Hypnosis: The No Hocus-pocus Diagnosis

Hypnotherapy has been used by doctors, counselors and therapists for generations.

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The word ‘hypnosis’ may conjure comedy club stage tricks like making volunteers quack like a duck. However, for those privy to what hypnotherapy can do for losing weight, managing pain, quitting smoking, enhancing athleticism, retaining study materials, dealing with depression or anxiety issues, overcoming phobias and even enduring surgery without anesthesia, ‘hypnosis’ could actually be a life-saver.

Dr. Curtis Cunningham, a professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry, has worked with hypnotherapy in his dental practice for decades – specifically with Richard Coleman, a clinical therapist of more than 30 years, and then with Richard’s son, Patrick Coleman.

“Richard worked in my dental practice by helping patients overcome their fears,” said Cunningham. “Then, after Richard died, Patrick came and shared office space with me for quite some time.”

Cunningham describes a memorable case early in his association with Patrick Coleman involving a woman whose fear had kept her from seeking dental care for decades. She came in with teeth falling out of her mouth as her white-knuckled hands grabbed the door frame, afraid to enter his office.

“Patrick got her relaxed enough to allow a full mouth reconstruction,” Cunningham says.  “Amazingly, by the fourth visit, she said she didn’t need hypnosis any longer. My background is in psychology, and I felt that hypnosis was better at helping my patients than simply offering them drugs. Over time, my dental patients often no longer need hypnosis during dental care, but they go to Patrick for help making other positive changes in their lives.”

Coleman can’t remember a time when hypnosis wasn’t part of his life, as he first learned by watching his father and later studied extensively and gained his certification. He shared an early memory of putting a classmate in a trance, telling him he couldn’t leave the sandbox. This didn’t go over well with the school officials, as the child genuinely couldn’t leave the playground until then-third-grader Patrick released him.

“After Dad passed away, I kept getting calls from people needing hypnosis, and they wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” says Coleman. “Now I’m usually booked two months in advance.”

Cunningham recommends Patrick Coleman to his medical colleagues at the University of Oklahoma. Coleman assisted in the first natural child birth at OU Women’s Hospital as well as numerous surgeries for patients who couldn’t medically tolerate traditional chemical anesthesia. Coleman particularly remembers a heart surgery case where “it was about cutting an artery open in the leg, running five cables through the body into the heart,” he says – all without anesthesia – and thankfully with a happy outcome for the patient.

There is no documented harm as the result of hypnotherapy anywhere, Coleman says. There is also no hypnosis licensing because there has to be a potential danger to the public for a practice to require licensure.

“There are many hypnosis success stories,” says Coleman. “A favorite is the two life-long drinking buddies who came to me together. The reluctant one stopped drinking after one session; the other guy took three or four sessions before quitting alcohol. I’d call those pretty good odds. Humans have innate ability to accept suggestion. But for some people, it takes more effort than others. People are not inanimate objects to be programmed. A lot depends on the effort they put in, obviously.”

When it comes to naysayers, Coleman is thoughtful.

“Every doctor I’ve spoken with who won’t use hypnotherapy says it is because they’ve been told 5 percent of people are not able to be hypnotized,” says Coleman. “Well, I don’t know of many traditional medicines that work on 95 percent of people. Why not use hypnotherapy when it has a 95 percent success rate?”

Other hypnosis resources in Oklahoma include the Intuitive Awareness Hypnosis Center, also in Oklahoma City. lsalsa is home to Browning Clinical Hypnotherapy LLC.

“I’m a (hypnosis) believer going in because I’ve seen what it can do,” says Cunningham. “Just in my own family, Patrick has helped my son study for the MCAT, raising his score significantly, and my wife deal well with knee surgery. There is just story after story of hypnosis changing people and Patrick changing lives for the better.”

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