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Hypnotherapy Intervention Format For Cancer Sufferers

by Kate McEwen(more info)

listed in hypnosis, originally published in issue 221 - April 2015

Hypnotherapy is a valuable intervention for individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer. Not only can hypnosis be utilized to counteract the side effects of conventional treatment, but it can also assist in dealing with the emotional fallout subsequent to such a diagnosis, as well as supporting and encouraging physiological changes which create a better environment in which recovery, or remission, becomes a possibility.

Understandably, many hypnotherapists are nervous of dealing with this particular presenting complaint but, while unrealistic promises of success must not be made, there is evidence to show that, not only can hypnosis help to stimulate a more positive attitude to the disease, it can also provide the sufferer with a sense of regaining some control over what is happening to them.[1]

No one promises a miraculous recovery or even suggests that hypnotherapy can ‘cure’; however, what the hypnotherapist can do is encourage the client to tap into the power of relaxation for reducing anxiety and encouraging optimism under difficult circumstances. Furthermore, it has been recognized for some time that there is a powerful link between psychological trauma and physiological malfunction.[2] While inherited traits and genetic make-up may influence how a disease manifests, there is undoubtedly an inter-relationship between mind and body. If therefore one accepts the premise that dis-ease and the progress of dis-ease can be affected by negative programming, then surely the opposite holds true also? [The emerging body of evidence supports this.][3]

Under hypnosis, the client in can be supported while they identify past, underpinning trauma and exorcise repressed negative emotions which may be ‘feeding’ the disease.


Kate McEwen 221 Hypnotherapy Intervention

The following is an outline of how a hypnotherapist might approach a treatment regime with a cancer sufferer:

Prior to induction, the hypnotherapist should explain to the client how, in hypnosis, the uncritical subconscious becomes more accessible and open to suggestion and how the use of direct suggestion and guided imagery in this altered state of awareness, can facilitate a reprogramming of the subconscious, hopefully reversing any negative internalized attitudes.

They will also discuss the aforementioned premise that there may be some unresolved psychological issues which will be visited as part of the overall approach to dealing with their condition.

Also, before starting the session, the therapist may discuss other aspects of overall health, such as the need for a healthy eating and exercise programme (referral to specialist in these areas should be considered) and should emphasize how much it will be to his or her benefit to:

  • Believe (s)he can get better;
  • Envisage getting better;
  • Visualize in whatever way (s)he wants, how his or her body will change to a state non-conducive to the support of the cancer.

Outline of Recommended Treatment

Session 1

A long relaxing induction and deepening technique would be utilized to try to take the client into as deep a level of hypnosis as possible. A ‘safe place’ where they can go whenever they feel the need to relax and/or escape from reality should be established, followed by ego-strengthening suggestions to help in establishing a sense of control and to enhance the subject’s confidence in themselves and in their ability to cope with the illness.

The subject should then be encouraged to visualise him/her self, at some point in the future, experiencing full health and then to ‘step into’ this image in order to really feel what it would feel like to be looking back, in the knowledge that they had managed to overcome their condition.

This may seem a strange thing to do, but it is a hugely powerful intervention. Not only can ‘seeing and experiencing their future’ motivate the subject, but also by creating a blueprint of what it is the subject wishes to achieve, they are creating a ‘future reality’, which will inform their subconscious and affect physiological responses in a positive way.

(I do believe, however, that individuals should be permitted the odd – short - periods of melancholy; otherwise the stress of always trying to remain positive can, in itself, have adverse effects!)

Continuing with the session, the therapist should then ask the client to visualize, in whatever way seems right for them, something which has the power to work on creating conditions within their mind and body, such that physiological and psychological change may occur which will make them a less attractive ‘host’ to their illness.

The approach used to be to visualize a ‘fight back’; mobilizing ‘forces’ to destroy invading cells, but such a direct approach is not necessary. However whatever the subject chooses to use as the means of bringing about their self-healing is their choice and that whatever that choice is, is right for him or her. A client of a colleague of mine, many years ago, decided to love their tumour to bits!  There is no ‘wrong’ option.

The therapist may also decide to utilize a ‘hands-on’ approach during the session (bearing in mind that the client is hypnotized and therefore open to suggestion), introducing the sensation of a healing force entering through the crown of the head.  The client is encouraged to feel the healing energy for themselves and to recognize it as their own internal healing force which they are then free to utilize whenever they feel the need.

In whatever way the client decides to make the change, when they have indicated that they have made the decision, the therapist should give them a few minutes to work quietly on themselves. Thereafter the therapist should instruct the client to go back to their safe place for a few minutes to relax again and gather their strength. If the therapist feels that the client has achieved sufficient depth of hypnosis, it would be recommended that they teach their client, while under hypnosis, the art of self hypnosis, so that they can carry on working on themselves on a regular basis between sessions. It might also be useful at this point in the session for the therapist to utilize some conditioning so that in subsequent sessions, a more rapid induction could be achieved.

Finally, before ending the first session the client should again be encouraged again, to visualize themselves as fully recovered and to commit to that image, the session being terminated with a powerful positive thinking script.

The subject should be provided with a relaxation CD and reminded that regular use of the CD and the pre-taught self hypnosis will be of assistance in many and profound ways,

An appointment should then be scheduled for the following week.

Session 2

Prior to starting the treatment the therapist should enquire as to how the client had progressed with the CDs and the self-hypnosis, as well as whether or not they have committed to any diet and exercise regime. Their response will give a good indication of the level of dedication to, and belief in, the treatment.

If the client reports that they did not use the CDs or had in any other way ignored the advice given, this should be discussed to see if there is any obvious problem. The client may need to be reminded that they have a role to play in the therapy (hypnosis is not a magic bullet) and that if they are unwilling to ‘work with the programme’ they may be better seeking an alternative ‘complementary’ therapy.

This may involve the therapist in broaching the subject that perhaps the illness is perceived by the client, unconsciously, as having some kind of benefit (secondary gain). Tact would obviously be necessary!!

The session should then commence with the rapid induction procedure instilled during post-hypnotic conditioning in the previous session and having deepened the client to as profound a level as possible, the therapist should instructed them to revisit their safe place. This should be followed by ego-strengthening suited to the subject’s, present, self-perception.

It would be beneficial, at this stage, to utilize hypnoanalysis to try to elicit whether there was any underlying neurosis underpinning the ‘dis-ease’. To approach this, the client would be encouraged to ‘revisit their future’; then the therapist would enquire as to whether the subconscious had any reason why this positive outcome should not be achieved.

A number of years ago it was my privilege to work with a lovely man, diagnosed with an oesophageal tumour. He was most surprised that analysis brought up an incident from his childhood regarding his behaviour over a particular pet, an incident which was repressed from the outset because he felt so extremely guilty. The change in his demeanour when he let that negative emotion go was amazing. Such a release of negativity, whatever the reason behind a subject’s need to repress, has got be useful in the healing process.

If the subject is experiencing side effects from conventional therapy such as nausea, the therapist can utilize direct suggestion to help cope with such unwanted experiences. In the same way, pain management techniques can be taught, if required, at this point. It should be demonstrated to the subject, under hypnosis, the way in which they can transfer a loss of sensation to whatever part of the body required it so that they know that if the pain is hard to cope with, they can use this technique for themselves.

This will be useful for any client facing surgery; not only by reducing the fear-tension-pain syndrome but also by reducing the amount of drugs required, so speeding up the post operative recovery process.

The client should then be directed to recreate the image of themselves as well and, again, the session should be terminated with plenty of positive thinking suggestions.

After checking how he was feeling at the end of the session, progress should be reinforced by making reference to other people who have successfully battled with such illness and to encourage the client to continue with the treatments.

Subsequent Treatments

I would suggest that the therapist see the subject for a third and fourth treatment, within the next two weeks. Thereafter a period of about a fortnight should be left between sessions, so that they develop a sense of self-sufficiency and a personal responsibility for their ongoing treatment.  

During each treatment the therapist should encourage relaxation and a positive, fighting attitude towards the illness.  If further analysis appeared necessary, a variety of techniques could be utilized to try to establish potential root causes for the problem, and to continue, during every treatment, with the guided imagery.


[1].  Getting Well Again - Carl Simonton Ch1 pg4. Bantam. 1980.

2. The Germanic New Medicine® discovered by Dr. Ryke Geerd Hamer and systematized in the 5 Biological Laws represents a change in the understanding of what is commonly called disease. Through his studies, Dr RG Hamer arrived at the conclusion that the disease processes are not "errors of nature" but rather Significant Biological Program of Nature resulting from sudden and dramatic events.

3. Ronald Peters MD. The Connection Between Spontaneous Remission of Cancer and MindBody Medicine. Cancer Strategies Journal. 1-8. Summer 2013. 


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About Kate McEwen

Kate McEwen BA(Hons) - Director & Principal Trainer has been in practice as a hypnotherapist, in partnership with John McEwen, since 1999 during which time she has been privileged to work with thousands of clients. Firstly as a partner at Corsebar Hypnotherapy Centre, Paisley, Kate currently practises as a partner in B9 Hypnotherapy, Argyll. In 2004, with a back ground in lecturing in further and higher education spanning 22 years, Kate took over the training remit for the National Society of Professional Hypnotherapists and is the principal trainer at the Scottish School of Hypnotherapy. She is a Member of the National Society of Professional Hypnotherapists (MNSPH), Senior Qualified Hypnotherapist - General Hypnotherapy Register (SQHP), Member of the National Council of Psychotherapists (MNCP), Member of the Hypnotherapy Association and Member of the Advisory Council of, and Postgraduate trainer for, the NSPH. Kate may be contacted on Tel: 01369-820172;


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