NCP Logo

The National Council of Psychotherapists

Est. 1971



Chaplain Paul G. Durbin, PhD, IMDHA Diplomat


I would like to share with you a case history of a cancer patient I worked with using hypnosis. Bee (not her real name) was referred to me by her doctor after her second hospitalization with cancer. I met Bee about two years before when she had a breast removed and again when she returned to the hospital with a lump in her remaining breast. Her doctor referred her to me for pain management and emotional/spiritual support.

Near the end of her first visit, I gave Bee some homework. I asked her to write down any stressful situations she had experienced over the 6-18 months before her diagnosis. She listed the following:


1.      A year before her cancer was discovered, her husband had left her and their children for another woman

2.      The next month, she had to go to work to support herself and the children

3.      Filed for divorce

4.      Had first date with another man

5.      Found lump in her breast and breast was removed

6.      Divorce final

7.      Married the man she had been dating

8.      Another lump was found in her breast and returned to the hospital

During the second session we discussed the above gain and I taught her several pain reduction and elimination techniques. As she was a religious person, I used several religious guided imagery exercises, quoted appropriate scriptures. At the end of the second session, we talked about gains one has from illness and I asked her to make a list of gains for he next sessions. For the gains of her illness she listed


1.      Did not have to work

2.      Could take it easy

3.      Gets more attention

4.      Could say "no" without worrying about hurting other people's feelings


We discussed how she could accomplish these gains without the excuse provided her by being sick. We talked about relaxation therapy, image therapy and hypnosis to help her deal with a wide range of issues in her life. Since she began chemotherapy, Bee had been spending a majority of time lying in bed. I asked her to do the relaxation therapy, image therapy, and self-hypnosis three times a day.

When B. first came to me, she could see only sickness, pain, and death in her future.


I addressed this concern by suggesting that by visualizing herself getting better helps one to have a more hopeful attitude and a better quality of life. I shared with her the words of Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, "Picture yourself as defeated and that alone will make victory impossible. Picture yourself vividly as winning and that alone will contribute to success. Great living starts with a picture held in your imagination of what you would like to do or be."

We discussed how her resentment toward her first husband and his new wife interfered with her health and quality of life. Resentment keeps the hurt alive and blocks the healing; emotionally, physically, and spiritually." We discussed her feelings that God had forsaken her. She worked through those feelings to an understanding of God who was actively helping her through this situation. We talked about set-backs which she has had or might have in the future. We talked about the death process and the grief she experiences concerning her death.

After several months, B. returned to the hospital with excess fluid on her lungs. Just a few days before returning to the hospital, she had completed a joyful pain-free vacation with her husband.


She died three days later.


The relaxation, imagery therapy, and hypnosis tend to decrease fear and bring about an attitude change. These techniques have been found to effect physical changes, enhancing the person's own immune system, altering the cause of the disease, decreasing tension and stress, and helping to confront and alter the stance of hopelessness and helplessness.

(I use many techniques learned from Carl and Stephanie Simonton Workshop "Getting Good at Being You" in the 70's)


Chaplain Paul G. Durbin, Ph.D.

Director of Clinical Hypnotherapy

Methodist Health System Foundation

5640 Read Blvd # 840

New Orleans, LA 70127



Article Menu - Members Directory - Navigation Page - Home