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Doc Talk: Holistic Health Counseling and Hypnosis Therapy

Women’s Health Connecticut offers multifaceted solutions to achieving health and overall wellness. One of these pathways includes holistic health counseling, to address lifestyle changes to offer balance with nutritional and physical wellness. We talked with Miwako Ohta-Agresta, CNM of S.H.E Medical Associates to talk about the work that she does as a certified holistic health coach and hypnotherapist for her patients. 

At what age or life-stage do most of your patients come from that are interested in hypnosis?

Most of the people I see are coming for weight loss. I see people of all ages, but many peri and postmenopausal women struggle with weight loss, so I tend to see more people in their 40's and older. As we age, it becomes more difficult to lose weight and keep it off despite fairly good habits. I also see patients who experience painful intercourse or are unable to tolerate pelvic exams. Often, there are underlying events from the past that have led to the pain and hypnosis is a wonderful tool to address these issues. I also see patients for reducing stress and anxiety, fears and phobias, smoking cessation, and boosting self-confidence. 

Are holistic health counseling and hypnosis a combined service, or can they be separate?

Patients can choose what they want. The services can be offered exclusively or in combination. There are benefits to using hypnosis in conjunction with health counseling because many of us know what we should be doing to lose weight but have difficulty implementing them. Hypnosis helps people change habits so we can make better choices about eating and activity. In the health counseling only model, we discuss what they are currently doing to manage their weight and what changes they need to make to meet their goals. They come back for follow up visits to create accountability. Patients may start with health counseling only but then choose to add hypnosis if they are having difficulty changing habits, stopping cravings or are unable to get motivated to exercise regularly. So, the offerings are not mutually exclusive and are totally up to the patient to decide what health counseling and hypnotherapy path they want to pursue.

What is the Circle of Life Scale and how is it utilized in holistic health counseling?

The Circle of Life Scale is a visual representation of the areas of your life that affects your health. This tool is useful in order to figure out what influences are impacting a patient's ability to lose weight. Your overall health, physical activity, career, education, home environment, social life, finances, creativity, joy, relationships, spirituality, all play a part in the big picture of your health. If you are lacking joy, that may create stress and impact your relationship, which in turn can put a strain on how productive you are at work. The patient rates each item on the circle based on how fulfilled they are in that area. Once completed, we connect all the points to visually see their baseline on how much balance they have in their lives. Often, rather than a circle, some parts are expanded while others are contracted. Initially, the shape may resemble a butterfly rather than a circle but as we work towards the goal of creating balance in all areas, expansion occurs and creates a fuller circle. It's amazing how working on one area of your life can impact and improve other areas of your life. Creating balance in life reduces overall stress and helps with becoming successful in weight loss.

How does hypnosis work?

Hypnosis creates a hyper suggestible state. During this time, suggestions are given to the subconscious mind to help change old ways of behaving or thinking. Relying on sheer willpower often lasts for a short period of time, eventually returning to the original habit in a cyclical way. Hypnosis will help make permanent changes much easier. Patients are amazed at how easily they are able to give up soda, chocolate, and candy. Often it happens very naturally without any thought of trying to quit. The cravings just disappear.

What is a typical session like for people who have no experience with hypnosis?

The initial session is 90 minutes, where we review the health history, what hypnosis is and how we will approach it. We talk about any preconceived notions that they might have about hypnosis based on movies or stage shows to clarify any misunderstandings. We discuss goals and what they are currently doing or have done in the past, to achieve their goals. The habits I work on most often are related to weight loss, smoking, anxiety, and stress. 

After we talk about their responses, we start the hypnosis session. Induction into hypnosis involves getting the patient into a relaxed state and creating a hyper-focused mind through a special technique and allowing the conscious mind to wander. The subconscious mind is very creative, so we often utilize visualization techniques to achieve change. Use of colors, shapes, imagery is beneficial in reaching the subconscious mind.

Under hypnosis, I can talk to the subconscious mind to shift patterns of behavior by giving suggestions and creating changes that will help achieve goals.

Often patients are given work to do at home, such as breathing techniques, repeating affirmations, to help continue in their successful journey. 

So, no clucking like a chicken or divulging your deepest secrets?

Definitely not! There are commonly held misconceptions about hypnosis. Stage hypnotists are wonderful at what they do, which is to entertain. This is different from what I am offering. It is important for patients to know that they will never do or say anything they are uncomfortable with. They are not in a trance. They are aware of their surroundings and what they choose to share.

How often do you see patients for a certain issue? Do they have to come back for multiple sessions?

It depends on what the issue is and the needs of the patient. For example, weight loss may require a single session but often requires 3-5 sessions. For smoking cessation or phobias, I typically see them for 1-3 visits. Results are not guaranteed.

Are sessions typically covered by insurance?

Unfortunately, usually, it is not. However, with a medical issue like weight loss related to obesity, if a patient has co-morbidities like hypertension or diabetes, it might qualify as health counseling. It is important for patients to talk with their insurance carrier to see what criteria need to be met for insurance to cover the appointment.

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