If the Drugs Don't Work. from Past Life Regression and Faith Healing to Stopping Smoking and Learning to Eat More Slowly, Hypnotherapy Is Fast Becoming the Buzzword in Alternative Therapy - You Can Even Do a Degree in It in Wales Now. Abbie Wightwick Looks into the Eyes (Not around the Eyes) of the Believers
Byline: Abbie Wightwick
IMAGINE you have half a fresh, juicy lemon in your hand. Squeeze it and breathe in the tangy, citrus smell.
Bring it up to your mouth and bite into the crunchy, cool flesh. Feel the fresh, sour juice hit your tongue. By now your mouth may be watering.
The lemon test, an example favoured by Cardiff-based hypnotherapist Richard Haggerty, is recognisable to anyone who has experienced the drooling sensation sparked by picturing favourite or sour foods.
It is one example of how the mind can affect the body, he says.
If eating isn't your thing then invoking a beautiful place may do the trick in transporting you elsewhere.
It is this ability to put the mind in a more relaxed state to aid physical health that is at the heart of the booming industry in healing and complementary therapy.
A survey last year showed that more than half of people asked in Wales would turn to alternative therapists rather than endure long NHS waiting lists. Research has been carried out into complementary treatments for cancer patients at Velindre Hospital, Cardiff and many people book visits to therapists as regularly as the hairdresser.
Every year Britons spend pounds 130m on alternative treatments, from hypnotherapy to reflexology, and predictions are that this will swell to pounds 200m in the next few years.
The NHS spends around pounds 50m a year on alternative treatments working from a recommended list of practitioners offering everything from acupuncture to yoga.
Christian churches also report an increase in religious healing, if not the numbers of people worshipping.
The Reverend Beatrice Brandon, the Adviser for the Healing Ministry to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York whose mother was Welsh, believes Wales is "a healing place" and that pilgrimages to a holy well here helped cure her crippling rheumatoid arthritis.
"I was in an awful lot of pain at the time. I came across the holy wells in Wales and found them peaceful places," she says.
"I went to St Cybi's Well on the Llyn Peninsula. The time in Wales visiting these places sustained me. That had a strong healing dimension and helped the healing process.
"It was not a case of going into the water and being healed. The whole culture and spirit of Wales is one of healing and peace. There are parts of Wales where I feel very close to God.
"My mother left Wales as a child but she talked to us about it and I feel Welsh. My aunt had a farm near Lampeter and we spent a lot of time there."
As an elected lay member of the General Synod of the Church of England, Rev Brandon was instrumental in reviving the healing ministry in the Church of England.
Her groundbreaking report to the House of Bishops, A Time to Heal, was published in 2000 and the associated handbook was sent to clergy in the Church in Wales.
She has since been ordained and trains lay people, priests and ministers in the Church's healing ministry.
"We don't call ourselves healers. That's one of the factors which distinguishes us from faith healers," she explains.
"The healing comes from God. We intercede and ask God for help."
She says people don't have to believe in God to be healed by him but it "helps to have a good relationship with him".
Her own experience baffled her doctors.
"After the report on healing was published, I had to think about whether I would ever be well enough to function as a priest if I was ordained. I had had rheumatoid arthritis for seven years, "I prayed to God that if it was his will for me to be ordained, he would have to heal me, for his sake, not mine.
"Within three weeks I had recovered. It has been eight years and it's not come back.
"I think the significant increase in awareness and in the availability of the healing ministry is partly because mainstream medicine can be very effective but it does not have all the answers and is limited. …