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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

Hypnosis as a Treatment for Thumb Sucking

Most parents instinctively want to shield and protect their young children from teasing. This can be difficult to do when a young child has habits that seem unusual or, even worse, “babyish.” Such teasing can make a child sad or withdrawn, or dread school rather than being happy or excited to go. In extreme cases, it can create lasting difficulties as the child matures into adolescence or even adulthood.

One such behavior is thumb sucking. Many, if not most, children suck their thumbs in infancy and early childhood, but this behavior usually disappears by the age of three or so. Sometimes, however, this habit continues as the child grows — and on occasion persists into elementary school, making the child susceptible to ridicule from classmates.

Many solutions have been suggested for this problem, but few have been successful. Dr. David Grayson, a Parsippany dentist and hypnotherapist, has had dramatic success in the use of hypnosis to help children stop sucking their thumbs. That success is documented in a case study published in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, a peer-reviewed publication.

According to Grayson, hypnosis is a totally natural and completely harmless method of helping a child to stop sucking his thumb. While often misunderstood and characterized as “mind control,” hypnosis is in fact a very natural phenomenon. The human mind has two aspects: conscious and unconscious (or subconscious). The conscious mind is the one we access as we interact with the world; the unconscious mind is where habits, and other thoughts we are unaware of, dwell. In hypnosis, by reaching the unconscious mind, unwelcome or destructive behaviors can be dealt with and discontinued. It’s important to note that clinical hypnosis cannot make anyone do something that they would not do in the normal, conscious state.

In a session with a child, which normally lasts less than 30 minutes, he or she is first brought into a state of hypnosis called a trance. While the child is in that state, the hypnotherapist has a conversation in terms the child can easily understand on why thumb sucking is not an activity that is helpful. Then the child is brought safely back to a conscious state.

Nail biting can also be addressed through hypnosis. This behavior, which affects both children and adults, is often a stress release from tension. Through hypnosis, the individual’s unconscious mind can be reached and taught that nail biting is counterproductive to his overall health. The hypnotherapist can also offer a way to prevent this habit from continuing, usually by substituting a positive mental image for the habit such as one in which nails are neatly manicured or polished instead of rough and bitten down to the quick.

Dr. David N. Grayson, DDS, ABHD, is a practicing dentist and hypnotherapist. He is certified by and has achieved consultant status with the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH), the largest organization of health professionals who use hypnosis in their practices. A diplomate of the American Board of Hypnosis in Dentistry (ABHD), he is one of only 17 in the world to have achieved that status. To contact him, call 973-984-8020 or email [email protected] Visit

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