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The Story Inspires Each Of Us To Discover Our Own True Calling In Life ‒ Interview With Meera Duncan

As a therapist breaking new ground with her world-renowned treatment protocol for Bipolar Disorder, published author, and founder of Environmental Stress-Targeted Therapy, Meera Duncan inspires each of us to search for our own personal true calling in life.

Meera Duncan, Clinical Counselling Hypnotherapist & Author

Tell us about your journey to become a Registered Clinical Counselling Hypnotherapist? It reads like a nightmare-inducing horror film turned inspirational memoir!

Haha, it really does! March 24th, 1998: the day deceptively began like any other day, overrun with a barrage of mundane morning routines a typical Mom experiences on her way to work. Just another day, right? Wrong!

It suddenly transformed into a living nightmare when the elevator rapidly plummeted and freefell 6.5 floors at my office, then went up and dropped another 5.5 floors into the parkade. The doctors were shocked that I survived two falls of this magnitude and I sustained severe permanent injuries. The list is long…severe concussion, severe cervical strain (whiplash), nerve damage, fractured jaw, herniated, bulging, and shortened discs in my neck, upper back, and lower back, and post-traumatic syringomyelia (a fluid-filled cyst in the centre of my spinal cord from T-4 to T-11 damaging nerves and possibly causing permanent paralysis and causing the pressure to continuously build and fluctuate within my head on a daily basis). Over a decade of procedures, medications, experimental treatments, and therapies but nothing changed. The excruciating pain levels were locked in a continuous debilitating loop, rotating throughout my countless injuries on a daily basis. Following the accident I was also diagnosed with PTSD and clinical depression from the searing daily pain levels and emotional trauma. I struggled through eleven years of what I can only describe as sheer misery and anguish. It was a dark time.

It was hypnosis that changed everything. Hypnosis reduced my chronic pain levels by eighty percent, resolved my clinical depression and PTSD, and even though my team of doctors and specialists emphatically stated that I would never again work in any capacity I knew that I must go back to school to become a Hypnotherapist. If hypnosis could resolve the searing daily pain levels from my permanent injuries, resolve my depression and PTSD, what couldn’t it do? Who couldn’t it help?

The possibilities fascinated me and a new journey began.

What is the origin story of Environmental Stress-Targeted Therapy, the very first psychotherapeutic treatment protocol for patients with Bipolar disorder that utilizes hypnotherapy?

I opened my private practice over a decade ago. A client walked into my office a few years ago seeking treatment. She had recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and was seeking psychotherapy that incorporated hypnotherapy to reduce her high levels of anxiety and stress, and to possibly reduce the duration and severity of her manic and depressive episodes.

Since I had no previous experience or specific training utilizing hypnosis for a patient with bipolar disorder, I searched through hundreds of textbooks and studies in an attempt to locate past uses of hypnosis for this type of symptomology. But I couldn’t find any such treatment, therapeutic model, or case study. So, I began to craft my own treatment protocol, incorporating fundamental theories established in hypnotherapy and hypnosis, and discussed this experimental approach with her. She chose to commit to the therapeutic treatment plan that I had created, which, on a theoretical level, was quite basic in its ideology. We proceeded along a plan of combined counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, and hypnosis to achieve her therapeutic goals.

We identified the specific traumatic events in her life, in addition to the triggers and associations connected to her first episode and other significant episodes that were manic, hypomanic, or depressive in nature.

After only three months of weekly treatment, her episodes were less severe in nature, reduced in number, and more manageable, her climatized and acute levels of stress and anxiety were greatly reduced on a daily basis.

These initial results far exceeded my expectations. How could treatment for such a complex mental illness, a treatment model in its most basic form, prove so effective and life-altering for this patient?

I began to immerse myself in research on bipolar disorder, and eventually I stumbled upon an answer that leaped straight off the neatly typed page and straight into my consciousness: In case study after case study, there always seemed to be an external stressor—a traumatic event—that preceded the initial episode, which was either manic, hypomanic, or depressive and usually occurred during the late teens or early twenties. The components of causation are strongly linked to genetics and a biological chemical imbalance in the brain (an alteration within the neurons and their ability to transmit). Yet, it always seemed to be activated initially by a traumatic event, a significant fight-or-flight stress response. The traumatic event seemed to flip a switch in the genetically predisposed individual, activating the actual onset of the disorder that leads to the chemical changes fostering a manic, depressive, or hypomanic response.

Here my own theory of causation, linking the fight-or-flight stress response to the genetic and biological manifestation of this illness, began to take shape the Environmental Stress Theory of Causation. I identified a sort of switch that flips on, triggered by a powerful stress response that leads to the very first bipolar episode. I then began to develop a treatment protocol that focuses on this environmental stress component, the first to include clinical hypnosis. I have since coined this psychotherapeutic treatment protocol Environmental Stress-Targeted Therapy (EVSTT).

Let’s discuss your book, A Therapist's Guide to Treating Bipolar Disorder with Hypnosis: An Introduction to Environmental Stress-Targeted Therapy. What led you to publish your research?

With the incredible life-altering changes this client experienced from EVSTT I decided to conduct a small clinical research study in 2019 and the evidence-based results were truly shocking! I am truly grateful that I could publish my research and work so it can navigate new treatment options and offer therapists additional insight and awareness when working with clients with Bipolar disorder. It is beginning to alter the landscape of care patients with this disorder receive and offer new hope to achieve healing by reducing episodes, reducing the severity of each episode, increasing the time frame between episodes (maintenance phase), reducing anxiety levels, and increasing our understanding of the complex interplay and role stress and trauma play in Bipolar disorder and its dynamic impact and influence on episodes.

You received an Honorary Doctorate in 2022 of Advanced Studies in Psychology for forming the very first treatment protocol for Bipolar disorder to incorporate clinical hypnosis and target the stress-response associated to manic, hypomanic, or depressive episodes. Can I call you Dr. Meera? On a serious note, how does this recognition affect your work? What’s next?

I am so honored and grateful that my research is being recognized academically. I continue to focus my practice on helping clients to achieve their therapeutic goals and am passionate about the healing benefits therapy offers. Each of us holds the innate inner strength and inner power to heal and change our lives for the better, to learn and grow from our experiences. As a therapist, I am simply the guide that enables this innate ability to heal, and feel privileged for the opportunity to stand in this position for others.

I truly believe that this is my true calling and I wouldn’t remove a moment of suffering from those years of emotional trauma and physical pain ‒ even if I could. This struggle taught me countless profound lessons of healing and compassion that I now share with others who are facing their own personal struggles.

There are truly no limits to what each of us can achieve…

“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you” ‒ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Visit my website for more info!



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