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Hypnotherapy suggested research

Hypnotherapy suggested research topics

Hypnotherapy suggested research topics could include a wide range of possible targets. The hypnotherapy business is a strange one. It has almost no barriers to entry. You can go on a weekend certification course and happily set yourself up as hypnotherapist on Monday. You can then set up your website. Nobody will be able to tell that you have no experience. Does it make a difference?

Does your advertising determine your success?

You can decide your style is New Age, or Spiritual, or Clinical or DNA-reprogramming, or anything else. On social media you can tell everyone that you are the most successful hypnotist of all time. To an extent, this might not be a bad thing. Belief in the process is a major part of success in hypnotherapy. So building yourself up in the client's mind may be exactly what is wanted. Does your advertising attract a particular type of client? Or are clients only interested in hypnotherapy, and really don't care what type of therapist they will see?

Does what the therapist looks like make a difference?

However, at some point, reality has to meet the hype. I know of several hypnotists who offer weight loss treatments while being themselves grossly overweight.  And hypnotists who smoke but offer stop smoking therapy. You have to wonder what effect this obvious contradiction between "what I say and what I do" has on the client. It would be interesting to see some research on how clients react to actually meeting the therapist. Does the difference between what is advertised and what you get make a difference?

Do client expectations make a difference?

Another interesting research topic to investigate: exactly what is it that clients expect when they go to a hypnotherapist? If a client strongly expects some particular approach, and doesn't get it, what effect does that have on the success rate? Should the therapist have a standard approach to everyone? Or should the therapist attempt to match the client's expectations, no matter how strange they are?

Does the venue make a difference?

We have to meet the client somewhere (Skype excluded of course). I have a professional office but I used to work from home. Many hypnotherapists work in temporary set ups.

I wonder what difference the venue makes to the overall success rate? Do clients respond better if they are hypnotized somewhere that looks like a doctor's office? Or do they do better in a relaxed family surrounding? It's actually quite important. I might be spending all this money on rent for no good reason. People working from home might be scaring off potential referrals.

There would seem to be a lot of scope for research here.

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external distractions

Stay calm and ignore external distractions

I had a client today who must count as one of the strangest inductions I have ever done.

The client came in and stood there looking at me. When I invited her to sit in the chair she immediately said 'No, I can't sit in a chair". I asked her what she meant. She told me that she had a bad back and could not bend to sit down. 'No problem' I said. 'The chair extends almost flat, you can lie down'. No, she said, 'I can only stand or lie flat on my back or on my stomach'.

Now this woman had come to a hypnosis session knowing full well that she would be asked to sit, but made no provision for her own special needs at all. I finally found a cushion she could use for her head and she lay down on the floor.

The interview

I then started interviewing her to find out what she wanted. So there I was asking questions of someone lying flat on her back on the floor. I finally found out what she wanted, she was afraid of retirement (!). She was seventy years old and had been forcibly retired by her employer. She was partly deaf and couldn't really describe what it was that she was afraid of.

Ignore external distractions

Anyway, I formulated a plan to deal with her issues and I began the induction. As luck would have it, a few minutes into the induction a tremendous rainstorm hit. The sound of the rain on the roof and windows made conversation almost impossible. I found myself  with a half deaf client lying on the floor with the biggest rain storm in years raging outside.

I ended up bellowing at her lying there on the floor shouting 'RELAX! LET YOUR MIND FIND SOME QUIET PLACE!' etc., while the pounding of the storm made it hard to hear myself, never mind get through to her.

She did eventually go into trance successfully, but I won't forget this session in a hurry.

I guess the lesson I take from this is to carry on no matter what the external distractions.

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lack of confidence

Lack of confidence treated with hypnosis

The client today was a man in his late twenties with lack of confidence. He lacks the confidence to assert himself. His wife says he always gives in too easily. It is costing him salary and promotion. He just cannot stand up for himself.

In the interview I learned that he will do anything to avoid aggression. He feels he has to keep people happy and never put forward his own views in case he causes aggression. He has to tell people what he thinks they want to hear. It was obvious that he was afraid of confrontation but I couldn't find anything in his life that caused him to want to avoid aggression.

Lack of Confidence behaviour

Like many people he feared rejection and wants to be liked. But I noticed that every time I asked him about how he feels, he tells me what he thinks. This is the typical behaviour of the over-analytical person. One probing further I found that he has many symptoms of hypervigilance.

Hypervigilance starts when a child feels that their environment is unpredictable and they become afraid of what is happening to them. The child then withdraws and puts up barriers to intimacy. The child's reasoning is that they don't feel anything they can't be hurt. This client confirmed that he has no real feelings about anyone.

The client said he felt that he had a shell around him. For most clients this would be the cue to start using a metaphor technique, but when I started with this client he could not get any emotion, he kept talking about what he thought of it.

Hypervigilant clients are hard to hypnotise

Hypervigilant clients are hard to hypnotise because they analyse everything you say to them. Instead of reacting to your suggestions, they analyse the structure of the sentences and wonder about why you used that particular word. They are so busy analysing that you can't get through their defences.

I explained how this usually works and told him that if I couldn't hypnotise him in my office I may have to give him CDs for private study. This technique always works eventually, and often is the only way to get them into trance in any reasonable time.

I thought that he would be hard to hypnotize and he agreed.
So I started the session with a rapid induction, he started smiling, and the impression I got was that he was feeling the induction but refusing to follow what his body was telling him.

Using a kinesthetic induction 

I then did a breathing induction and to my surprise his head started to nod, an indication of trance. I then did a deepener with a staircase induction, and he was in trance. This fast induction surprised me greatly. I tested with an eye catalepsy. Worked.

So I learned that this hypervigilant client, at least, could be hypnotised. I think the key to it was using a kinesthetic induction to get him to focus on a feeling he had never before noticed, the feeling of the air inside his head as he breathed in.

A therapy for lack of confidence

Did the standard RIVERWALK therapy with embelishments.
When he was looking at the town he saw someone like him at a table with friends doing all the things he wanted to do.
Had people following along the other bank.
Had him and his wife walking towards the town. Started with everything around stale and tired.
Then the little bridge where he says aloud what his problem is.

I felt this turned out to be a good session. What I learned from this is that even a therapy I have used hundreds of times can still surprise me. My own unconscious mind came up with a new twist to suit this particular client.

So what I ended up with is a new way of treating lack of confidence.

It never ceases to amaze me how ingenious the unconscious mind can be.

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Analytic self-hypnosis

Trance for analytic self-hypnosis?

Analytic self-hypnosis

What would you propose as a good way for an analytic to do self-hypnosis? I’ve tried lots of ways and hypnotists but have not had success.

I replied:

Keep in mind everyone can be hypnotized. Start from there. The trick is let your mind analyse the thing until it gets fed up with analysing the same thing and your mind switches off and you drift into trance without realizing you are doing it.

What I recommend is that people get a well made hypno recording and play it over and over until it becomes so familiar your mind gets bored. At some point in the umpteenth listening your mind will forget about analysing what is being said and while the mind is distracted the instructions in the recording will be heard by the unconscious mind without filtering and you will fall into trance. After that, once your mind accepts that you can let go of control and you don't die, then you will be able to go into trance easily anytime.

Or use Benson's Relaxation Response for analytic self-hypnosis

Alternatively, if you want to do self hypnosis, do Benson's Relaxation Response. Sit somewhere without distractions and repeat a word or phrase over and over, either aloud or in your mind. You might have to have several goes at it. But at some point you will lose contact with the meaning of the word and you will realize that you are actually in trance. This is the basis of all mantra based meditation routines - it will work, eventually.

I have spent months on end listening to good hypnosis tapes and I am likely going into hypnosis but I am not getting any of the benefits. It could be that I am just falling asleep but I come back on que so I think not.

I will try repeating a phrase as you suggest. I have not heard of this before. Will see if I will do better with it.

My response was

I wonder if you are expecting too much from hypnosis? It is likely that you are actually going into trance. But because you are expecting something more, you are feeling disappointed. 

You might be better to read up on some metaphor therapy techniques, or visualization techniques and let them guide you. It is quite possible to direct your thoughts while in trance. It takes a bit of practice, but it can be done.

Alternately, get an experienced hypnotist to take you into trance. Then you will know that your entrance. You can arrange for the hypnotist to bring you in and out of trance so that you can feel the difference. A good hypnotist will also be able to teach you, or show you, various things that you can do while in trance. Once you're aware of the feeling you will be able to go into it anytime you want, and be free to explore your own unconscious. It is definitely worth continuing with this. Exploring in trance is almost magical.

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placebo effect

Placebo Effect belief and psychology

The placebo effect

The original meaning of ‘placebo’ comes from the latin word placer – to please (in English "placate"). Placebos were inert substances given to patients to please them so that the patient felt that they were getting some sort of treatment when nothing else was available (Moerman, 2002 p11).
The common meaning of placebo is some inert substance, or some procedure that should not have any medical benefit, but does. 
Moerman (2013) argues that the placebo lies not in the substance, but in the meaning that the receiver takes from it. "I will argue that in most of these, the results usually make more sense if we try to determine how a meaningful interaction occurred, rather than trying to understand the effectiveness of … “nothing.” Whatever form the substance takes, in the mind of the patient it represents the whole of medical knowledge, and is imbued with power."

This has been known for centuries: the King’s touch was believed to cure scrofula, a visit to the doctor makes some people feel better, Chinese Americans born in years associated with ‘earth’, years ending in 8 or 9, disproportionately die of diseases such as lumps and tumours, traditionally associated with earth in Chinese culture.

The placebo effect has been tested extensively

Moerman (2013) cites ten different studies showing the placebo effect. In one, patients got more relief from headaches when they believed the aspirin was a heavily advertised branded version, as opposed to an identical unlabeled aspirin.

In dentistry, the dentists were told that their patients were or were not getting an active drug, but the patients weren’t told. The patients whose dentists were told they were using the active drug actually reported less pain, despite having no knowledge of the experiment at all. Another dentistry study proved that belief in the placebo caused measurable physiological changes in the brain, and produced active opiates to relieve pain.

IBS patients were told that they were getting placebo pills, containing only sugar, but that had proved effective in clinical trials in the past: 97% of the patients who knowingly took the sugar pills proved to be healthier on all measures a week later. In trials of depression drugs, placebos did almost as well and produced much the same results.

The placebo effect also exists with active drugs. After surgery all patients were given Tramadol, but some were injected with it and told what it was, while others had it delivered through their IV line without being aware of it. The injected patients reported much more pain relief from identical doses

The conclusion is that people do not respond to placebos, what they respond to is their own beliefs, to the beliefs for of the carers, to their cultural background and to the words that accompany the intervention. It is the totality of the experience that matters.

Placebo Effect and the cycle of healing

Of course there may be no psychological effect at all. One possible reason is regression to the mean. Many diseases get better on their own. The common cold for example takes about a week and a half to run its course if untreated, but if you get the finest treatment that medical science can provide, it will last only about ten days.

Whatever you do for a cold has no effect, but the cold does come to an end, so you can credit whatever you did as curing it. Many diseases are cyclic: you get unwell, then you get better on your own and then you feel unwell again, but there is no cure. The episodes may well be years apart.

The placebo effect comes in because patients seek help when they are unwell, when the cycle is at or near its peak. Left on its own, the symptoms will subside back to average, and whatever is done has no effect at all because the disease is just running along its cycle. The treatment seems to work, but actually has no effect, so whatever you do the outcome is a placebo effect.

This is most likely the reason for many of the strange folk remedies that people believe in. 

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paradoxical intervention

paradoxical intervention therapy

A paradoxical intervention is a non-hypnosis way of treating people. It seems to be the opposite of what you would think is needed.

Paradoxical Intervention for Smoking

For example, the late Alan Carr wrote a book about stopping smoking. One of the first rules in the book was that the reader was not to stop smoking now, and make no attempt to give up. They have to keep smoking until they have finished the whole book. Now, I have no idea what he intended with this instruction, but the result is that the smoker starts reading the book, and then feels pressured to keep smoking. They didn't want to smoke, but must. You can't stop until you have finished the book.

That means that every time you turn a page you are reminded that you are not allowed to stop smoking yet. That increases the desire to not be forbidden to stop, which increased the desire to want to stop. Which is precisely the feeling you want the smoker to have. So paradoxically, by ordering them to not stop, you increase their desire to stop.

Paradoxical Intervention theory

The basic idea in a paradoxical intervention to reduce the resistance of the client. Normally a client wants to do the problem behavior because they have some unconscious programming or need that needs to be fulfilled. Normally the unconscious need is outside of awareness. If you give the client permission to go on doing the problem behavior, then the client is able to get some awareness of why they want to do it. By thinking about that, the client becomes aware that they actually do have some control over their own behavior.

Paradoxical Intervention examples

The interventions can be anything. For example, telling a child that they should scream some more and see where it gets them. Or telling a person threatening suicide to go ahead. There is of course a danger in this, so in practice things are usually less dramatic. A typical paradoxical intervention would be to tell a procrastinator to set aside an hour a day to do procrastination. Tell them to get really good at it. This forces the individual to think about the consequences of their action, and possibly to reconsider its usefulness.

Milton Erickson Paradoxical Intervention

Milton Erickson described many paradoxical interventions. His best known is probably the case where a couple were having sexual problems. The wife didn't want to initiate sex. He told them to go home and to not have any sex, to never have sex again. The result was that the couple lay in bed and for the first time, didn't feel any pressure to have sex. Which soon resulted in them thinking about sex more, and in actually having sex again. Together they proved the therapist wrong.

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How to treat a phobia

How to treat a phobia

How to treat a phobia

I have a client coming in who wants to deal with a Phobia and I got to thinking about how to deal with it.

Phobias are learned disorders and therefore any phobia can be unlearned. Treatment for phobias are usually successful, although clearing a phobia completely may take several sessions.

In hypnotherapy for phobias therapists often use the NLP Phobia Cure, or some form of graduated exposure therapy, but there are other ways of dealing with a phobia.

Ways of treating a phobia

Graduated exposure for phobias is done by introducing the phobic person to what they fear, a little at a time, to get them used to it.

Flooding consists of surrounding the phobic person with what they fear. For example a person with a fear of knives would be taken into a room filled with a drawer full of knives and knives on the bench top. This will cause them to have their reaction, and although it can be unpleasant, they will gradually realize that they did not come to any harm and actually can be in a situation where there are knives.

Another method  is Counter conditioning. This is a treatment that teaches the phobic person how to relax while in the phobia situation, so that they learn to control the panic they get from their phobia.

Ordeal Therapy is seldom used today, but it does work. The idea is to get the phobic person to be exposed to the phobia just up to the point where they want to turn away and avoid it. Then the phobic person is told to do something unpleasant and to keep doing it until it gets so unpleasant that they would rather face the phobia.

Milton Erickson used to use this a lot, but would probably be reluctant to use it today, given the tendency to sue everybody for everything.

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stage hypnosis show

Is a stage hypnosis show good for hypnosis?

This weekend I went to see a stage hypnosis show. I always enjoy these. They take me out of my comfort zone. It forces me to think about how I hypnotize people, and what I could be doing differently.

The show got off to a bad start because it started twenty minutes late but by the end everyone had a good time.

Chooseing volunteers for the stage hypnosis show

He started the audience participation with an NLP type point-and-turn- and-then-see-if -you-can-turn-further-by-imagining-you-can demo. Then a hand clasp suggestion test. Oddly enough he did not select the most hypnotizable from among these - he sat everyone down and asked for volunteers. And there were plenty. The seats on stage filled up very quickly. He then did a progressive relaxation on the volunteers. I tried to go along with the induction to see if I would go into trance but I found the music he used too loud and distracting.

But it clearly worked on the volunteers. Many were obviously zonked, but a few I had my doubts about. What was interesting to me is that like all the stage hypnotists I have seen, he did not do any testing or confirmation.

He ran a very loud show and the stunts were very vigorous. So vigorous that I observed that many of the volunteers shook themselves right out of trace. He kept them working away at various things although it was obvious to me that some were clearly not in trance. And yet, when they sat down and he counted 3-2-1 and told them they were back in trace, they all seemed to be so. So, do I need to do just that with my clients? I am still puzzling about how some of the volunteers were doing really out there stuff but still unquestionably in trance.

What you can learn from a stage hypnosis show

Maybe I should have a go at running a show of my own sometime. It certainly doesn't look particularly difficult. I know one well known stage hypnotist who started off in a band, but wasn't too good at it so changed from playing guitar to booking other acts and made a living at that. Later he branched out to booking other types of act, including hypnosis shows. He used to watch the hypnotist he booked because he enjoyed it. And then, one night the hypnotist did not show up. Instead of cancelling the show, my friend took to the stage himself and did what he remembered of the routines. He had never hypnotized anybody up to then, and now he was hypnotizing a whole room! He never looked back and built a new career for himself.

A lot people think that stage hypnosis is bad for the hypnotherapy industry and put the wrong idea into people's heads. I disagree. When it done well it lets the public see a real hypnotist and experience hypnosis for themselves. I think it mostly gives a positive image of hypnosis.

Overall it was a fun night and very professionally done. My wife loves these things. And, to top it off, we won first prize in the raffle! Over $400 worth of services from local businesses. I love hypnosis!

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A therapist wrote to me,

Hi Dave,
I've just got your scripts book and I'm exceptionally pleased with how the flow and language and just everything works.

Although I've only used the nail biting script with a single client I'm confident it was a slam dunk.

I am planning on focusing my effort on clients with ADHD and ADD and was hoping to find some scripts on that. Tonight I attended a meeting of ADDers and realized that everyone's perception of their problem was 'uniquely their own' perception. So nothing appears to be straight forward.

I was wondering if you could offer any insight into how to pursue this issue.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

My reply was:

ADD is a strange disorder. There are so many reasons for it that it is hard be sure what to do in every individual case.

Some children are genetically disposed to it and have physical brain problems.

Some children are reacting to chemicals in the stuff they eat and drink, or the medication they have been given.

Some children are just boisterous kids and are acting the way kids do.

Some children are normal kids who are being affected by over-zealous parents.

Some children have been trained into it through bad parenting skills, and let do whatever they want, and now they out of control.

My approach is to take it very carefully.

I always pay more attention to the parents.

If the kids are in category one and two there is not a lot I can do to help.

If the kids are in category three and four then two things need to be addressed. The kids themselves are under great stress because everything they want to do naturally is being scrutinized and forbidden and punished. I treat those children for anxiety and stress and do a lot of self esteem work, allowing the kids to realise they are normal and it will all work out for them.

The other thing I try to do is to treat the parents. If they can't get their kids to act the way they would like, then change what it is they like! You can work on the parents to realize that their child's behaviour falls on some part of a very large spectrum so they feel comfortable with that level of behavior, to accept what they see and to be relaxed around it.

So my advice to look at the total environment of the child, and always consider a multiple approach.

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inappropriate behavior patterns

Stopping inappropriate behavior patterns

High expectations is often what drives inappropriate behaviour patterns. I had a client yesterday who is a successful businesswoman. She came to see me because she has become aware that she is getting trapped into a pattern of behaviour that she doesn't like, doesn't want, and that is threatening her marriage.
What she has is a pattern of sudden aggression towards others. She runs a successful hairdressing salon and manages 10 staff. Over the years she has learned to control her aggression with respect to customers and staff. But her problem now is that she's being aggressive towards her husband over real or imagined incidents.

The origin of the problem

Her mother had married a very argumentative man. They separated when my client was four years old. My client remembers even at four years old asking mommy "when is that bad man leaving?" Her mother then remarried, this time to a man who was physically abusive, as well as being verbally abusive. My client grew up in this dysfunctional household and remembers many occasions when she had to intervene between her stepfather and her mother. Her mother was passive and always tried to calm the situation down, but usually was not successful.

My client described an incident that was typical of her behaviour. One day she came home to find that her husband had thrown out some spring onions. She had been expecting to use these for some diet that she was on, and now could not.
This triggered an immediate rage. She accused him of trying to sabotage her, of having no concern for her feelings or her needs, of being totally selfish. But strangely enough, even while she was going through her rant, part of her mind was saying "why are you doing this?"

Indication of inappropriate behavior patterns

This "split attention" indicates an inappropriate behaviour pattern in action. All behaviour is designed to keep you safe. The sudden aggression is designed to back off danger and keep the person safe. My client learned in childhood that the only way to be safe, to keep the threat away, was to go full at it.

My client's stepfather was manipulative, abusive and constantly trying to put others down. Over several years she had learned to recognize the signs of a dangerous situation before it even happened. She discovered that what worked to stop it was to unleash her own aggression. Over time, this became her default behavior.

What is happening now is that she is identifying or imagining situations in her current life which matched the threat that came from her stepfather. And that then causes her to fire off her own defence mechanism. Unfortunately, it is now being directed at people who are completely innocent. And of course these people resent it deeply because they don't understand where it's coming from. In particular it is affecting her marriage. Her husband is quite baffled as to why she suddenly flies into a rage and then five minutes later acts as if nothing had happened.

Therapy to get rid of inappropriate behavior patterns

NLP pattern interrupts depend on being able to recognize and stop the behavior. The problem is that very often the damage is done by the time the pattern is recognized. What I try to do is isolate and destroy the trigger first. And then substitute a different behavior.

In this case I got the client to put itself back into the feelings that she had with the spring onions incident. What we were looking for was the initial feeling, and not the reaction to that feeling. I then used metaphor replacement to allow her to deal with that feeling.

After considerable prompting, she said that the feeling was like a red square with grey smoke coming out of it. I then explored all the different aspects of that red square. For example where the sides straight with the corner shop are thick was it? And so on. She quite rapidly transformed the square into an outline. Then she successfully made the outline disappear.

The next stage then was to remove the inappropriate behaviour pattern. I took into a fairly deep trance and told her that she was in charge of her inner mind. I got her inner mind to search for the thing that was causing that aggressive behaviour. Eventually her mind found it, and with my prompting, she was able to take it out of that place. It appeared to her as a wooden ball. This ball shattered and released all of its contents as a liquid. I got this liquid to drain down her body and then run out through the soles of her feet.

The final stage was to go back to the place where that wooden bowl had been, and fill it with something else. I asked her to think of something good that she could put in that place was represented a different feeling. This meant that if the feeling was ever triggered again the inappropriate behaviour pattern would be replaced by a different feeling.

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