Hypnosis is the oldest form of psychotherapy. Researchers have proven its effectiveness in reducing certain kinds of stress and pain. Yet hypnosis isn't taken as seriously as other forms of therapy. Youth Radio’s Chantell Williams visited Stanford University to find out about new research aimed to support hypnosis with hard science.
When Katie Duchscherer, a 21 year old Senior at Stanford University, gets anxious during a psychology final exam, she takes a deep breath and puts herself into a hypnotic state:
I’m going in for my final. I’ve studied for days and days and I’m feeling this anxiety and my chest sortof tightening. I remind myself to take a few deep breaths. And I go to a different place. I focus on this feeling of anxiety, why I have it, and what’s going on in my body that is causing it. I’m going to use this adrenaline in my system to feel focused for the test... and then bringing myself out of that, focusing in on the test and doing it.
Before participating in a study on hypnosis, Duchscherer never knew that her mind was capable of all that. Now she uses self-hypnosis to reduce pain during doctor’s visits. During an experiment, Duchscherer even hypnotized herself to drain the color from a picture. It was one of the exercises designed to identify which regions of the brain are involved when you're in a hypnotic state.
I started staring at the light blue rectangle in the middle, and I was like this is close enough to gray, I can start here, and just stared at that one, made that one go gray and then the ones around it. The colors started to leach out of them. They started turning brownish and then they turned gray too. It was strange.
Dr. David Spiegel runs a center on stress and health at Stanford. He is one of the world experts on hypnosis. He has used it to help sick kids get over nausea and ease the symptoms of asthma. Now Dr. Spiegel is using fMRIs to research the question: who is susceptible to hypnosis and why?
Stay tuned to Youth Radio as Chantell Williams helps find the answer.