Even before the more formally recognised beginnings of hypnotherapy, with Anton Mesmer in the 18th and James Braid in the 19th century, trance states would be induced through the religious and spiritual ceremonies of diverse traditions and used therapeutically. Hypnosis, the guided focussing of attention and self-awareness with an associated relaxation response, can really be considered the first form of psychotherapy. Freud’s first analyses were conducted using formal trance inductions and many would argue that the relaxation techniques used in behavioural techniques such as phobic desensitisation are derived from, and near equivalents to, the induction of a hypnotic trance state.
Given this long and rich history, hypnotherapy has many traditions and techniques to draw upon and I am happy to use one of my favourite words -eclectic- when describing my own approach. The strengths of therapeutic techniques from different schools can be matched to each case and each client individually.
I greatly value psychodynamic approaches for the insight and understanding that they can bring, allowing us a space for re-evaluation of past events. However, insight alone does not necessarily bring change to our existent realities. The greek philosopher Epictetus believed, that people are not disturbed by events themselves but largely by the view they take of them and the way that they react to them. Cognitive-behavioural approaches provide techniques which help us to change our beliefs and our thoughts – the things that we say to ourselves that may be self-limiting or damaging. With the new resources cognitive techniques provide, we can also take practical steps to consciously change our behaviours and by doing so positive change is almost unavoidable.
I first used hypnotherapy for myself to help with anxiety arising while presenting to clients at work, utilising an understanding of the stress response and the tools of hypnosis (such as visualisation) to take control and work with it rather than against it. Anxiety and the stress response remain at the core of my work as they are often the root cause of so many other issues. The counterpoint relaxation response often elicited in trance induction makes such issues well suited to hypnotic work.
As we return to work after the excesses of the party season, hypnotherapy should be considered as an alternative to the default British relaxation techniques (smoking and drinking!) that may have become more excessive or habitual over the festive period. A client who suffered from work stress, largely through her own demands for perfection, once described drinking as her way of letting go. Memorably, she actually appreciated hangovers as she believed they were her only chance to ‘switch off’, not least because she could do nothing else while hung over. Through several hypnotherapy sessions, she gained insight into the unnecessary demands she placed upon herself and learned techniques to help to both manage and let go of that stress without alcohol.
If you want to start the new-year with help to manage anxiety and stress as you head back into work, or are looking to reduce alcohol or eliminate tobacco, I will be running a promotional offer through January with 3 sessions over three weeks at £50 an hour.
By Seth Wallis-Jones, Hypnotherapist at Shine, Church Street