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‘It’s worth finding out about’: La Jolla doctor hopes to help kids heal with new book on hypnosis

Dr. Ran Anbar's book on using hypnosis with children was published Nov. 15.
(Courtesy of Dr. Ran Anbar)

Hoping to demystify the methods he uses with his patients daily, Dr. Ran Anbar has written a book detailing the use of hypnosis with children.

Anbar, who runs Center Point Medicine, a pediatric hypnosis practice in La Jolla, said he wrote “Changing Children’s Lives with Hypnosis: A Journey to the Center” for parents but that “everybody can learn from it.”

The book, published Nov. 15, provides a look at hypnosis using “many examples of different children who benefited” from using the practice to treat both physical and psychological symptoms.

“There’s no downside” to hypnosis, according to Anbar, who said it is safe and free of side effects.

He said he hopes the book will educate parents on an often-overlooked treatment strategy. “They just don’t realize it’s an option,” he said. “It’s my therapy of choice, and I think people should be offered it pretty early on in medical evaluation.”

Anbar began to transition his practice from pediatric pulmonology in 1997 when a teenage patient with severe milk allergies developed asthma attacks from simply smelling cheeseburgers.

“I said to him, ‘Imagine you’re eating a cheeseburger,’ which he couldn’t do in real life,” Anbar said. “Within seconds, he was struggling to breathe. He was having an asthma attack in front of me. I said ‘Stop it!’ And he did.”

Anbar said he realized “your imagination can bring you into an illness like this” and he began to explore whether “you can think your way out.”

Having previously taken hypnosis training from a colleague, Anbar tried hypnosis techniques with the patient and discovered the patient was receptive to the process.

Dr. Ran Anbar says "there's no downside" to hypnosis.
(Michael Wunderle)

Anbar, who holds undergraduate degrees from UC San Diego in biology and psychology, began to develop his skills in hypnosis, which he said “doctors use … whether they know it or not, because when we talk to our patients, when we establish a relationship, when we give them suggestions, there’s a lot of hypnosis going on.”

He said incorporating hypnosis into medical practice “will just improve your ability to be a doctor.”

Anbar said he expanded his hypnosis work to include more of his pulmonary patients, from children with coughs to those with shortness of breath and vocal cord dysfunction, when vocal cords shut down and prevent a person from talking and breathing normally.

He said vocal cord dysfunction is often curable with hypnosis, as opposed to other treatments such as Botox injections or tonsillectomies.

Anbar then expanded his hypnosis practice to include issues such as headaches, stomachaches and bedwetting, along with anxiety and depression.

“Every person with chronic symptoms can benefit from hypnosis,” he said. “Either you’ve had chronic symptoms that affect your psychology … or your psychology triggered your symptoms. In all these cases, when you learn to better regulate your emotional responses, you get better.”

Anbar said “all hypnosis is really self-hypnosis. … A lot of people think hypnosis is a magic show, that I’m going to make you cluck like a chicken and I’m going to control you. That’s not what hypnosis is.

“What the [magicians’] audience volunteers don’t realize is they’re doing it to themselves. The magician tells them things and they do it.”

Hypnosis, he said, “is within your capabilities. … It’s not sleep; you know what’s going on and you can stop at any time. … I show this to kids every single day. I show them how this works.”

“We all do hypnosis all the time,” he added, such as when we daydream during a boring lecture or drive home without realizing the details.

“Hypnosis is a usual state of mind” in which we are suggestible, Anbar said. “You can give yourself suggestions because the conscious has sort of stepped out of the way.”

He said he moved to La Jolla six years ago wanting to “open up a practice that showed that you could do full-time hypnosis and make a living. I’ve done that.”

He also has started a franchise network aiming to teach other physicians how to conduct hypnosis using the model he employs.

“Hypnosis has been around in its modern form for 70 years and yet nobody knows about it,” Anbar said. “It’s worth finding out about.”

“Changing Children’s Lives with Hypnosis: A Journey to the Center” is available at dranbar.com.