As well as being a chartered counselling psychologist, I am a great fan of the use of clinical hypnosis and offer it to all my patients as part of the overall treatments plan.
Many enquirers to The Heath have seen me demonstrate hypnosis for rapid change with extreme phobias on the BBC3 programmes ‘Panic Room’ and ‘Fussy Eaters’, and wonder if the same quick fix can apply to their problems.
The answer is … ‘Yes and No’.
I and other hypnotherapists will have all experienced working with individuals who were in a deep trance, carried out all the feedback tests (such as unable to lift their arm from the chair, forgetting certain numbers, or feeling no pain when pinched) and yet who only had partial success for the problem they have come to see us about.
Conversely, we have also had individuals who seemed to only be able to go into a very light trance (fidgety, frequent scratching, checking and moving parts of their body throughout the session), who then went on to report measurable success, such as stopping smoking, or overcoming a fear of some sort.
Some patients will follow all instructions and have a total change, others have a partial change, and a minority will have no change regardless of their hypnotisability.
Why is this the case? Why can’t all good hypnotees just be quickly put in a trance and have a quick fix?
There are many reasons and variables: timing, personal rapport with the therapist, comfort and distractions, compatibility with the hypnotic approach. One of the most important for me is the idea of whether the subconscious mind has understood the underlying ‘life lesson’ behind the problem.
Some problems facing us (such as simple phobias) are born from simple emotional knee jerk reactions and misunderstandings. There is very little to learn in terms of growth and adaptation. The underlying ‘lesson’ can usually be learnt quickly and easily, allowing for a speedy ‘green light’ go-ahead to change the problem without too much fuss. In such cases hypnosis can seem like a magic wand. A person walks into the consulting room with a life-long phobia and an hour later, can walk out without it.
With other problems its almost as if the subconscious is saying ‘No, I can’t just give the green light for change here. The conscious mind has to be aware of all these other factors present, which it is really important for them to know about’. These other factors might be acknowledging unprocessed feelings from the past, unmet emotional needs, or current concerns about the present or future which the conscious mind is oblivious of.
In such cases, much as the patient walks in saying ‘I just want you to take this away’ (so I can return to leading my life the same way as before), the subconscious mind will not be ignored if it wants a point to be made. Therapy therefore will not be a magic wand but will require the individual to learn what it is they need to learn to finally be free of their affliction.
Unfortunately there is no way of knowing whether the magic wand or larger lesson approach will be needed until we get stuck into the session. It really does depend on the individual.