Providers who refer patients for clinical hypnosis must ensure that the chosen hypnotherapist has appropriate knowledge about the patient’s gastrointestinal condition and has conducted clinical hypnosis for it.
A literature review of the efficacy of clinical hypnosis in pediatric functional abdominal pain disorders (FAPDs) showed that not only does this treatment have benefits but that the gains persist for years after treatment is completed. The review also addressed studies that included how to incorporate hypnosis into clinical practice.
The largest randomized controlled trialof hypnosis in FAPDs conducted so far was in 53 children. It found that clinical hypnosis was significantly better than standard medical therapy and was associated with reductions in pain intensity and frequency as well as in somatization and pain-related disability. Furthermore, these benefits were sustained at a 5-year follow-up.
Studies on hypnosis safety found that risks are low, although little has been reported on explicit adverse events. Nonetheless, there are a few contraindications to hypnosis: It should not be used to treat a condition that already is being treated effectively, or in those with severe psychiatric conditions, seizure disorders, substance use and abuse, or severe developmental delay or dementia.
Regarding practical considerations, anyone performing clinical hypnosis should be a licensed health professional who obtains additional certification in hypnosis from an accredited institution by taking a basic hypnosis course (about 20-25 hours), along with engaging in supervised hours or consultation with a trained hypnotherapist. In addition, hypnosis scripts for gastrointestinal disorders are available. Providers who refer patients for clinical hypnosis must ensure that the chosen hypnotherapist has appropriate knowledge about the patient’s gastrointestinal condition and has conducted clinical hypnosis for it.
THOUGHTS FROM DR FARBER:
Add this to other mind-body treatments (such as cognitive behavior therapy) for functional disorders. If you are interested in being a certified hypnotist, the training is not particularly onerous and, for abdominal pain, treatment approaches (scripts) already are available. You can bill for time if you decide to treat these children.
Chogle A, Lee A, Santucci NR, et al. Clinical hypnosis for pediatric gastrointestinal disorders: a practical guide for clinicians. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2023;76(3):271-277. doi:10.1097/MPG.0000000000003651