, metaphor – why? Because it is a good way to get some­thing across.

We tend to very much to think in the cog­ni­tive side of things but actu­al­ly, the bit that dri­ves us more than any­thing is our emo­tion part – so we need some­thing that will work at both lev­els, that’s where I think hyp­no­sis and that type of approach works.

Evans: If I were to draw a dia­gram of me, I would think – tell me if I am wrong – that I would do all my rea­son­ing on this, my left hand side but the real me – the emo­tion, the arts, what makes me, me is on my right side and some­how you need to join those two sides together.

Williamson: That’s what the aim of all ther­a­py is, isn’t it? To mar­ry and make links between our intel­lec­tu­al under­stand­ing and our emo­tion­al under­stand­ing, to make those links, to make those process­es work togeth­er. If you are in great pain, or if you are in great dis­tress, you are in that emo­tion and you have not got access to your adult, ratio­nal, cog­ni­tive pro­cess­ing. You are in to the emo­tion, in to the feel­ing and you need both.

Evans: It was ratio­nal to be afraid of spi­ders in our evo­lu­tion­ary past…

Williamson: …pos­si­bly

Evans: …and that still stays there, which links in with fight and flight and pain mechanisms…

Williamson: …yes

Evans: So, how does hyp­no­sis come into to break some of those things?

Williamson: It depends on the cau­sa­tion of the pain, to some extent. I mean the fight and flight – obvi­ous­ly, if you are tense and are in an adren­a­lin state, then your pain is going to be worse or your per­cep­tion of pain is going to be worse, so any­thing that will reduce that, would be help­ful, but then, you’ve also got the psy­cho­log­i­cal under­pin­nings of pain. Pain isn’t just tis­sue dam­age or organ dam­age, it’s all the rest, it’s the whole pain neu­ro matrix that gets involved and hyp­no­sis can help psy­chother­a­peu­ti­cal­ly. Using the hyp­not­ic state can kind of help peo­ple to explore and resolve what­ev­er ever might be under­ly­ing those prob­lems, giv­ing rise to the pain.

Evans: Dr Ann Williamson of the British Soci­ety of Clin­i­cal and Aca­d­e­m­ic Hyp­no­sis. Dr Jane Boissiere, also of the Soci­ety, was a GP for twelve to thir­teen years. She was also a house prac­ti­tion­er in psychiatry.

Dr Jan Boissiere: When I was try­ing to per­suade my GP patients to come and see me at my day psy­chother­a­peu­tic hos­pi­tal, I would say to them: ‘Imag­ine the brain is a room and you have a cup­board at one end – we all have a room and a cup­board – and what we do, dur­ing the course of our life, we put all the rub­bish in the cup­board, we close the door and we live in the tidy part of the room. Then one day along comes anoth­er bit of rub­bish, it might not be that big a piece of rub­bish – you try to fit it into the cup­board and there is no more room. The cup­board door bursts open and you have rub­bish all over the room and you are in a state of pan­ic, anx­i­ety, depres­sion, what­ev­er – and what you do is you try to put all that rub­bish back in the cup­board and close the door tight. You might man­age to do that to begin with but you are sit­ting on top of a vol­cano. So, if you have too much rub­bish in your cup­board, what you need to do is sort it out.’

And that’s what we used to do at the day psy­chother­a­py hos­pi­tal – we would have to spring clean. Now, spring clean­ing is not a good job, alright, they have to pull out all the rub­bish, sort it all out, throw away or put it back tidi­ly, because obvi­ous­ly you can’t get rid of those things. But if you put it back tidi­ly, then you will have more room in that cup­board for all the oth­er rub­bish that is bound to occur dur­ing the course of your life. So, that was how I would explain what we were going to do at the day psy­chother­a­py hos­pi­tal. But spring clean­ing is incred­i­bly messy.

When I stopped being a GP and doing the psy­chi­a­try, I was real­ly miss­ing see­ing patients and it was then that I dis­cov­ered hyp­no­sis and what I dis­cov­ered with hyp­no­sis was that, all this rub­bish that was in the cup­board, you did not have to pull it all out, sort it all out and put it back. It was so much eas­i­er than that, so much eas­i­er, it was like hav­ing an ultra­sound scan, because all you had to do was ask the uncon­scious mind, which bit of rub­bish was caus­ing the trou­ble, it would sort itself out with a few clues and tips, what­ev­er – and all would be well. You did not need to pull all this rub­bish out, you didn’t need to cause a huge mess in the room – you could actu­al­ly go straight to the point that was caus­ing it.

Often, it would be some­thing very minor, you know, because my train­ing was in psy­chi­a­try, I would do a full psy­chi­atric his­to­ry before I would do any­thing at all. So you do the full psy­chi­atric his­to­ry, you know, some peo­ple have had hor­ren­dous lives, a huge amount of trau­ma and dis­tress. And you could come up with all kinds of the­o­ries or what might be caus­ing their symp­toms and very often you would be wrong. It would be some­thing, much small­er, minor, which you had not even con­sid­ered to be impor­tant, had caused the upset or distress.

So you can­not always make assump­tions. We think that our frontal lobes are in con­trol, but actu­al­ly it is your uncon­scious mind often, that is in con­trol. So, if you have a behav­ior or a symp­tom that you do not under­stand, you do not know what it is about… I would say to patients that were referred to me – ‘if you have this symp­tom and you don’t know what has caused it, if the symp­tom goes away and you don’t know why it has gone away – will that mat­ter? No.’ In oth­er words, you don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly need to know what it is. Some­times, the uncon­scious mind does not want your con­scious mind to know what the prob­lem is.

Evans: The anal­o­gy of rub­bish in the cup­board is some­thing that we can all get hold of but, what con­sti­tutes rubbish?

Boissiere:Trau­mat­ic events, deaths, we can go with very major things, as I say, some­times you will find… being bul­lied – events that have upset you in the past.

Evans: I would say that the things that might upset me, are things that I have done that are out of char­ac­ter, say when I’ve lost my tem­per with some­body in pub­lic and I don’t do that – those are the things that stick in my mind.
Boissiere: And that’s because you have not adhered to your own stan­dards. You have set your­self a stan­dard and if you break that rule, that you’ve set for your­self, then you beat your­self up about it. Now, you could be more for­giv­ing, you could find ways of not being quite so angry as well, you could find out what it was that trig­gered you to behave in that sort of a way. There are all sorts of ways that we could help with that. You could look at what the trig­gers are for you los­ing your tem­per in that way and that is fas­ci­nat­ing – I love deal­ing with anger, because repressed anger is not good for you.

Evans: In terms of some­body with per­sis­tent pain, the anger comes from every­body, the doc­tors, the employ­ers, life, the politi­cians, the health service ….

Boissiere: Absolute­ly, there’s noth­ing worse.

Evans: Every­body is to blame for my condition.

Boissiere: Absolute­ly, absolute­ly, I ful­ly under­stand – if you have been through the mill, with fibromyal­gia, the degree of anger with the lack of under­stand­ing, the lack of peo­ple deal­ing with it appro­pri­ate­ly, not know­ing the effect of the heart-sink – are you with me? – so that if you go to the doc­tor and, you know, if we’ve got a sim­ple diag­no­sis – ‘I know, you’ve got wax in your ear’, and we can take the wax out – we’ve got a hap­py patient and a hap­py doc­tor, every­body is hap­py. We have got a diag­no­sis and we have got a treat­ment and every­body knows where they are. Once you are into the realms of the med­ical­ly unex­plained, once we are deal­ing with symp­toms that don’t fall neat­ly into that sort of cat­e­go­ry, you have got the doc­tor feel­ing mis­er­able and the patient feel­ing mis­er­able – then we are into a very neg­a­tive sort of cycle here.

Now, if I saw patients, who had defeat­ed oth­er prac­ti­tion­ers – shall we say – I was always delight­ed to see them. I’d say ‘come on in – this is great – [laugh­ing] because we are going to get some solu­tions now.’

I used to say that I loved doing psy­chi­a­try for two rea­sons: I meet the nicest peo­ple and I love watch­ing peo­ple get bet­ter. It is a joy treat­ing peo­ple, hav­ing dis­cov­ered these sorts of ways of access­ing the part of the mind that can actu­al­ly help you heal yourself.

It’s the way you deliv­er the mes­sage. If you go to the doc­tor and the doc­tor says ‘I can’t find any­thing wrong with you.’ The patient thinks, ‘They can’t find any­thing wrong with me, there isn’t going to be a treat­ment – that means I am going to suf­fer for­ev­er.’ But there is a pos­si­bil­i­ty of you being com­plete­ly nor­mal, if we can just find some answers.

Now, most things are mul­ti-fac­to­r­i­al – a bit of this – a bit of the oth­er – what we have to do, is get all the fac­tors going in the right direc­tion. When you see some­body who has been through the mill, you end up with a vicious cir­cle with every­thing going in the wrong direc­tion, all spin­ning in the wrong direc­tion. What you have got to do, is get in there, get all the fac­tors right and get it spin­ning in the right direction.

If you get it spin­ning in the right direc­tion, then you can start feel­ing good and bet­ter but there is a part to be played – I am not say­ing that I have all the answers to all these things – we have an impor­tant part to play and unfor­tu­nate­ly hyp­no­sis is com­plete­ly under­uti­lized by the NHS. It is a com­plete tragedy.

Evans: So how do peo­ple get to see a recog­nised hypnotherapist?

Boissiere: With­in the NHS, it is vir­tu­al­ly impos­si­ble – you can’t even use the word ‘hyp­no­sis’. Some peo­ple who have even been trained in hyp­no­sis, as I under­stand it, can’t then prac­tice it with­in the NHS. They will say that it is not, for exam­ple, for the treat­ment of post- trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der, we have got lots of evi­dence but we have not got suf­fi­cient, for it to be con­sid­ered strong enough to be an evi­dence-based treat­ment. But if you don’t have enough peo­ple doing it, you are in a catch-22.

What you’ve got to be able to do, is to be… most of the NICE guid­ance for pain, for exam­ple, they say more research is required – how can you do that research if you don’t have enough peo­ple prac­tic­ing it and they can’t get fund­ing to come on the cours­es? Because it is, hyp­no­sis, it is con­sid­ered an alter­na­tive ther­a­py. Now, I don’t know why we are con­sid­ered an alter­na­tive ther­a­py, we have been around for two hun­dred years. Freud start­ed with hyp­no­sis then decid­ed maybe not and every­body became very fright­ened of the uncon­scious – there is noth­ing to be fright­ened of at all, real­ly noth­ing at all. All hyp­no­sis is self-hyp­no­sis and is about you being in more con­trol, not less con­trol. OK, we think that it is the frontal lobes are the bit that is con­trol­ling every­thing, it is not – as we go back to what we said ear­li­er, about behav­iours – that you’ve got behav­iours that you don’t like and that you can’t help and you just lose your tem­per and you don’t want to….

Evans: It’s only hap­pened twice, but sad­ly I can remem­ber each one.
Boissiere: [laugh­ing] Indeed, but for­give­ness is one thing and know­ing how to han­dle that dif­fer­ent­ly is anoth­er one. It is not just that, cer­tain­ly, from the repressed angle point of view, you might be so busy, try­ing not to explode, that won’t be doing your pain any good.

Evans: Dr Jane Boissiere. So what approach would a health pro­fes­sion­al prac­tic­ing hyp­no­sis take with a new patient.

Williamson: Well, if a patient came to me and want­ed hyp­no­sis for pain relief or pain man­age­ment, we’d talk about it first and talk about what it is and what it isn’t and kind of… dis­pel mis­con­cep­tions, because peo­ple often think of hyp­no­sis as a mag­ic wand and it isn’t. It is a brain state that you can utilise to help your­self devel­op skills and abil­i­ties to help you man­age pain.

Evans: Well, actu­al­ly most peo­ple would think of hyp­no­sis as a music hall act.

Williamson: Exactly

Evans: That you can make me run around naked as a chick­en
Williamson: Well, only if you want­ed to [laugh­ing]
Evans: I don’t.
Williamson: No [laugh­ing] and only if you’re a good hyp­not­ic sub­ject because we all have dif­fer­ent hyp­not­ic abil­i­ty in the same way that we all have dif­fer­ent musi­cal abil­i­ty.
Evans: So, this is not stage hyp­no­sis, I will be conscious.

Williamson: You’d be aware of what­ev­er is going on around you, then if you were going more focused inter­nal­ly, you might get less aware. If I am doing a ses­sion with some­body and some­body opens a door or the phone rings, it dis­turbs me more than the per­son I am work­ing with, very often. The first stage obvi­ous­ly, would be tak­ing a his­to­ry and find­ing out about the per­son, what they like, what they dis­like, because peo­ple very often, have used kind of semi-hyp­not­ic tools already with­out even know­ing that they have done it. I worked with one guy once, who said, ‘when I start to get stressed, I sing my tune in my head’. He had this lit­tle tune – he was a musi­cian – he did this tune in his head, so he already had a link to feel­ing calmer. Peo­ple often have things that they do, that help them already and hyp­no­sis can help them more.

They often don’t feel any dif­fer­ent in the hyp­not­ic state than in the awake state except that they are more focused inter­nal­ly. You see when peo­ple come out of the hyp­not­ic state, it takes a moment or two to re-ori­en­tate back into the here and now. One uses all sorts of things with peo­ple. It is not just a ques­tion of get­ting them to access a calm and relaxed feel­ing which you can do – you might get them to use imagery of a spe­cial place, that they would love to be which would be calm and relaxed, which could be imag­i­nary or it could be real. You could get them to imag­ine what their pain or dis­com­fort looked like and then, if they could go in and make a change, which would make it more com­fort­able, what would they do – and that can often help.

You can have clas­sic imagery, turn­ing dials down or going to your pain con­trol cen­tre in the back of your mind and turn­ing the lever down more towards com­fort, cer­tain­ly not in the first ses­sion, but it might be the sec­ond or the third ses­sion that I would work with some­body to see whether there is any­thing psy­cho­log­i­cal under­pin­ning their pain that they need to address or that they want to address, because they might not want to. The impor­tant thing is giv­ing the patient tools which they can then take away and use.

I give them the kind of metaphor of a child. Any­one who has had chil­dren knows that a tod­dler will be clam­our­ing for atten­tion just at your busiest moment in the kitchen and you say ‘go away, mum is busy’. And what does the tod­dler do? Clam­ours even loud­er until you give it atten­tion. Well, your pain can just whis­per as long as you are aware when you need to give it atten­tion, so instead of being, kind of a sev­en or eight out of ten, it can be two or three out of ten.

Evans: So instead of grab­bing you by the throat, it can just tap you on the shoulder.

Williamson: Yes, and you can pay atten­tion to it and do what you need to do, to keep your­self comfortable.

Evans: That’s Dr Ann Williamson of the British Soci­ety of Clin­i­cal and Aca­d­e­m­ic Hypnosis.

Don’t for­get that you can down­load all the pre­vi­ous edi­tions of Air­ing Pain or obtain CD copies direct from Pain Con­cern. If you would like to put a ques­tion to Pain Concern’s pan­el of experts or just make a com­ment about these pro­grammes, then please do so, via our blog, mes­sage board, email, Face­book, Twit­ter or pen and paper – all of the con­tact details are at our web­site
Whilst we believe that the infor­ma­tion and opin­ions on Air­ing Pain are accu­rate and sound, based on the best judge­ments avail­able, you should always con­sult your health pro­fes­sion­al on any mat­ter relat­ing to your health and well­be­ing. He or she is the only per­son who knows you and your cir­cum­stances and there­fore the appro­pri­ate action to take on your behalf.

So for those want­i­ng to find out more about hyp­no­sis – be you a patient or med­ical pro­fes­sion­al – where should you look for advice?

Williamson: Our soci­ety, the British Soci­ety of Clin­i­cal and Aca­d­e­m­ic Hyp­no­sis believes that you should only treat with hyp­no­sis, things that you can treat with­out hyp­no­sis and I think that is a real­ly good safe­ty guide­line. So, some­one look­ing for some­one to work with using hyp­no­sis needs to find some­one they would be going to any­way, like a physio or a doc­tor or whatever.

Evans: And as you were say­ing, mem­bers of the British Soci­ety of Clin­i­cal and Aca­d­e­m­ic Hyp­no­sis, they are prac­ti­tion­ers in oth­er areas as well?

Williamson: They are all work­ing health pro­fes­sion­als, yes.

Evans: So what stan­dards, should peo­ple with chron­ic pain look for in choos­ing a hypnotherapist?

Williamson: You need to find some­one who has some knowl­edge or your con­di­tion I think. You see hyp­no­sis is very easy; it is what you do with it that is more difficult.

Evans: I can find any num­ber of hyp­nother­a­pists in yel­low pages or on the inter­net.
Williamson: You need some­one who is either a psy­chol­o­gist or a doc­tor or cer­tain­ly some­one who is UKCP accred­it­ed, some­thing like that – Unit­ed King­dom Coun­cil for Psychotherapy.

Evans: For health pro­fes­sion­als lis­ten­ing to this, where should they go if they are inter­est­ed in using hypnotherapy?

Williamson: Well, if you go on to our web­site,, you will find lots of infor­ma­tion there. You will find infor­ma­tion on our train­ing cours­es which are around the coun­try. Usu­al­ly the foun­da­tion train­ing is three week­ends which gives a basic ground­ing in hyp­no­sis and hyp­not­ic tech­niques and the third week­end we tai­lor to who­ev­er we have par­tic­i­pat­ing – so if we have got a lot of den­tists, we’ll get a den­tal train­er in, if we’ve got a lot of anaes­thetists, we’ll get an anaes­thetist who uses hyp­no­sis – so it is tai­lored to the peo­ple that are attending.


  • Dr Ann Williamson, British Soci­ety of Clin­i­cal and Aca­d­e­m­ic Hypnosis
  • Dr Jane Boissiere, British Soci­ety of Clin­i­cal and Aca­d­e­m­ic Hypnosis.


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