Clinical hypnotherapy is sometimes called the oldest form of western psychotherapy. It was a popular medical therapy in the 1700’s and today is routinely used in the treatment of stress, anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic and acute pain management, and as a management option for lifestyle and chronic diseases. In fact, research shows that when clinical hypnosis is included to manage symptoms patients often report better outcomes and describe the treatment experience in positive ways. In 2020 the American Psychological Association along with other psychological associations endorsed hypnotherapy as a treatment option for pain, anxiety, and mood disorders, all conditions that we will need to address as we recover from the emotional impacts of lockdown and covid-19. An additional benefit is that clinical hypnotherapy has virtually no contraindications making it a safe inclusion and one that enhances the quality of life and reduces the sole dependence on medication.
Hypnosis is not mind control. Studies of the brain under hypnosis show that hypnotherapy enhances executive function providing clients with a greater sense of control over their emotional and psychological responses. This unique quality helps people to review previous behaviours or break unwanted habits more effectively with hypnotherapy. Clinical hypnotherapy sessions usually start with induced relaxation. During this stage, attention is directed away from the frontal cortex and onto areas of the brain which filter and integrate information. The result according to neuroscience is that we become more open to information, better able to reflect on new options (suggestible), and capable of creating intense sensations in our mind which enhance the learning experience during hypnosis. A common hypnotherapy technique is to help clients mentally rehearse or role play experiences. The brain processes these images as if they are real which means that positive suggestions have greater impact and effectiveness during the hypnosis session helping to create neural pathways that reinforce future behaviour.
A NEW ROLE FOR CLINICAL HYPNOTHERAPY
So many people have been affected psychologically and emotionally by the covid-19 pandemic, making clear that new solutions for mental healthcare are necessary. Treatments will need to be cost-effective, practical and effective quickly. One of the advantages of clinical hypnotherapy is that it is considered both palatable and easy to use by clients. It is a brief strategic therapy and the inclusion of self-hypnosis further reduces costs and involves the client as an active partner in the treatment outcome. Hypnotherapy easily combines with other evidence-based therapies such as mindfulness and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). Research shows that this approach is more practical for clients to use and the addition of hypnotherapy reduces treatment time and enhances the efficacy for both CBT and mindfullness. These new hybrid therapies called mindfulness hypnotherapy or cognitive hypnotherapy are part of a modern trend towards integrative or assimilative therapy.
HOW IT WORKS
Clinical hypnosis helps in several different ways. The techniques can reduce symptoms and provide coping skills and emotional resources that help deal with difficult situations. This makes hypnotherapy an effective treatment for depression, offering structures to manage distorted thinking and reverse the negative rumination that so often dominates this disease. The ability to help clients shift their focus from feelings to thoughts and then to reframe challenging situations makes it an effective therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, especially when compared to psychology alone. Treatment can also be supported through self-hypnosis which can greatly reduce the cost to the client.
LIFE POST COVID-19
Sleep problems were common in the adult population long before the impact of lockdown and covid-19. Poor sleep affects a person’s ability to cope with stress. It results in low mood, poor concentration and a reduced ability to cope with new situations. It adversely affects mental and physical wellbeing making it likely to have a negative impact on how well we adjust to life post covid. There are a number of different treatment options for insomnia, but clinical hypnotherapy can address the underlying or unconscious fears that often keep people awake. Studies also show that 80% of people can learn to have deep sleep using hypnotherapy. Self-hypnosis and audio recordings provide support at home and reduce the overall cost of the therapy. They can also reduce the dependency on sleep medication As we enter the new normal stress, anxiety and panic attacks are increasingly common. There is also the emergence of new conditions such as re-open anxiety and corona-somnia (insomnia post covid-19). For people with pre-covid anxiety disorders, the last 18 months have been challenging. Clinical hypnotherapy offers proven treatment for many of the common symptoms and conditions affecting people as they embrace the new normal. Therapists have been kept busy dealing with worries about going for job interviews, returning to school or college, having to take exams that were delayed, public speaking and coping with social situations. As we progress into the new normal, phobias may begin to emerge such as flying phobias, agoraphobia, germophobia, and even fears of intimacy and sexual performance anxiety.
EFFECTIVE THERAPY FOR THE FUTURE
The covid-19 pandemic has increased our awareness of our mental wellbeing. It has also highlighted the need for cost-effective, practical solutions that can offer supervised self-care, therapeutic intervention, and methods for building emotional resilience and personal relaxation. Simply learning self-hypnosis can reduce stress, improve sleep, increase emotional resilience and promote a sense of mental and physical wellbeing. Clinical Hypnotherapy appears to be emerging as a future therapeutic option offering a valuable tool offering benefits for both clinical settings and self-care.