Sports, Dance & Hypnosis

Children and teens with chronic pain are often accomplished athletes or dancers. Their pain may even be related to a sports injury or prevent them from participating in their sport. So, one might think that sports have a negative association for them or are better left unmentioned, to avoid causing distress.

Taking that train of thought further, one might also think that references to sports might be especially unhelpful in clinical hypnosis, which is typically associated with deep relaxation. Not at all! Sports, dance, and other challenging physical activities are excellent activities to include in hypnosis sessions.

When entering a hypnotic state, invoking imagery of a favorite place can be helpful. I have had patients identify basketball courts, swimming pools, horse barns, and a range of other locations associated with their sport as favorite places. They use the distinctive sounds, smells, physical sensations, and sights of these venues to immerse themselves into an absorbed and deeply productive state of trance.

Sports and dance are excellent sources of metaphors for pain management and healing. A coach instructing players can be the brain sending messages to different parts of the body. Running all the bases and making it back to home plate can represent making it successfully through the school day. The wordless communication when teammates pass a ball or set up a play can show the possibility of different muscles or body parts coordinating their movement for better function.

Accomplished athletes already have had an experience of learning and mastery. This prior experience can now serve as an example for their current tasks of healing, returning to their typical level of activities, adjusting their mindset, or changing behavior to help themselves feel better.

Athletes already know that improvement comes with practice and repetition. They may start treatment already understanding that they will get better results by investing their time and attention in hypnosis practice, even between appointments with the therapist.

Athletes may have a clearly defined vision of what they want to accomplish through treatment. Visualizing themselves back in the thick of practice, play, or performance can be a motivating force.

In general, hypnosis builds on the strengths, skills, and inner resources that a person already has. When children are already highly involved with sports or dance, they may be more readily able to find and use those resources.

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