Solution focused hypnotherapy is a type of hypnotherapy that has a distinct approach to the treatment of psychological issues. It combines the use of hypnosis with some modern psychotherapeutic principles to create change.
The core tenet of solution focused hypnotherapy is the focus on finding solutions rather than unpacking the problematic issues contained in the presenting condition. So, in practice, it assesses your present condition and sets future desirable goals instead of looking back into your past traumas and problems.
This strategy makes solution focused hypnotherapy a dynamic approach compared to other types of hypnotherapy. Moreover, it’s very well-structured, systematic, and practical. Through its application you can eventually tap into your own inner potential to achieve therapeutic solutions.
The Origin of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy
The origin of solution focused hypnotherapy can hardly be pinned to a single phase of time, location or therapist. If you study the history of solution focused hypnotherapy, you will determine that it was born in the USA. But, the body of techniques, strategies, and principles had to be developed gradually and consolidated thanks to several remarkable figures and specialists through many decades.
Firstly, it was Milton Erickson, the great psychiatrist and hypnotherapist, who taught and implemented solution-focused strategies and techniques in therapy, in both formal and informal settings. So, with his large contribution in hypnotherapy, he established a base for solution focused hypnotherapy to advance.
Then, the team of Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg put forward their theoretical work to create Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). Their developed theories and techniques were largely influential as they experimented throughout the years with a diversity of clients. They formed the foundation of a solution focused approach to therapy. It continued to evolve with further experiments and contributions from theorists and neuroscientists until it was completely established as the modern solution focused hypnotherapy approach.
Differences between Solution Focused Hypnotherapy and Other Types of Hypnotherapy
Solution focused hypnotherapy differs from other types of hypnotherapy in many ways. If you are familiar with these other types, you will observe their focus on the complexities of the client’s psyche, and more importantly, how they trace back undesirable symptoms to their causes. Solution focused hypnotherapy, however, considers the causes and past as distracting and instead guides the client to focus on an achievable goal in the future.
Another key distinction is the way this therapy approaches the client in the treatment session. Because it is goal-oriented, it has a very specific structure and a set of techniques through which it fosters the pathway to the client’s solutions. For example, as a solution focused hypnotherapist, you can use planned hypnotic strategies at the beginning of every session to get the client to the next mutually agreed goal. Other types of hypnotherapy, on the other hand, are less specific. They rely on the immediate responses that will develop during the consultation whilst the treatment seeks to analyze or go back to the roots of an issue.
Additionally, these other types of hypnotherapy are generally considered less effective and require lots of therapy to bring about efficient treatment.
What Conditions can Solution Focused Hypnotherapy treat?
Solution focused hypnotherapy can treat a great variety of physical and emotional conditions within a client’s unique profile with care and efficiency.
For example, many clients report that it is effective with anxiety, stress, panic attacks, phobias, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, low self-confidence and low self-esteem. It can thus help you eradicate the psychological problems that hinder you from a well-functioning personal, social and professional life.
In most cases of a holistic treatment plan, solution focused hypnotherapy can be used in conjunction with medication prescribed by your GP.
The initial consultation stage of a Solution Focused Hypnotherapy Treatment
All hypnotherapists conduct a detailed and thorough initial consultation stage to ensure that the treatment takes the right path. During these initial stages, you can expect your solution focused hypnotherapist to ask you to sign a consent form which will detail the conditions and terms of therapy. These terms are usually detailed in their advertising literature.
Then your hypnotherapist will start a discussion about the issues that you want help with. This will include your goals, the healthy emotions and behaviours you wish to maintain, and the history and relevant facts about your life that are affecting your condition. These stages create your unique profile.
What then follows is a forward projection of your goal. This helps to establish the boundaries of your goal and whether it can be realistically achieved. This process is called asking the “Miracle Question”. It may be phrased as follows: “if a miracle was to happen and you became the ideal version of yourself having achieved your goal, how would you start to notice this as you go about life? Will there be some specific behaviour that would demonstrate this change?” The “Miracle Question” is one of the techniques developed by solution focused brief therapy. Once asked, it can be referred to again in subsequent sessions. It will help both the hypnotherapist and client refine the goals that you would like to achieve, but also elaborate on the stages, the beliefs, and habits that can generally help your life. This discussion can be quite deep, but is an extremely important part of your treatment. It often involves using techniques from other therapeutic disciplines like cognitive behavioural therapy and neuro-linguistic programming.
Unlike some other types of hypnotherapy, solution focused hypnotherapy then adopts a specific approach by detailing facts about how the brain works, the predictable causes of your issues, and how and why emotions manifest in the way they do. Once you have gained this insight, the hypnotherapist will estimate the number of sessions expected for you to achieve your goal, whether it’s a phobia, anxiety or a whole set of connected issues. They will explain the commitment needed during your treatment and what you can expect at stages through your treatment course.
Hypnosis may then be used to introduce you to the experience (if you have never formally had a hypnotic induction). Hypnotic suggestions will be used to direct you towards your goal.
A Typical Solution Focused Hypnotherapy Consultation
After your initial consultation and each time you attend your follow up session, the hypnotherapist will start off by asking you about any developments from your previous session. In particular, any emotional changes, and whether there is any physical progress towards your goal. Your opinions about yourself and how they are developing are important discussion questions too because they throw light on your current mindset and self-concept.
After you relate your experiences to them, the hypnotherapist will aim to elucidate your emotions and physical changes in relation to the functioning of the brain and its psychology. These explanations will help you have an objective view of yourself.
The discussion then moves to the stage where the hypnotherapist engages with you to reflect on your goals, and most importantly, the steps you should take to continue their attainment. There will be a lot of collaboration and cooperation between you and the hypnotherapist as they ask ‘’solution focused” questions.
Lastly, the hypnotherapist will use hypnosis techniques to guide you into a relaxed state and use suggestions to direct you towards your goal achievement. More discussion will be made following the hypnotic induction so that you can summarise some of the key points made during in the session.
Some hypnotherapists provide you with a generalised hypnosis audio to reinforce the suggestions towards your goal.
The Shortcomings of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy
Like all types of hypnotherapy, solution focused hypnotherapy will have advantages but also, inevitably, some shortcomings. This is because any approach that gives more emphasis to certain aspects of treatment will inadvertently neglect other important factors in the overall treatment process.
Helping a client achieve their goal is a fundamental part of any treatment process. But does the client’s goal take into account all aspects of their condition? How well does a client know themselves? Most clients come into hypnotherapy with symptom-related goals. What they bring into the treatment often dismisses core issues. For example, stopping smoking can be beneficial for many reasons, but smoking is generally used to cope with core issues such as stress, anxiety and depression. When you just remove the symptom, what happens to the client’s ability to cope? Do they replace the symptom with another more destructive negative symptom? By over-focusing on symptoms, solution focused hypnotherapy may not deal with these broader issues that are creating the symptom. And by placing the client’s goal at the centre of the process, the solution focused hypnotherapist may be compromising some of their own expertise (if they have been trained to deal with core issues).
Related to what lies under a symptom is the “cause” or “why” an unwanted behaviour has been created in the first place or continues to persist in the client. Delving into past issues is deemed unnecessary by solution focused hypnotherapists, yet it may offer more insight into persistent negative behaviour. So the smoker who wants to stop smoking, but keeps lapsing soon after they attempt to quit usually has an unconscious reason for their lapse. Just focusing on stopping will cause the underlying issue to resurface and force another lapse in smoking cessation. Regression and Hypnoanalysis can be used to take the client back to the triggering motive and release the emotion contained in that experience. For example, when the client was younger, they started smoking as a defiant reaction to an abusive parent’s control. By now attempting to stop smoking in their adulthood, the anger from the past abuse draws them back to smoking again. Releasing the anger from their parent’s control removes the emotional cause to smoke. When both the cause and symptom are treated, it can be more effective at helping the client stop smoking.
Regression is often criticised for dwelling on past events and extending the treatment time of a problem. Yet when used skilfully, it can be very effective at creating change in a relatively short period of time, treating issues at the causal end of the continuum. Solution focused hypnotherapy may not be able to make these underlying connections to unconscious issues just by focusing ahead.
Solution focused hypnotherapy: summary
Solution focused hypnotherapy remains a popular and effective approach to treating psychological problems. In many cases it is the baseline strategy to goal attainment. When a client’s goal is blocked by unconscious issues, other approaches can be used to ensure that the client’s treatment is successful.
For further information on Solution Focused Hypnotherapy, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff.
It can be immensely useful being aware of the various types of hypnotherapy, whether you are aspiring to be a hypnotherapist or a potential client wanting treatment. Hypnotherapy is a domain that offers a huge toolbox of treatment techniques. Various approaches can be applied for different clients with different conditions. Each style of hypnotherapy can have its respective benefits when a client presents a specific need.
Understanding the types of hypnotherapy can improve your therapeutic skills as a hypnotherapist. As a client it can help you appreciate what to expect in your hypnotherapy session and be treated in a way that matches your expectations. I have used all hypnotherapeutic approaches in my experience, and am flexible enough to adapt my approach when the situation demands it. My training included all of these various types of hypnotherapy styles even though my qualification has the classification of “Clinical Hypnotherapy”.
Types of Hypnotherapy: Solution Focused Hypnotherapy
As the name suggests, this type of hypnotherapy focuses on achieving solutions to your issues rather than deconstructing past problems. From a solution-focused perspective, delving into the past is considered ineffective.
Solution focused hypnotherapy can generate impressive and tangible results. It is used by a great number of hypnotherapists and can be implemented with just about every client. The approach is employed as soon as you are asked the question “what is your goal?” If you have a ‘fear of public speaking’, then your treatment is aimed at ‘confidence in public speaking’. Your ‘public speaking’ situation is analysed and the treatment is staged in measurable progressive steps, assessing where you are now and how your public speaking confidence can increase.
This is one of the types of hypnotherapy that has a focused interaction where the hypnotherapist helps you tap into your inner resources and capacities. It assumes a level of motivation and commitment on your part, as you are provided with homework tasks that move you towards the achievement of your goal. You will mutually set fixed interim goals and hypnosis will essentially be used to guide you to your destination. Eventually, you will become familiar with your inner strength and solution-seeking abilities to access your psychological wellbeing.
Does it have any shortcomings? Some of the mutually agreed goals in solution focused approaches can overly focus on symptoms. Symptoms can be coping mechanisms of deeper unconscious problems that are ignored until the treatment comes to standstill. The deeper unconscious issues are also known as the causes or “why” you behave as you do. For example, you want help to reduce your weight, but your weight gain is an unconscious defensive reaction to childhood abuse (i.e. you stay overweight to be less attractive to potential abusers; a form of Secondary Gain.) In your solution-focused treatment, you are asked “what is your goal?” and respond to the question appropriately “to lose weight”, because your reason for gaining weight is unconscious. Your treatment can then plateau unless the solution focused hypnotherapist is also trained to uncover past causes using other hypnotherapy techniques. Without this training, the weight loss solution would be temporary. When causes are uncovered, the solution can take a more successful treatment pathway, treating the cause and the symptom together.
Types of Hypnotherapy: Ericksonian Hypnotherapy
This style of hypnotherapy is named after one of the most prominent figures of psychiatry and hypnosis, namely Milton Erickson. He believed hypnosis to be a natural state that we involuntarily encounter several times a day. Erickson’s informal approach to treatment matched his beliefs about hypnosis. He was renowned for using indirect suggestions and storytelling in which his patients may not have known that the treatment had formally started.
Unlike most direct (and authoritative) types of hypnotherapy, the Ericksonian style attempts to access the client’s behavioural, cognitive, or even analytical levels in a way that speaks to the subconscious rather than the conscious. As an approach, it uses symbolism, metaphors, stories, and implicit suggestions that help the client not only collaborate, but also adopt the healing message or command within the suggestions. Many hypnotherapists call themselves Ericksonian, but they may be very far from using the true approach that Milton Erickson devised.
It may be helpful for all types of hypnotherapy to make room for this kind of creativity. The Ericksonian approach requires the hypnotherapist’s inner judge and subtle creative capacities to be employed. They need to be very sensitive to client’s distinct problems and profiles to ensure that the indirect suggestion or story yields the desired effect. For these reasons, clients with excellent visualisation skills and reflective abilities should be encouraged to seek hypnotherapists who employ Ericksonian tools.
Changes within the client can be quite deep and profound when these techniques are used effectively. It can be used to treat (but is not limited to) addiction, OCD, pain management and habit control.
Types of Hypnotherapy: Analytical Hypnotherapy
Analytical Hypnotherapy borrows primarily from the school of psychotherapy. It is also known as hypno-analysis and curative hypnotherapy. It can be used to treat a number of conditions including phobias, negative emotions, depression, psychosomatic symptoms etc.
Being analytical in its approach, this method of hypnotherapy investigates the client’s hidden causes that are creating issues. Fundamentally, it analyses your behaviour, reactions, and beliefs by using probing questions. It asks ‘’why’’ and seeks to identify the root impulses behind the said problem. When the true causes are brought to the surface, you will be guided to think and respond differently to them. As a result, positive and altered behaviours will be the new positive change to your health. Whilst the hypnotherapist works together with you to get to the core of an issue, the object of the session will be to obtain insight and understand the real dynamics that are controlling your life. You will be more self-aware of your psyche and the nature of your behaviour, and therefore will be able to take control and change negative behaviour.
In the treatment of a phobia for example, analytical hypnotherapy aims to discover and treat how your panic response attached itself to the phobic stimulus e.g. a spider. It also validates how the “wrong” childhood association has been carried into adulthood. The adult mind knows that this connection is irrational and unhelpful but is consciously unable to access where these feelings originate. Using Hypnoanalysis, the adult mind can go back and reinterpret the event, releasing the fearful emotion created as a child.
Types of Hypnotherapy: Behavioural Hypnotherapy
Behavioural hypnotherapy is probably the most direct and immediate types of hypnotherapy in its working methods. There are no disguised suggestions or analysis of issues. Instead, behavioural hypnotherapy focuses solely on the behaviours, (present or future ones) that the client demonstrates. In the first session, the hypnotherapist takes note of all the negative behaviours that the client has accumulated. Judged simply as learned behaviours, both the client and hypnotherapist proceed to agree on the appropriate changes and positive behaviours that are desired. Hypnosis is used to integrate these changes until they are firmly established. You are advised to keep practicing self hypnosis even after treatment is over, so that you have personal control over the new behaviours.
Behavioural hypnotherapy is useful for behaviours such as negative habits (nail biting, habitual drinking and smoking). It can also be used to modify the finer details of behaviours such as specific eating habits that are contributing to weight gain.
Types of Hypnotherapy: Cognitive Hypnotherapy
All types of hypnotherapy have a specific focus, but what is “spoken” in the mind is the main focus of this style of hypnotherapy. Whether you are battling with phobias, anxieties, or lack of concentration, cognitive hypnotherapy will help you get rid of the thinking patterns, beliefs, or feelings that you are dominating you. Cognition here is believed to be at the heart of your negative behaviours and psychological harm. In other words, the cognitive hypnotherapist will work with you to replace unhelpful thoughts and bad beliefs about the world so that the subconscious is in tune with a ‘’healthy’’ thinking conscious.
Once identified, common cognitive distortions such as over-generalisation and catastrophic thinking are realigned using hypnosis. The assumptions of this style of hypnotherapy derive from the theories of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. And the common process that unites these theories is the change of bad ‘’actionable’’ thoughts in consideration for your goals, values, and needs.
Types of Hypnotherapy: Past Life Regression
This is one of the types of hypnotherapy to have an unconventional view of the client’s problematic behaviours and issues. By using hypnotherapeutic techniques, it addresses a client’s problem with the belief that it is affected by a ‘’previous life’’. So, the causes and logic that are thought to drive any kind of issue are believed to come from “past life” experiences. Clearly, this belief is always implemented with respect to the client’s own beliefs. So, it may be found that some hypnotherapists interpret the past life belief literally, whilst others use it metaphorically. When an issue is at hand, the client and hypnotherapist observe the emotions and behaviours then travel together to a regressed interpretation of it in the past life. The issues will be understood in the context of past memories so that they are given real meaning. The issues are treated using other types of hypnotherapy.
In the end, this type of hypnotherapy can work well with some clients by providing them with insight and understanding into their issues. And this can help the client take back control or cut the ties from harmful past lives’ memories. An example of its application includes the treatment of phantom pain in which the client was convinced was a trauma in a previous life. When the client was regressed to a past life, it is found that they sustained an injury to that limb that was left untreated. The therapy involves “treating” the past life injury so that the current life pain can be released.
Types of Hypnotherapy: Hypno-Psychotherapy
This is a merged type of hypnotherapy where both the contents of hypnotherapy and psychotherapy work together to solve problems. Psychotherapy is, in essence, an analytic approach that tries to trace back psychological problems to a cause. It has views on emotions and psychological impulses that can be given rise either from a traumatic event, childhood attitudes, or some bad parental conditioning. So, with the addition of hypnotherapy, hypnosis and relaxation techniques are used to further the process of psychotherapy in the sessions.
For example, a cause can be attributed to your very first trauma with airplanes which became the root cause for your flying phobia. You may not be aware of it or simply forgot it, but the hypnotherapist will work with you to uncover these causes and tensions that are behind any complication or disorder. Most types of hypnotherapy try to work within the client’s psychological perspective, but this type leans more toward allowing understanding to take place in the client’s way of thinking.
Types of Hypnotherapy: Clinical Hypnotherapy
Clinical hypnotherapy is normally the implementation of hypnotherapy techniques in a clinical environment such as a hospital of GP practice. It gives the impression of being a more “effective” treatment than other types of hypnotherapy, but may include very a similar application of techniques.
Not all clinical hypnotherapists are really “clinical” ones unless they are medically qualified. “Clinical hypnotherapy” became popular as a hypnotherapy qualification during the late eighties and nineties to distinguish it from stage hypnosis, when the boundaries of hypnosis as a “therapy” and artistic stage show were blurred. Thus the term “clinical” emphasised that the hypnosis was therapeutic.
Clinical hypnotherapy can be concerned with treating medical conditions such as stress-related skin issues, chronic pain, IBS, psycho-sexual disorders and psycho-somatic conditions, but is not limited to treating only these conditions. So, while many types of hypnotherapy exist, this type of hypnotherapy can focus on treating those conditions in which traditional medicine approaches has been unable to treat.
Types of Hypnotherapy: Regression Hypnotherapy
The basic premise for this style of hypnotherapy is dissipating a problem issue by regressing back to its initial formation. In the example of treating a phobia, regression is executed by taking the client’s mind to past incidents related to the phobia. The hypnotherapist uses a combination of hypnotic techniques to access negative (or positive) memories related to the client’s goal. By safely re-experiencing the event, the client will understand the self-limiting beliefs and emotions surrounding the event that triggered the phobia. They can then start to reinterpret these beliefs and emotions using the adult mind.
Not all use of regression is helpful or reliable when accessing certain traumatic events, especially if the hypnotherapist has a biased view of the client’s history. For regression hypnotherapy to deal with your past events, it is important to seek a hypnotherapist who is well-versed in using regression hypnotherapy techniques.
Types of hypnotherapy: Other Therapies & Techniques
Hypnotherapy is a vast domain. It is definitely not limited to the various types of hypnotherapy already mentioned here. Generally, the types of hypnotherapy already discussed are more dominant in hypnotherapy sessions given their suitability to client’s problems and needs. But, it is common for hypnotherapists to use other types of therapy, with or without certification.
One such type of therapy is Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). NLP is a system of communication skills for psycho-therapeutic ends. NLP certified therapists may also take courses in hypnotherapy because they both use mind reprogramming techniques. Their combined knowledge allows them to use these skills that may take longer to treat using traditional counselling methods.
But, it doesn’t end here. Certain hypnotherapists also pursue counselling qualifications and offer both hypnotherapy and counselling. The counselling techniques can be effective in creating rapport and directing the use of suggestions when using hypnosis. Unless the client has specified their treatment style, does it really matter how they get there as long as they ultimately still achieve their goal?
Other therapies such as Time-Line Therapy draw from NLP and are concerned with the treatment of negative emotions and anxiety disorders. It assumes that the unconscious mind is a linear timeline of events. Relaxation techniques including hypnosis are used to help the client to release painful emotions connected to traumatic events. It can be very effective in reducing negative emotions such as depression and post traumatic stress disorder.
Some hypnotherapy techniques have classifications that aim to distinguish themselves from other types of hypnotherapy. Integration hypnotherapy (also known as Parts Therapy) for example, considers your personality to be composed of various parts. These parts have been formed from good and bad past experiences and now serve specific functions of the inner mind. These parts want what is best for you but can be in conflict when you desire or have to cope with change.
Parts therapy aims to resolve these inner conflicts and desires by allowing the parts of your personality to communicate more freely. Parts therapy can be usefully applied when a client says that “part of me wants to do this, but the other part of me wants to do that!” It can deal with many conditions where anxiety is the restraining emotion and the desire for confidence is the inspiring emotion. It can be used to treat unwanted habits like smoking and weight issues where momentary urges inhibit the achievement of long terms goals.
Integration hypnotherapy approaches can be varied, drawing from other modes of therapy including Ego State Therapy and Gestalt Therapy. How you use these modes of therapy will depend on the situation, the client and experience of the hypnotherapist.
Hypnotherapy has no shortage of new techniques that claim to be more effective than older ones. Some techniques complement a new scientific trend. One such example is Gastric Band Hypnotherapy, which followed the development of gastric band surgery for obesity. With Gastric Band Hypnotherapy it claims that you can lose weight by visualising that you have had the same (Gastric Band) surgical procedure, but without any medical risks involving surgery!
There is a vast domain of specifictechniques used in hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy schools teach different ways to hypnotise clients e.g. using “a handshake” method, not just by using voice induction. Then there is an abundance of visualisation techniques that can be used to induce a depth of relaxation or “trance” and rapidly treat certain conditions. Commonly taught visualisations include ‘’The Arrow’’, ‘’The Swan’’, and ‘’The Kinetic Shift’’.
Types of Hypnotherapy: Summary
This article has listed the various types of hypnotherapy. With experience and skill, the hypnotherapist can adapt the specific treatment approach or technique to the individual situation with some excellent outcomes. Hypnotherapy is only limited by the imagination of the hypnotherapist and their skilled ability to apply creative visualisations when it is deemed to be helpful in the session.
For further information on the various types of hypnotherapy and how hypnotherapy can help you, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff.
Finding the services of the best hypnotherapist can be difficult if you have never experienced hypnotherapy before. And even if you have experienced it before and the outcome was negative, then there could be several explanations for this. Definitions of hypnosis and its use as a therapy are open to interpretation. And it goes without saying that every practising hypnotherapist is different to one another! What filters into yourtreatment will be a mix of the hypnotherapist’s life experiences, their hypnotherapy training, problem-solving ability, treatment experience, personal qualities etc. These are just some of the dynamics that live on the hypnotherapist’s side. Then consider what you bring into the treatment – your treatment issue and the specific background that individualises your problem. And not to mention the collaboration of all of these processes! Phew! When you take these various factors into account, it’s no wonder that it can be challenging weeding out the best hypnotherapist from a bad one.
Finding the best hypnotherapist is not rocket science, but it shouldn’t be done hastily either. Failing to vet your hypnotherapist could mean that you end up wasting your time and money. If you want your condition to be successfully treated using hypnotherapy, but have no idea how to choose the best hypnotherapist then read on...
The best hypnotherapist has hypnotherapy credentials
First ensure that your hypnotherapist is a member of a recognised hypnotherapy association. With a registered hypnotherapist, if you are unhappy with any part of your therapy, you can contact the association who will investigate your complaint.
Some of the bigger associations include the General Hypnotherapy Register and Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. The CNHC register is approved as an accredited register by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care. This professional body is accountable to Parliament for maintaining standards of patient safety and service quality. Patients who ask medical staff to recommend a hypnotherapist have been advised by the Professional Standards Authority to recommend those hypnotherapists registered with the CNHC – how’s that for a seal of approval?
As a registered member of an association, your hypnotherapist will hold a recognised hypnotherapy qualification, professional indemnity insurance and will follow a strict code of ethics which will include maintaining Continued Professional Development. With the latter, it means that your hypnotherapist is actively developing their knowledge of hypnotherapy in practice and is probably passionate about their subject.
The best hypnotherapist has experience
An experienced hypnotherapist is more likely to have developed their knowledge, skills and expertise with “real” clients. In this experience, strategies are employed and techniques are refined with efficiency and effectiveness. With knowledge and practise comes confidence to appreciate what to do – and what not to do when treating different clients with different conditions. With experience, you can acknowledge how to manage the subtleties in each individual case.
How much experience is enough to develop confidence? In my opinion, a hypnotherapist who has worked five to ten years is developing their craft. That’s not to say that a novice cannot help a client, but they may still be in the experimental phase of their career where they “try this and see what happens...” The novice hypnotherapist feels less confident about adapting their treatment if your mind is not fully accepting their suggestions.
The quality of the experience is far more important than just the quantity of treatments given by your hypnotherapist however. The quality can be defined by dealing with a variety of medical conditions and having an understanding of their background causes. But the quality of that experience can also be affected by the hypnotherapist’s life experiences outside of hypnotherapy. Are you more convinced of a hypnotherapist’s treatment of your fear of public speaking if they have extensive experience of public speaking themselves? Do they have a medical or health-related background experience that helps them to understand what’s behind your presenting issue and not just understanding the presenting symptom?
Some hypnotherapists advertise that they specialise in treating certain conditions, having attended CPD workshops, extensively researched the condition or had personal experiences with the condition. This may “qualify” them to treat your condition more than a “general” hypnotherapist, but in practice it may only be evident that they are more qualified when you begin your course of therapy. This is because a symptom may be connected to other core issues e.g. a client’s weight gain (symptom) may be related to their low self esteem (core issue). A specialist in weight loss may have very little experience of treating low self esteem, whereas a general hypnotherapist with a wider knowledge base may be able to treat both issues effectively during the course of your treatment.
On the subject of experience, another important feature is that...
The best hypnotherapist has broken away from generalised scripts
As a member of the public, are you aware that one of the novice hypnotherapist’s basic tools is a pre-written generalised script? Yes, an “expert” hypnotherapist has used their experience to write a script called (for example) “panic attacks” and you can access these on YouTube and various phone apps to help you deal with your panic attacks. They may have been supplied on the hypnotherapy training course and can be found easily in hypnotherapy textbooks. The script features a mix of generalised and specific suggestions for treating “panic attacks”. Some of the generalised content will be ignored by you and some of the pertinent suggestions that connect with your issues will focus your mind into your issue and be more readily accepted. The novice hypnotherapist is likely to hypnotise you and then read the script verbatim as part of your treatment.
There’s nothing wrong with this approach; it’s still considered “hypnotherapy”. But the experienced hypnotherapist is likely to have developed a repertoire of “panic attack” suggestions and is confident enough to apply what has been discussed in the consultation into your individualised treatment “script”. This gives your treatment relevance and usually more positive change than an approach that is generalised with the hope of making a connection with you.
Please note that there is a multitude of dynamics in hypnotherapy that can influence a successful outcome in your treatment that includes using relevant personalised suggestions.
Another issue that can affect a successful outcome is...
The best hypnotherapist has a broad skill set
Using relevant personalised suggestions to help you achieve your goal is the building blocks of a hypnotherapy treatment. But when your unconscious mind partially accepts or resists these suggestions, does your hypnotherapist have other hypnotic techniques to assist you or do they continue with a generalised “relaxatherapy” session hoping that it does the trick? The best hypnotherapist can creatively employ a variety of techniques including regression, hypno-analysis, and the use of stories and metaphors to release blocks. They can work with your mind when progress is slowing down.
With experience, the effective use of these techniques can be adapted into your treatment quickly and confidently. The combination of a broad skill set and experience ensures your hypnotherapist can choose options to adapt your treatment program when issues develop in the moment. The unskilled novice is more likely to adopt a “one treatment fits all” approach.
Another issue that can influence a successful outcome is when...
The best hypnotherapist values the importance of building rapport
When you have a strong rapport with your hypnotherapist, you are more likely to accept their suggestions in the hypnotic induction and throughout your therapy. Building rapport is a two-way exchange of many dynamics that helps you feel that you “connect” with your hypnotherapist. When you have rapport with them, you trust them, you believe that they can help you, and you believe that they have the skills to treat your presenting condition.
Rapport is built during many stages of the treatment. It can happen in the enquiry stage when seeing an informative article about your condition, or when speaking on the phone or during an initial consultation. During these situations, there are many opportunities to offer you insights that they understand your problem and can help you. It continues throughout the treatment and is displayed by good listening skills, the hypnotherapist’s voice (an important tool in hypnotherapy), and even their non-verbal gestures. What your hypnotherapist says resonates strongly with you and develops a deep conviction that they are passionate about their subject, they understand your problem and they will assist you to achieve your goal.
Rapport is often helped by succinctly explaining what happens in your treatment and how you will benefit. It involves answering your questions and concerns about any aspect of the treatment in an open, honest and reassuring way. When there is rapport, it ensures that you feel confident and secure during all stages of your treatment.
Without rapport, the treatment process collapses. This can happen for a number of reasons including a mismatch of expectations. If given the opportunity, the best hypnotherapist will attempt to close that gap, but will readily accept that when there is a weak rapport, it’s better to refer the client on to another source of help.
Strongly connected to rapport is...
The best hypnotherapist has empathy
Showing an understanding of your presenting condition and the emotions that you bring into your treatment is just a small part of having empathy. An experienced hypnotherapist will demonstrate this understanding by asking appropriate questions but will also be prepared to listen to your individual responses, reassuring you of any concerns. The hypnotherapist’s listening skills may be part of their nature, part of their training or has been developed by dealing with real hypnotherapy clients. In whatever way that it has been acquired, you will very quickly feel this connection deepen when they have empathy (which is far more than just a feeling of sympathy). Your treatment will be explained in a way that helps you to understand what is going to happen and how you can benefit. When there is empathy, you feel ready to discuss your issues and trust that there will be no judgement from your hypnotherapist.
The best hypnotherapist is able to apply the right balance of hypnosis and therapy
An understanding of “hypnotherapy” requires an understanding of both “hypnosis” and “therapy” to be able to achieve an effective hypnotic treatment. Some hypnotherapists make better “hypnotists” and others make better “therapists”. The balance of these two concepts can influence the hypnotherapist’s approach to your treatment. This balance can usually be found in their advertising literature but becomes obvious very quickly in the hypnotherapy treatment stages. “Hypnotists” emphasise the power of hypnosis over you to create change, whereas “therapists” emphasise the power within you to help you change.
Whether the style of approach comes from the hypnotherapist’s personality e.g. extrovert/introvert, their training, or their experience in practice, the ability to adapt the approach to the individual is important. It will influence the building of rapport (see above) particularly when it meets your expectation about hypnotherapy. Where they “sit” on the continuum of hypnosis and therapy, and where you feel comfortable with their position will influence a successful therapeutic outcome.
The best hypnotherapist is not (exclusively) a stage hypnotist offering hypnotherapy
A stage hypnotist’s art is entertainment and some of it can be very entertaining. But does a stage hypnotist’s skill transfer into therapy? A stage hypnotist who dabbles in hypnotherapy may not have undergone any “therapy” training or supervision. That’s not to say that they can’t help people lose weight and quit smoking, for example, by using suggestions targeting those respective conditions. It’s when those conditions are connected to deeper emotional issues like depression or low self esteem where the symptomatic “quick-fix” has limited affect and can expose an underlying emotional issue that needs continued support. As mentioned in the previous point regarding the “balance of hypnosis and therapy”, if you really want an exclusive stage hypnotist to “use their hypnotic powers” to treat you, then you can make an informed choice when their hypnotic modality is openly advertised.
Most respectable hypnotists and hypnotherapists will advertise their profession, the conditions they treat, their location and their professional association membership. The latter can be verified by spending a bit of time researching the stated hypnotherapy association online.
Some hypnotherapy associations will not permit membership for those who perform stage hypnosis, whilst others are open to membership provided that the hypnotist/hypnotherapist has a relevant hypnotherapy qualification.
The best hypnotherapist does not make exaggerated claims about hypnotherapy
Wouldn’t life be easy if...when you have an emotional or behavioural problem, you consult with a hypnotherapist, they “put you under” and the problem is fixed! This is the view often portrayed in the popular media with anecdotes of miraculous changes that happened in one session.
Hypnotherapy is generally considered a short-term therapy (in relation to other talking therapies) and can often produce rapid results when a number of therapeutic conditions are in place. The problem comes when a hypnotherapist advertises a “quick-fix” guarantee without any prior knowledge of your presenting problem and historical background.
When you are desperate, it can seem tempting to sign them up for a quick fix, but therapeutic change usually takes a few sessions of hypnotherapy, and here’s why: Advertising that a condition like smoking cessation will “be treated in one session” for example assumes that the hypnotic approach has been scientifically tested and controls were in place when it was researched. But very few hypnotherapy treatment strategies have been tested in this way. It is difficult to reliably test hypnotherapy because it involves so many variables (as mentioned in the introduction). Thus you are unlikely to create a guarantee that everyone will get the same outcome regardless of what the client brings to the treatment process.
As an additional point, when you are desperate to have a condition treated, it’s easy to misread an advert that states: your condition “can be...” treated in so many sessions. You are likely to interpret it as it “will be…” treated in the stated number of sessions, only to be disappointed when your treatment takes longer than you originally thought.
Choosing the best hypnotherapist – other considerations
This section is less about what makes the best hypnotherapist and more about the other issues that might limit your choice when making an appointment with the best hypnotherapist.
Treatment costs – Prior to booking, ensure that you are fully aware of the cost, the length of each session, and methods of payment. Cheaper fees may seem attractive at first but could end up being money down the drain with a hypnotherapist who lacks the experience to deal with your presenting condition. Likewise, you don’t want to book with a hypnotherapist who charges extortionate fees without there being a good justification. In my opinion, a fee that is say, five times the average fee would almost need to offer a guarantee to justify the cost.
Paying upfront for a course of hypnotherapy – Be wary of paying upfront for a course of hypnotherapy sessions to save money before you have even met the hypnotherapist. It’s wise to try one or two sessions first and then review how your treatment is progressing without a huge initial financial commitment. Since each course of hypnotherapy can vary between one client and another, paying upfront for a course can be called into question. What are the terms if you achieve your goal early or wish to terminate your treatment early? Is there an option of a pro rata refund (which would seem fair)?
Type of practice – Consider if you would prefer to have your treatment in an established practice or the hypnotherapist’s home. Clients usually feel more secure in a practice and often feel that the whole treatment process is more professional. The location of the practice is something that is usually identified early in your research. Google tends to favour proximity when you search online. It’s obviously convenient having a practice close to you, but some treatments are worth the journey when it gets results.
Cancellation policy – Ensure that you understand the terms of any cancellation policy. A hypnotherapist who rents from a professional practice is more likely to have stricter cancellation terms. This is not surprising when the hypnotherapist will have paid a rental fee to accommodate your session and will lose that fee if you do not attend.
Availability – Check that the hypnotherapist can be available at the times and days to suit you. Their general availability to maintain continuity between each session is also important. Hypnotherapists who practise part time or who have various other non-clinical commitments may not be able to maintain a treatment schedule to help you.
Your past hypnotherapy experiences – When you have had a bad experience of anything, it’s easy to over-generalise the experience and extend that feeling of failure to all. With a previous negative outcome with hypnotherapy some might say “I had hypnotherapy once and it didn’t work, so I’ve done hypnotherapy now!” There are good and bad hypnotherapists, just as there are good and bad medical practitioners. The results that you get will only be as good as the individual hypnotherapist treating you. Some clients are also ready to admit that with a previous attempt to change a habit like smoking for example, they were not ready or motivated to quit smoking when they tried to stop smoking with hypnotherapy maybe ten years earlier.
The value of personal recommendation – A personal recommendation from someone you know can build trust and belief into your own treatment process with the recommended hypnotherapist. Even with a personal recommendation however, it’s still advisable to go into the treatment with an open mind and respect that everyone’s background and presenting condition is different.
Keeping an open mind is particularly significant when the person recommending you made rapid progress in their treatment. This might influence you to expect the same rapid outcome for yourself. If you don’t get the same results, it’s not uncommon to think that you have personally failed the treatment in some way. This is not the case however; no two situations are identical in hypnotherapy.
And finally...Trusting your gut feeling usually works – Trusting your gut feeling is often considered a good basis from which to make a decision. When choosing the best hypnotherapists too, it’s a good format to use. Take note of some of the points in this article and do a reasonable amount of research to find the best hypnotherapist for you.
For further information on how hypnotherapy can help you, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff.
Hypnotherapy in practice: What happens in your consultation?
Hypnotherapy in practice can be very challenging to understand. The inexperienced client usually feels as though hypnotherapy uses techniques and principles that are mysterious. But how hypnotherapy works in practice is based on key steps and techniques that hypnotherapists are embracing to improve hypnotherapy treatment outcomes. In light of this, the main purpose of this article is to clarify the approach hypnotherapy uses and how its treatment plan can help you.
Hypnotherapy in practice: The hypnotherapy consultation
As with any therapeutic approach, the hypnotherapeutic process begins with a consultation session. This step is emphasised because it can help determine the path which the treatment procedures will take. By using the consultation process, the hypnotherapist is not only informed about your formal details and identity, but they are also provided with a case history about your life, medical history, and personal lifestyle. In addition, this step can define the goals and direction that the treatment should take and how it can benefit you.
Without these objectives in mind, the treatment process will not solve your individual problems, nor achieve the desired therapeutic results. The background issues inform the hypnotherapist about the key features of your personal struggle to achieve your goal. You, in turn, are also educated about the issues that you want to resolve, what is holding you back and the treatment plan that the hypnotherapist will suggest to help get you there.
One of the most important elements in hypnotherapy is the effective use of hypnosis. Since it is a technique that requires the application of suggestions, the hypnotherapist will want to make sure that you are realistically educated about its principles and benefits. This is an important stage in the treatment process to ensure your collaboration. The hypnotherapist will then identify your strengths and determine your hypnotic suggestibility. You are likely to benefit far more from treatment approaches that match your personal profile, rather than using generic approaches (or scripts) that hope to connect with your issues in an arbitrary way.
Hypnotherapy in practice: The therapy stage
Generally, hypnotherapists adopt approaches that work within a three stage treatment plan. In the first stage, the hypnotherapeutic process essentially tries to prepare your most suitable state for treatment. You are encouraged to engage with the hypnotherapist and helped to acquire psychological resources and the resilience to undergo the treatment process.
As soon you demonstrate this readiness, the hypnotherapist then (secondly) introduces you to the treatment phase where varied hypnotic techniques and treatment procedures are directly addressed to your issues.
Finally, you move to the last stage where the new behaviours and positive responses are maintained and secured. This is especially crucial to ensure that the new responses are fully learned and integrated so that the old behaviour patterns do not re-emerge. It also takes into account adjustments within the treatment strategies that are based on your continuing feedback.
As stated earlier, the use of hypnosis is likely to be predominant in the treatment process. So, you will notice some of hypnosis will be used to relax you during the hypnotic induction. Whenever a treatment session is to be conducted, you will be given suggestions to create imaginary places or access points through which you can feel highly relaxed and responsive. It is in this way that treatment suggestions make an impact. The client often considers the feelings created during the hypnotic induction to be the treatment, but this is rarely the case unless your goal is to feel relaxed. Actually, the most important part of the treatment process is the effective application of hypnotic techniques that help your achieve your goal.
In its most basic form, hypnosis involves the use of suggestion techniques that are either direct or indirect. The direct suggestions are explicit instructions that the hypnotherapist uses to obtain immediate and clear responses from you. The indirect suggestions, however, are softer ways in which the hypnotherapist can access your responses. Usually, the latter helps you feel less as a subject and more as a partner in the therapy process. In the end, hypnotherapists employ both types of suggestions to suitable circumstances and in different degrees to contrasting clients. Advanced techniques such as analysis and regression can also utilised to further reinforce the treatment where suggestions have a limited effect.
Hypnotherapy in practice: Summary
Having clarified some techniques in hypnotherapy, it should be understood that the therapeutic process is a highly dynamic one. The hypnotherapist usually has to do a lot of work to ensure that the treatment takes place within different time-frames. As a result, there is a myriad of techniques and procedures used in the process apart from the general use of hypnotic suggestions.
It is not surprising that hypnotherapy gives a mysterious impression because it approaches different goals with special care and distinctive therapy management. Your treatment can involve many individual features that supplement your progress. These can include homework tasks with controlled desensitisation and practising self-hypnosis to help with the management of your emotional state in specific situations.
It is important for the hypnotherapists to know and use these general procedure-stages. It is also essential for hypnotherapists to educate themselves on the various hypnotherapeutic solutions and benefits when applying a breadth of therapeutic techniques. When you are being treated by hypnotherapists who adopt these therapeutic strategies, you can be assured that you will receive a professional hypnotherapy service tailored to your individual needs and with maximised goal-oriented benefits.
For further information about hypnotherapy in practice,
Stating your hypnotherapy goals or what you want as the outcome of the treatment is an important part of any therapy, not just in hypnotherapy. If the initial contact (by email, phone or face to face) has not already established this, a trained hypnotherapist will ask you directly about the nature of your goal (or presenting condition). They will then (re) confirm the goal during your consultation and may give some mention about the treatment methods used to help achieve it.
Sometimes the goal is clear and the treatment can proceed with both parties sharing the same understanding about the direction of the therapy e.g. “I want to stop smoking”. On occasions, the nature of the goal needs further clarification to ensure that it is attainable since you may be confused about your own condition, how it continues to affect you and what could be a potential solution e.g. when you have suffered abuse in the past.
The following points can clarify the nature of your hypnotherapy goals:
That the goal can be (reasonably) defined
Some hypnotherapy goals are unrealistic and may expect far too much from a short course of treatment. Wanting to be completely “free of anxiety forever” (implying a cure) is an example of an unrealistic goal in hypnotherapy. Stating the goal more specificallycan help you to establish the goal or progressive goals in your treatment program. For example:
With a fear of flying, your goal could be stated as “to be more relaxed during your next flight”.
With weight loss, your goal could be stated as “to eliminate unhealthy snacking in between meals”
With social anxiety, your goal could be “to learn how to relax when socialising.”
Stating it as a positive goal helps to engage your imagination and resources into the goal situation. Some clients commonly arrive with negative goals as an illustration of how they are dominated by their negative state. When asked about their goal, they reply “I don’t want to panic in my next flight”. The positive nature of the goal can be re-evaluated by asking “so what do you want (rather than not want) in your next flight?”
How you will know that the goal is being (or has been) achieved
Sometimes identifying that the goal is being or has been achieved is obvious and is connected to the defined goal (explained above). The treatment thus ends and it is mutually acknowledged as being achieved. In some cases where several issues affect the achievement of a goal, intermediategoals may need to be set to show that progress is being made e.g. when weight management goals are being treated, but weight gain through comfort eating is found to be related to anxiety and low self esteem. The latter may need to be treated concurrently, adding anxiety management and self esteem building goals to ensure that the healthy eating patterns are long-term.
Additionally, the arrival of (what is initially considered to be the achievement of) “the goal” may still require continued treatment to secure its conclusion e.g. when a smoker has just stopped smoking during the early stages of the treatment but still feels vulnerable about lapsing into smoking again. They have indicated that previous lapses have occurred due to stress. Stress management goals would also be necessary to help secure the goal of stopping smoking for a sufficient period after initially stopping smoking.
Imagining the arrival of your goal as a future goal-achievement “lifestyle scene” is a useful strategy in goal setting. It can create an open pathway for your mind to explore what happens when the goal is achieved in its entirety. The scene can be accessed by asking the questions “Imagine that you have gone through a successful process of change, how would you know that you have arrived? What would you be sensing, feeling, communicating and doing in the new situation X when this change has taken place?” These questions can almost create a momentary hypnosis. When you immerse yourself into that scene, it can project you into the experience of your goal and can demolish some established negative “anchors” (or connected internal responses that are inhibiting you from achieving it). In addition to asking the question, the client can benefit by visualising it when they are in hypnosis to intensify the desired state.
That the goal can be achieved in a realistic timeframe
This can involve a discussion about the estimated number of sessions required to achieve your goal. It can also give some indication of the duration of the course of treatment (estimated number of weeks and potential frequency of visitsto treat the condition). You can expect these figures to be estimates since every client brings a different background to their treatment, but it’s worth asking these questions to gauge your treatment plan.
Stating when you want to achieve your goal by can help set up a schedule of treatment consultations (number of possible sessions before a deadline e.g. the date that you are giving a presentation). It will also help to identify the time available to work on any proposed homework tasks.
Some hypnotherapy goals have continuous targets e.g. when you have a fear of public speaking and you are giving a series of presentations at regular intervals. Treatment progressions can be revised based on the feedback that you give in the subsequent session following each of your presentations.
Unrealistic timeframes usually involve last minute bookings with a demand for a cureof your condition. An example can include wanting one of those “I’ve done nothing about this until the last moment, but am still hopeful for a cure” treatment for your fear of flying, when you are flying tomorrow! Even though some clients can respond quickly to hypnosis, it’s more realistic to expect help to “control” some of your fear symptoms at this short notice, rather than outright cures.
That the goal can be achieved in view of (or in spite of) any personal history, medical issues or situational factors that might affect its accomplishment
When your goal is not “blocked” by background traumas and conflicting beliefs, you can usually set a realistic goal and achieve it independently; the process does not need therapy (external help) to accomplish it. The impact of past doubts and internal conflicts however can harm your ability to achieve your goal. Therapy then becomes an option to objectively deal with your internal conflicts, reframing these negatives and maximising the focus into your goal so that you can see a clear pathway into its achievement.
A professional hypnotherapist will discuss your medical history, background of the condition and lifestyle issues in the earlier part of your treatment, usually in the initial stage of the first consultation. These details can help indicate the extent to which the presenting condition or goal is being “weighed down” by other core issues. Sometimes when a client is highly suggestible to hypnosis, the goal can be treated in isolation of these core background issues and rapid change can take place. (You can assess your level of suggestibility here.) However, it is more common for these deeper background issues to need reframing to help you feel that the goal is detached from your negative history and can then be freely accessed.
To illustrate this, consider the following example. You suffer with panic attacks (this is your presenting condition) and you want to be able to control them (this is your goal). Hypnotic techniques are used to treat the panic attacks but are only partially helpful. Further enquiries into your background reveal post traumatic stress disorder and childhood abuse (cause of your conflicts). The emotions related to the abuse are reframed in your treatment and the panic attacks are subsequently eased (your goal is achieved).
Discussing the hypnotherapy goals is an essential part of the treatment process. Openly examining the nature of your goal can have several benefits including:
Establishing a direction for the treatment.
Clarifying if the initial expectations are realistic.
Helping you set up an early positive “anchor” with the goal so that it can then be accessed and reinforced in the hypnotic treatment.
Identifying a timescale to achieve the goal.
Reframing what conflicts are stopping you from achieving your goal.
Building rapport between you and the hypnotherapist
Are you ready to achieve your hypnotherapy goals?
(Further reading: When you are struggling to achieve your general goals, the SMART approach can be a useful strategy.)
For further information on achieving your hypnotherapy goals, contact Richard J D'Souza, senior hypnotherapist at Clinical Hypnotherapy Cardiff.
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