Hypnotherapy can help with a number of different conditions/goals as you may well know. However, to list each and every one of these things would take a lot longer than a single blog post! So, instead of a boring list, here’s a much ‘easier to digest’ breakdown of what hypnotherapy can help with.
We all have habits. They are helpful ‘behavioural shortcuts’ for the mind, so that it doesn’t have to work out how to do something every single time we do it. If you had to work out how to tie your shoe laces each time you put on a pair of shoes, or come up with a routine every time you brushed your teeth, then you would have less time to focus on other things. Most of our habits tend to be functional (e.g. making a cup of tea), or were helpful, at least initially (e.g. having sugar in that cup of tea as it tasted good). However, your life evolves and changes, yet those habits may not change at times when you feel they need to. Hypnotherapy can help with exploring habits and habitual ways of responding, as well as identifying unhelpful or outdated ways and creating new helpful and beneficial responses.
Case study – Stewart
Stewart booked an appointment with Jack, a hypnotherapist, to lose weight. He had put on a stone (14lbs) in weight in the last few months. Jack had a thorough chat with Stewart (therapy consultation or ‘intake’) and found out that Stewart seemed to be doing everything right. He had a healthy diet (mostly), exercised at the gym three times a week, and drank a good amount of water. Questioning deeper though, it seemed that Stewart had changed jobs a couple of months ago. His previous job had been a good walk to and from the station (about an hour of brisk walking each day). Whereas, with his new job, it was local so he drove and parked at work. Stewart hadn’t changed his eating habits, so over the course of a couple of months he had used up less calories being active. They worked out how Stewart could both adjust his diet and increase his exercise (including going for a brisk walk each lunchtime) until his weight normalised, and used hypnotherapy techniques in order to have him engage in building this new (and helpful) habitual behaviour.
As well as habitual ways of responding physically (our behaviours), we can also develop habitual emotional responses to situations. These strong feelings can either be helpful or unhelpful. For example, an unhelpful response to the boss asking for a quick chat could be anxiety, with an overestimation of threat (even in the absence of any supporting evidence). Thus, responding to unsubstantiated feelings rather than facts. Whereas a more helpful response could be feeling curious or having a more rational feeling of concern.
Hypnotherapy is particularly useful at helping clients address unhelpful emotional responses, such as anxiety, anger, guilt and shame. One of the most common anxiety responses a hypnotherapist will help a client move beyond is that of a phobia. These can be anything from the most common, such as fear of heights, spiders or eating in public, to the less common, such as zips, buttons or paperclips. Phobias can range from inconvenient (e.g. not being able to fly anywhere means a client gets less holiday trips abroad), to potentially significant impact on daily functioning (e.g. trying to avoid common things like germs, dogs or birds). People will often take extreme action to avoid contact with their phobia. For example, climbing 30 flights of stairs to avoid using an elevator. Phobias are generally relatively simple for a hypnotherapist to help with, allowing clients to gain insight into their response whilst developing new, more appropriate ways of responding.
Case study – Amelia
“The world does not need balloons!”, said Amelia, when she was talking to Kierren, her local hypnotherapist. Amelia couldn’t remember when her dislike of balloons first started, but it was becoming more of a problem recently, as she had just started a brilliant new job at an amusement park. Balloons, it seemed, were everywhere. She didn’t mind seeing a photo of a balloon, or even a whole bunch on the other side of a window, but would walk the long way around the amusement park if she had to, simply to avoid walking past the balloon-seller. The worst possible part of her day was when a child or adult approached her and they were holding a balloon. She felt clammy, sweaty, wanting to escape but knew she couldn’t, as she was in a customer service role. Kierren was experienced at working with phobias and by the end of the session Amelia felt confident that she could be near a balloon. She was not even worried when Kierren pulled a pack on balloons out of his pocket. He blew up one of the balloons and they played with it for a while, batting it around the room. Then he invited her to blow up her own balloon. She had a brief moment of trepidation, thinking, ‘ooohhh, can I?’ and then realised, ‘Yes, I can!’ and so she did. She came away from the session feeling so proud of herself for taking action, addressing the issue and happy with her new confidence around balloons.
Thoughts and beliefs
Do you ever tell yourself you can’t do something, or that something will be terrible even before you know any facts about the situation? Sometimes our thoughts get in our way. We tell ourselves that we can’t pass our driving test, or lose weight, or get fit, or be happy at work, even before we have tried to do so. Hypnotherapy can help identify, challenge and refocus unhelpful thoughts and beliefs, realistically and positively, focusing on developing a rational and flexible mindset. It’s important to remember the ‘realistic’ part, because although hypnotherapy can create amazing shifts in thoughts and beliefs, it won’t help you to win a national dance championship next week if you have yet to take a single dance lesson! However, if you are a fairly experienced dancer, and it’s your thoughts and beliefs that are holding you back, a hypnotherapy session may be exactly what you need in order to move forwards and go on to win the competition (or at least give it your very best shot).
Case study – Jim
The mere thought of giving even a brief speech at his best mate’s wedding (in 6 months-time), was giving Jim sleepless nights (playing mental videos of it all going wrong), a loss of appetite (he felt nauseous whenever he thought about it), and he had started to bite his nails again (something he did as a child when stressed). He arrived for his hypnotherapy appointment with Sally rather sceptical, but, hopeful. A friend, Julia, who had seemed ‘devoted’ to smoking had recently stopped smoking with Sally’s help. He thought if anyone could make 40-a-day Julia quit smoking they must have a magic wand. Jim was then really surprised when Sally said hypnotherapy was a collaborative therapy and she couldn’t ‘make’ him do anything he didn’t want to do. Together they explored what was going on in his life that was bothering him (work also was rather stressful) and they came up with a strategy for what Jim (a big fan of all things military related) called his ‘mission’. Firstly, Sally taught him some stress management approaches and helped him develop coping strategies for dealing with his work. After putting these into practice, he noticed he was already sleeping better. Motivated by this, at the next session he asked if Sally could help him stop biting his nails. She did! Jim started to look forward to the third session where they would be sorting out his anxiety about giving a speech…
He soon grasped the mental rehearsal and anxiety reduction techniques that Sally introduced to him and he noticed that he started to feel motivated to do a great job. Some months later, Sally got sent a video clip. He had asked a friend to video his best man’s speech and had sent it to her with the simple words ‘mission accomplished!’.
As well as working with the mind’s responses, such as habits, thoughts and emotions, hypnotherapy can help clients with symptoms, working with the mind-body connection. Hypnotherapy can be very helpful in alleviating a wide range of different symptoms, including pain, tension, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), skin conditions, even altering the experience of tinnitus. It can also be helpful in balancing the body’s systems, boosting the immune system and helping people recover after illness or injury.
Case study – Bavesh
Three months ago Bavesh had broken his ankle whilst snowboarding. Generally, an active man, he had sailed through surgery to fix his ankle, and coped well with using crutches to get around, the only problem was Bavesh didn’t like taking pain medication (it made his head feel ‘cloudy’). He decided to visit a local hypnotherapist (Simon) to see if there was anything that could be done to manage the pain without medication. The results surprised him. After the first session, he noticed his pain had already reduced and he was feeling more positive generally. On the second (final) session the hypnotherapist taught Bavesh a pain management technique that he could use himself until he was fully healed and free from pain. He left the session feeling much more comfortable as well as feeling empowered, knowing that he could now manage his own pain.
Performance and sport
An athlete or performer may not wish to, or be able to, physically train or rehearse for hours each day. However, using mental rehearsal, an athlete or performer can explore different aspects of their performance or sport and ‘try out’ different approaches. They can do this in their imagination, in the first person (‘associated’), experiencing it in their imagination as though they were there doing it. They can also experience this in the third person (‘dissociated’), using their imagination to observe themselves. This can be a great way of getting a new perspective or insight. For example, a tennis player may notice, whilst observing themselves, that they are dropping a shoulder during a serve. They can they explore, again in their imagination, what it would be like to serve without dropping their shoulder. Actors and presenters can rehearse their performances, thoroughly preparing by using their imagination, rather than needing a stage or auditorium in which to practice.
Case study – Donna
After a dramatic fall from her horse at a local show (he refused a jump), Donna told her hypnotherapist (Judy) that although she wasn’t aware of any fear or worry whilst show jumping, something just didn’t feel the same anymore. In a hypnosis session with Judy, Donna was able to analyse her current riding style in both first and third person views, and she noticed that she had begun tensing her body, just a little, when approaching a jump. She hadn’t been aware of this tension whilst actually riding, in fact, it hadn’t even shown up on a video a friend had taken. In hypnosis, Judy helped Donna let go of the emotions associated with the fall, addressing her fear of falling in future and then working on her body responses during the approach to show jumps. A week later, Donna did really well in an important show jumping competition. As a result of her success, she carried on using hypnotherapy, from time to time, to explore any issues arising from her riding and competitions.
At times, everyday life can occupy our thoughts so much that we have little time or energy to be creative. We may also have limiting beliefs and unhelpful coping strategies that stop us achieving what we wish to. Hypnotherapy can help open up your creativity. Giving you opportunities to consider different perspectives and approaches, whether this is for art, music, crafts, dance, writing, or any other creative activity.
Case study – Ned
Ned wondered whether, at 72 years old, he was too old to write a book of poems. Ever since he could first write, he had jotted down his thoughts, and by the time he was a teenager, he had a shoe box full of scraps of paper containing his poems. In his adult years, he wrote them in notebooks. He always thought, ‘one day’ I will do something with them. First it was when his family was grown, then, when he retired. But now, he wondered if he was good enough, creative enough, had enough to say. He thought of hypnotherapy as something for people who wanted to lose weight or stop smoking. Then he happened to hear the end of a talk that a hypnotherapist (Michael) was giving at his local community centre (to the arts and crafts club!). Michael was giving them some tips and strategies to enhance their creativity. Ned went home in a thoughtful mood. The next day, he booked an appointment with Michael. He wasn’t sure what the young chap could do, but thought it would be a novel experience if nothing else, although he really hoped that he wouldn’t make him cluck like a chicken or do anything too silly. The chat at the start of the session quickly put his mind to rest. He was soon eagerly anticipating going into hypnosis. The session went well and he came away from it with a spring in his step and looking forward to making a plan for his book. Although he felt confident that he could now make a start, he enjoyed the session so much that he had a couple of ‘top-ups’, as he called them, over the following months. It worked out that when he got each section in his book finished, he rewarded himself with a lovely hypnotherapy session. The day that the first proof of his poetry book arrived through the door he felt amazing. He was even more proud on the day, a couple of months later, that he invited Michael to his book launch party and told him that he was already working on volume two!
So, whether you would like to change what you do or don’t do (behavioural hypnotherapy), alter how you think about something (cognitive hypnotherapy), gain insight into why you do something and work with the subconscious (analytical hypnotherapy) or even explore the influences of your past (regression hypnotherapy), you will generally find that the well-trained hypnotherapist will take a solution and goal focused approach. Finding out what you want to achieve, the positive changes that you want to make and formulating a plan to help you get where you want to be.
We hope that this blog on what hypnotherapy can help with has been useful for you. If you have any questions about this topic or anything else for that matter, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks