So what is Cognitive Hypnotherapy?
Well, it’s a blend of Positive Psychology, Evolutionary Psychology, Gestalt Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming – more of that later) and the utilisation of our naturally occurring trance states to help us move out of problematic ways of thinking towards our desired outcomes.
It’s important to distinguish regular hypnosis from Cognitive Hypnotherapy. When we use my approach to address your problem – I won’t be swinging my watch, or asking you to ‘look into my eyes’! Sorry if that’s what you were expecting!
So why not? Because this way, you get to be in charge. There’ll be no coming round from a deep hypnotic induction, wondering what I’ve done to your head. You will be actively involved and conscious of the shifts that you are making. This approach recognises the fact that you have all the resources you need to fix your problem. And it means that you can fully own the triumph when you reach a breakthrough with whatever has been holding you back.
We’ll be using your own, natural trances – particularly the trance state that does your particular ‘communicating to an audience problem’.
A trance state is an altered state of consciousness. So when we work together in this way, it may be that while you’re involved in a particular task, you might have a heightened focus on a particular feeling or memory and become less aware of external distractions and have an increased ability to respond to new suggestions, new ways of thinking about the situation.
You’ll be entirely safe in this altered state. I’m here to support you and guide you. And after our work together, when the time comes you’ll have all the resources you need to liberate yourself from the problem.
It’s also important to say that this state won’t be unfamiliar to you. We experience trance states everyday of our lives. It’s estimated that ninety percent of our responses are entirely unconscious.
How often have you completed a task on ‘automatic pilot’? How many times has your mind drifted off somewhere else whilst driving your car? Have you ever left the house and realised you’ve no recollection whatsoever of locking the back door? Maybe you’ve been in conversation with someone and become aware that you haven’t a clue what they just said? So, who was in charge if you weren’t? The answer is: your unconscious mind.
Our unconscious governs the processes of the mind that occur automatically. Although we’re not overtly conscious of these processes, they drive our most basic functions. Those of avoiding potential threats to our safety, staying alive and perpetuating our species. After all, our brains were formed for life when we were hunter gatherers about 300,000 years ago. At a time when our lives were about moment to moment survival and we weren’t top of the food chain. For this reason we were wired for survival. And it’s our unconscious mind that will hijack the situation if it perceives a threat.
However, some behaviours that the unconscious mind directs us towards – although positive in intention – actually have a negative effect. Our problems are negative trance states if you like, which we seemingly have little power to curb. So, our task during the interventions of Cognitive Hypnotherapy is to ‘de-hypnotise’ you from the current problem state. And to point you towards different ways of thinking, feeling and behaving in front of your audience.
And what is NLP?
NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming. But what on earth does that complicated name mean?
Well the ‘Neuro’ bit is referring to our neurology.
That is, our nervous systems. It covers the information derived from our senses and the sense our brains make out of this information based on our past experiences. After all, even the briefest foray into neuroscience will lead us to the realisation that perception is a construct. We make our realities, based on information drawn from our senses. And this information is filtered through brain areas that match it to previous experience. For instance, every time you see a spider (in adulthood anyway) you recognise what it is don’t you? And if you’re an arachnophobe, seeing a spider will kick off an automatic stress response in your nervous system.
The ‘Linguistic’ bit is about the words we use and how we use them.
Words alter the way we understand a situation. Have you ever found that you can frame an experience in a negative light depending on the words you choose? Or in a positive light just by changing the words. And that the choice between the two might alter the way we feel about the situation? Or have you ever been arguing a point with someone and realise that actually you’re both arguing the same point? It’s just the other person has taken issue with a word or phrase you used, because it means something slightly different to them? The nuance of meaning must surely be based on past experience mustn’t it? We’re in the territory of semantics here.
The neuro and the linguistic elements are closely fused. Because how we use words and the subtle nuances of meaning they have for us will have been driven by life as we lived it so far. And will be a lot to do with our beliefs, values and identities, as created by the life we’ve lived: our unique version of reality.
And so we come to the ‘Programming’ bit.
The idea is that the first two elements predispose us to respond in certain ‘pre-programmed’ ways in certain situations. Which is fine if the outcome is positive. But what if we’re stuck in a negative loop? Say, for instance, doing job interviews has always been massively stressful for you (that interview panel are just another audience aren’t they?). Previous experience and your linguistic framing of the situation has led you to believe that they always go badly. And hey presto – the next job interview you go to goes terribly. Because that was what you’d programmed yourself to expect.
NLP offers a number of techniques and exercises to enable you to get to the root of the negative response. And if you can change how you ‘do’ interviews, then you can change the way you feel and think about doing them in future.
It’s possible! I’m reminded of the Henry Ford quote here: ‘whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.’
NLP was pioneered in the 1970s by maverick psychologist Richard Bandler and his linguist collaborator David Grinder.
There are some colourful stories about this duo out there in the world. Which sadly have caused their vast body of work to become overshadowed by their personal lives. Particularly in Richard Bandler’s case. I think, nevertheless, that there is still great value in their discoveries and approaches. So, perhaps, don’t shoot the message. I suggest that, like me, you reserve judgement and give it a try. For my part, my NLP training has given me a far better understanding of myself. And when isn’t greater self awareness a hugely valuable asset?
At the QCHPA we’re not afraid to test the effectiveness of our work. We encourage a growth mindset in our clients and in our practitioners.
This is why my colleagues at the QCHPA are conducting ongoing research to demonstrate the effectiveness of Cognitive Hypnotherapy. They use outcome measures that are standard within the NHS. Their findings are listed with NICE in their research area.
Below are the results of their research so far, which were published in the Mental Health Review in 2015.
We continue to learn and to evaluate our work with clients.
of Cognitive Hypnotherapy clients who reported themselves improved
of other talking therapy clients (including CBT) who reported themselves improved
“Give out. Don’t give up.”
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