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Hypnotherapy is becoming increasingly viewed as an effective tool to treat everything from stress, to weight management, fears, anxieties, phobias and pain; the list goes on. But there are still many sceptics. But does hypnotherapy work? Or is it all in the mind?
It is thought that when a person is hypnotised, the right side of the brain responsible for emotions and creativity becomes far more active than the left side of the brain, which is responsible for logical thinking. During hypnotherapy, the subconscious mind is rendered more active.
Leon Cowen is the executive director of the Academy of Applied Hypnosis. Leon has been practising clinical hypnotherapy for 30 years.
"Hypnotherapy is where the state of hypnosis is used for hypnotherapy," Leon says. "You've got the state of hypnosis which is the same as meditation and deep relaxation but it's used in a very specific way."
Leon does not believe that hypnosis is a magic wand that is going to take over from medicine. But rather, when used correctly, he strongly believes that hypnotherapy has a position within the complementary medical framework.
WGFY tested how effective hypnotherapy was in four case studies, including a smoker, an insomniac, a golfer and someone with a fear of flying.
Forty-one year old Michael has been a smoker for 20 years and really wants to break the habit. He mainly smokes socially, but even then still smokes about 10 cigarettes on a night out with friends.
Michael has tried to give up twice before using nicotine patches and chewing gum. But unfortunately he didn't have much luck. He has also tried to go cold turkey. He thinks it is time to get serious about breaking the habit once and for all.
Julie, aged 35, has been dealing with the terrible effects of insomnia for more than 10 years. And Julie's not alone. Research suggests that up to one-third of Australians may have at least one symptom of insomnia that is disrupting their lives.
"I've tried a whole range of things to make me sleep better; a nice relaxing bath with muscle soak, lavender drops on the pillow, soothing music. I've tried over-the-counter sleeping tablets which help but obviously there's a limit to how many of those you can take," Julie says.
"I'm really keen to try hypnotherapy because I have tried everything else I can think of and some things have worked short-term but ultimately it's not curing the problem of insomnia and I need something that will cure the root cause."
Even some of the world's top sporting teams and players are now turning to hypnotherapy to help them with their game. They realise that the right attitude and state of mind is as crucial to their performance as much as their physical state.
We met Marko, a manager of a gold club in Sydney and a very keen golfer. Marko has a handicap of nine, that is pretty amazing for an amateur golfer but Marko thinks he can do better. Marko thinks his problem lies with his confidence with putting.
"I'd like my handicap to be six or seven but you've got to be realistic about what you can achieve," Marko says. "It's been said that perhaps with hypnotherapy that maybe some of the gremlins in your mind might disappear and I'm hopeful that might be the case with me."
Phobia of flying
And what about phobias? Could hypnotherapy overcome a lifelong fear of flying? According to some statistics, one in four people have a fear of flying. Our host, Dr Andrew Rochford, is one of them.
"The whole concept of flying makes me uncomfortable," Andrew says. "I'd much rather be here with my feet firmly on the ground."
Andrew is a nervous wreck before and during a flight so he is really hoping Leon Cowen can help.
Leon Cowen was confident he could help our four cases, and gave them a few hypnotherapy sessions each. Hypnotherapy is not a straightforward solution though. "There are numerous techniques I can use to help the person get to where they want to go and the technique is designed to fit the person, not just the problem," Leon says. "The length of time needed also varies."
For more information on The Academy of Applied Hypnosis visit www.aah.edu.au. The Hypnosis Advisory Line (02) 9415 6500 is a free service for the public and health professionals.