Michael : Firstly, could you introduce yourself and give our listeners a bit of background about yourself.
Garner : Well, my name is Garner Thomson and I’m the author of the book that you’re talking about, Magic In Practice: Introducing Medical NLP, the art and science of healing and health. I’m a meta-master practitioner and trainer of NLP, and co-founder and training director of the Society of Medical NLP, which was developed specifically to develop NLP in terms of the needs of the medical professionals.
I have an NLP and hypnotherapy practice in London, and I work as a corporate consultant and TV presenter. My work has always been largely focused on improving health and the well-being of clients.
Michael : Now what do you understand by ‘Health’?
Garner : A very good question, because oddly enough the health professionals themselves don’t have an agreed definition of Health. They have lots and lots of definitions about what a disease is, but they have no agreed definition of health.
Generally they tend to define it as the absence of disease, which of course leads to all sort of problems, both semantic and practical. In the medical NLP model, however, Health suggests a dynamic equilibrium. That is the ability to recover rapidly from imbalance. I suppose it could also be thought of as behavioural flexibility.
Michael : Building on that – what would you say are some of the characteristics of a healthy person?
Garner : that also is pretty interesting because healthy people have the tendency to dissipate entropy, if you don’t mind me just quickly explaining.
We take in energy in many different forms, food, air – information, is a big thing – and we should discharge entropy. That way we would maintain balance. In reality we don’t do this. In our society for example, we’re inclined to work very hard, involve ourselves in high-pressure activities, which are very good in themselves, and very challenging, but in this we sometimes don’t have the ability to discharge the entropy and what happens is the system can go into disarray and decline.
So people who are healthy can intuitively, or have learnt, to dissipate that. There are many different ways to dissipate things, and one of the ones that we find – it’s the one that we refer to in the book as ‘activating the relaxation response’
Michael : Why do you think that this subject is particularly important today, the overall subject of health?
Garner : Well science has effectively defeated most infectious diseases which it killed off a hundred years ago. We’re living longer, but as a result we’re falling pray to a number of different illnesses. Illness and diseases have changed it’s face – doctors can go through an entire lifetime and not see things that were entirely prevalent fifty or a hundred years ago, but today by far the largest collection of problems that people turn up for help for are the complex, chronic conditions – which the germ theory and the gene theory don’t actually explain.
These are the things like chronic pain, unexplained symptoms, anxiety, suppressive disorders. Basically what medicine calls ‘functional disorders’. And between a third and a half of the problems that patients seek help for, have symptoms with no discernible cause, and that’s because people are not looking in the right place.
They’re not looking at the patient that has the disease as much as the disease that has the patient.
Science is pretty dedicated to the Cartesian split, which practically says that the mind has no impact on physical health – and that’s seriously misplaced.
Michael : If you were going to lecture to, say, a group of students or young people, what might you suggest would be the key aspects of being and staying healthy?
Garner : Oddly enough, I don’t have any magic suggestions apart from the obvious ones. ‘Don’t take poison’ as my old teacher used to say. Things like eating reasonably well and keeping fit, those things.
But I do think it comes back to this, biggest single contribution to healthful life – and by healthful life I don’t mean one in which disease and illness are absent, but where the individual can respond and react effectively from challenges. And that’s the ability that I was talking about, to dissipate entropy – the metabolic waste – the ability to discharge that is important.
This does include techniques, such as the Relaxation Response.
One way of course is exercise, we know we feel better when we take exercise, and that’s very much because we’re discharging excess adrenaline, excess cortisol – which otherwise is quite toxic.
So if we stress up and we don’t discharge this effectively then we will suffer the effects of chronic stress, while stress in sort term is actually very therapeutic for us – as long as it’s not extended over a period of time.
The Relaxation Response, is a very simple, very easy technique. Which also is used to recharge and re-balance the system.
Michael :Can we move on from that, and would you like to introduce your book?
Garner : Thank you very much. What I intended to do in Magic In Practice was to introduce – and this is for the first time – both the theory and the practice of effective communication as an important and fundamental aspect of clinical effectiveness, to the main stream health community.
So it puts forward a premise, which I know is pretty challenging for some people – the relationship between practitioner and patient is at least as important to the clinical outcome, as drugs surgery, or other treatment.
it’s not just theory or wishful thinking. When I looked into it, my extensive research looked into what we call ‘The Human Factor’, which is crucial to the healing relationship – and it’s something that unfortunately, even though the evidence is there, is becoming increasingly abstracted from the consultation process.
So it’s very much an attempt to reintroduce the humanity of the consultation process, the therapeutic effect, of that Human Factor.
Michael : And who is the book aimed at? Is is specifically the medical profession?
Garner : Well it certainly is aimed at the medical profession, but it’s also aimed at the – and I’m not a doctor myself, that’s the paradox, I’ve trained doctors – but it’s aimed at basically anybody that’s in a position to help other people with their health and well-being.
It is a semi academic book, in so much as there’s nothing there that isn’t supported in evidence in terms of references. Because in NLP and other fields, we often find lots of books that claim everything, but they can’t really support it.
So this book is aimed at anyone who is seriously involved in caring for other people, and who are also curious enough, hopefully to follow up on the kind of references of our patients, to show that this is not pie in the sky. This is a really real thing.
Michael : To some extent you’ve said it before, but it would be useful to emphasise it – why do you think it’s important now?
Garner : Well I think it’s important now because, in the medical profession and particularly in the way that politics have developed, the conflict of measurably and what they call evidence-based medicine has grown. I.e medicine is becoming conducted according to a succession of targets that need to be to be met.
Now that’s great for people who want balanced budgets and great for governments who want to reduce costs, but its not so great for the patient who no longer feels that he has a proper relationship with the doctor.
The relationship is crucial, because we can demonstrate that it is at least as important to the clinical outcome, to the effectiveness of any treatment, than the treatment itself.
So the relationship that you as a health professional have with your patient will dictate to a very large degree whether they recover quicker, whether they have more or less pain, whether they sue you in the event of a medical accident. That’s been established and we have the evidence for that.
Literally the way that people speak to a patient will dictate whether or not they will resort to the law if something goes wrong.
So it is crucially important to the overall outcome. It’s not just as the medicine based medical people believe – it’s not as simple as ‘does this drug work in that situation?’ Its about how to deliver it.
I have this wonderful anecdote. I was talking to somebody that works in the pharmaceutical testing area, of the pharmaceutical industry, and they talked about some of the people on their staff, and said that they have one woman who they had to get rid of because she was so pleasant when she dished out anything that she got good results regardless of what she was issuing – whether it was a commercial drug – and it complete skewed the responses.
And that’s what we’re interested in – we want that to be a part of health care. We want people to become good placebos.
Michael : Now you’ve started talking about it, but could you tell us some more of the key points from the book?
Garner : OK, well I should say that probably – it’s not just as I say the theory and the practice of effective communication, but it’s putting it into a structure, so that what we have here is a three-part consultation model.
There are several consultation models out there that students are taught, but surprisingly few of them have an outcome beyond simply, following instructions, or following advice, or taking the medicine. Where as what this is about is orientating patients to become healthful people, getting them to think in terms of taking responsibility for their own health, and working in partnership with the doctors. The practitioners, the doctors, whoever they happen to be working for.
So it’s not just a practitioner centred, or a patients centred, but sees it as an equal relationship that’s unique in the mainstream health care business. It’s what we call Komei – Komei is a word often the European origin of the word ‘communication’. The prefix Ko, means ‘coming together’ and Mei, means ‘Change.’
So medical NLP regards the therapeutic relationship as a partnership, a little coming together in order to effect change.
Michael : I’m going to ask the next question in two ways. The question is – What would you like your audience to do differently as a result of reading it? But if we can go small-chunk, somebody has just read the book – what would you like they, as an individual to do differently?
Garner : Well I’d be very happy if an individual who was new to this way of thinking differently actually applied things a little differently and discovered that they can actually make a positive change in the life of one of the patients rather than having to perscribe more drugs, or knock them onto long term talking cures, or other specialists – That they’re prepared to experiment and to discover that patients do respond enormously well to these techniques.
And the smallest ones, the simplest ones are often the ones that have the biggest impact on people.
Michael : And, big-chunk, what would you like to see different in the health service or the way the country deals with health?
Garner : I did an interview with a Canadian magazine quite recently that sent someone over, and I did what I think was an extremely level-headed interview, and I was not making any wild claims or anything.
And when the interview came out it began ‘Garner Thompson has said out to change western medicine single-handed.’
Well my first thoughts were ‘Well, I hope no-one I know sees that.’ and my second thought was ‘Hang on a minute, maybe we can!’
I think that really what I would like – and there’s this chapter in the book about thinking, and thinking about thinking, which is what I think is very important – and it’s one of the contributions that people like Richard Bandler have made to health generally.
I would like people that read Magic in Practice to recognize that no matter how good or bad their own performance is at this point, that it can still be improved.
And that also, and I think that this is hugely important, is for people to learn that its OK sometimes for people to not know what they have to do in the moment. The evidence shows that health professionals will often act because they feel that they have to do something, and it can be the wrong act.
Where as if they were to sit back and allow the patient to talk, for example, beyond the eighteen seconds that the average GP is supposed to allow their patients to talk.
When we’re open to new information we begin to think differently and we keep updating our skills thats when we then do what human beings do best, and that’s that we learn, and then we teach other people what we’ve learned.
Michael : Before I ask for your contact details, is there anything else that you’d like to either emphasise from what you’ve said before, or bring up new, which you think is important as far as health is concerned?
Garner : Well Michael, I would like, obviously for people to buy the book, and to buy the book and to try things out for themselves. You see, it’s a practical manual as well as an informative text. It’s there for people to actually test these things out for themselves.
I don’t want anybody to do anything or believe anything just from my say-so. I want them to try it out for themselves, and I couldn’t ask for anything better than they give it a fair trial.
It was also very much written for people like yourself, people who experience, who are thoughtful, and who will actually look at it. I think what I really wanted to do was to transfer, because I’ve got about fifteen years full-time experience, and maybe twenty-five years part-time experience, in therapy – I wanted to put across some of the practical on the ground stuff, because what we do have a lot of is people who write books but have no practical experience.
They get their license and become experts, but actually haven’t any experience in the field.
So it’s about the practical side of things. I appreciate your comments enormously. It’s going to take a while. We do have quite a strong following of the book, but it’s going to take a while for it to break out in the same way.
Michael : Before I ask for your contact details, is there anything else that you’re doing that you’d like to give a plug to?
Garner : We do run training courses, specifically for the health professions. These are duel license courses, that is the license for NLP health practitioners, and there’s also the license from the Society of NLP, one of Richard Bandlers’. So people have their duel-licensing.
Otherwise all of the focus and concentration is just on actually getting word out about the book.
Michael : OK, would you like to give your contact details, you website, phone number, whatever you want?
Garner : The main medical NLP site is Index
We have, which is a little bit different from most books, we have an interactive website which is involved and directly after people who bought the book. And that’s Magic In Practice – Introducing Medical NLP – The Art and Science of Language in Healing and Health
And if you’re American and spell Practice with an S, that will also get you there.
And that is so people can interact, and also ask any questions or contributing experiences, its meant to be a practical, interactive site,.
Any queries that people have, they can email me at [email protected] or they can call me direct on 07973892877
Michael : Thank you very much indeed.
Garner :Michael, thank you very much, and thank you for your time.
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