The Heath

Why I No Longer Use Conventional Hypnosis In Therapy

The short answer is: in most cases, it has caused more problems than it helped. So I developed an ‘open version’.

The reason for this, in turn, is that it is ultimately all about working with subconscious resistance.

Have you ever bought a membership to a gym or other club but then found yourself resisting or even turning up at all?

We make excuses, procrastinate and find reasons to put off visiting again.

We may truly want to go to the gym or class… we sincerely intend to go…  and we paid for membership in good faith at the time…. but another part of our mind is not sold on the idea of going, and that’s the part of our subconscious mind that would resist hypnosis in therapy.

Now on one level, clients truly find the idea of being hypnotised to change desirable in principle. It’s just that another part of our minds will resist this idea because of other considerations, and if that part of the mind resists hypnosis, then it will clam up and fight the whole hypnosis process.

Resistance itself is very understandable.

I explain to a client ‘Imagine if you come to me and say ‘I don’t trust my subconscious mind but can you, stranger I just found on the internet, take control of my mind and compel me to eat food I don’t really want to eat … or stroke a dog … or speak a lot more in front of people despite previous traumatic experiences?’. Your subconscious mind is going to respond with ‘I’m not signing up to that! My job is to avoid those things for you. Will this therapist I just met prevent me from avoiding these terrifying things?’. And so the inevitable result is that the mind resists because it does not yet understand how it will be helped.

Many times I’ve observed clients worrying that if they relaxed too much, they might lose control. You can see them slipping into a more comfortable and relaxed state only to catch themselves doing that and opening their eyes or suddenly panicking about relaxing. They end up becoming more vigilant and on edge rather than calming down. If something isn’t helping, it’s time to switch to other methods because you can’t ‘make’ someone relax when they consider relaxation a prelude to losing control and being confronted with their worst fears.

Hypnosis itself depends on some minimum level of openness (i.e. a lack of resistance by making the subconscious mind feel at ease, safe and happy).

Conventional or mainstream hypnotherapists will regularly encounter clients who start resisting being hypnotised, and remember these will be clients who specifically sought hypnosis as a therapy. If you seek a hypnotherapist, you want and expect to be hypnotised in the same way that if you see a surgeon; you expect surgery, not other treatments. And even with people seeking out hypnotherapy, resistance will be common.

It’s even harder in my situation because I am primarily a psychologist who also trained extensively in hypnosis and used it as an adjunct to psychological therapies. A lot of my clients either did not know I offered hypnosis or were very sceptical, or apprehensive about it is a therapy option. In which case, I had to explore alternative ways to achieve the same results but with different methods.

The possibility of having ‘hypnosis-like’ results without actually needing any hypnosis is based on the simple principle: if you think about every major change in your beliefs or behaviour, did you need to rush out to find a hypnotherapist and get hypnotised first?

Hardly. You intuitively went through a process of clarity and realignment of understanding. I will apply the same principles but in a more formal manner.

Now that’s not to say that people might not experience a level of spontaneous hypnotic relaxation or influence. They might if they feel comfortable enough with both the idea of being hypnotised and specifically being hypnotised by me. But I am not aiming for hypnosis. I am aiming for change. If during the last part of the session your subconscious mind feels open enough to experience a level of hypnosis, then it will, but only because it’s felt open enough to experience it, not because I have compelled it to do it. And if it doesn’t want or trust a hypnotic experience, that’s fine too. I remind people – ‘Are you here to be hypnotised or here to change?’. If you are here to change, then don’t worry how your mind achieves that for you. The important thing is the destination, not how your mind achieved that destination.

I will use formal hypnosis when:

  • The client is open to the idea and, more importantly, their subconscious mind has consented to be hypnotised (there is a test for this).
  • There is a realistic understanding of what hypnosis can and cannot do.
  • I would usually employ formal hypnosis from a second session onwards as it’s a lot easier to establish trust once a client has had an experience of the approach and we’ve discussed appropriate expectations as resistance would be reduced or not in effect.

Since with most traumas and phobias I usually end up needing just one session, the majority of clients will not end up experiencing a formal hypnotic process, but the ‘open’ version instead.

For more information on how I can personally help with ARFID, contact me today on 0207 794 8730.

Felix Economakis

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