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In 1983 I was diagnosed as having Melanoma Carcinoma, a potentially lethal form of skin cancer. Needless to say it came as a shock. It was more the word though. The word seemed to have so much power, “Cancer”. My immediate response was that Cancer was something which happened to other people. Not me. However, it was a surprisingly short time I began to accept that it was I who had Cancer and started my journey discovering the healing power of belief and hypnosis.

In retrospect, at the time, I had a complete belief in my own ability to heal myself. I still hold that belief, but admittedly it has become a bit tainted over the years. It is not the pure unadulterated belief which I had back then. Sometimes I wonder if what I did would be as effective if I was in the same situation now. I don’t know. In my two years (of a 30 year practice) of working with clients who had Cancer I have witnessed many healings which I believe were due to, or enhanced through belief in our own power (or a “higher power”). I also found that sometimes my clients would “heal into death”. That might seem like an odd thing to say but I have witnessed incredible healing as some of my clients were preparing to die. I have seen very few examples of the type of a peaceful state exhibited by clients as they were dying. A cynic might argue that it was the drugs but I saw and felt something far beyond the drug response in my opinion. I believe there is much we can learn from moments like these.

As Ram Das has said, “if nothing happens after you die, then why do so many people do so much growing when they are dying?”. I don’t know the answer to that one either. The one thing I do know is that everyone is different and responds differently to treatment, whatever the type of treatment. When I work with someone I always encourage them to create a method that they feel would work most effectively for their individual situation. Sometimes my clients would look at me incredulously as if to say “this is what I’m paying you for, so you can tell me I should do this myself?” My answer, verbally or non-verbally was always “Yes I’m here to support you, not do it for you”. I can’t do it for you. I do not have that power”.  What follows is my personal experience with Cancer. 

I had just moved from Montréal to Vancouver but in that short time I had taken courses in a variety of alternative and/or complementary fields. I had studied hypnotherapy in Montréal and had a small client base there so I was I was eager to get started with my practice in Vancouver. Then I got Cancer. The realization came that everything else I was doing in my daily life had to be put on hold. Within eight days of seeing the oncologist I was in the hospital. The Melanoma was almost directly over my heart and there was a concern that it would spread quickly. Afterward I learned that another month and I probably would have been dead. It was decided that surgery was needed as soon as possible. My surgeon was great. She explained to me in great detail what would happen in the procedure as well as post-surgery.

Although I wasn’t thrilled that at least two lymph nodes would be removed at least I wouldn’t be losing any muscle. In deciding to have the operation I also chose to do everything possible to stimulate my body's own immune system. Since there was some question of the cancer spreading, using hypnosis I started visualizing my healthy cells being protected. I breathed in deeply while imagining a white light surrounding all of my healthy cells. I mobilized an army of PAC men (1983 reference) seeing them devouring all unhealthy cells moving them swiftly out of my body. After that I breathed in Pink energy to enhance healing. I began seeing the upcoming operation as totally successful. That night after the operation I had a very vivid dream. I have heard that this is common after an operation but what amazed me is not just the vividness but the effect. After the dream I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that the cancer did not spread and I was fine. I hadn’t talked to anyone, but I knew. 

The next morning I awoke and although experiencing some pain as a result of the skin graft for the sites on my chest, I was secure in the knowledge that all was well. The situation I was in became a challenge for me. The skin graft from my thigh to my chest was left partially open to drain. The pain and discomfort was getting worse, so using hypnosis I visualized an orange color surrounding and penetrating the afflicted area. Although not disappearing, the pain or rather my perception of the pain had definitely subsided.

That night the nurse arrived with some morphine. She proceeded to get very flustered when I refused the shot. Over the course of the following few days’ pain killers of various sorts that had been reserved for me were piling up and I became the center of great controversy among the staff, especially when it was discovered that I was using hypnosis. I started getting visits from Doctors, nurses and social workers, all of whom expressed a healthy curiosity about what it was I was actually doing. My favorite person in this group was probably the Social Worker who in no uncertain terms let me know that “hypnosis was the work of the Devil”.  She seemed to have a genuine interest in saving me but I guess I just wasn’t ready for that at that time. Being in a shared room and getting a bit bored I began to teach two other patients self-hypnosis. One of them even refused a pain killer or two. He told the nurse he was using self-hypnosis for the pain. I kept practicing self hypnosis and visualizing myself getting healthier. 

Shortly after my stay at the hospital it was recommended that I see a physiotherapist. I could only lift my extended arm about 1 inch above my waist. The graft would have to stretch. The physiotherapist said it would take six months of therapy before I had full movement in the arm. I told her it wouldn’t. In six months tennis season would be over, at least outdoors. Three weeks later I had 100% movement in my arm. Using hypnosis and visualization I imagined my arm going higher than it actually was each time. On the other hand maybe my arm was going as high as I was imagining it but just not in this reality. I’ll leave that for another article.

If I had believed the physiotherapist it would've taken six months (possibly exactly six months). A Harvard University study was conducted in which they chose 10 cancer patients and taught them self-hypnosis hypnosis. After recording their white blood cell count the researchers had their patients use their self hypnosis and visualize their white blood cell count increasing. This method was practiced every day for five days. Each day the patient's white blood cell count increased significantly. Medically, this was considered impossible. Although it was a small study the possible implications are interesting. Many people know, or at least have heard of someone who has overcome what seemed like insurmountable odds to achieve success. Hypnosis is an ability we all have which is just as natural as sleep, although it isn’t a sleep state.  It can be very a very effective tool in opening the doors to the power within each of us.
 
Sheldon Bilsker, RCC,HT  Orca Institute is Canada’s longest running Hypnotherapy school and BC's only PTIB and EQA designated Hypnotherapy school.  Call Now! 604 808 3703. Skype: orcas53
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Over the years many aspiring hypnotherapists and students have asked me about hypnotherapy legislation or lack of relating to their ability to practice in their location. This issue can be quite complex considering that each province and state is responsible for making its own legislation. In part 1 of this article I’d like to focus on legislation in British Columbia, Canada. I’m starting here not just because I am based here but also because of the interesting history and progression of dedicated practitioners to create new and innovative legislation in the province relating to counselling in the broad sense of the term [hypnotherapy included].
 
 
A Brief History
 
In 1997 the task group for counsellor regulation was formed. Their mandate was to determine if the various stakeholders in the counselling field in BC should come under the umbrella of the Health Professions Act. Their decision based on a variety of factors was not to take action at that time. It was disappointing but only enhance the willingness of the stakeholder groups to move forward.
 
Core Competency Profile
 
A task group was formed in various projects were worked on including the counselling therapists competency profile, an important document outlining all of the minimum core competencies for an entry-level counselling practitioner. This was significant in that it was possibly the first time regulation was proposed in the counselling field which did not include an academic degree requirement. Hypnotherapy practitioners for the most part applauded the core competency profile. However, the next and hardest step would be to convince the BC government to effect legislation based on this proposal.
 
 Fact BC
 
FactBC (Federation of Associations for Counselling Therapists in British Columbia]’s is a Society of professional associations that represent counsellors and therapists practising throughout BC. It was formed in 2014. Our Group the International Association of Counselling Hypnotherapists has recently applied to be a member of FACT BC.
Through FACTBC we are hoping that future legislation relating to hypnotherapy and counselling in general is not far off.

I will continue to post updates as I get them, here.

Sheldon Bilsker, RCC,HT  Orca Institute is Canada’s longest running Hypnotherapy school and BC's only PTIB and EQA designated Hypnotherapy school.  Call Now! 604 808 3703. Skype: orcas53
©Sheldon Bilsker
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Many prospective students looking for hypnotherapy training might not realize that hypnosis is a fairly broad term.  There are a number of approaches in using hypnotherapy, but generally, there are two schools of thought, the Direct approach and the Indirect approach.  Most people are familiar with the direct approach.  It typically entails a hypnotherapist giving a subject or client, a series of suggestions.  For example, close your eyes and breathe deeply. An indirect approach however is meant to be much more subtle and the language becomes much more unique.
 
Using an "indirect approach", a therapist might comment, "isn't it nice to know how deeply relaxed one can feel simply by taking it deep breath and letting go." From this phrase and similar phrases we begin to discover a new language, for the subconscious. 
 
One may ask what the intent is in using this approach. Why not just tell the client to relax deeply? There are clients who prefer this direct type of approach more than the indirect method, but there are many who do not for a wide variety of reasons. The most popular reason people tend to give for not preferring the direct approach is that they feel like they are being, albeit nicely, ordered to do something or to respond in a specific way. In fact, not all, but many people prefer to feel autonomous and choose their own experience and using language which is unique to them allows for this autonomy. 
 
As one might guess, because of its subtlety, for most students, the indirect approach is more difficult to learn, but once mastered can be very rewarding. We have Dr. Milton Erickson to thank for this unique approach in the field of hypnotherapy though there are many cultures historically which used and are still using variations of this method. In fact, one can make the argument that any culture or society which uses stories to teach and disseminate information are using this approach. 
 
From this perspective it doesn't seem so new. We begin to realize that most if not all, have used indirect phrasing much of our lives. We are really accessing something we know instinctively but are now learning to use this unique language through a therapeutic modality. The purpose of utilizing stories and metaphors with a client is to allow them to go on a journey of their choosing. 
 
As a student learns they begin to develop phrasing for the client’s sub-conscious. This is why we use "open ended phrases "such as, "I wonder", "I'm not going to suggest", "isn't it nice to know", "I really don't know what your experience will be ", "what is time.....anyway" etc.  These generalized and open ended statements allow the client to expand on the implications of what is being said. However, it is not just saying phrases that elicit each client's unique response but just as importantly it is the way it is said. A master story teller is very much aware of this and utilizes tone, rhythm and timing to draw out from the person, verbally or non-verbally, direction on where to go next.

A good definition of these phrases, as mentioned previously, is language for the subconscious or as Erickson referred to it, the unconscious. The premise of this statement is that our subconscious responds and communicates differently than our conscious mind and therefore it needs a different language which relates to feeling and experience rather than intellect. How to put all of this together to be truly effective is one of the lessons that all students will learn with enough practice.
 
Sheldon Bilsker, RCC,HT  Orca Institute is Canada’s longest running Hypnotherapy school and BC's only PTIB and EQA designated Hypnotherapy school.  Call Now! 604 808 3703. Skype: orcas53
 
©Sheldon Bilsker 2017.
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