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Lunch and learn about clinical hypnosis

Staff report

January 26, 2013

“You’re getting sleepy…Very, very sleepy…focus on the watch…”


For many, when they hear the word “hypnotist,” what comes to mind is an old movie or TV show.


In reality, hypnosis performed by a certified clinical hypnotist can help people who suffer from chronic pain, crippling phobias, or even the reduction of side effects felt by some going through cancer treatments.


Dr. Zastrow, a family practitioner at Hugh Chatham Family Practice, will be speaking on the subject at a lunch and learn event on Tuesday, Jan. 29, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Medical Conference Room at the hospital. This event is open to the public, and it is opened on a first-come, first-served basis.


Those who want to schedule an appointment with Dr. Zastrow can call (336) 526-2307.


As a teenager, Dr. Joseph Zastrow, now a family practitioner at Hugh Chatham Family Practice in Elkin, first experienced the positive power of hypnosis through his younger brother. Dr. Zastrow’s brother suffered from a developmental bone disease, and could not tolerate pain medications. After he had his wisdom teeth removed, a certified clinical hypnotist relieved his pain and taught him self hypnosis. With future medical procedures that followed, Dr. Zastrow’s brother relied on hypnosis to reduce pain to the point that only Tylenol was needed to alleviate what little pain he had.


With clinical hypnosis, a therapist can make suggestions designed to help one formulate specific internal processes (feelings, memories, images and internal self-talk) that can lead to a pre-determined outcome, such as experiencing less pain, overcoming fears, and so on.


Hypnosis is described as a state of inner absorption, concentration and focused attention. An analogy is like using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun and make them more powerful. Similarly, when your mind is concentrated and focused, you are able to use it in powerful, positive ways, such as reducing pain, or warding off fear.


After practicing family medicine for a number of years, Dr. Zastrow took the opportunity to become a certified clinical hypnotist in 2000 from the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH). “It’s pretty extensive training process that includes a total of 60 hours of classroom time and monitored training,” he said. “The society restricts training to psychologists and other health professionals such as physicians, dentists and masters degree-level nurses, social workers, and therapists. Clinical hypnosis is only to be used in conformance with ASCH’s own training and licensing laws.” Today, ASCH has 1,700 members, and Dr. Zastrow is the Society’s president.


Once certified, Dr. Zastrow incorporated hypnosis into his care regimen for many of his patients.


“The reality is that hypnosis isn’t really putting people in a ‘trance.’ I serve more as a coach to help people focus attention on what is ailing them, so to speak,” Dr. Zastrow said.


As an example, Dr. Zastrow recently had a patient who had an enormous fear of needles. “She desperately needed a procedure done to preserve her health, but her phobia of needles was greater than her need to get well. After one session we got to the bottom of what her fear stemmed from, and she called me from the recovery room after her procedure to let me know she got through it. She even went on to get a flu shot!”


Beside the absolute care of patients, Dr. Zastrow has accomplished research. He even had the opportunity to see what the mind can do with a study of a NASCAR pit crew.


“Pit crews are all about precision and speed. The slightest distraction can cause things to go wrong very quickly. With one team, I saw through video how some of the guys were slipping up. After a few sessions of hypnosis, we helped them gain focus, speed and consistency. As an example, one guy was having trouble getting the second lug nut on correctly every time. After hypnosis, he never missed.”


Research has demonstrated that hypnosis can help a lot of people in a number of ways, including:


Treatment of chronic pain conditions from injuries or arthritis.


Reduction of pain during childbirth.


Reduction of nausea and vomiting by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.


Elimination or reduction of skin conditions, such as warts. (Ever hear the saying “talk the warts off”?)


Alleviation of symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.


Common myths about hypnosis are that you won’t remember anything, or that it leads to memory enhancement, that you could be made to do something you don’t want to, or that your actions can be controlled under hypnosis, Zastrow says.


“The myths are just that…myths,” Dr. Zastrow said. “The mind is a very powerful thing. Through hypnosis, you can achieve some incredible things. I’ve seen it work, and that’s all the proof most need.”