Sarah Saunders (not her real name) was devastated when her brother died during an asthma attack nearly a year ago.

Miss Saunders, from Brighton, had suffered from asthma herself for nearly 30 years and was desperate for help. She approached her doctor for support but found the treatment she received totally ineffective in controlling the attacks.

It was at this point she heard about hypnotherapist Julie James and learned she might be able to control her asthma through hypnotherapy.

Miss Saunders said: "I decided to have a short course as I believed my asthma might have been provoked by emotional difficulties in my life.

"I initially had two treatment sessions within a week, followed by another session two weeks later. The results were remarkable, with my asthma almost disappearing.

"I now feel confident in many other areas of my life."

Ms James, who works in Berriedale Road in Hove, says hypnotherapy can help with a range of problems but it has to overcome several hurdles before people will consider it.

She said: "People immediately associate hypnotherapy with the stage shows you see and automatically think I'm going to make then run around the room pretending to be a chicken.

"Obviously, this is not the case. It is a serious business and can provide a lot of help.

"To understand hypnosis, it is useful to understand your subconscious mind.

This is the part of your mind that is the most powerful, containing wisdom and a very deep level of intelligence.

It is your untapped resource for creativity and imagination."

The subconscious mind is the seat of people's emotions and therefore directs nearly all their behaviour.

It is also responsible for maintaining good health and autonomic processes such as breathing, blood circulation, tissue regeneration and repair.

Hypnosis is a way of accessing this natural intelligence and issuing new instructions to create seemingly miraculous changes.

Ms James said: "For example, if a person has gone into a lift and it breaks down leavingthem stuck they can start to suffer a panic attack.

They are then released and a few days later go into another lift.

The subconscious, which is trying to protect that person, starts to generate another attack because of the person's recent experience.

"It's illogical because it's a completely different lift and works fine but the response is there and can eventually develop into a phobia.

"A hypnotherapist can tap into the subconscious state and allay that reaction by making it clear such a response is no longer necessary."

With asthma, a lot of attacks can be stress related and hypnotherapy can help deal with this.

It can also be helpful for people trying to give up smoking and those with fears of flying, heights and spiders.

Social phobias such as agoraphobia can also be dealt with.

For those concerned about trying hypnosis, Ms James says a lot of people will have experienced natural hypnotic states without realising it.

These include daydreaming or drifting off while watching TV.

The hypnosis used during sessions involves entering these same natural states, deliberately and with the awareness of the patient, in order to communicate directly with the subconscious and issue new suggestions or instructions.

Ms James said: "A person undergoing hypnotherapy can't be made to do anything they don't want to and cannot be taken into hypnosis against their will, so they are perfectly safe."

Ms James has been practicising for five years and has seen a growing number of people coming forward for treatment.

She said: "People are increasingly looking for alternatives to taking lots of pills and drugs for their conditions.

"It is all very well giving someone who suffers from panic attacks tranquillisers to calm them down but you need to get at the cause of problem, otherwise they will simply continue."

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