Barbara Phillips spent much of her time as a registered nurse and nurse practitioner incorporating hypnosis without realizing it. The way she communicated with many of her patients to calm, distract or refocus them was reminiscent of hypnotherapy.
Specializing in chronic pain management, Phillips opened her practice, Hypnosis Mind Works, in Columbia in January 2017. As more research has been published, she says the medical community is starting to recognize the practice of hypnotherapy as a legitimate way to treat a variety of issues, such as smoking and anxiety. It can also enhance skills, such as sports performance and public speaking.
Every Thursday, she meets with a four-person study group via video chat to discuss advancements in the field and practice new techniques. Linda Szabo, a fellow study group member and hypnotherapist working out of North Carolina, says, “(Phillips) scrutinizes everything very closely. She wants to get the best practices ... She’s really on top of the latest, of what’s going on out there.”
In June, Phillips will present on how to use hypnosis in a clinical practice at the American Association of Nurse Practitioners National Conference.
What led you to hypnotherapy?
It was something I experienced when I was probably around 30 years old. I had a pretty severe phobia of bees, and I wanted to get rid of it. I actually saw someone at the University of Washington, where I went to school, who took care of it. Over the years, it was something that I thought about studying, but by that point, I went back to school and did two different nurse practitioner programs.
Who do you typically treat?
I see a lot of students for anxiety. I’ve had some inquiries about it, but I don’t tend to see a lot of children. I see a lot of people who want to quit smoking. I would like to see our medical community opening up more to this, because I think that’s something that can add to what is going on. I would never say that people would be able to get off their medications, but we certainly have plenty of research showing that people who use those medications for a variety of things have been able to reduce the medication they’re having to use.
What are people’s first reactions when you tell them what you do?
Curiosity. Most (people) can remember some type of stage show that happened in high school or something in Las Vegas, which is nothing related to what I do. A lot of times, it’s really explaining to people that what happens on a stage show or in a comedy show, that it’s set up that way. People are participating in that because they want to have fun. What I do is work with people to overcome something usually that they don’t want, or they want to enhance something they already do and get better.
What are some of the misconceptions you hear about hypnosis?
I’m controlling somebody’s mind. I can make them do something. I cannot make anybody do anything. You have to agree to want to do something. If I were to tell you that I want you to rob the bank and bring me back the money, you’re not going to do that unless you’re already a thief. You’re not going to tell me your secrets, you know? Another myth is that I can make you bark like a dog or quack like a duck or something like that.
Do you have any advice for someone who is hesitant but willing to try the treatment?
I would say call and ask questions. It costs nothing to sit on the phone and ask a question and discuss it. I think the biggest thing is we shouldn’t be afraid of what we’re able to do. Nobody is going to control your brain. Hypnosis really is nothing more than a belief in what you can and cannot do. If you believe that you are never going to stop smoking, if you believe that you will never get over your fear of snakes, then you never will. ￼