Shannon Crystal is a licensed clinical social worker at the Novant Health Cancer Institute Kemp Bessant Support Center.

Whether you are a patient or a caregiver, cancer can affect every aspect of your life. Complementary therapies that use mind-body techniques, such as guided imagery, yoga, meditation, tai chi, mindfulness and hypnosis, have shown to be beneficial both during and after treatment.

Hypnosis is a word that has an aura and intrigue associated with it as well as a long history, plagued by myths and misperceptions. Those are often derived from what is seen on television or read about, notably associated with what is referred to as stage hypnosis, where someone is doing (often embarrassing) behavior in a theatrical or performance environment.

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I describe hypnosis as a “good actor with a bad reputation” and when introducing it to a client, I clarify what hypnosis is and, more importantly, what it is not. Clinical hypnosis is an evidence-based mind-body technique which has shown to be an effective tool in treating cancer-related issues such as pain, anxiety, nausea, sleep issues and depressive symptoms to name a few.

As a therapeutic tool, it helps clients develop valuable personal resources that can be purposefully directed toward achieving their goals. Many things are out of a client’s control once the word cancer enters their life, and finding things that offer them some control is empowering. Hypnosis can help clients feel more in control of their thoughts, feelings and actions.

Hypnosis generally focuses on and amplifies people’s strengths and puts less attention on what’s wrong. The ability to focus is a strength, being receptive to new ideas and perspectives is a strength, and openness to establishing a positive relationship to achieve personal growth is a strength. I tell clients the only thing you need to bring is your curiosity. If you are open and curious about learning a new tool that can empower you and possibly help manage treatment-related side effects, hypnosis is something to consider.

If you are interested in exploring whether hypnosis is right for you, seek a licensed therapist who is experienced using this technique and knowledgeable about cancer and the use of suggestions and intentions in relation to the mind-body connection.