10 reasons why every psychotherapist should have hypnotherapy in their toolkit.
Hypnotherapy has a substantial and growing evidence base. In 2001, the Professional Affairs Board of the British Psychological Society (BPS) commissioned a working party of expert psychologists to publish a report entitled 'The Nature of Hypnosis'. Its remit was 'to provide a considered statement about hypnosis and important issues concerning its application and practice in a range of contexts, notably for clinical purposes, forensic investigation, academic research, entertainment and training (Heap et al. 2001).
It culminated with a concise summary of the current scientific research on hypnosis and opens by stating: 'Hypnosis is a valid subject for scientific study and research and a proven therapeutic medium (Heap et al. 2001).
Not all psychotherapists are trained to use hypnotherapy; however, here are 10 very important reasons why they should consider using it!
1) Hypnotherapy has a substantial and growing evidence base across many presenting medical, social and psychological issues. For example, hypnotherapy has been shown to be the most effective method for smoking cessation (Viswesvaran & Schmidt,1992); recommended as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (NICE IBS Quick Reference Guide, Feb 2008); and also meets the Chambless and Hollon criteria for empirically supported psychological therapies for a number of issues, including headaches, migraine, cancer pains, surgery pain and weight reduction (Chambless & Hollon, 1998)
2) Change is swifter than with most therapies (typically 3-6 sessions) and getting to the root of the problem (e.g., core beliefs, secondary gains, initial sensitising events, etc) promotes self-efficacy, relapse prevention and lasting change.
3) Clients gain new insights and different ways to work through their issues without necessarily having to talk about them directly.
4) Hypnotherapy gently reduces and removes the client's barriers and protective strategies preventing change. This makes it easier and less threatening to identify and manage the client's secondary gains, fears and ambivalence, which can be maintaining and prolong the problem.
5) The state of being in a trance is very similar to daydreaming or becoming totally engrossed in a task such as reading a book, watching a film, playing a sport, etc, so very familiar to the client. It is relaxing and can be used with any client group that is capable of benefiting from talking therapy. By utilising aspects of the client's hobbies and interests during inductions, deepeners and interventions, we create familiar connections for the client and are more easily able to demonstrate empathy, understanding and trust.
6) Hypnotherapy is a very creative and relaxing modality for the therapist as it is for the client. Every session is different and easily tailored to the client's needs rather than fitting the client into a particular way of working. This enables us to build quick and effective rapport at a very deep level, without triggering barriers to change.
7) Hypnotherapy is a very versatile modality and integrates wonderfully with other modalities. It influenced many of them (Freud, for example, used hypnosis before going on to develop psychodynamic theory), and it continues to be influenced by other modalities.
Whereas some psychotherapies are focused on the past (e.g., psychoanalysis), present (e.g., CBT, ACT, REBT, TA) or future (e.g., SFT), hypnotherapy enables us to venture into all 3 areas even within a session! There are no boundaries just the right tool for the client at the right time in their therapeutic journey, often moving seamlessly between various approaches.
For example, it can be used to look at the past; using age regression or timeline tools we can examine memories of childhood relationships with parents, triggers to behaviours, or initial sensitising events. It can be used in the present to explore thoughts, emotions and feelings in the present moment/day. And it can be used to consider the future, for instance, to access resources or build new ones e.g., to be more confident to approach a trigger for a phobia or to rehearse assertiveness at work.
It can be used to decipher when a client is not taking responsibility and when they are taking too much. It can be used on specific presenting issues with well-formed goals, such as quitting a habit or feeling less anxious in public, or with more abstract interests such as self-development and explorations of identity.
8) Hypnotherapy can be conducted in a top-down, theoretical manner, to explore issues within a pre-existing model that the client has been socialised into. Or it can be a bottom-up, client-led process. It can be analytical on the part of the therapist, or catalytic, where the therapist asks effective questions but respects the client’s map of the world and individual insights.
9) Therapists can work on many facets of the same presenting issue in different ways simultaneously! Clients can be aided to deal directly with the things they are ready for, and yet take it more steady with things they are more ambivalent about. By tackling the latter indirectly e.g., through suggestions, symbolic imagery and metaphor, we not only help clients manage change better but also enable therapeutic effect to generalise to other aspects of the client's life, i.e., helping to solve other, often unrelated, issues.
10) Hypnotherapy can be used as a part of a session, a full session during a course of therapy, or for the entire therapeutic process. Practically everything a counsellor, psychotherapist, coach or psychologist currently does with clients can be conducted in a relaxed trance, whether this is exploring thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, behaviours, spirituality, existential issues, problems, solutions, goals, and so on. Conversations, though slower, can be held and are often more insightful and creative. Slowing down and relaxing can have its benefits too, especially for clients who are stressed or anxious.