Dr Séverine Debiais, Hospital Practitioner. Neurology, CHRU de Tours
(Graduation essay on medical hypnosis, Paris VI-2017-2018 : « Hypnose et Neurologie : état des lieux en 2018, ou Petit manuel de survie à l’usage des neurologues souhaitant pratiquer l’hypnose »)
- What is Medical Hypnosis?
Medical hypnosis strives, in the context of a care relationship, to “help patients to reach an understanding that will allow them to abandon some common limitations of their everyday life vision, and reach a more receptive state for what they have in themselves that is new and creative”, (Milton Erickson, one of the most famous American medical doctor that has developed the practice of hypnosis during the 20th century). Therefore, hypnosis is an active and consenting approach, in which the patients do not loose control, and call upon their imaginary to allow reaching their own defined goals (C Flamand-Roze, Le corps est le seul langage qui ne parle pas). Medical hypnosis is above all a therapeutic tool, useful in neurology as well as in many other specialties (pain, anesthesia, obstetric, psychiatry), to be used wisely, and by practitioners already knowledgeable, from their basic training, in pathologies and neurologic problems at issue.
- What are the Benefits of Hypnosis for the Treatment of Migraines?
Migraine  is a condition at the limits of biology and psychology. Psychology because emotional factors constitute strong triggers. Hypnosis as a methodology can allow migraine  sufferers to put back in “sleep mode” their predisposition to trigger migraine attacks, to deactivate it, in particular by a better control of emotions. Numerous migraine sufferers, in particular those affected by the strongest and most handicapping form of migraines, lack filters and “excitation barrier”, their resources are limited and quickly drained out, their stress and change tolerance is insufficient to handle such situations. As stated by Anita Violon, Belgian psychologist specialized in migraine therapy: “ Such as tireless sentries, migraine sufferers capture non-stop what comes from their environment and feel bombarded to saturation, as if they are missing essential filters that would allow them to distinguish between what is incidental and essential, trivial and unknown. Everything affects and penetrates them“.
As a result, the use of stress management, relaxation and integrated hypnosis methods to prevent migraine makes perfect sense, which is to protect the patients by giving them some understanding and control keys. To protect oneself as well as to reduce muscular tension, fatigue and emotional overload, medical hypnosis is useful and can be practiced at home with autohypnosis. It is a brief therapy, one of many available « brief therapies », and the benefits can be observed on the long run. (Violon A, L’apport de l’hypnose dans le traitement de la migraine. Rev Med Suisse 2001; volume 3, available online). In practice, the patient will attend 3 to 6 sessions of 30 to 45 minutes, and will also be able to learn autohypnosis to be used later alone at home.
- Examples of hypnosis sessions for migraine sufferers.
One of the few recent clinical studies on the benefits of hypnosis for the treatment of migraines has been completed by Anita Violon, and was presented at the Groupe d’étude pour les applications médicales de l’hypnose meeting in Paris in year 2000, analysing the data obtained from twenty six persons suffering of severe migraines, which didn’t respond positively or inconsistently to classical treatments and were ready to try hypnosis therapy. Here are some suggestions that could have been done during those sessions, with acute migraine sufferers: switching-off the environment, suggestions related to a state of relaxation, feeling of relaxation, warmth of the hands, freshness of the head, evacuation of stresses, decreasing of hearth rate, protection and security… All relayed by autohypnosis. Anita Violon speaks nicely of agricultural hypnosis, where you must first “prepare the ground” by identifying abuses and excesses often endured by these acute migraine sufferers, then “ turn over preconceived ideas” by “enriching experiences into wellness”, followed by “planting seeds of kind words” with the creation of valves, using of a safe place or “personal sanctuary”, before allowing to germinate, grow, and finally water (autohypnosis) and being in a position to harvest (the well-being of the migraine sufferer). This whole process would span over a dozen of sessions. Among the 26 migraine sufferers who took the treatment, 27% could describe a disappearance of the crises after a few sessions, and a 50% reduction of the crisis frequency was observed for 35 % of the patients.
See also the methodology called « Ne rien faire », from Gaston Brosseau, Quebec psychologist : http://www.gastonbrosseau.com
- What is Autohypnosis?
Autohypnosis can be simply defined as the capacity or the skills developed by a person, to enter by herself/himself, autonomously, in a state of hypnotic trance. Following a few hypnosis sessions with a therapist, it is indeed possible to recreate, by yourself, the benefits of the hypnotic state. These technics, similar to the process of meditation , allow to continue the work started during the sessions or to return, whenever required, to a state of deep easement and relaxation. When achieved, this state of consciousness allows access or introspection, and makes it easier to achieve and reach personal goals. However, the benefits of hypnotherapy  are most of all the result of a unique relationship between the patient and the therapist, which autohypnosis by itself, can’t replace.
Migraine therapies include non medicated approaches, like hypnosis, that can be useful for patients, help them to better live with their affliction and improve their quality of life. Furthermore, one has to know what to expect from hypnosis: it won’t cure the migraine, but can help to reduce the symptoms, and their consequence on everyday life. It is essential to underline the importance of the patient involvement, and specifically when using autohypnosis: effectively, if hypnosis is a brief therapy, the practice of autohypnosis, which rely on the patient degree of motivation, is also a source of improvement. It is also equally important, for the patient, to understand right at the beginning, that they will not loose control with hypnosis, but will rather regain it (C Flamand Roze).
Some References :
- Laure Bordenave et Adrian Chaboche, Hypnose et auto-hypnose, Comment faire de son inconscient un allié pour sa santé et son bien-être. Editeur Josette Lyon 2018
- Constance Flamand Roze. Le corps est le seul langage qui ne ment pas : 25 histoires d’hypnose. Editeur Les Arènes 2018
- L’hypnose, expliquée par D. Corydon Hammond, psychologue américain spécialisé en hypnose clinique (en anglais) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxmFmIJO5xA 
- Anita Violon. L’apport de l’hypnose dans le traitement de la migraine. Rev Med Suisse 2001; volume 3, en ligne : https://www.revmed.ch/RMS/2001/RMS-2356/21549 
- See also the online site of Gaston Brosseau, famous Quebec psychologist specialized in hypnosis: http://www.gastonbrosseau.com