I remember my first ever massage, back in the 90s. I was so nervous, as I didn’t know what to expect. Years later, when I trained to be a massage therapist, I never forgot how daunting that first session can be, and took steps to reassure new clients.
It can be the same with hypnotherapy, especially as the media often portray hypnosis as some kind of mind control, or talking therapists as Sigmund Freud lookalikes.
So, here’s what to expect if you attend Solution Focused Hypnotherapy (SFH)…
First, it’s worth noting that Solution Focused Hypnotherapy isn’t something that is done to you, it’s something that you work at with guidance from your therapist. As with anything worth doing, you do have to put some effort in, in order to get the best results. The results are often life-changing.
We offer an initial consultation where we gather information about you – basic name and address stuff, information about your current lifestyle, general wellbeing and sleeping patterns, and of course the reason you are seeking help. Having gathered enough information to understand your current situation and your preferred future, we make an assessment about the most appropriate course of therapy.
We then explain how the brain works and how it can manifest a variety of emotional, behavioural or physical symptoms. We help you to understand how SFH can help you to retrain your brain to support you, rather than thwart you.
Some SFH therapists charge for the initial consultation, some offer it free. I currently provide this session free of charge, remembering how daunting reaching out for help can be. The initial consultation lasts around 30-45 minutes.
Subsequent sessions last 50 to 55 minutes and consist of a period of Solution Focused talking therapy, followed by a period of hypnotic trance to help your brain evaluate and consolidate the work we have done during the first part. Often clients think that the magic happens during hypnosis. The truth is that, with SFH, the talking element is at least as important as the trance work, and focuses on positive outcomes. We actively discourage you from discussing negative events from the past, and instead use solution focused questioning techniques to encourage you to think about positive outcomes, which of course can be quite challenging at times. The results are worth it though.
Hypnosis and trance are very powerful words. And so they should be, as the hypnotic trance is a very powerful state. Powerful, but ultimately natural. It’s very similar to daydreaming, where you are able to do something on auto-pilot, like peeling potatoes or doing the ironing, while your mind wanders, remembering past events or anticipating future possibilities. And it’s a very relaxing experience.
Some therapists use a massage couch (folding bed) for the trance work, whilst others use a reclining or comfortable chair. I prefer to use a massage couch and am lucky to have one in each of the therapy rooms where I work.
Oh, and I don’t look like Sigmund Freud.
Put simply, hypnosis is the act of guiding someone into a hypnotic trance, whereas hypnotherapy combines hypnosis with some form of talking therapy (psychotherapy)
So, when you see a hypnotherapist, the session usually starts with the talking therapy, eg psychoanalysis, CBT, NLP, counselling or Solution Focused therapy. This is designed to provide you with some level of insight into your situation.
Once the talking therapy is complete, the therapist will then use hypnosis, guiding you into a relaxed trance. This is a very powerful state, which provides the ideal environment for your mind to assimilate what’s been discussed and gain a fresh perspective.
Both elements are equally as important, although it’s not unusual for clients to believe that it’s all about the hypnosis. So, if you are seeking hypnotherapy, don’t be surprised if at least half of the therapy session involves talking with the therapist.
The same principle applies to the difference between hypnotherapists and hypnotists. Generally speaking, the word ‘hypnotist’ refers to someone who performs stage hypnosis as a form of entertainment, although this isn’t a hard and fast rule. There are hypnotherapists who refer to themselves as hypnotists as a matter of personal preference.
Merging talking therapy with hypnosis results in a very powerful combination, and of course the hypnosis is usually incredibly relaxing and enjoyable.
Over the years I have helped hundreds of clients improve the quality of their sleep, and there are several common themes that crop up time and time again.
Here are the top three factors that have contributed to those clients getting a good night’s sleep:
1. Avoid letting everyday pressures impact on how much sleep you get
It may be that there a number of difficult issues that you are coping with at the moment, and you are worrying about them constantly. Going to bed with a head full of worries or loose ends will make sleep more elusive. Either you will have difficulty getting to sleep, or you may ping awake at 3am, with your head ruminating over all these issues.
Talking therapy, such as hypnotherapy can, of course, help you cope better with life generally, so you gradually find yourself worrying less, which means you stand a better chance of drifting off nicely.
But there are things you can do to help yourself, using a calming CD, having an aromatherapy bath, or employing distraction tactics to calm an over-busy mind can all help.
2. Allow yourself sufficient time to get a good 7 or 8 hours’ sleep
All of the research into the detrimental effects of lack of sleep, suggest that most of us need 7 to 8 hours’ sleep a night.
I have had a number of clients who lead extremely busy lives, filling every moment with work, exercise or social activities such that either they are ‘wired’ when they go to bed, or they simply don’t allow enough time to get those 7 to 8 hours.
So, arrange to have good couple of hours of down time before setting off to bed. That means avoiding anything too stimulating, such as reading emails, watching the news or an exhilarating film, or getting wound up by social media posts.
3. Maintain a healthy sleep routine
Some clients report that they can sleep easily during the day or evening, but that sleep eludes them when they go to bed.
With the exception of a 20-30 minute power nap, it seems that any sleep that you have during the day impacts on the amount that you can sleep at night.
So, even though it’s difficult to avoid those urges to sleep during the day, staying awake until it’s time for bed should reap rewards.
I have just returned from a weekend’s lecturing in Manchester. I and my colleague, Nicola Griffiths, travel up once a month to run the Clifton Practice Hypnotherapy Training (CPHT) 10-month diploma course.
We’re over half-way through our second course and this weekend some of last year’s graduates arrived for group supervision with their supervisor. That gave us the opportunity to catch up with them and see how they are doing, and it was wonderful to hear the difference they are making with their clients, now that they are qualified and running their own practices.
There were similar success stories from our current students, too, and it got me thinking about the ripple effect that training has. CPHT founder and lecturer, David Newton has trained many hundreds of students over the years, including me and Nicola.
We’re now lecturers for a couple of schools each and between us we have trained well over a hundred students. The lecturers for the other CPHT schools in the network will have trained hundreds of students too.
The hundreds of graduates from these schools will see many thousands of clients between them over the course of a year, making a difference to their lives in profound and very positive ways. All from the vision and teaching of one man, David Newton.
Thinking about this reminded me of an incredible study published in the British Medical Journal back in 2008 which demonstrated that happiness spreads like a contagion. The research was carried out by the Harvard Medical School and found that one person’s happiness triggers a chain reaction, which spreads their happiness to their friends, and to the friends’ friends, and on to the friends’ friends’ friends.
So, happiness spreads up to three degrees of separation. The effect is stronger the closer you are to the individual and can last up to a year.
The Science Daily reported on the study at the time and highlighted the findings:
"Using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Index (a standard metric) that study participants completed, the researchers found that when an individual becomes happy, a friend living within a mile experiences a 25 percent increased chance of becoming happy. A co-resident spouse experiences an 8 percent increased chance, siblings living within one mile have a 14 percent increased chance, and for next door neighbors, 34 percent.
But the real surprise came with indirect relationships. Again, while an individual becoming happy increases his friend's chances, a friend of that friend experiences a nearly 10 percent chance of increased happiness, and a friend of *that* friend has a 5.6 percent increased chance—a three-degree cascade."
You can read the full BMJ report here: BMJ Report
And the Science Daily article here: Science Daily Article
So, all of those thousands of clients of CPHT graduates that have gained a more enjoyable experience of life will have passed their happiness on to many, many thousands of others.
You can see why I love my job, both as a hypnotherapist and as a CPHT lecturer, the impact of the therapy is awesome!
New clients are often concerned that they won’t be able to ‘go into trance’. Some even say that they have had hypnotherapy before but were unable to ‘go under’ and so believed that the hypnosis did not work.
Similarly, they may say that they have no imagination and are worried that they won’t be able to visualise ‘walking through a forest’ or ‘relaxing in a tranquil garden’.
These concerns are based on a misconception about what is involved in both trance and visualisation. These words can pack a mystical punch, but the truth is, we all go in and out of trance multiple times a day, and we can all visualise.
As a demonstration, I suggest to these clients that they describe their kitchen to me. Immediately I see them turn their attention inwards (often they look up or out of the window), and they very easily describe the size, layout and style of their kitchen.
Now, in order to do this they have had to visualise (imagine / call to mind / recall ) what their kitchen looks like. The chances are they ‘see’ what they would see if they were standing in their kitchen. They are not actually there, of course, they are in the therapy room with me, but they have had to take their attention away from me and into their kitchen.
That’s pretty much what ‘trance’ is. In fact it’s just like day-dreaming. It’s a very powerful state in which the activity of the brain is altered. As Dr David Spiegel, psychiatrist at Stanford University and an expert in the use of hypnosis in a clinical setting, puts it, “In hypnosis, you’re so absorbed that you’re not worrying about anything else.”
In the therapy room we guide people into trance, by getting them nicely comfortable, in a relaxing chair or on a therapy couch, playing some soothing music and then gently encouraging them to imagine (visualise) being somewhere else.
We can then begin the therapeutic change work by using uplifting, motivational language to help them achieve their desired outcome.
In solution focused hypnotherapy we have already established what the client’s preferred future is, through the use of special questioning techniques. Once the client has a clear idea of their next step towards their ultimate goal, then we do the trance work.
Due to the changes that occur in the brain during trance, the process means that it is easier for the client to effect change once they have left the therapy room.
So, trance is ultimately a natural, but powerful, experience. As one of my clients described it, ‘It’s just like having a mind massage.’