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paranormal beliefs

Paranormal beliefs in hypnotherapy

Paranormal beliefs

What do you do when you meet a client with strong paranormal beliefs? My policy has always been to accept the client's beliefs as real and valid and work with them. For example, a client might come to me to me and say that they believe that their current problems are because of what they did in a past life. In that case I'm quite willing to accept their beliefs. And even tell them that I agree with the belief. I will then go on with past life regression. My job is to  help to identify whatever is bothering them, in a way that is acceptable to them.

A client who wants to find a lost object is entitled to get help if they believe that hypnosis will reveal its location. A client who believes that they have lost memories and want to recover them should not be prevented by my personal beliefs.

Similarly, a client might tell me that they have a close and personal relationship with Jesus.  And Jesus is telling them what to do. As long as it's not a danger to anyone else, I am happy to work within any psychological framework.

What is a delusion?

It seems to me that a great deal of what is presented to therapists as "delusions" are simply a metaphoric way of speaking about normal, real things. If someone tells me that they feel that they have a spiritual guide, I have no problem accepting that is being just a way of talking about intuition. The fact that this particular spiritual guide appears as an Indian chief, I don't think that changes the basic situation. If people tell me they get messages from the "other side", again I am happy to interpret this as their understanding of the messages from their own unconscious mind. An over rigid insistence on scientific, logical thinking can often get in the way of good therapy.

What is acceptable?

This is not to say that psychosis is not real. People do have schizophrenia, and paranoia, and all the other mental disorders that humans are subject to. I do not believe that joining people in their psychoses is going to help them at all. We all have to recognize our own limitations of competence. We should refer on as soon as we feel that there is something outside our own approved skill set.

I once had a client tell me that he was hearing voices. These voices were telling him to kill his girlfriend. In that instance I immediately stopped the session and referred him to a psychiatrist.

So I accept that other people do have paranormal beliefs. And I believe it is not up to me to decide what they should or should not believe. There is a very broad spectrum of what is acceptable in human thought and behavior. We owe it to our clients to work with whatever they bring to us.

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false consensus effect

False Consensus Effect

False consensus effect

the false consensus effect is a cognitive bias that leads you to assume that other people think the same way that you do. It is natural, and inevitable, and leads to problems in therapy.

It is both good and bad. It is bad when extremists of any sort find confirmation of their own views in the general population. It is good when it allows you to feel more comfortable in a social group.

The self reinforcing effect

The false consensus effect causes you to overestimate the extent to which other people share your own beliefs, values, morals and behaviors. Once you believe this, you stop noticing evidence that doesn't support that, and you tend to reinforce your own view of the world.

You can test this quite easily. Simply ask someone to do something a bit strange, a bit out of the ordinary, something that you might think that would be socially unacceptable or potentially embarrassing. For example, ask your friend if they would dye their hair green. Note whether your friend says yes or no. People who say no, will say that the majority of people would also say no. People who say yes, will tell you that the majority of people would also say yes. They are projecting their own feelings onto the general population. Regardless of what the actual numbers are, people always overestimate in the direction that agrees with how they feel.

False consensus effect and therapy

What does this have to do with therapy? It is important because the way that you deal with your clients reflects your personal beliefs. Your personal beliefs about therapy were determined by how you were trained. How you were trained is determined by the beliefs of the trainer. So once you have these beliefs about how to do therapy, they tend to be reinforced by speaking to other therapist trained in the same therapy. You reinforce them, and they reinforce you.

The problem is that this process prevents you from being open to new ideas, to different modalities, to better ways of doing things. Unless you deliberately set out to challenge yourself, to talk to people from different backgrounds, two experiments with new techniques, you will tend to get stuck in a rut. You will tend to allow your techniques to fossilize, to become more and more embedded in your theory of psychology.

Avoiding the false consensus effect

This is one of the reasons why most therapy associations insist on annual professional development. Going to conferences gives you the opportunity to see a different view of the world. Getting trained in a different modality might well change your perspective on what you are doing, and why you are doing it.

It is something that we all need to be aware of, and something we should all try to avoid.

 

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sexual abuse by therapist

Sexual Abuse by Therapist

Sexual Abuse by Therapist

I had a client today who made me feel both depressed and angry. This young woman came in, and when she settled down in the chair, I  asked her "and what would you like to have happen?".

She said, "I just want to be happy". This wasn't really something I could work with, so I tried probing a bit more.

"So what is making you unhappy?" "I don't know."
Okay, not a great start. I decided to broaden the scope, and asked her "if you could change only one thing in your life what would that one thing be?".

She thought about it for a while, and then said "I don't really know".

We were getting nowhere. So I asked her "what is the most important thing in your life?"

She didn't answer. Instead, her face crumpled and she began weeping quietly.

Testing for depression

Anyone who sits in my chair crying, most likely has depression of some sort. So I did the standard test for depression and sure enough, she fitted into many of the categories. We discussed the symptoms, when this had started, and what she had done about it.

She said, "I went to see a couple of counsellors, I don't think they helped".

I asked, "and did the counsellors say about what was causing you to be unhappy?".

She looked away, and mumbled something. I said to her, "sorry I didn't hear that, what was it you said?".

Once again she spoke very quietly and the only word I could make out was 'interference".

Sexual abuse by therapist

So I said "Interference? Interference with what?"

She looked deeply embarrassed. I realized what she was trying to tell me. "Are we talking about sexual abuse here?"

She nodded, and look miserable. I asked her very gently "when did this happen?".

She said, "I don't know. I don't remember it."

I asked, "how do you know you were sexually abused if you don't remember it?".

He said, "I was so unhappy, I went to see a counsellor at the Sally Ann, and she couldn't find any reason why I was so unhappy. She said that if I was unhappy and didn't know why, that meant I had been sexually abused. I told her that I didn't think I had been sexually abused, but she insisted that I must've been. There was no other reason why would be so unhappy."

I asked, "and what happened next?".

She said, "I didn't feel comfortable with that first counsellor, so I went to the local office of Rape Crisis. The counsellor I saw there also told me that I had been sexually abused. But I have actually no memory of it. I didn't go back to her either. "

Phantom sexual abuse

After listening to her story I actually felt very annoyed. I felt quite incredulous that counsellors are still insisting to women that they must have been sexually abused when they can find no other reason for that woman feeling unhappy. The fact that she got the same story from two different counsellors this made me feel depressed. I live through the whole sexual abuse hysteria.

In the 1990s There was a whole industry devoted to persuading women that there had been sexually abused by family members. There were books published on how to tell if you had been abused even if you had absolutely no recollection of it, and no reason to suppose you might have been.

Families were broken up, lives were ruined, innocent men went to jail, the whole thing developed until it got to such a ridiculous level at the whole thing was seen for what it was. A type of mass hysteria. And here it is, alive and well in my area, years after I thought it had all been put away and forgotten about.

As far as I'm concerned, this is just another instance of sexual abuse by therapists. The damage they do to vulnerable women is just as bad as actual sexual abuse.

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indicators of trance

Indicators of Trance

Indicators of Trance

I help out in training people interested in hypnosis from time to time. It is often useful to think back on how I used to feel about going into hypnosis, and how strange it can be for people doing it for the first time. It helps if you can recognize the indicators of trance.

Indicators of trance: Increased heartbeat

One newbie said to me "I was listening to a hypnosis CD the other night. I often find it quite difficult to get into trance, and I wonder if I'm doing it right. With this recording, I found myself sinking into what I thought was a trance, and feeling very pleased about it, when I noticed a sudden increase in my heartbeat. I don't know if it was excitement or alarm, but whatever it was, it pulled me right out of trance again."

In fact, this is one of the quite common indicators of trance. When you feel that increase in heartbeat it means that you are actually going into trance.  It is quite normal, nothing to worry about. If you find it bothers you during other inductions, then add in slow breathing to the induction. That should fix it.

Indicator of trance: eyelids flickering

Another physical symptom that people often complain about is that "my eyes start flickering uncontrollably". This is another one of these indicators of trance. It is quite normal, and harmless, and usually passes after a few minutes.

Indicators of trance: giggling with embarrassment

"I get the giggles when going into trance". This is another physical reaction and an indicator of trance. This happens with people who are anxious or analytic. As the induction proceeds, their breathing slows down, the muscles begin to relax, and at that point they start entering trance. But for this type of person, relaxing equals losing control. As the start to feel themselves losing control, the feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, and the embarrassment comes out as giggling or laughing. It normally only happens once or twice. Once the person is comfortable with going into trance and realises that nothing bad happens, then they don't feel that same embarrassment and they don't get the giggles.

Indicators of trance: muscle jerk jerking

if you people find that when they feel themselves going into trance, and arm, or a leg, will start jerking. Sometimes quite violently. This is often enough to pull them out of trance completely. Some people just cannot get into trance because it happens every time.

What is happening is that as their body relaxes, their unconscious mind feels that it is losing control. This control is usually manifested as a tension in the muscles. As that tension releases, the muscle will spasm. This impediment to trance is actually quite difficult to get rid of. It normally means that the person has quite deep-seated anxieties. And of course the hypnotherapy is for getting rid of those anxieties. But those anxieties are stopping the person getting into trance. So you have a circular problem. All they can do is to go through a long, slow induction and give themselves time to relax every muscle completely.

But everyone can be hypnotised eventually. It is simply a matter of repetition and practice.

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millennial depression

Millennial Depression

Millennial Depression

It looks like therapists will not be running out of work any time soon. A recent large British survey has shown that people born since 1990 are more likely to suffer from depression than people born before that time. Depression has gone up nearly 15%, and self-harm has gone up by 14%. These findings are not just due to having better instruments to measure depression, or that they're using a new research method. The survey used identical questions to those used in the first study 10 years ago.

But at the same time, the findings show that alcohol abuse and antisocial behavior has gone down in this population.

Millennial Depression and general health

The researchers suggest that the increase in depression may be linked to the general health of the population. In the last 10 years the average body mass index has increased in the whole of Britain. 29% of those surveyed agreed that they were overweight. It is also possible that high levels of youth unemployment, decreasing social services and the declining economy are all causing anxiety. All of these are potential targets for intervention, but none of them will be quick or easy to fix.

People with depression and anxiety related disorders are likely to still have them in 20 or 30 years time. Even if employment picks up and economic conditions improve there will still be a larger proportion of the public needing social and psychological help.

Millennial Depression and economic instability

The years between 1990 and 2010, included the global financial crisis, and the era of economic austerity in the UK. The period has been compared with the social environment in wartime. The constant stress, uncertainty, and the bleak outlook all contribute to long-term ongoing psychological problems. The same may be true of the US.

All of this means that there will be a constant demand for psychotherapists, counselors, and hypnotherapists. I guess every cloud has a silver lining?

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CBT therapy

CBT therapy is older than you think

The origins of CBT therapy

I was reminded today that nothing is really new in therapy. Paul Dubois was a Swiss neurologist who worked in the late 19th century and the early 20th century.

He introduced what is known as "persuasion therapy". This was a forerunner of CBT and rational therapy. He developed a way of treating "nervous disorders" by using a Socratic method of questioning. He challenged his patients to justify why they were feeling the way they are. This used the patient's own intellect and logic to challenge and eliminate negative thoughts and feelings.

His method was based on getting his patient to realize that their thoughts were irrational and could therefore be dismissed. His method was very popular in the early 20th century. It competed head-on with Freud's psychoanalytical treatment at the time. Dubois was also one of the earliest people to write about the importance of "mind over matter". His work is almost forgotten today.

Psychotherapy in classical times

Dubois's approach to psychotherapy was largely a response to the failings of the other popular psychotherapy, hypnosis. In the early 20th century hypnosis was thoroughly discredited after the scandal of Jean-Martin Charcot (1825–1893) and his fakery of hysteria treatments. Dubois also regarded Freudian theory as of little value. (Incidentally, Freud learned hypnotism from Charcot in the early 1890's)

Dubois was familiar with the writings of classical Greek authors such as Socrates, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. He realised that that the advice that they were giving 2000 years ago in teaching philosophy was almost identical to what he was doing in current psychotherapy.

Stoic Philosophy

In particular, he admired the work of the Stoics. Modern readers think of the Stoics as philosophers. But they thought of themselves as offering a sort of medicine for the mind. The Stoics believed that everyone has to take responsibility for their own actions. And at the same time accept that things happen by chance, and have no personal meaning.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Albert Ellis developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy based largely on this ancient philosophy. One of his central ideas was that emotional disturbances and associated behavior are not caused by external events, but are caused by our own irrational beliefs about these events. “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them.” (Epictetus, 80 BCE) Ellis went on to influence Aaron Beck and the CBT movement started from there. But basically it all goes back more than 2000 years to the Stoic philosophers.

Maybe we should be encouraging our clients to read philosophy?

 

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future of hypnotherapy

The future of hypnotherapy?

The future of hypnotherapy?

Researchers have found a bacterium that might alter the future of hypnotherapy. The bacterium lives in your gut and appears to have a strong connection with depression. Last month a different set of researchers discovered a collection of gut bacteria which only appear in people with schizophrenia.

This suggests that these debilitating mental illnesses are not actually genetic, but may be the result of an infection. Or, on the other hand, it may be that you get these illnesses when you don't have the benefits of the byproducts of various gut organisms.

Growing a cure for mental illness

It has been known for a long time that a healthy gut bacteria has many, many benefits for your health. One of the reasons for the immense popularity of yoghurt is precisely because it puts probiotic bacteria back into an unbalanced gut. Alcohol is a byproduct of yeast growth. There are tens of thousands of species of yeasts and bacteria in your gut right now. Some unknown number of these bacteria also produce byproducts. Some of these are highly beneficial, some of these may in fact be dangerous.

But there are so many different species that scientists have not yet been able to track down exactly what they are and exactly what, if anything, they do for you. The presence or absence of certain bacteria have been implicated in things like Crohn's disease and many other digestive problems. In fact faecal transplants are becoming the best way to treat diseases like this.

The future of hypnotherapy?

Schizophrenia, and depression are easily diagnosed illnesses. It appears that they may have a connection to gut bacteria, or may in fact be caused by gut bacteria. You have to wonder how many other less dramatic illnesses are also caused by gut bacteria.

Maybe in future we hypnotherapists will become largely redundant. We may be replaced by multi-spectrum probiotic injections. Perhaps the future treatment of mental illness may involved a simple transplant of some beneficial balance of gut flora and fauna. Who knows?

 

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gratitude

Expressing gratitude improves hypnotherapy results

Expressing gratitude

Gratitude is an approach to living. We can all be miserable about what we don't have, or all grateful for what we do have. Expressing gratitude to others leads to better relationships and better health.

Whenever I create change in my client during a hypnosis session, I always try to reinforce the change by getting the client to express gratitude. It is quite simple. I say something like, "there is just one thing more to do. And that is to express to your gratitude your mind for having made this change. So take a moment now, and in whatever way makes sense to you, just send a message of gratitude to your own mind. Think about how much you wanted this change, and how happy you are to have the change. And send that message to your own mind saying 'thank you '."

Expressing gratitude as parts therapy

This simple act can help to make the change permanent. Asking the client to send that message involves asking them to imagine how that message would be sent, and how it would be received. For some people it will be visual, some people it will be auditory, and for some people it will be a kinaesthetic experience.
But whatever it is, it is reinforcing the work that I have done in a very personal way that I am unable to do for them. To a certain extent, you are engaging in a bit of Parts Therapy. Part of them is sending the message, and part of them is receiving the message.

Expressing gratitude as homework

Whenever you express gratitude you make changes in your brain in the part that regulates emotion and motivation. If you want to give your clients homework, ask them to keep a gratitude diary. Tell them to write down three things that they can be grateful for that happened that day. Research has shown that keeping a gratitude diary can reduce the symptoms of depression.

You can take this idea a step further. Tell your client to visit or phone someone every day. And during that personal interaction to find the reason for expressing gratitude to the other person. Social interaction linked to gratitude is very powerful at reducing social anxiety. For clients who don't feel comfortable doing this, they can write an email expressing gratitude to the other person, and just not send it. The results are nearly as good.

So why not get into the habit of building a gratitude part into your hypnotherapy sessions?

 

 

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improving hypnotherapy outcomes

Improving hypnotherapy outcomes

Improving hypnotherapy Outcomes

Hypnotherapy is one of the talking therapies. It is interesting to consider how it is similar and how it is different from other talking therapies. Examining the structure of other talk therapies might give insights into improving hypnotherapy outcomes.

Some of the most used talking therapies and what they do, include:

cognitive behavioral therapies: change how you think about the world, stop using dysfunctional schemas

interpersonal psychotherapy and some dynamic therapies: improve into personal relationship skills

self compassion therapies, acceptance and commitment therapy: be more accepting of yourself

emotion focused and dynamic therapies: be able to express difficult emotions

mentalization therapies: accepting the perspective of others.

 

All of these therapies have a number of factors in common. First is the relationship between the therapist and the client. Second is building an expectation in the client that they will be helped. Third is the actual form of therapy.

Many decades of research suggest that the relationships and expectations are much more important than the actual therapy itself.

The therapeutic relationship

The relationship between the client and therapist actually begins before they get to know each other. Research suggests that a level of trust of some sort is worked out in the few microseconds before either person says anything. This level of trust is influenced by how the therapist is dressed, the layout and furnishing of the office, and interpretation of the therapist's facial expression. It may also be influenced by recommendations from others and beliefs about that type of therapy in general. The relationship is also strongly influenced by whether the client wants to be there, or has been forced to go there.

The psychodynamic relationship

This is basically about how the client and therapist perceive each other. This relationship is different from normal social relationships because there is an implied confidentiality, and it focuses entirely on the emotional problems of the client. Whatever the client says, the therapist has to accept it uncritically.

Expectations and goals

Expectations have a strong role in outcomes. This is basically the placebo effect at work. If you believe something will work, then it very often does. People who believe a bottle of wine is expensive, will reliably report that it tastes better.

If the therapist sets out to create positive expectations in the client, this can be enough to lift the client out of the cycle of hopelessness. They may have tried and failed many times. If someone tells them, with evidence, that they can get better, this will have an immediate effect.

Similarly, giving people a reason for their distress or illness, may reverse faulty thinking. Many clients come to therapy with 'folk' explanations for why they feel the way they do. Replacing these with scientific or pseudo-scientific explanations changes their mindset.

Giving the client a goal, and a way to reach that goal, gives them a way out of their problem. It focuses on the problem, and not on their personal failures.

Specific therapies

Every type of therapy is based on some sort of theory, and some sort of protocol for creating change. However, in most talking therapies, there is no clear scientific explanation for how they work. Each therapy has a theory that they insist is right, and every other theory is wrong. Each therapeutic model insists that there must be certain elements present before change can happen.

However, more than a century of research suggests that the effect of the specified elements of the therapy is actually very small. In other words, it really doesn't matter what therapy you use. They are all about equally effective.

Why does the therapy not matter?

This rather unexpected result can be explained by any number of things.

In some therapies, the client and therapist will meet for hundreds of sessions. It has been suggested that much of the benefit of therapy is actually because it is in the nature of a professional friendship. The client feels validated, accepted, understood, and avoids loneliness. This in itself can be very therapeutic.

Many clients come to therapy because they are living in unbearable situations. It is the situation that is causing the problem. Most therapies do not deal with clients' lifestyle at all. So giving them a goal and a way to reach it may be enough to help them change the external causes of their problems.

Therapeutic alliance

Research finds that the most important element in therapy is what is called the Therapeutic Alliance. This consist of the therapist-client bond, the goals of the therapy, and agreement about the tasks of the therapy. It includes elements of empathy, positive regard and collaboration.

Laboratory experiments have shown the personal relationship between the caregiver on their client has a major effect on the success of the treatment. Just having a warm and friendly manner goes a very long way. Personal relationships also involve recognizing and valuing your client's cultural background.

Expectations also play a major role. No matter what type of therapy is offered, giving your client a solid expectation of success affects that success.

Research also shows that the warmth and friendliness of the therapist is much more important than how good the therapist is at delivering the therapy. This reinforces the findings that the therapy itself is not all that important.

Improving hypnotherapy outcomes

You might think doing hypnosis has little in common with say psychoanalysis, or CBT. But in fact, the same elements are there. There are lessons to be learned from this research.

You, as a hypnotherapist, can work on each of the three elements. Start by building trust. You can improve your website, or your sales literature, to include testimonials and other proof of how good you are. Make sure that your office gives the impression of professionalism and competence. You can make sure that you dress appropriately. You can decorate your office with your awards and qualifications. All of these will go a long way to convincing your client that you are reliable and competent, before even opening your mouth.

You can spend time building rapport with your client, before starting the therapy. Showing an interest in the client's lifestyle, situation, relationships will all help to build a deeper level of trust.

You can spend time explaining how and why you work the way you do. Make sure that the client has no unanswered questions or reluctance. Fill your client with confidence in you, that you care about them personally. Don't treat all smokers the same, or give all phobias exactly the same treatment.

Make sure that you spend time telling the client exactly what to expect from you, and during the hypnosis, and what they will feel after the hypnosis.

Very importantly, don't just tell them at the end it's all finished and they don't have to do anything. Give them some sort of homework to do. Even if it's a placebo, it will constantly remind them that they have changed and focus them on making that change permanent.

Improving hypnotherapy outcomes is not about better hypnosis

Most hypnotists spend a lot of time and effort on trying to improve their hypnosis. They try to become better hypnotherapists, to become better at delivering the therapy.

Perhaps some of that time would be better spent developing skills in managing the therapist-client relationship?

 

 

 

Source: Bruce Wampold. (2015) How important are the common factors in psychotherapy? An update. Psychiatric World. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20238

 

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metaphor in therapy

Metaphor in hypnotherapy

The role of metaphor in hypnotherapy

Sometimes it happens in therapy that you just don't know what to do next. For me, it is usually when I ask a client to try to access the feelings about their behavior, or perhaps about things that happened earlier in their life, and they're can't find an emotion for me to work with. When that happens, I always use Metaphor in Hypnotherapy.

If your client cannot find an emotion then your options are fairly limited. You cannot go for a regression to the Initial Sensitizing Event, because you need an emotion to link to the original event. Or you can focus on the surface problem and use Direct Suggestion hypnotherapy. Another option, is to put your client into trance and either just give them a very relaxing experience, or teach them how to do self hypnosis. This often reduces the stress that underlies their problem, and gives them a temporary relief.

Metaphor in hypnotherapy

Sometimes your client cannot find an emotion, or is too frightened of the emotion. In that case, metaphor therapy is the best way. You can use behavior-centred metaphors, or you can opt for using a generalised metaphor.

What I mean by behavior-centered metaphor is something that is specific to this client and their particular behavior. When you first talk to your client you are trying to find out what their problem is, and how they see it. If the problem is  procrastination, then you can narrow it down to a phrase your client uses to define their problem. They might say "I feel like I'm stuck". Or "I just cannot get started, and I'm easily distracted". For each of these  you can invent a vivid story about someone just like them, who does some action which is metaphorically identical to what they need to do.

Generalized Metaphor in hypnotherapy

Alternatively, you can ignore the specific problem the client has brought to you. In almost every case, your client's problem is actually connected to some issue they had when growing up. You can use a generalised metaphor as a non-specific therapeutic approach. Put your client into trance. Then tell them a long metaphor story about how they can let go of whatever it is that is causing the anxiety. The traditional method is about "dropping the stones". In that metaphor you suggest in trance that they are carrying a backpack. The backpack is full of bricks. They can take the backpack off and tip out the bricks. The basic metaphor is usually dressed up in some fancy location, with added details that relate directly to the client's personal experience. If you are not good at making up stories, then there are many collections of healing metaphors you can use.

But there is never any reason to feel "stuck" yourself when you don't know what to do next in therapy.

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