Hypnosis and existential psychotherapy with end-stage terminally ill patients

Am J Clin Hypn. 2004 Jan;46(3):201-13. doi: 10.1080/00029157.2004.10403600.


Existential Psychological Theory was employed as a conceptual and theoretical foundation for the use of hypnotically facilitated therapy in the management of intractable pain, nausea, and vomiting in 3 end-stage, terminally ill cancer patients. The existential principles of death anxiety, existential isolation, and existential meaninglessness were addressed with a combination of classic and Ericksonian techniques. The intractable nature of the presenting physical symptoms was conceptualized as a possible manifestation of the impact of the terminal prognosis. Direct hypnotic suggestions for the management of pain, nausea and vomiting were avoided. It was hypothesized that, as the existential conflicts associated with the patients' terminal status resolved, the physiological symptoms would become responsive to medication. After 6 sessions grounded in the principles of Existential Psychotherapy, the intractable status of the physical symptomatology remitted, and the patients responded to medical management. This paper addresses the usefulness of Existential Psychotherapy in hypnotic interventions for mediating somatic and psychosomatic symptomatology.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Death
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Existentialism*
  • Fear
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis*
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Palliative Care
  • Psychotherapy / methods*