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.
I am really delighted to announce that I have been awarded the Advanced Hypnotherapy Diploma (AHD) by Clifton Practice Hypnotherapy Training (CPHT). Yippeeeee!
The AHD has been accredited by the NCFE as having measurable learning outcomes that have been benchmarked at level 5 (using Ofqual’s Qualification and Accreditation Framework). It is at an equivalent level to a Foundation Degree.
To qualify I have attended a number of CPD courses over the years on subjects as diverse as:
Hypnotherapy for Childbirth
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Working with Children
Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)
Another prerequisite was tracking clients' progress through therapy sessions using specially written software. I first used an early version of the software several years ago and now use the up to date version, which provides useful reports on my results compared to the industry average (all client data is anonymised of course).
More recently I have been kept mighty busy preparing written evidence of my experience and learning from the CPD courses. I was pleased to hand in my completed portfolio to CPHT Bristol for verification by external assessors, and was delighted when I heard that I have passed.
It was hard work, but like anything worth doing, was immensely satisfying. I am delighted that I can now put the letters ‘AHD’ after my name.
I attended a fascinating course last weekend about Body Language (or non-Verbal Communication to give the subject its more formal title), run by fellow hypnotherapist and former Police Officer, Andy Workman.
During the day, Andy capably demonstrated how much of our communication is at a sub-conscious level, and how little control we actually have over these automatic responses. The difference between what we say and what we are thinking can be striking, and after aeons of evolution, we have become incredibly adept at interpreting and responding to these sub-conscious messages from others.
We can, for instance, tell if a smile is genuine. We can get a sense of whether someone is upset, or excited or confused, even if consciously they are trying to hide their feelings. Andy gave us an insight into how to ‘read’ what is actually going on, so that, as therapists, we can respond appropriately to the non-verbal communication from our clients.
It is amazing, how dramatically our posture, facial expressions and even movement can be affected if we feel anxious. This is fine in the safety of our own homes or a therapy room, but not so good if we are trying to create a good impression at a job interview or when giving a talk to a large group.
So, what’s to be done?
Well, for a start, we can use a feature of the mind which means that it cannot tell the difference between reality and imagination. By repeatedly imagining how we want the interview or speech to go, we can actually replace the fear template with this more helpful response. So, because we are no longer fearful, there is no risk that our micro-expressions will let us down.
There’s another feature of the mind-body connection that we can tap into, too. As well as the impact our thoughts have on our physiology, the feedback from our body has an effect on our minds.
One of my favourite motivational speakers is Jack Canfield, who you may know as co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, and many other books about positive thinking and success. I came across him in the early 90s when a friend introduced me to a set of self-esteem cassettes, recorded at a live seminar, that we played on our long journeys to our IT client’s premises until they wore out.
I remember one exercise that Jack had the audience try out. He asked everyone to hunch over in their chairs, making themselves as small as they could and say the words ‘I feel terrific’. Then he asked them to posture with their arms in the air, as if they had just won a gold medal at the Olympics, and say the words ‘I feel depressed’.
It caused great amusement, but made a very good point. Simply posturing like a champion makes you feel good.
This enjoyable talk from social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, demonstrates the tremendous impact just a few minutes of altering your posture can have on your performance. It’s very thought-provoking.
So in the words of that Val Doonican song, remember to:
‘Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye’.
The launch of this fabulous new website back in February was really well received and meant that I had more client enquiries than ever before, so I’ve been fortunate to be able to help a greater number of clients this year.
As you would expect, the clients have presented with a wide range of issues and it has been a privilege to help them gain the confidence to get on with life following an upset or illness, improve their sporting technique, re-ignite interest in hobbies, find the motivation to manage their weight better, overcome long-standing phobias, improve social skills and more.
A significant number of those clients have been in the 65+ age range, and it’s especially rewarding to help them overcome long-term issues and get a better enjoyment out of life. Thanks to neuroplasticity, we can continue to change habitual patterns of thought and behaviour throughout our entire adult life (much longer than previously believed), and once my clients understand that, we work together to help them transform their experience of life, regardless of age.
Training and Supervision
I’ve continued to run the 10-month Hypnotherapy Diploma courses in Guildford with my colleague, Sharon Dyke, sometimes travelling (and giggling) up the A303 two weekends a month. Unbelievably we have had three courses graduate to date and are part way through another course. We meet up with the graduates regularly for supervision and get a real buzz from hearing about all the clients they are helping.
A highlight for the year was when Sharon and I developed and delivered a one-day course ‘All About Sleep’ to fellow Hypnotherapists as part of their ongoing professional development. We really enjoyed researching the topic from all angles, and uncovered some fascinating facts.
We also developed and launched the Solution Focused Hypnotherapy Conversion course, a four-month Diploma aimed at training experienced hypnotherapists to use Solution Focused techniques in their practice.
My colleague Nicola Griffiths and I have continued to run courses to help therapists market their practices, and this has taken us as far afield as Bournemouth, Bristol, Cheltenham, Guildford, Manchester and North Wales.
Our ‘Social Media for Therapists’ course that we ran in Cheltenham was another highlight, mainly because we had the course filmed in front of the audience, so we could make a digital download. We managed to avoid giggling too much and it all came together rather splendidly.
Life should be fun!
One of my resolutions for this year was to learn how to overcome technical issues myself rather than outsource to third parties. And to make the time to enjoy the learning process. After all, there’s no excuse, t’internet is full of advice and technical know-how. I’m delighted to say that I have relished researching solutions and putting the new knowledge into practice. I now know how to convert a DVD into a video file, edit video clips together, convert them so they’ll play on PCs, Apple Macs and iphones; and upload them to ‘the cloud’. Great fun!
What will next year bring? That’s anyone’s guess. But I do know it’s going to be fun continuing to learn new skills and helping even more clients, students and therapists.
Happy New Year!
We are so fortunate to live in an age where we can look under the bonnet of the working brain.
I am particularly fascinated by this. In my first ever blog post I wrote how I’ve always been curious about the power of the subconscious mind ever since seeing a BBC TV Series in the 1970s called The Mind of Man. In particular an experiment involving measuring a Yogi's metabolism in an airtight box had a huge impact. The Yogi cut his oxygen requirements to a quarter of the minimum rate thought to be possible.
This finding was at odds with orthodox thinking in Western Medicine at the time and opened the door to the possibility that our mental state can, in fact, influence the internal workings of our body – heart-beat, blood pressure, hormones, allergies etc.
Nowadays we have a better understanding of the effects of psychological stress on our physical well-being; I and my hypnotherapy colleagues often see people who have physical symptoms, some of which can be alleviated by reducing their anxiety levels.
So, what’s going on? How can our mental wellbeing affect our physical body? You can easily demonstrate the link between your thoughts and the responses of your body. Just take a minute or two to imagine eating a lemon. Most of us salivate at the mere thought. We're not actually eating a lemon, but just the thought is enough to get our salivary ducts excited.
Now, thinking about eating a lemon is one thing, but did how the Yogi suppress his entire metabolism so effectively? As well as measuring oxygen consumption the experimenters took other measurements including the Yogi’s brainwaves, using an EEG (Electroencephalograph) monitor which showed that the Yogi was in a half-sleeping, meditative state at the points where his metabolism was at its lowest.
An EEG is a non-invasive way of measuring and recording brain activity close to the brain’s surface. You may be familiar with the ‘squiggles’ of a typical EEG:
- Beta waves indicate wakefulness and conscious processing of information
- Alpha waves indicate relaxed alertness and meditative states
- Theta waves indicate deep meditative states and daydreaming
- Delta waves indicate deep sleep
Having seen EEG readouts in text books and on TV for many decades, I never dreamt I would be able to see one in action. However Clifton Practice Hypnotherapy Training (CPHT) in Bristol where I trained has purchased an EEG machine to help students better understand what happens to our clients’ brains during trance, and a week or so ago I attended a demo during a supervision meeting.
A willing volunteer was connected to a neuro-headset which sent signals to a nearby laptop showing that he did indeed have a brain; always a good sign. It was incredible to see the effect of different activities, such as visualising, problem solving, listening etc had on his brainwaves. The demo was even further enhanced by the software actually converting the brainwaves to a two-dimensional map of the brain, showing different areas lighting up at different times.
Of course the best bit was when the operator, psychologist Dr Rachel Gillibrand, herself a graduate hypnotherapist from CPHT, took the volunteer into a hypnotic trance. As we would expect the areas of the brain associated with the meditative state lit up before our eyes. Amazing!
How lucky we are to be able to see the functioning of a living brain in real-time. EEGs, along with MRI scanners, are transforming our scientific understanding of the link between mind and body.