Originally published January 29 2008
The Role of Hypnotherapy in Pediatric Cancer Patients
by Steve G. Jones, Ed.S.
(NaturalNews) Two years ago I received a call from a doctor in my area needing my assistance. She was wondering if I would be interested in using hypnosis to help a couple of her patients. I was immediately interested in hearing more so I met her in her office at a local hospital. I sat down with Dr. Jill, as her patients call her, and we talked about one of her patients in particular. Dr. Jill is a pediatric oncologist, meaning she works with children who have cancer. She explained how difficult it is for children to understand and cope with the treatments they are receiving. The treatments, such as chemotherapy, leave the children with more pain and stress than the actual cancer. Dr. Jill explained how she has one particular patient who is having a hard time coping with the treatment of her cancer. The child, an eight year old girl, becomes extremely anxious when coming to the hospital to receive her chemotherapy injections. I discussed with the doctor how I could help her patient with hypnosis. We set up an appointment so that I could meet and work with her patient.
A week later I returned to the hospital and met with Dr. Jill, her patient eight year old Holly, and Holly's parents. While Holly played, I discussed with Dr. Jill and Holly's parents how I could help Holly. I explained that people between the ages of five and fourteen are the most highly suggestible. I discussed how I could teach Holly to feel in control of her treatment and thus in control of her anxiety. I answered some questions from Holly's parents and then we were ready to work with Holly.
I explained to Holly how I was going to help her. She put her trust in me and we became quick friends. I asked her to describe a fun and exciting fantasyland that she would like to go to. I asked her questions so that she was able to picture every detail, hear every sound, and smell every scent. I told her that she could go to this place in her mind whenever she was receiving treatment for her cancer. I sat with her as she received treatment for her cancer and she reported feeling less pain and overall her doctor and parents agreed that she was less anxious. This created dissociation from the anxiety and pain that she felt when receiving chemotherapy injections.
I taught Holly a type of self-hypnosis that distracted her from pain and stress. I also taught her that she can use the imaginative experience whenever she is having problems with distress so that she can manage the pain.
Hypnosis has been shown to be beneficial in children with cancer. According to a study in the Oncology Nursing Forum in 1991, children have the ability to learn hypnosis more quickly as compared to adults. The reason for this is that children easily become entranced in fantasies; they have an amazing aptitude for imagination. Another reason for this is that children do not possess the analytical skills to refute the idea of hypnosis. In particular, children who have cancer and are going through various treatments are dealing with a lot of pain and anxiety. They will actually be more open to the idea of using hypnosis because they are more suggestible when dealing with these feelings of anxiety.
In a study outlined in Advances in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics in 1986, 45 cancer patients ranging in age from six to seventeen were divided into two groups to test their pain and anxiety before and after receiving BMA's (bone marrow aspirations). One group received visual distraction, breathing exercises, and practiced controlling fear. The other group received hypnosis. The findings showed that both groups felt less pain as a result of their treatments. However, the hypnosis group was able to reduce their pain slightly more. Also, only those in the hypnosis group reported reduced anxiety.
These studies show that a lot of good can come out of using hypnosis on children with cancer. Children often times do not have the experience or the maturity to cope with difficult situations. Many adults are not able to cope with their pain and anxiety as well. Children are highly suggestible and also people with pain and anxiety are highly suggestible. It makes sense that children coping with pain and anxiety would react positively to hypnosis, as these studies have shown.
Advances in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 1986. 7, 197-234.
Oncology Nursing Forum, 1991. 18, 699-704.
About the authorSteve G. Jones, Ed.S. has been practicing hypnotherapy since the 1980s. He is the author of 22 books on Hypnotherapy. Steve is a member of the National Guild of Hypnotists, American Board of Hypnotherapy, president of the American Alliance of Hypnotists, on the board of directors of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Lung Association, and director of the Steve G. Jones School of Clinical Hypnotherapy.
Steve G. Jones, Ed.S. is a board certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. He has a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Florida (1994), a master's degree in education from Armstrong Atlantic State University (2007), and is currently working on a doctorate in education, Ed.D., at Georgia Southern University. Learn more at:
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