Interview with the

MARCH/APRIL 200: VOL 16 # 2
: (Interview by Dr. Anne Spencer)


Dr. Anne H. Spencer

Anne Spencer (AS): How did you become interested in hypnosis and hypnotherapy?

Paul Durbin (PD): I first became interested in hypnosis while participating in the Clinical Pastors Education Program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. D.C. We had an Introduction to Hypnosis.' seminar led by our CPE supervisor. Chaplain Carl Ray Stephens. Following that seminar I bought a book written by Frank Caprio and Joseph Berger entitled, Helping Yourself With Hypnosis. I put that unread book in my bookcase and forgot about it. Though I had enjoyed the seminar. I did not follow-up until three years later. I first used hypnosis (which I called Suggestion Therapy) in 1975 while a Chaplain at the Burn Center at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Texas.

The hypnosis was first used with R., a sixteen year old, who had burns over thirty percent of his body. I began by asking R. to close his eyes and to become as comfortable as possible. I then went through a progressive relaxation procedure with him. As he was from Florida and enjoyed the beach and swimming. I suggested that he imagine himself on his favorite beach. He could lie down on a warm blanket and feel the warn blanket under him. He could feel the warm rays of the sun as they covered his body. He could mentally get up and go into the warm waters of the ocean. He could feel the warm waters as he went into the ocean. It was warm and comfortable. (Burn patients often feel cold and the use of the word "warm" can be very comforting.) He could swim and enjoy the felling of the warm water. When he was tired he could return to the blanket, lie down and go to sleep. He learned to do this exercise for himself (self-hypnosis) whenever he needed to do so. These mental exercises helped him to reduce pain and go through some normally very painful experiences with little no or no discomfort.

I Learned a very important lesson from that first experience with hypnosis. Because of the patient's use of self-hypnosis, I realized that people can use self-hypnosis to reinforce suggestions and become more independent because he/she can use self-hypnosis when he/she desires.

Though I had success with several burn patients. I did not use hypnosis when I first came to Methodist Hospital in New Orleans. In December of 1980. I had a day off. As my wife was at work and my sons were at school. I decided to do some reading. As I looked over the books in my collection. I came across the Caprio/Berger book on self-hypnosis. I began to read and become so interested that I finished the book before nightfall. That book motivated me to begin a serious study of hypnosis. As I studied hypnosis. I saw that it can be used in many areas to improve an individual=s life. Since that time. I have used hypnosis to help people as a pastor, counselor and chaplain at Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital in New Orleans. Louisiana. I have presented many seminars on hypnosis throughout the country and upon receipt of the Sealah Award for Hypnotherapy. I was inducted into the International Hypnosis Hall of Fame in 1992.

AS: You have been at Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital for a number of years. How long have you been working with hypnosis?

PD: I came to Methodist Hospital in Sept 1976 and became Director of Pastoral Care in 1982. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have been a hospital chaplain and certified hypnotherapist. As Director of Pastoral Care at Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital, I had the full support for the use of hypnotherapy in my pastoral ministry by both the Administration and Medical Staff .of our hospital. In 1999. the department became Department of Pastoral Care and Clinical Hypnotherapy.

As I plan to retire from full time service at the end of Feb 2001, the President and CEO of PMMH asked me to stay on part time and be Director of Clinical Hypnotherapy which I accepted. As of January 1. 2001 the Department of Pastoral Care and Clinical Hypnotherapy became two departments when Chaplain Judy Nelson. my associate since 1982, became Director of Pastoral Care and I was appointed Director of Clinical Hypnotherapy. Anne, your dream of a door marked "Hypnotherapy" at every hospital has begun at Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospitals.

AS: Has the study and practice of hypnosis changed the way you live your life?

PD: Definitely, I have used this very effectively in my private, personal life (with self-hypnosis) and in my professional life as a toll to help people overcome unwanted habits, fears or phobias; reduce or eliminate pain and enhance healing; to reduce the harmful effects of stress and to help people in many other ways.

I began using self-hypnosis and imagery many years ago to improve my life. In 1985. I decided that I wanted to write a book on hypnosis and have it published. I wrote the book and began the process of finding a publisher. Each day, I would visualize my book and signing the book for someone who purchased it. It was accepted twice, but for various reasons, it had gone unpublished twice, but for various reasons, it had gone unpublished. During this time it was turned down by 30 publishers. I never gave up. I continued my visualization. Finally it was accepted and published by Access Publishing Company and was released in January 1994. That book was Human Trinity Hypnotherapy. After that I imaged Kissing Frogs: Practical Uses of Hypnotherapy being published and the first publisher that I sent it to accepted. It is now in its second printing.

In early 1986, I was informed that I was among five Army National Guard Chaplains throughout the nation being considered tor promotion to Brigadier General. This was a new position so whoever was selected would be the first Army National Guard Chaplain to be promoted to Brigadier General. Each day. I visualized myself in my General=s uniform. I pictured the Chief of Chaplains of the Army pinning my star on my uniform. In may 1986. I was selected and became the first Army National Guard Chaplain to be promoted to general rank in the history of the nation.

I use imagery for many things and it has either worked or I am still in the process if imagining it into being. I still am working on being selected as a winner in the National Publisher=s Sweepstakes, for I am still imagining that phone call or knock on the door with their representative informing me that I am a winner. Albert Einstein once said, "Imagination is the preview of coming events."

AS: Why is hypnosis so effective in the medical setting?

PD: People come into the hospital in an altered state of consciousness. They are experiencing some physical problem in their body which is producing discomfort to extreme pain. They are facing the unknown as to the outcome of their hospitalization. So the offer of relaxation, reduction of pain, anxiety and fear is usually readily accepted. One can do this with formal hypnosis. A prayer, or just the power of suggestion can be used.

When the situation is not appropriate for a formal hypnotic induction, I will sometimes use waking hypnosis. A young woman told me that she was very fearful of an upcoming myelogram. A few years before. she had gone through a myelogram which had been very painful. For several days following the myelogram she had a severe headache.

As I had no consult from her doctor. I would not use a formal hypnotic induction. I took the patient=s hand and spoke softly. You know we have found that people who have a second myelogram experience little or no discomfort. You are going to be surprised at how easy this myelogram will be. In fact, you will hardly feel anything by maybe a little pressure. You will come out of the experience feeling comfortable and relaxed with no after effects. The next day when I saw her, she told me that she went through the procedure without any difficulties and no headache. Interestingly, she did not give me any credit for the ease with which she went through the myelogram.

On occasions. I use prayer hypnosis when it would not be suitable to use a formal hypnotic induction. Of course. I would only do this with a person who would want a prayer. I was asked to help a patient who was experiencing considerable pain. As a doctor was unavailable for a consult. I used prayer hypnosis with the woman. As she was a very religious person, I suggested that we pray.

I began the prayer, As I pray, just let yourself relax because the more relaxed you are, the more effective this prayer will be. Now I want you to use your imagination so that the prayer will be more effective. In Mark 11:24 (KJV), Jesus seems to be saying that imagery with prayer cause the prayer to be more effective. "Therefore, I say unto you, what things soever you desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them." Following this introduction, I used the imagery of Jesus coming and placing his hand on the area of discomfort, I concluded with words of comfort and healing followed by In Jesus' Name." She was very relaxed and comfortable and I suggested she close her eyes again and drift into a peaceful and restful sleep.

AS: Being a chaplain allows you great access to patients. How does hypnosis fit with the counseling you give patients?

PD: I use formal hypnosis with patients only when I have a referral from the patient's physician. That has not been a problem because most patients want hypnosis as part of his/her care. All the patient has to do is have the nurse call the physician and request a consult. Such a request has not been turned down since 1982.

I use the power of suggestions and healing stories with patients everyday. As I said earlier in this interview, they are already in the hypnotic state.

With the change from Director of Pastoral Care and Clinical Hypnotherapy to Director of Clinical Hypnotherapy. I no longer see patients on regular basis. I am still available to respond to referrals from physicians to work with patients.

AS: What advice would you give our members who wish to be part of a medical team and have their hospital or medical centers have a door marked "Hypnotherapist."?

PD: First the hypnotherapist must be properly trained. Without at least a Bachelor's Degree, one will probably not be accepted. The higher the degree the better. One should have at least 120 hours of training with at least 25 additional hours in pain management and medical hypnosis protocols.

My advice is to be doctor friendly. If you are known to be negative toward physicians, it is not likely that you will get very far in an attempt to have a hospital recognize you.

Next establish rapport with at least one physician and as many as possible who will support your attempts to get the hospital to listen to you.

Once you get an interview dress appropriately, be professional, have a presentation which is interesting and accurate and refer them to Mr. Fred Young. Jr.. President and CEO of Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital in New Orleans for his comments on hypnotherapy at Methodist.

AS: What does IMDHA mean to you?

PD: It is to me one of the best hypnosis organizations in the world of which I am proud and honored to be a member and a Diplomat. The IMDHA Conferences are outstanding and among the best, if not the best, hypnosis conferences in the world. It represents good education, professionalism and status. I proudly display my Certification and Diplomat plaques on the wall of my office.

AS: Thank you for this interview and may you continue to provide the outstanding service to Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital and to the entire field of hypnotherapy.

PD: It has been a pleasure to talk with you and I would just like to close by saying that IMDHA is a leader in the field of medical and dental hypnosis. Keep up the good work and thanks for your support over the years. I invite people to visit my website for the many articles on hypnotherapy and the hypnotherapy job description used at PMMH 

My new address is Chaplain Paul G. Durbin, Ph.D. Director of Clinical Hypnotherapy, Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital, 5640 Read Blvd. # 840, New Orleans, LA. 70127, Phone 504-244-5431, email

(Paul Durbin named Diplomat of IMDHA 2000)