When evaluating a new patient, I listen to the patient's communication regarding dysphoric feelings of helplessness, anxiety, hopelessness, inner tension, insomnia, fear, restlessness, and so on. I introduce the idea of using hypnosis by making it relevant to the patient's presenting symptoms, saying to the patient something like this, 'Would you like to learn an exercise of how to reduce your anxiety and promote a sense of calmness and relaxation?' Patients generally respond affirmatively. I then proceed by teaching the patient a self-hypnosis exercise loaded with suggestions and images of calmness and comfort, asking the patient to select a place associated in their mind with such feelings. Some patients select a mountain trail, an inland lake or a state park, many select an ocean beach.
Most patients respond positively to this exercise which, as mentioned before, can be tailored to the patient's choice of place. At its completion, the patients have an experience of success in replacing their feelings of anxiety and restlessness with new feelings of calmness and comfort. This success makes the patient into an ally and believer in the healing powers of self-hypnotic imagery and conveys to them a sense of new hope. To facilitate yet further the experience of success, suggestions and images for ego-strengthening are added.
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