ABU DHABI // The capital’s main government hospital is using hypnotherapy to treat everything from smoking and obesity to stress and sleeping disorders.
Staff at the behavioural sciences pavilion (BSP) at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) used the alternative form of therapy in recent months, often with faster and more effective results than conventional treatments.
“The research [on the effectiveness of hypnotherapy] exists in medical journals and it has been validated as a technique since around the 1950s,” said Nasser Al Reyami, the BSP’s resident psychologist and hypnotist.
“It is reviving right now as complimentary therapy that is extremely effective.”
The Emirati sees 10 people at his outpatient clinic every week. With some suffering from phobias, he said the therapy showed results within 20 minutes.
“The idea is hypnosis is like any other form of talk therapy. We just have a different starting point and measurement points to what and how it changes a client’s life.”
People undergoing hypnotherapy are referred to as clients, not patients.
Most are sceptical and scared at first, said Mr Al Reyami, mostly because of an incorrect perception of hypnotherapy gleaned from television.
“That is not hypnosis. Hypnosis is a talk therapy. It is simple. It is a lot less exciting than the movies.”
Hypnotherapy has helped hundreds of Mr Al Reyami’s clients stop smoking, lose weight, overcome drug addictions, depression and behavioural problems.
“When they leave my office they are given homework and assignments – things to do and write about and think about.”
When clients return for their next session, the first thing they are asked is to name three things that have gotten better in their life.
“Sometimes they say nothing and I tell them it’s okay, but try harder and give me any three things. The following week I’ll ask for five things and the harder they have to think about it, the harder they have to go back and find positivity in their life. The philosophy is every day and in every way, it gets better and better.”
Hypnosis, Mr Al Reyami said, is a therapy which is “content free”. He does not need to know any personal information, dates, names. This is particularly useful “in cases where there are abuses happening in the family or has happened and the client does not want to reveal their dirty laundry,” he said.
Kasey Conrad, managing director of Change Works Human Resource consultancy firm and a personal and professional development coach, said “hypnosis is a little faster than psychiatry and psychology in specific things”.
“Quitting smoking is the fastest and requires three or four session at the most. Weight control and stress relief as well.”
Ms Conrad, who uses hypnosis to help hundreds of people every year, agreed with Mr Al Reyami on the misconceptions people have.
“Hypnosis is basically self hypnosis, the hypnotist is the facilitator. It is focused concentration.”
She explained: “Have you even been driving home and you’ve taken that same route 100 times and then driving home one day you suddenly find yourself at the destination without even realising it? That’s hypnosis. It’s when your conscious mind goes away and your subconscious mind is taking you where you need to go.”
On the popular misconception that a hypnotist can control a person and make them do things, she said: “Hypnosis is a state of relaxation and focused concentration. You are always aware of what is going around you. A hypnotist can not, no matter what you see, make someone do something that is completely against their morals or ethical code.”
Another myth Mrs Conrad was happy to disprove was that if a hypnotist falls dead in the middle of a session, a subject will remain hypnotised for the rest of their life.
“This is completely not true.”
Hypnosis can be viewed as supplementary to other types of therapy.
“We never diagnose or ever suggest that anyone stop seeing their therapist or stop taking medication or whether its right or not right to take medication, people will ask us and we tell them, that its not up to us, we don’t have the knowledge or qualification to address that,” she said.
In the UAE, hypnotherapy is a relatively new option.
“People don’t understand what it is and what it can do for them. Complimentary therapies are very popular across the world, here they are just beginning,” she said.