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  • Writer's pictureTwyla Johnson, BScN RN CHt

Why would a nurse become a Hypnotherapist?

Updated: Nov 1, 2020

Welcome to my first blog post! So who am I, and why on earth would a nurse become a Hypnotherapist?

I must say, that on looking back, it does feel like it was a very natural progression to go from nurse to therapist. So perhaps the more important question might be; What would a hypnotherapist, who is also a nurse, bring to the table?

First and foremost, nurses are Empathetic.

For some of us nurses, empathy comes naturally. For others, it is a seed that is mindfully cultivated in nursing school. As a student in the nursing program at McGill University, I learned the McGill Model of Nursing. This model emphasizes that all of us are continually working towards better health.

For some, this work is in almost imperceptible steps, while others grow by leaps and bounds. But we all strive for better health. Nurses help patients learn about better health outcomes, to whatever degree that patient can accept. We do this by understanding the influences of the patient’s family and past socialization. As English poet John Donne said, “No man is an island.”

In other words, improving one’s health is so much more than just giving a pill. Good health is not only physical, but includes our mental, social, and emotional well-being. Health is a give-and-take relationship between our behaviours and the environments in which we live, work and play.

To move a patient towards better health, I was taught there are several nursing truths that must be adhered to. Most importantly is that everyone, and I mean everyone, deserves equal access to quality care. Patients have a right to a non-judgmental understanding of whatever their situation is. It felt natural to carry these views of health and empathy over to the therapeutic environment.

Nurses do their homework.

Research, research, research! Evidence Based Practice is drilled into us. After all, if a nurse is with a physician and is advocating for a particular treatment for their patient, we'd better have our facts straight and our research at hand!

It has been fun to bring my research tools to my therapy practice. It brings to mind a Hypnotherapy client that came to me for extreme arachnophobia. She told me of the terrorizing “fact” that people swallow eight spiders in their sleep yearly. After some reliable research, I was able to inform her subconscious that this is just not true. Not even close. The myth flies in the face of both spider and human biology, which makes it highly unlikely that a spider would ever end up in our mouth.

Her sessions required the unraveling of several other beliefs that did not serve her. But by deconstructing this first myth, we had the crack we needed to deconstruct her other incorrect beliefs. I am happy to report that she has since been able to “Kleenex a spider” on her own, without panic, feeling only “creeped out.” This was a monumental win for her!

Nurses are not easily shocked.

You have probably seen the memes. Nurses see it all. We learn to take things in stride, and we are taught to get down to the business at hand. We even have a great sense of humor about some of the crazy stuff we see.

But how does this help as a therapist? Therapy should always be a safe space. It must be a place where clients can openly express their fears, desires, wants, needs, even just “who” they feel they really are, without any judgement.

When we see, or even sense, that we have shocked someone, we may feel judged. We might even hold back on revealing things that are bothering us, because of the fear that it will shock. The shock of others often feels like judgement, and that judgement can feel like we are not being accepted for who we truly are. Sometimes it can even cause us to think that we are somehow wrong, or bad, for our beliefs.

So you can see that there is no place for shock in a constructive therapeutic relationship. For a client, there can be great comfort and safety in knowing that their therapist is not likely to be shocked by anything they reveal.

Nurses are trained to deal with trauma.

Some nurses deal with trauma on a daily basis. And I must admit, I have seen a few nurses get hardened. But the majority of nurses that I have had the pleasure of working with have kept their empathy intact. They allow themselves to cry, and feel, and they work through their clients’ losses. I have seen nurses grow from these experiences, and then bring that growth with them to their future client interactions.

I myself have experienced death and loss, not only in my professional life but in my personal life as well. I have come to know that not a single one of us deals with trauma in the same way. Our reaction to loss is as individual as our fingerprints.

This means that no one can dictate how any of us “should” react to a situation, or how any of us “should” feel. We are all individuals, and must be treated as such. We all deserve a therapist who realizes this. One who will acknowledge where we truly are in life, and one who will hold a safe space for us while we find our way home.

So now you know.

From my work as a member of the Domestic Violence Coalition in Upstate New York, to my interactions with the families of children in the Early Intervention Program, empathy has been cultivated throughout all of my nursing practice. This empathy is now the cornerstone of my therapy practice.

As a Nurse Clinician at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore MD, my patients navigated some very difficult decisions regarding their high risk pregnancies. For me, this emphasized the value of integrating the best evidence from studies and patient care data, with clinician expertise and patient preferences and values. This has become a critical tool in my therapy toolkit.

And now, the therapist in me values my ability to remain un-shockable. Therapist-me draws on my vast nursing experience working with loss and trauma, and uses it to guide me in creating rapport and safe spaces with my clients.

So perhaps now you understand a little more of who I am and why I became a Hypnotherapist. Of course, one does not have to be a nurse to be a great hypnotherapist, nor does every single nurse bring all of these skills to the table. But for me it fit, and as I said, it felt like a natural progression.

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