Hypnosis Relieves Severe Dental Phobia
Julia was a 19-year-old college freshman with a mouth full of teeth desperately in need of dental work. The problem was, she was absolutely terrified of the dentist’s drill.
I received an email from her mother, Anita, who was at her wit’s end with her daughter’s dental phobia, but didn’t know how to help her. She had taken her to a pediatric dentist with hopes that his gentle touch would put Julia at ease. When this didn’t work, she had made an appointment for Julia with a dentist specializing in sedation dentistry, but even under Valium, Julia couldn’t handle the sound of the drill. So hypnosis was a last resort.
I saw Julia at a late appointment on a Friday afternoon. Julia reported that just the thought of going to the dentist and hearing the drill created an anxiety level of 5 on a scale of 1-5 (5 being the worst anxiety and 1 being no anxiety at all).
She was a little bit nervous, but easily went into trance and the session went smoothly. Upon emerging, she reported her anxiety level had dropped to a 3 out of 5. We agreed to meet the next Friday.
When she arrived for her second appointment, she reported that even though she had “tried to make it worse” during the week, her anxiety level had remained stable at a 3/5. She went into trance easily again, and reported that her anxiety was “a zero” out of five following the session. She had no anxiety whatsoever when she thought of having her teeth filled or the dental drill. Needlesstosay she was very happy. We agreed to meet for one more session just to make sure everything was solid.
Her next appointment ended up being rescheduled due to a family emergency. This meant that it would be two weeks before her final appointment. I received an email from her mother a few days before her last appointment. Anita told me that Julia had come to her and asked Anita to make the appointment with the dentist to get her teeth taken care of. Anita was thrilled!
So how was this accomplished? In my opinion, the biggest factors in Julia’s successful treatment were that she approached it with an open mind and that her hypnosis sessions were tailored for her specific situation. She and I talked extensively about the specifics of her fear before she went into a trance state. At first, I thought the best approach would be to regress her to the cause of her fear and address it at the roots; however, while in hypnosis she refused to regress to the cause.
My assumption is that the client’s subconscious mind has its reasons for how it responds in hypnosis and I respected its protective role when it became clear regression was not the tack to take at this point in time. A good hypnotist meets the client where she is at and must have the flexibility to intuit how to proceed “on the fly.” Although I fully intended to try to regress her to cause in the second session, I just didn’t feel right about it as the appointment got closer. My approach to the second session turned out to be exactly what she needed; had I steadfastly insisted on regressing to cause, I doubt her results would have been as good. So because Julia was openminded and trusted me, and because I knew how to speak to her subconscious mind, she had a good outcome. And for both the client and for me, that is always our end goal.
Research shows that successfully treating Julia’s dental phobia with hypnosis is not an anomaly. For a look at a few studies, visit http://uppervalleyhypnosis.com/wordpress1/category/research/dental-anxiety/