Being an Episcopal Priest and a hypnotist is a difficult position to maintain without adverse criticism. Recently, I have come out of the closet and openly admitted that I employ hypnotherapy.
There has been and continues to be much misunderstanding of what hypnosis is all about. With stage and television theatrics, misconception is rampant in the minds of most people. Hypnosis is sometimes viewed as “mind control and demonic” by many uninformed Christians. Perhaps through patient education, the public will recognize its value. Hypnosis, “an induced state which resembles sleep and in which the subject is responsive to suggestions of the inducer,” is an effective tool in an extensive range of therapy.
Some years ago, I attended my first school of Pastoral Care and later became a member of the teaching team. There are one-week seminars for clergy, medical practitioners and related technicians. The teaching team is composed of a physician, a psychologist, and a clergyman. The theme of the seminars is “Spiritual Healing” which is defined as “the use of the best physician, appropriate medication and prayer.” Healing is approached from the three disciplines.
It is in this context that I became acquainted with two types of hypnotic procedures which are called “taking a trip” and “healing of the memories.” The first is a type of progressive group relaxation during which the individuals are brought to meet God and then given freedom to spend time with Him. After the group is brought back, there is a free discussion of their experiences. Also, before a time of prayer and meditation, we demonstrate how to relax the body and mind in order to be more deeply sensitive to one’s spirit.
The second type, “Healing the memories,” deals with relaxation and pseudo-regression and imagery. The individual sees (in his mind’s eye) the event of guilt, anxiety, fear, etc. and meets God’s healing presence. This has been effective when done properly.
I have developed a type of hypnotherapy for use with Christians. My induction is a progressive relaxation and a talking prayer plus autogenic conditioning. This I have coined “Salting the Subconscious.” It consists of progressively relaxing the body and a continuous talking prayer filled with positive suggestions about God’s love, healing, peace, etc. During this aspect, I introduce scriptural text which is pertinent to the needs of the person. Further, the hypnotic suggestions are: “Take three periods a day for this type of meditation; get comfortable, etc.; repeat the text slowly and meaningfully until your eyes are heavy; close your eyes and sink into a deep meditational state and allow the text to float into your subconscious. You will remain in this state for two to five minutes and awaken feeling strong, fresh and relaxed.” Of course, this type of therapy is fitted for each individual parishioner.
So often we tend to obliterate the fact that a human being is an indivisible whole consisting of body, mind, and spirit. One’s health involves all three components. Therapy and therapeutics are as applicable to a person’s spiritual health as to psychological and physical health. Pastoral psychology is a most appropriate combination. Often it is difficult to separate the mental and spiritual. Therefore, as both pastoral counselor and a parish priest, I very specifically dealt with a person’s health in terms of wholeness. The medical practitioner treats the body and this is his bailiwick, but healing and health – wholeness – must be a cooperative venture.
I sometimes think we forget who does the healing and become inflated with a messianic syndrome. God is the healer. We, as therapists in our various disciplines, are only channels through which God chooses to work. Perhaps we will realize this eventually and treat our fellow human beings in their wholeness.
By Rev. Walter A Debboli, M.Div. (Article is from the archives of the National Association of Clergy Hypnotherapist [NACH], now Clergy Special Interest Group/National Guild of Hypnotist [CSIG/NGH]. This article was originally written in the 1980′s.)