Cancer and Hypnosis?

At Mary’s Place by the Sea in the Ocean Grove section of Neptune, a center for women undergoing cancer treatment, holistic healer Roseann Petropoulos uses hypnosis to help many breast cancer patients overcome negative thinking.

“When they have a positive attitude, it improves the immune system, and it improves healing,” says Petropoulos, who also runs Belmar Wellness, a natural healing center, in Belmar. “It also allows them to approach their chemotherapy in a different way that becomes less of stressful for them.”

After bringing clients into a light, sleeplike state, Petropoulos uses positive language to help shift their thoughts in a more optimistic direction. The goal is to get the breast cancer patient to transform negative words to positive: “challenging” instead of “struggling” and “trying” instead of “doing,” Petropoulos says.

When working with breast cancer patients, the goal of hypnotherapy is also to help them overcome fear, says Patricia French Crilly, a hypnotherapist and former nurse based in Red Bank.

“When you have an illness such as cancer, the first thing on people’s minds is fear, pain, death,” says Crilly, who has worked with many fighting breast cancer or other catastrophic illnesses.

Fear can have a strong physical effect on the body. It can cause a release of cortisol, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal gland, which is not good for the body in abundance, Crilly says. It is very difficult to heal when the body is overcome with fear, she says.

To help her clients overcome this, Crilly use hypnosis and guided imagery techniques.

“Hypnosis bypasses your conscious mind, which allows us to talk to the unconscious mind, which takes in information without judgment,” Crilly says. “When you can speak to the unconscious mind, you can say, ‘Let’s change the message.’ ”

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