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'I realised how profoundly the mind affects the body'

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Anne Marshall tells us how healing the mind can help heal the body.

Anne Marshall practises what she preaches. Author of The Health Factor - Coach Yourself to Better Health, she urges readers to take control of their wellbeing. After 20 years in the NHS, she decided to study clinical hypnosis and life coaching and now runs a private practice engaging in health coaching, clinical hypnosis and emotional freedom techniques (EFT), and offers seminars throughout the UK.

“After years of caring for patients in the NHS, I realised how profoundly the mind affects the body,” she says. “I’ve seen people given a bad prognosis and just shut down. But I’ve also seen people recover from extreme trauma or a poor prognosis using the power of their mind to help them heal.”

After working as a staff nurse and in critical care and neonatal nursing, she went on to lecture in acute and critical care nursing at the University of Hertfordshire. She then became clinical nurse specialist at a large medical company, teaching nurses how to use life support equipment.

Enchanted by the potential of treating both mind and body, she studied at the London College of Clinical Hypnosis, attaining her diploma in 1998 and her postgraduate diploma in 2000. She felt her earlier career helped. “It’s easier for nurses to train as a hypnotherapist because of its clinical nature and application,” she says.

After setting up her practice as a clinical hypnotherapist in 1997, she became one of the first students in the UK to gain formal qualifications in life, performance and corporate coaching, which was pioneering at the time. “Life coaching was new. It was coming over from the US, but not many people called themselves professional coaches back then.”

Ms Marshall believes the NHS could benefit from integrating coaching skills with traditional nursing roles.

“The NHS is based on a ‘tell me the problem and we’ll fix it’ approach. Practitioners tend to be tellers and fixers, and that is 100% appropriate most of the time. But there is a growing number of people who have chronic ill health due to poor lifestyle choices, for whom telling and advising isn’t enough to bring about change. Giving these patients a health promotion leaflet and expecting them to change is seldom effective.

“Health and wellness coaching offers a proven way of shifting the mindset of those patients, making them value their health and take a greater responsibility for maintaining the optimal level of wellbeing that is realistic for them. Coaching is highly solution focused and non-judgemental. It’s about getting patients to connect their personal values to good health, to raise their awareness of what they must do to move towards better health and asking them to commit to taking the steps needed to achieve change.”

She says even when the nurse’s role is to give information, it’s still worth using coaching tools. For example, a diabetes nurse may point patients in the direction of easily accessible resources and encourage them to participate much more in their own care planning, with supervision.

Although Ms Marshall’s clinic is in Lyme Regis, she often conducts EFT and coaching sessions by phone or webcam; she says if clients are comfortable with it, it makes it easier to focus on them. And although EFT is not clinically proven to work, Ms Marshall believes it is effective for adults and children. “EFT with children is a delight. You can teach them routines as part of a fun game; parents are usually keen to learn how to use these techniques too.”

Ms Marshall is writing advanced training materials to help health professionals use coaching skills and offers CPD seminars on hypnosis, health coaching and neurolinguistic programming. But despite the huge steps, it is often the little things that make her most proud: “Like the couch potato who was overwhelmed with limiting beliefs about why he couldn’t exercise, but who now gets off a bus stop farther away from his job and goes up an extra flight of stairs at work.”

As she says: “If you can help people to begin the process of change with baby steps, they will be taking confident strides before you know it. That is so rewarding.”

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