Right off, some people think David Thomson is a quack.
Case in point, Ohio resident Nick Sass’ recovery from pancreatitis became a case study at a teaching hospital in Detroit. But Sass withdrew from the research project because staff wouldn’t believe how he beat the disease.
It was mind over matter, he says.
“I’m a pretty hard sell – I’m a retired lieutenant colonel Marine – but this is an interesting approach and something that absolutely needs to be explored,” Sass said.
Thomson, also a retired Marine and former defense contractor, conducts advanced medical hypnotherapy from his office in Colorado Springs. It’s a specialized field that focuses on the connection between mind and body.
He’s not a doctor and doesn’t make diagnoses, prescribe drugs or perform surgeries.
He also doesn’t claim to cure people.
He helps people heal themselves.
“I’m a guide,” he says. “I help people get to a goal.”
Those who have used Thomson’s skills view him not as an imposter, but rather as a genius.
“It seems incredulous to people. They look at me like I’m telling a science fiction story,” said Denton Mitchell, a retired systems engineer and Navy veteran who lives in California.
Denton said that under hypnosis, he has overcome the effects of a stroke, a longtime heart arrhythmia and a debilitating lung condition called mesothelioma.
“It’s a very solid tool,” Mitchell said. “It’s been verified medically that I am much better off health-wise.” But doctors stop short of confirming what such patients say is the reason for their improvement.
The American Medical Association does not approve hypnosis as a legitimate therapy for medical or psychological purposes.
In Colorado, doctors can refer a patient to hypnotherapy – if the patient requests it. Thomson requires a physician’s referral for clients who, from his work, are able to reduce or eliminate medications they are taking.
Medical hypnotherapy practitioners are few, Thomson said, because there are few teachers. A small network across the nation works “under the radar,” he said, adding, “We don’t have to be trained in each disease or disorder; the person’s mind tells us what can be done and how to do it.”
Thomson is a paramedic and was two weeks from finishing pre-med studies when he was called to active duty in the military.
He studied medical hypnotherapy and has been practicing for 12 years. He is publishing a book in the fall, “Hypnotherapy: The Real Alternative Medicine.”
The book examines 39 cases in which Thomson says his techniques helped diabetics get off insulin, sufferers of debilitating migraines find relief and other healings.
“Doctors say this is great, and then I never hear from them again, or they call it spontaneous remission and blow it off,” Thomson said.
He says he can work on “just about anything” relating to physical and mental afflictions, including cancer, diabetes, genetic abnormalities, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, auto immune diseases and neuropathy.
Using the mind-body interplay, Thomson says, broken bones can heal from the inside out, white blood cells can become sharks that wipe out cancer cells, and damage to organs such as the kidneys, liver and pancreas can be repaired.
Seven years ago, when he was 44, Sass lay in an intensive care unit with 8 percent functionality of his pancreas. He also appeared to be showing signs of cancer under his armpit.
Today, at 51, Sass said his pancreas is 70 percent functional, he has no cancer, and he’s able to work and play baseball.
He credits Thomson for his recovery.
“This doesn’t work for everybody, but people should give it a chance,” Sass said. “David has had a lot of successes.”
How it works
Believing that nearly all diseases and illnesses have an emotional beginning, through a past experience that festers in the subconscious, Thomson guides clients under hypnosis to regress to that beginning.
“We help the person deal with whatever was happening at that time and resolve it,” Thomson said.
It could be sexual molestation, physical abuse, family strife, a traumatic injury, a car crash or other difficult situations.
Thomson then relies on images that come to the client’s mind to understand what’s wrong with the body and help it rebuild damaged parts.
Some people see diseases or injuries as colors, he said. For others, it’s like looking through a microscope. Thomson said one girl who had broken her arm spoke of small gnomes carrying caulking guns to repair her bone.
The residue of Mitchell’s stroke appeared to him under hypnosis as dark scales in his brain.
“It started out very unclear, washing a car sort of thing, but eventually became very detailed, structural-looking images that would come to mind, and we worked on removing the scales,” he said. “Eventually, it was gone.”
Mitchell, who is in his mid-70s, said he had been treated at a hospital for a stroke in 2004. Neurological tests a few years ago showed he had never had a stroke, he said.
“To me, that was very validating. I had medical proof on both ends that I had a stroke, and then no evidence of having had a stroke,” he said.
The practice allows access to the subconscious mind, which Thomson says is the computer that makes the body hum and reveals valuable information about illnesses and solutions.
“We put to sleep the conscious side of the mind, the rational thinking that says, ‘I can’t do something,’ and we communicate with that part that runs your body’s functions.”
Regressing to a time before the disease gives a mental blueprint of how the body looked, and Thomson works to restore that setup – using the power of the mind.
“He’s not a miracle worker; he’s an aid to helping you heal your body,” said Robbin, whose 14-year-old daughter was born with a rare genetic disorder that affected her metabolic system.
The Kentucky mother, who asked that her family’s last name not be used, said her daughter would get sick at age 3 for no apparent reason, with strep throat, vomiting and dehydration.
She was hospitalized every three weeks for six months, Robbin said.
When her daughter was 7, Robbin took her to see Thomson.
“He guides you in a very particular way that helps you dial back to a time when you didn’t have that issue and reset your body to that time,” she said. “It’s really cool.”
Thomson identified a tube in the girl’s pancreas with a leaking hole that was upsetting her digestive system.
Robbin went through the sessions with her daughter, to help her reinforce positive images after the hypnosis.
“As we sealed up the tube, she stopped taking all the medicine,” Robbin said. “Our doctor was leery. We were cautious for a couple of years, but all her metabolic levels came back to normal.”
Her daughter is off medications and has not been hospitalized for several years.
“How sweet is this,” Robbin said. “It’s amazing.”
Skepticism is tied to fear, Thomson said, as people are afraid of the unknown.
But hypnosis is a natural state of intense focus that people enter every day when they daydream or lose track of time because they’re thinking about something, for instance.
The subconscious mind wants to protect the body. So if a child falls offs a swing when he’s 5, then tumbles down a set of stairs a few years later, he might develop a fear of heights. Those repressed emotions and experiences can later emerge as physical or mental diseases, Thomson said.
“Everything gets locked in your mind and builds up over time,” he said. “So we go back and take out the time of the fall.”
But he said he doesn’t make clients do anything they don’t want to do under hypnosis.
“A person’s mind is still functioning normally and can communicate with the therapist,” he said.
The person must be a willing participant for the process to be effective.
“We’re talking about people’s deepest fears and problems, and they have to open up that can of worms and deal with everything,” Thomson said.
Hypnosis has been around for centuries and started getting a bad rap in the 1700s as being too much on the fringe, associated with the occult and mysticism, and later, hokey entertainment.
Hypnotherapy today is most often used to help people stop smoking, lose weight or manage pain.
Dr. Di Thompson, a psychiatrist and medical director of behavioral health for Centura Health, which operates Penrose-St. Francis Health Services in Colorado Springs, practices hypnotherapy on cancer patients to help them with chemo-related nausea, needle phobia, pain and anxieties.
“There is a lot of research that shows hypnotherapy can be appropriate for pain syndromes, hot flashes, headaches and back pain,” she said. “We know it can be helpful for a variety of medical issues, but it is not the end-all for treatment.”
Thompson said she would be hard-pressed to say hypnotherapy can cure diseases.
“It can be a treatment for certain symptoms, but it’s not a cure for a condition,” she said.
‘Not a panacea’
The success rate of advanced medical hypnotherapy depends on the client’s motivation and desire, said Thomson.
Terminal cancer patients do well, he said, because they desperately want to get better.
“Those with a fighting spirit are usually the ones that survive,” he said.
Mitchell said he contracted his lung condition from asbestos in submarines. Doctors wanted to remove the lower part of his lungs.
Over several months of hypnotherapy sessions, Mitchell’s mind “encased the asbestos in his lungs” and created small holes for better oxygen exchange, Thomson said.
“My lungs are clear,” Mitchell said. “The VA clinic said I’m doing fine, and my lung capacity is good.”
Whether the practice will be recognized by mainstream medicine is debatable.
“It took them 20 years to accept the MRI machine,” Thomson says.
Still, chiropractic care, acupuncture and nutritionists have become more widely acknowledged in recent years as alternative therapies.
“It’s becoming more accepted,” Dr. Thompson said of hypnotherapy. “But it’s not a panacea. If it was, I would be spending all my time just hypnotizing people. If that’s how we could cure people, it would be a perfect way to do it without side effects.”
Precisely, Thomson says.
David Thomson, a retired Marine and former defense contractor, conducts advanced medical hypnotherapy from his office in Colorado Springs. (Courtesy of David Thomson)