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French firefighters test hypnosis to ease victims

The idea is that hypnotherapy can complement traditional first aid assistance

ALSECS, France — While they may not want patients to cluck like chickens, French firefighters are testing the idea hypnosis will help soothe trauma victims. reported that at the Haguenau fire station, 120 firefighters have been trained in basic medical hypnosis to help soothe someone trapped under rubble, in a car following a crash, or even suffering an asthma attack.

The idea is that hypnotherapy can complement traditional first aid assistance, according to the report.

“These are verbal, gesticular and respiratory techniques that aim to ease pain and anxiety, but that obviously don’t replace traditional first aid,” said Cecile Colas-Nguyen, a nurse and member of the fire brigade, and a trainer in hypnosis.

When firefighters arrive on the scene of an accident, they get to work tending to the injured or cutting the victim free, according to the report. However, staff trained in hypnosis establish a more personal link with the person and divert his or her attention away from the trauma of the scene, according to the report.

Haguenau station manager David Ernenwein says he is “convinced” that the method is useful, according to the report.

“We have all noticed that when we hold someone’s hand, things go better, even if we did not label it as ‘hypnosis’. The first thing that we can do to help people is to calm them down, and this technique has given us the tools to be able to do that, to help people suffer less,” he says.

For the next six months, firefighters will record the heart rate, pain levels or emotions of victims they help, according to the report.

“Our first evaluation seems to show benefits: in 100 percent of cases people said that they felt time was distorted, in other words that the time the firemen took to tend to them seemed shorter than it actually was,” said Colas-Nguyen.

The real test will be seeing if firefighters can successfully use their new skills in particularly noisy and traumatic circumstances, according to the report.

“We can help victims to disconnect from what is happening around them. And even the beep, beep, of medical equipment can focus a person’s attention so we can help transport them to another place,” said Colas-Nguyen.