Recognising that something needs to change
I am always interested to hear what has prompted clients to seek help. Whilst some clients book appointments to help them overcome a recent, specific event such as redundancy, a car accident or divorce, others report they have been struggling with anxiety or low mood for some time.
Neuro-leadership experts David Rock and Jeffery Schwartz have identified that ‘humans have brains designed to register change as threat, and thus they often cling to old habits and mindsets. We have, therefore, a built-in preference to go on with the ‘comfortable', known, and to stick with less energy/effort demanding habits’. In other words, we would prefer to stay in an uncomfortable situation, rather than do anything to improve it.
In light of this, I never underestimate the level of insight required for clients to recognise that something needs to change.
Realising that things can change
Clients will often say something like ‘I’ve always been anxious and I’m probably too old to change’ Not so.
We can influence the structure of our brains, and hence our thought patterns, by consciously directing our thoughts in a more helpful direction. We do this by focusing on solutions and developing positive behaviours. But as Rock and Schwarz point out, this requires energy and effort.
It’s important for clients to understand that they do have to apply some effort to elicit change – hypnotherapy is something we work on together, it’s not something I ‘do’ to them.
Understanding how to change
Understanding how the brain functions is fundamental to moving forward. During every session with clients I place a great deal of emphasis on the explanation of the functioning of the brain. It can be a huge revelation for clients when they understand why they are feeling the way they do, and of course, what they can do to change unhelpful, habitual patterns of thought.
After that, sessions involve guiding clients towards their preferred future. We do this using solution focused techniques designed to overcome the brain’s default desire to maintain the status quo.
With the emphasis on solutions and positivity, change happens naturally, one step at a time.
When I was a computer programmer in London in the 1980s there was a saying we used to quote to demonstrate the importance of good quality, accurate data. The saying was: Garbage In - Garbage Out, or GIGO for short.
What it meant in IT terms was that if you put nonsense data into a computer program, then the result would be just as nonsensical. Whereas if you take care to ensure that your data is ‘clean’, the results will be more meaningful and reliable.
And of course, it’s the same with our brains. If we spend our time in situations which stimulate our thoughts in a negative direction, it can be hard to develop or maintain a positive attitude towards life.
I am often surprised at some of the unwitting self-sabotage clients invoke without questioning the impact of their habitual actions. They may:
· Socialise with people who undermine or belittle them
· Read harrowing news stories detailing misery and suffering
· Watch soaps with relentlessly depressing story lines
· Participate in ‘complaining’ or negatively-focused online chat forums
· Spend their leisure time doing things out of duty rather than enjoyment
None of this needs to be a problem if we are in a good head-space and can maintain a proper perspective. And it may be that we have little or no control over our situation, so we are obliged to ‘get on with it’.
But usually there is a choice of how we spend our time, who we spend our time with, and how we respond to events around us.
Part of my job is to guide clients to recognise that they do have a choice about what goes in. They certainly have a choice about what their inner computer program does with that input, a skill which we help them to develop using Solution Focused techniques. And this, of course, ultimately affects what comes out.
It’s not unusual for clients to report that their friends and family have noticed how much calmer or relaxed or upbeat they are after just a few sessions.
So, what’s to be done to help generate some positive stimulus for the brain? Well, in addition to avoiding the worst of the negative inputs, we can actively seek out more positive sources of news, more upbeat chat forums, more supportive friends, uplifting TV programmes and enjoyable leisure activities.
And to help you on your way, here is a link to a fabulous website that emails you a good news story each and every day. Enjoy!
Reflecting on an eventful year
So, things took an unexpected turn in February when I took up the challenge to submit a portfolio of work to gain the Advanced Hypnotherapy Diploma, which is the equivalent level of a foundation degree. The hard work paid off and I was amongst the first hypnotherapists in the country to be awarded the new qualification.
Opportunities to run two more Clifton Practice Hypnotherapy schools presented themselves, and from 2018 I will be running CPHT Guildford and CPHT Southampton with my colleague and friend, Sharon Dyke, and CPHT Manchester with our buddy, Nicola Griffiths. We go back a long way as the three of us were instrumental in setting up the Association for Solution Focused Hypnotherapy in 2010. We run each course one weekend a month for 10 months and part of the fun is the nattering, planning, reflecting and giggling we do on the long journeys.
Clearing the decks
Rummaging through the box file of CPD course notes to provide reference material for diploma essays sparked a long overdue period of filing, clearing out, shredding and organising my work space. As I often explain to my clients, unfinished business sits there saying ‘do me, do me’, and clearing the decks was immensely satisfying.
As anyone who has carried out a similar purge will know, it enhances mental clarity as well as providing a more pleasant working environment.
Then it was the turn of the garage with many a trip to the recycling centre.
Next up – the loft!
In amongst all of this activity I have, of course, continued to practise Solution Focused Hypnotherapy (SFH). This year has been as busy as ever at each of the therapy rooms in Axminster, Ottery St Mary and Sidmouth, and I have enjoyed meeting and helping people throughout East Devon and beyond. Word of mouth recommendations have introduced clients from further afield, as well as closer to home, each with their own unique set of circumstances.
Underlying anxiety is at the core of most of the issues that clients present. Fortunately, with its focus on drawing solutions from the client’s own resources, SFH is highly effective at moving people forward quickly. Even though it is the client who identifies their own solution, it isn’t always obvious when they first arrive for a session.
Using SF questioning techniques we work together, moving the client towards their ‘preferred future’. Although a seemingly simple process, it can sometimes be quite challenging for clients to focus on what needs to happen for things to get better.
As one lovely client put it, ‘That’s a really, really good question, and I have the feeling it’s important for me to find an answer’. It was, and she did!
I love the Solution Focused approach and I am really looking forward to helping many more people find their answers during 2018.
Happy New Year!
It's 10 years to the day since I started the HPD course at CPHT Bristol. I looked a lot younger then, as the photo below shows.
I couldn't wait for the course to start and thoroughly enjoyed every course weekend. We were encouraged to see volunteer clients for relaxation practice from the first weekend and I (and they) were hooked.
It's been so rewarding seeing clients progress, overcoming debilitating anxiety, regaining a sense of purpose and a zest for life, or conquering a life-long fear or phobia.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is such an uplifting form of therapy, we help people move from where they are currently to where they want to be. We focus entirely on identifying positive steps towards their preferred future, which means sessions are upbeat and energizing, for both the client and the therapist. I often joke that it's the only job I have had where I feel more lively at the end of a working day than at the beginning.
The course was a life changer. I wonder what the next 10 years has in store...
Sounds like a straightforward question, and it’s an approach that appeals to clients who prefer to move forwards, either because they have already come to terms with issues from their past, or because they simply don’t feel the need to revisit them.
The Solution Focused approach was developed in the US in the early 1980s by husband and wife team, Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer. These two pioneering psychotherapists led a team working with families at the Milwaukee Brief Family Therapy Centre. The team noticed that their clients improved more when they were asked to focus on solutions to their problems, rather than the problems themselves.
After analysing the outcomes of many thousands of hours of therapy, they developed the therapy and devised a brief programme of treatment, with the aim of moving clients forward quickly. Over the years ‘Solution Focused Brief Therapy’ (SFBT) has evolved and the Solution Focused approach has been adopted by organisations, not only for therapy but also for business purposes, such as personal development, organisational management and change management .
In Solution Focused Hypnotherapy we use the best of the SFBT approach to evoke a positive state of mind in our clients and enhance that positivity with the effects of trance.
How do we do that? Well, we encourage problem-free talk by asking Solution Focused questions and helping clients to find positive answers. So, rather than saying ‘I wouldn’t be stressed’, we encourage our clients to explain what it’s like to be free from stress – expressed positively. That might be ‘I would be calm’ or ‘I would be coping better with the children’ or ‘I would be making time for me’.
It’s so important that we focus on what we want, rather than reminding ourselves what we don’t want.
So, what do you want?
Did you answer with a negative or a positive statement? If it was negatively expressed, turn it around into a statement of what you do want.
With practice, you’ll find yourself naturally focusing on the positive. It’s an immensely empowering habit to develop.