Sunday, February 08, 2009

Responsibility and The Press

Ok, I know, it can seem like an oxymoron but I still get irked when I read articles in the press that lack a balanced perspective.

This morning as I thumbed through the local Chilliwack Progress newspaper I noticed an article on hypnosis. My first thought was, "Cool, if it's in the local paper maybe it's becoming more accepted". Of course I was only half way through my first cup of coffee at the time so a little slow on the uptake.

I read on and soon discovered it was an endorsement of "stage hypnosis". Well, that got my you know what's in a knot. Further reading revealed that the hypnotist featured was also an RCMP officer. That got me thinking about power and control issues but I won't dwell on that right at this moment.

Anyway, I felt compelled to respond so did a quick Google search for "stage hypnosis danger" and in a Google millisecond found the research paper written by Tracie O'Keefe, that I was looking for, along with several other references to court cases that were won by people claiming to have been damaged by a stage hypnosis "act". I sent off a short and very polite email to the author of the newspaper article and included the link to the research paper and a cc to my friend Sheldon Bilsker.

In a nutshell, the aforementioned research paper outlines the specific case of Sharon Tarbarn, who died five hours after attending a stage hypnosis show. In her discussion of stage hypnosis Ms. O"Keefe says,

"Hypnosis is never benign because it changes the psychological and physiological constituents of experience. To some people suggestions that are contrary to wellbeing are not harmful, since they may have the kind of psychological defence mechanisms that can reject such suggestions. For others those mechanisms may be partially inoperative for psychological or organic reasons."

I work full time as a counsellor and couldn't agree more. I see people daily who do not have the requisite psychological defense mechanisms to ward off the impact of opening up the subconscious mind. Even in a safe and controlled environment I, as a trained counselling hypnotherapist, would not attempt a trance state with these folks. At least not without first, several sessions focusing on containment, grounding and safety. And certainly not without a full history of past traumas and potential abreaction scenarios.

I'm interested to see if the newspaper reporter follows up on this, perhaps restoring a bit of my faith in the local press.. or not.

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