Practising medical hypnosis
Dr Kate Barnes explains how CBT and medical hypnosis influence her part-time work as a GP partner and tutor
Profile: Dr Kate Barnes
Role: GP and medical hypnotist
Location: NHS practice in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, and private clinics in Buckinghamshire and Harley Street, London. Also a GP tutor at the University of Oxford
Hours worked per week: Around 40, including four sessions a week as an NHS GP and eight hypnotherapy consultations
My husband makes me a large mug of tea before heading off to work. Then, in my pyjamas, I drive my youngest son, who’s 15, to the bus stop.
I eat breakfast while I scroll through my Twitter feed (I’m @barnes_johnson). This morning I tweet a motivational quote: ‘If you’re doing something you love, an hour feels like five minutes.’ I also share my thoughts about new clinical studies and bringing the arts into medicine. I have always had an interest in how the mind can affect the body and also the interplay between our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. So, in 2009, I gained a medical diploma in hypnosis at the London College of Clinical Hypnosis. Most of the patients I see in this respect have anxiety or a phobia, but some also have symptoms like IBS, migraine, chronic pain or medically unexplained symptoms.
I start seeing private patients for hypnotherapy from my home, although sometimes I travel to clinics in Harley Street, Buckinghamshire or Berkshire. I even see some patients over Skype.
When I’m consulting, I imagine myself using a mix of general practice, CBT and hypnotherapy - all three disciplines work wonderfully together.
It’s great to have the luxury of nearly an hour with each patient. I enjoy the opportunity to get to grips with a complex problem and think laterally to help patients overcome their difficulties.
Patients see me once a week and listen to a hypnotherapy recording each day between consultations. During the sessions, they are always in control and are not asked to say or do anything against their will. Hypnosis is a relaxed state, similar to going to sleep or waking up. By bypassing the critical, conscious mind, I can make positive suggestions and help patients make changes they struggle with.
I used to prepare the sessions in advance but with more experience I’ve found it’s more effective to let the conversation develop naturally. The problem usually resolves within three to four sessions.
After showing the second patient out, I start the associated admin. Any recorded hypnotherapy is uploaded to my computer and saved or emailed to the patient (if it hasn’t already been recorded on their phone). I sometimes email patients to follow up on the session and often recommend worksheets, books, poetry or films that might help them.
This week I’ve been asked to run an evening hypnotherapy session for a local National Childbirth Trust group, so I start preparing for that.
It’s off to the practice in Great Missenden, where I’m a partner. We have a team meeting to discuss patients, particularly anyone we have referred, which helps us learn from each other and maintain continuity of care.
I head to my consulting room to prepare for the afternoon session. Before patients come in, I try to deal with as many tasks (such as test results, prescription queries and hospital letters) as I can but I have learned to accept that I am never completely on top of my to-do list. I start with a box of prescription queries.
My door stays open before my session starts, so nurses and community staff can come in with any questions. Some of the junior doctors pop in too.
From January until June, I work as a GP tutor to fourth-year students at the University of Oxford on Tuesday afternoons, and spend one afternoon a week at the practice with four students, teaching clinical skills. I feel particularly fulfilled by the educational aspect of my work, whether that is advising patients, teaching students or looking at professional development with appraisals.
After the last patient, I finish my admin, then drive home for supper with my husband. In the evenings I like to watch TV, listen to music, or go to the cinema.
Bed. I usually skim the same page of whatever book I’m reading every night before dropping off with the light on.