Hypnosis in children’s medicine

Montreal Children’s Hospital, Quebec, Canada, has embraced hypnosis after the results of a pilot project showed it can reduce pain and anxiety in patients.

Johanne L’Ecuyer is a medical imaging technologist at Montreal Children’s Hospital in Quebec. One of his biggest problems is getting patients to remain perfectly still during medical imaging procedures.

Desperate to reduce the amount of medication administered to ensure patients to ensure they don’t move during the process, L’Ecuyer and colleague Maryanne Fortin flew to France to meet teams at the Rouen University Hospital Centre and Hospital Femme Mere Enfant in Lyon.

So impressed were they by their work, a French hypnotherapist was brought in to train some members of the Montreal hospital’s medical imaging department. The result is that now examinations generally done under general anaesthetic are now done under hypnosis.

Eighty examinations were conducted between January and September 2019 using two imaging procedures known to trigger anxiety in children – the insertion of a central catheter and a procedure used to examine a child’s urinary tract and bladder. Ultimately, the success of the procedure comes down to trust, but the important thing is to make the patient feel comfortable with the specialist doing the procedure.

Crucial to the success are the technician’s verbal and non-verbal cues, such as smiling, showing empathy, and establishing a bond of trust (rapport) with the patient.

The hypnosis starts as soon as the child arrives in an ante-room, where the technician guides the child into an imaginary world, using the child’s own imagination, creativity and visualisation to dissociate themselves from the procedure they are about to undergo.

The patient decides what they wants to talk about – sports, the beach, movies, music etc. and that subject is discussed throughout the procedure. In fact everything that happens during the procedure must be related to this story: an injection becomes the bite of a mosquito, the noise from the machine, the hum of a spaceship, and so on. A product that heats the skin becomes the sensation of the sun and a machine that rings becomes a police car that passes nearby. In this way, the technician associates what is happening outside the patient’s body with what they see and feel in their imaginations.

The technique does require a certain amount of imagination and creativity on the part of the technician, and of course a lot of patience, empathy and kindness, but the results speak for themselves, because there’s now a queue of staff wanting to take the training.

First Reported by The Canadian Press on December 5 2019.

Copyright Andrew Newton 2020. All rights reserved.

About Andrew Newton

Andrew Newton has an international reputation as a leading authority on hypnosis. 

Scroll to Top