Let’s start by dispelling some myths. Hypnotherapy doesn’t involve someone, swinging a watch in front of your eyes with the aim of making you do something embarrassing or foolish. It doesn’t involve entering some form of magical state. Moreover, it doesn’t involve entering a trance-like state where you have no control over your own actions, or in which you might be stuck in forever. A person won’t go “mad” from simply being hypnotised. A hypnotherapist can’t make you do something you do now want to to. A decent hypnotherapist should not suggest taking you back under hypnosis to some disturbing past life event you don’t want to remember. It’s not dangerous. In it’s proper use, it is considered an extremely safe therapy.
When someone is “hypnotised”, they simply find themselves in a relaxed “altered” state of awareness. This state of awareness increases the power of suggestibility of that person. This means, they are more likely to believe in and therefore take on board as their own, certain positive suggestions. When used with additional therapy strategies and techniques, these strategies and techniques can be taken on board used most effectively with the client. Hypnosis is essentially therefore a cognitive state, a relaxed state of increased awareness that can be said to be related to belief and imagination.
Hypnotherapy is a collaborative process between you and your therapist. In order to get the most out of it you need to be fully engaged, present and motivated. Because it is a collaborative process, you should feel able to discuss you goals and aims openly with your therapist. You and your therapist should agree on a practical, achievable and coherent treatment plan. Once you have a plan in place, you will set out on your journey through the therapy using powerful relaxation techniques, as well as suggestions, imagery, visualisation and mental rehearsal to work towards achieving your goals.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.
It’s often used to treat anxiety and depression but has been proven to be an effective treatment for other mental and physical health problems such as:
- specific phobias;
- panic disorder (panic attacks);
- weight management;
- eating disorders;
- addiction; and
- other long-term psychosomatic conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
CBT is a therapy used by many counsellors and psychologists. It is an evidence-based treatment (that is to say that it’s efficacy has been tried and tested and information about this has been documented). It is based on the on the idea that a person’s thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are all interconnected. Negative thoughts and feelings can (and often do) lead to negative behaviours which can then be perpetuated in the form of a negative cycle. This can trap a person in a downward vicious spiral.
CBT aims to help people break the cycle by learning to cope more positively with overwhelming thoughts and feelings. It involves really looking at the negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours a person engages in; what perpetuates those negative thoughts and feelings (and therefore behaviours); and, how to change these negative patterns of thinking/feeling so as to improve the way a person thinks/feels/behaves. The main aim is to replace any negative thoughts/feelings/behaviours with more positive and useful ways of thinking/feeling/behaving.
Unlike some of the other talking therapies available, CBT very much focusses on resolving someone’s current problems or issues. Whilst you may talk with your therapist about what’s happened in the past, or what might have led to why you have your current problems or issues, the past won’t be the focus of your therapy. CBT grounds itself in looking for practical ways to improve your state of mind, the way you think, feel and behave on a day-to-day basis, seeking to ensure that improvements are fast and quantifiable.
CBT differs from many other ways of working in psychotherapy because it’s:
- pragmatic – helping to identify specific problems from the outset and aiming to solve them;
- collaborative – your therapist won’t tell you what to do; they’ll work with you to find suitable workable solutions for you to enable you to resolve your current difficulties;
- highly structured – rather than talking freely about you and your life, you and your therapist will discuss specific problems and you will together set goals for you to achieve;
- focused on current problems – it’s mainly concerned with how you think, feel and act now rather than trying to resolve past issues (which often can’t be resolved because they are in the past1); and
- solution focused – it also looks to quantify progress along the way, ensuring your end goal is reached by following a series of smaller goals which are specific, manageable, achievable, realistic and time specific.
CBT aims to stop negative cycles such as these by breaking down things that make you feel bad, anxious or scared. By clearly identifying the problems and then making them more manageable, CBT can help you stop or change your negative thought patterns and ways of behaving and improve the way you think, feel and act.
The aim of CBT is to help you find your way to a point where you can manage things on your own, without the help of a therapist.
Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CBH)
CBH combines the essential and important elements of CBT, with hypnosis. This aims to give you the benefits imparted by the information, understanding and practical tools found in CBT that will help you to remedy whatever issues are bothering you and to address any feelings of stresses or anxiety. The Hypnotherapy element is a good additional therapy to help you manage stress and anxiety, face your fears in the safety of the therapy room and to help you visualise overcoming the issues you go to see your therapist to resolve.
CBH is an evidence-based therapy which focuses on the most up-to-date theories and techniques of hypnotherapy, psychology, psychotherapy, behavioural science and neuroscience to combat and reverse any negative feelings or destructive behaviours.
CBH is a fully integrated approach to treatment of stress and anxiety and therefore it is becoming the preferred approach to clinical hypnosis. It is recommended by the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the treatment of stress and anxiety.
The benefits of using CBH (backed up by solid evidence and comprehensive research) include:
- shortening treatment times;
- enabling you to experience difficult situations through mental imagery/visualisation so you can experience them in practice before having to face them in real life;
- teaching you how to really induce a state of relaxation for yourself whenever you need it;
- assisting to nurture the client/therapist relationship;
- promoting on-going self-care and the grown of tools you can use after the therapy has ended to manage any difficulties you experience; and
- you have an increased opportunity of receiving and understanding the suggestions your therapist makes to you when you are in a relaxed state.
Mindfulness is derived from ancient eastern meditation and breath-focussed practices that has been translated to fit more easily with Western logic and ideals. It’s aim is to focus attention not on past regrets or future worries but simply on the present moment. It involves developing a set of simple yet powerful daily practices that can help break the cycle of unhappiness, stress, anxiety and mental exhaustion and promote genuine wellbeing. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) revolves around a straightforward form of mindfulness meditation which takes just a few minutes a day for the full benefits to be felt. It has been clinically proven to be as effective as drugs for depression and it is recommended by NICE. It also works for people who are simply struggling to keep up with the constant demands of the modern world. It focuses on promoting joy and peace rather than banishing unhappiness. It is designed to help ordinary people boost their happiness and confidence levels, whilst also reducing anxiety, stress and irritability. I find it works excellently for not only helping with all of the above but as a secure relapse prevention measure and aim to make it part of any treatment plan where appropriate.