The Pregnant Man: And Other Cases from a Hypnotherapist’s Couch

A student bound for a prestigious writing program is suddenly and inexplicably incapable of reading a single word. A staid society matron, looking to overcome her anxiety about flying, reveals a daredevil past. A young woman trying to come to terms with her sister’s suicide is hampered by a poltergeist’s mischievous interventions. A man who sets out to end an addiction to nicotine instead develops a false pregnancy.

Can hypnotherapy heal a troubled mind? Why is it so compelling and controversial? In The Pregnant Man: And Other Cases from a Hypnotherapist’s Couch, Dr. Deirdre Barrett describes how she has used the fascinating discipline known as hypnotherapy to treat these patients and many others. Tracing the voyage of seven patients through her practice, she demonstrates how hypnosis can accelerate and magnify the benefits of psychotherapy–and occasionally its dangers. Several of Dr. Barrett’s patients evince disquieting symptoms–hallucinations, multiple personalities, and more–that hypnotic explorations reveal as variations on the universal themes of love, bereavement, envy, and shame. Other patients bring to her couch more mundane complaints–a desire to quit smoking, fear of flying–and in the course of their therapy uncover surprising dramas behind them.

The Pregnant Man follows Dr. Barrett’s personal evolution as a hypnotherapist, even as it illuminates the art and science of a branch of psychotherapy all too often misunderstood by the general public. She explains how hypnotherapy can offer a deeper window into the workings of the mind and offers expert guidance on deciding whether hypnotherapy is right for you.

From the Trade Paperback edition.Deirdre Barrett doesn’t use a gold watch and a cape, but other than that, her daily routine at Harvard Medical School is right out of a carnival sideshow. She puts people into trances, suggests how they might overcome or think differently about their problems, and snaps them back out again. With some people, if her word is to be believed, it works quite dramatically: witness the chronic asthmatic, addicted to smoking, who quit the weed–permanently–after a single session with Dr. Barrett. But, as she admits, not everyone is so lucky. Some people are much easier to hypnotize than others, and even those who go glassy-eyed quite readily don’t always end up cured. The range of ailments that hypnotic suggestion can sometimes help, meanwhile, is as broad as their causal stories are obscure. To Barrett’s credit, The Pregnant Man isn’t much interested in causal theories, preferring to stick close to the details of particular case histories. There are seven of those stories here–and that format, plus the title, make comparisons to Oliver Sacks inevitable. While she writes clearly and engagingly, Barrett doesn’t quite match up to Sacks’s limpid brilliance and manic erudition. Nevertheless, the subject matter is interesting, and her treatment of it informative. –Richard Farr

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3 comments for “The Pregnant Man: And Other Cases from a Hypnotherapist’s Couch

  1. Szanton@fas.harvard.edu
    February 4, 2014 at 11:52 PM

    A deep and enchanting book, yet easy to read 0

  2. Deb
    February 5, 2014 at 12:17 AM

    Hypnotic reading! 0

  3. Anonymous
    February 5, 2014 at 12:45 AM

    0

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