The problem with the word ‘hypnosis’ is that it’s often used to point to both the way in which the process is induced and its results and methods.
To make matters complicated there’s the fact that all hypnosis is ultimately self-hypnosis. This is because it is the individual who is making hypnosis happen, whether a hypnotist is actually guiding the process or not.
Let’s start by explaining what a typical hypnotherapy session consists of. Here follows the main stages of a session:
The Induction is the way hypnosis is created. These can vary greatly. Some hypnotherapists think of the induction as the very beginning of a session when a client is induced into a very light hypnotic state followed by the deepening.
The deepening is often seen as the time when a deeper state of hypnosis is reached.
Other hypnotherapists think of the induction as the part of the session during which a medium state of hypnosis is facilitated in the client and the deepening is either seen as simply part of it or as an optional element that allows the client to enter a deeper state of hypnotic ‘trance’.
I don’t think it is particularly important which way we interpret it, as both understandings produce the same effect.
VARIOUS TECHNIQUES TO ACHIEVE PRE-DECIDED GOALS
After the induction / deepening phase comes the interesting part. This is when various techniques are used to achieve the goals that are pre-determined by the client.
The general public may assume that suggestions are all that is used in this part of the session but this would be a gross oversimplification.
There are a plethora of techniques skilled hypnotherapists use to create change in clients which are more or less interactive.
Hypnotherapy is less a science and more of an art, because each client is different and a good therapist will use specific techniques for specific clients at specific times even if the general procedure might be very similar for similar ailments.
This is to ensure the therapy is well timed and fits the client’s specific personality and needs.
After this part is over the client is guided back to ‘normal conscious awareness’ and helped to transition smoothly to everyday external reality.
This structure is always used in any type of hypnosis although the length of each phase may differ.e that suggestions are all that is used in this part of the session but this would be a gross oversimplification.
The next most useful way I can categorise hypnosis is to divide it into ‘guided’ and ‘unguided’ . Let us look at ‘guided’ hypnosis first.
If you want to succeed in anything in life you need to know how to influence your mind. You need to know how to make your mind do what you want it to do, not what you don’t.
Have you ever noticed how we are surrounded by messages like 'Don't drink and drive' 'Don't forget your passport' 'Don't touch the button! 'Don't eat junk!' And how many times have you have ended up doing the very thing you were told not to? Why is that? The answer lies in understanding how the mind processes information.
For many years I have tried to explain to my clients how to successfully influence their mind but only recently I have come across an explanation that is both simple and accurate. I will borrow and adapt Marisa Peer's framework to make it very clear how to effectively communicate with your own mind.
When we are blocked in an area of our lives it often is due to the fact that we feel safer that way. We may feel unhappy but that is easier to deal with than our fear of the unknown. We begin to change when the pain we experience in staying stuck is bigger than the anticipated pain of change.
A lot of fear comes down to our negative core beliefs : deeply held beliefs acquired some time in the past due to painful experiences. Becoming conscious and challenging these beliefs is the first step in the process of change.
For a moment, think about something you would really like to do or be right now but don’t feel able to. When you’ve got that, write it down. Do that now. Maybe you have always wanted to be an artist so write down “I am a capable and talented artist”.
Now, in all probability a voice in your head has just emerged to criticize this statement bringing up all sorts of reasons why this is either impossible or a bad idea. Positive affirmations can give us a sense of safety and hope if we let them but at first you will probably feel they sound fake, embarassing or not right. No surprise there. If you have spent all your life bludgeoning yourself with negative beliefs such as “I am worthless” or “I am not good enough” or “I must be perfect to deserve success” anything else will sound unfamiliar and syrupy or cheesy . So saying to yourself ” I am lovable just as I am” or “I am capable and confident” will surely sound untrue at first.
The problem with not accepting a belief because it doesn’ t sound right though is that feelings are a result of thoughts and if you want to change a feeling you have got to change the thought first. It’s a bit like the idea of “fake it til you make it”. You can’t wait to feel it to believe it, you gotta believe it to feel it! Luckily there are some ways to get around this obstacle, but all of these do involve a certain willingness to suspend judgement and take a leap of faith, as well as engage our rational mind doubting limiting old beliefs.
So what is that critical monster in your head saying when you tell it you already are what you want to be ?( After saying your affirmation: i.e. “I am ok just as I am” )
Listen to the objections that come your way. What s the cruel voice saying inside your head ? “so you’re ok as you are… ah ah sure you are!”, “who are you kidding?”, “You are ugly”, “You will never change”, “You can’t do anything right”, “No-one will ever love you unless you are perfect”, etc etc… You will be amazed at the rotten things you can come up with. Write them down. These are your personal negative core beliefs.
Once you have written them down you can start having a good look at where these beliefs come from: Mom and dad? Your school bully? The boy/girl you were in love with when you were ten? Teachers that pushed you too hard? Your little jealous sister ? Scan your blurts for possible sources. Time travel back into your life in five year increments and list by name who influenced you the most in each block of time.
Once you have identified these challenge their opinions. What self serving reason could they have had to have done or said what they did do or say? How did their own worldview influence them ? What did they believe about themselves ? What messages did they grow up with ? Remember this is not about blaming or condoning, just understanding and distinguishing their beliefs from what yours would be if you hadn’t accepted theirs as true. If there is still a lot of emotional energy involved in recalling these memories you might have to release it first so you can forgive them and yourself and move on.
Keep in mind that it is also possible your negative beliefs may come from subtle non direct messages received from your environment or from an experience of something that happened to you where others were not directly involved:
Maybe you felt different because of a situation you found yourself in; maybe you were abandoned by a significant other; maybe you fell ill and became isolated; maybe you were born with something that set you apart from others and you yourself came up with the negative conclusion that you were not Ok just as you were: the possibilities are endless and very personal.
Whatever your monster is, after it has been brought up to the light of day you can start working on challenging its critical voice and changing those negative beliefs that keep you stuck and unhappy. If you would like help with a practical cognitive behavioral approach to this, read this article about “how to get rid of negative core beliefs”.
It has often been said that one of the hardest things to tackle is drug addiction. However there are ways to help people who are addicted to drugs and one of these is to use hypnosis. Mental health declines when substance abuse is present. The problem though is that any addiction treatment needs to take into consideration the underlying causes for drug abuse, and not just treat the symptoms.
Every single behaviour we engage in as humans has a function. This includes dysfunctional behaviour. So, drug addiction is a psychological response to trying to meet a need that hasn't been met in a functional way - a way that ultimately works. Therefore any behavioural therapy and any treatment program that tries to tackle drug addiction needs to look at the underlying unmet needs the individual is trying (and failing) to meet.
The drug is only the tip of the iceberg. It tells you the person is in pain and is trying to 'get away' from it in any way they can - which usually results in some kind of self harming behaviour such as any addictive behaviour.
Saying "I am an addict' is a traditional first step to tackle drug and alcohol abuse. Although this approach is based on the idea that we have to admit we have a problem if we hope to overcome it, the problem with this approach, in my opinion, is that it puts a label on the person which is difficult to shake: in fact it drives the person to see the drug abuse as part of their identity and this can be a double edge sword.
Although physical addiction does exist, it is far less important and much easier to overcome than addictive thinking. It is addictive thinking that keeps the addict going back to the drug, no matter what the drug may be: alcohol, sex, gambling, shopping, heroine etc. Of course recovery and health does start with admitting that one has a problem and has not been able to resolve it on their own. The first step in any assisted treatment is to want to get better and to want the help offered. Nobody can be helped that does not want to help themselves.
However, instead of labelling oneself as an addict I find a much better approach is to see ourselves as a fallible human being who is trying to find a way towards psychological healing by engaging in a way of thinking and behaving that ultimately is not going to give us the result we crave, but, in fact, the exact opposite. In other words, someone struggling with addiction is a person trying to solve a problem using a strategy that does not work. The therapist's job is to show them a strategy that does.
Before using hypnosis or any hypnotic trance the client and therapist need to be on the same page. A comprehensive interview needs to take place to find out the client's personal history, what drives them to act out and what they are trying to avoid by engaging in the addictive behaviour. It must become very clear to the therapist what function of the drug has for the client. This is important because if you take away a crutch but don't teach the person to walk they will fall.
As in every hypnotherapy session, the suffer needs to be informed and given a through explanation of the process. Then trance will be induced, deepened and used by giving detailed suggestions geared towards cessation of the destructive habit. It is important to know that, given the complexity of each person's underlying causes for the conditions, the process can be lengthy.
An exploration of the person's past traumas is often necessary so that healing can take place. Only after therapy is administered in this way suggestions can be used to make willing subjects give up their addiction for the foreseeable future, provided their motivation to change was strong.
The great advantage of this approach is that it is not a generalised approach. The therapy is tailored to the specific individual and adapted to the client's specific situation. People get addicted to drugs for all kinds of personal reasons and might be at different stages in their process of healing, and therefore therapy can be tailored to where they are in their personal journey.
It is well known that hypnotherapy can be highly effective in treating people with an addiction to cigarettes. In the same way other addictions can be treated very effectively because the same principle is at work : hypnosis bypasses the critical conscious mind and deals directly with the subconscious.
Clinical trials have showed that out of ten individuals that tried hypnosis to treat their drug addiction , all of them stayed drug free for six months after their sessions came to an end. However, after two years had passed, seven out of ten stayed drug free while the other three went back to taking drugs.
Obviously these results are very positive, and while results may not show up immediately , after a few sessions it has been proven that people stay clean for an average of two years or more.
There are some factors that are going to influence whether an addict is going to respond positively to this approach. First of all, as already mentioned, there must be a strong motivation to stay free of drugs and a willingness to try hypnotherapy.
One of the first things you should ask yourself , if you have a drug problem, is whether you are willing to admit that you do have a problem and if you would be comfortable to undergo therapy sessions that can be emotionally challenging. Also, you need to have outside support, such as, for example, community group support in addition to hypnotherapy.
Individual treatment can be intense but highly effective. You could see a hypnotherapist as well as a counsellor / psychotherapist at the same time and tackle the problem with their joined support. It is very important when you do this that you are truthful and you collaborate fully with them. They are bound by confidentiality and they will be able to help you more if you answer their questions with honesty.
Hypnotherapy is very helpful in the treatment of addictions and it has been found to be highly effective in treating people with all sorts of issues. The only prerequisite is to be open to it working.
Whether you decide to go for individual therapy, one session is not going to enough. A few sessions will be necessary but you will be able to feel the results fairly quickly compared with traditional talking therapy or group therapy, within the fist few weeks after you have started seeing a hypnotherapist.
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