Both massage and hypnotherapy are well established therapies, yet they are less commonly combined. However, integration of therapeutic suggestion and body work, allows the body to explore, address and release blocks, anxieties and traumas, engaging the subconscious mind to better release underlying pain or adverse health effects. Furthermore, where clients store or lock their emotions in their muscles, physical touch can enhance processing beyond talking therapy alone, speeding healing, releasing physical pain and promoting deeper mind-body relaxation.
Some massage therapists already engage guided imagery approaches within their massage therapy, whereas much more can potentially be achieved with a full hypnotherapy-massage approach. Typical areas of work include anxiety, pre/post-surgery, trauma, self-esteem, insomnia, tension headaches, weight management and pain. With the combination of hypnotherapy and massage, the meanings in ‘body metaphors’ can be worked on, both on a psychological and physical level. For instance, the client with shoulder pain may feel they are experiencing the weight of the world on their shoulders, the client with a sore back may feel they are lacking structure or support in their life, and the client with a painful, tense jaw, may be biting back unspoken words.
There are several key factors to consider when combining massage with hypnotherapy, the primary consideration is an appropriate level of training. Thus in addition to appropriate massage qualifications, relevant hypnotherapy training is important. Although hypnotherapy is not regulated in the UK, there are Hypnotherapy National Occupational Standards and the Hypnotherapy Core Curriculum which outlines a syllabus to address theoretical and practical knowledge, understanding and skills and required minimum 120 classroom hours (450 total learning hours including home study). Where both therapies are provided by the same therapist, it is essential that the therapist is trained in both massage and hypnotherapy, and, ideally, has more experience of one therapy when introducing the other.
There is, as yet, no universally agreed definition of what hypnosis is. However, a widely accepted one, from the American Psychological Association is: “An altered state of awareness characterized by deep relaxation, susceptibility to suggestions, and changes in perception, memory, motivation, and self-control.” …this definition, however, is focused towards psychological effects and does little to reflect the body of evidence relating to the mind-body connection.
As with massage therapy (and perhaps even more so), rapport is an essential component throughout every stage of hypnotherapy. Rapport can be enhanced by many things, including actively listening, timing massage strokes to the client’s breath rate, and matching the therapist’s breath to the client breath. This enables the therapist to first match and then lead the client into a calmer state, by slowing and calming their own breath, for the client to follow. Indeed, the state of hypnosis may itself be created by the timing of massage strokes, either with or without verbal suggestions. Alternatively, hypnosis can be verbally generated prior to the massage commencing or once it has started. This generation of trance may either be formal or by the use of conversational hypnosis.
During a hypno-massage session, the therapist is most likely to use ‘suggestions’ and ‘metaphors’ rather than ‘techniques’, talking to the client and giving them suggestions without requiring feedback from them directly, works better with them being in a ‘massage position’. Some hypnotherapy techniques can require physical movement (such as parts therapy) or can be ‘negatively focused’ (such as aversion therapy), so keeping the hypnotherapy more suggestion based and positively focused generally works best within the massage environment.
Towards the end of the session, the massage may conclude prior to the hypnosis concluding, vice versa, or even both conclude at the same time. Where formal hypnotherapy has been applied, it is good practice to give a formal ‘re-alerting’ protocol to ensure that the client is fully revived and all unwanted suggestions (such as for limb heaviness during the session) are completely removed, together with appropriate suggestions for well-being.
Whether for a single relaxation session or something more complex such as trauma, hypnotherapy and massage can work very well together, enhancing each other’s work, and adding another dimension to each therapy. Thus, an integrated approach offers the therapist and client a highly focused and beneficial treatment for the mind and body (as well as a broader market of potential clients).
We have had a number of massage therapists (and sports massage therapists) complete our hypnotherapy training, and we’d love to welcome more hypno-massage therapists into the HypnoTC fold! So, if you have any questions relating to this blog or the subject of hypno-massage, or you’re a massage therapist looking to incorporate hypnotherapy into your practice, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks