Can hypnosis help with depression?

A beautiful metaphor to show how hypnotherapy works.

I wanted to share a story with you about one of my clients. I often use this story in my clinic to impress upon people how powerful hypnotherapy can be. Please be assured I have sought the client’s permission to publish this story as anything discussed in the clinic is always confidential. This is such an inspiring metaphor that my client was keen for me to share it with others. For anonymity, I will refer to her as ‘Diane.’

Diane’s story

Diane came to see me a couple of years ago.

She had lost her husband to a sudden illness just before they were due to retire. She had worked for an accountancy firm all of her life and was looking forward to enjoying a holiday-filled retirement with her husband before life dealt her this cruel blow.

She was now three years into her retirement, and life had stood still. All of her plans were gone. She was 65 and felt desperately depressed. A lot of days she didn’t even get dressed. She watched TV, had few hobbies and rarely left the house.

Diane came to see me to help with her motivation, find a purpose in her life, and move on from her husband’s death. As with all clients, I spent time listening to her goals and explaining how the brain works and how negative patterns of thinking can cause depression, lack of sleep, and a lonely cycle that can be difficult to break.

As part of the hypnotherapy, we always come up with a goal every week. We ask clients to visualise what they would like life to look like if their problems were gone, and then we make steps towards it.

Diane struggled with this part. She said she couldn’t imagine life being any better and certainly couldn’t see anything positive that she could do to help the situation. But as we explored this further, Diane told me an interesting detail. When she had retired, she had packed up all of her possessions from her desk and put them in a cardboard box. She had sealed the box with parcel tape and left it in her living room at home. She planned to unpack it immediately, but days had turned into months, and months into years. The box had remained in her living room as a constant reminder of how life used to be.

“I would really like to clear the box,” Diane told me, “but I am afraid it will upset me too much, you know, to see the possessions of the woman I used to be. I don’t think I can do it!”

“So, what could you do towards that goal?” I asked her.

Diane looked at me a little confused. “Well, I guess I could take off the parcel tape!” she said, almost laughing at how trivial a goal it would be – how could taking a bit of parcel tape off a box change her life?

But it didn’t matter. Diane had a goal and something that she could achieve this week. The size of the goal didn’t matter, but the forward momentum did. We did a good, robust and powerful trance session on the back of this first step forward.

The next week, when Diane returned, was unbelievable.

Diane came to my clinic, bright and early. She had a massive grin on her face and her dark clothes had been replaced with a bright, flowery dress. She sat down and told me what had happened.

“So I took off the parcel tape as we planned,” she explained, “and, you know what, curiosity just got the better of me. I couldn’t help but take a peek inside, and the first thing I saw was a photograph of myself and a friend that I used to have on my desk. I’d forgotten about her and we had lost touch. Seeing that photo prompted me to get in contact. We’re going out for a meal this Saturday…”

Diane was sitting upright. Full of confidence and quite remarkably different.

“I also found a certificate in the box. It was for a course I went on to do with accountancy. I used to love learning skills with numbers. I miss that skill. So I found a course starting in the Summer that I may go on and maybe even get a few private clients.”

Diane took a sip of water, and then before I could interrupt, she said:

“At the bottom of the box was a pen. My husband bought it for me for my first day of work. It never ran out! I felt happy to have been reminded of his kindness. I felt like he was with me when I found this pen.”

It was such an exciting moment in my clinic and testament to the fact that if the brain wants to change, then change can happen rapidly. Only a week ago, Diane had been depressed and directionless. Here she was, arranging social events, re-training, re-entering the workplace and recalling happy memories.

But more importantly, this story demonstrates such a vital part of the hypnotherapy process. Change begins small but multiplies.

In one week, all of this happened to Diane. Yet her goal was simply to rip some tape off a box. Look at the forward momentum it created for her.

In the clinic, I tell this story and ask the clients, “What is going to be your ‘parcel tape’ moment this week!”

Change can be small but the impact can be huge!

 

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Online hypnotherapy – A guide

Hypnotherapy was a model of therapy that was working online before the Covid 19 crisis. With longer time spent in lockdown, anxiety and stress levels can increase, and the need to stop smoking can be more intense. Many are finding the experience of online hypnotherapy to be extremely valuable.

Online also offers some unique advantages over working in a clinic:

  • As there is no travel time, clients are saving time and travel costs.
  • Trance at home can be even more potent as surrounded by your own environment, the mind will feel safe and secure
  • The technology allows the sharing of ideas and resources in a way not possible in the clinic, thanks to the interactive elements of zoom technology.

However, for those of you looking to book your first session, here are some tips on how to enhance the experience.

Sound Quality

To make the sound quality as clear as possible, I have invested in a home sound kit, including a microphone and pop filter. Although I can do my best to create the sound as clearly as I can at my end, there are things you can do to enhance the experience. Try and pick a quiet room with minimal background noise. If possible, close the curtains. This helps reduce background noise as well as softening the light.

Many of my clients use headsets, which can be a great way of further reducing background noise to create crisp sound and purer reception. I would also recommend that, during the trancework, you mute your microphone as the zoom platform may interrupt my voice if there is a sound disturbance through it (such as a dog barking or traffic moving past).

Positioning

It is generally recommended that you are lying flat and on you back during the trance part of our session. However, you will likely find the online session even more relaxing than live in the clinic and may fall into a deeper trance or even asleep. This is because you will be at home and in your own safe surroundings, so your mind is already cued to relax. I recommend that you recline in a slightly seated position on a bed or spacious sofa. If possible, drape a light blanket over yourself. The ‘covered up’ sensation is a good cue for your body to relax.

Environment

Pick a room that is tranquil and serene. Your bedroom will most likely be the most suitable room for hypnotherapy as your mind already has strong associations for relaxation and calmness. Before the session, sit in silence and check for background sounds that could be reduced (such as the gurgle of radiators or the television’s noise downstairs). Where possible, take steps to minimise this. If this isn’t possible, however, please don’t worry. The relaxed brain will block out any familiar and non-threatening background disturbances.

Try and arrange your session at a time when you can minimise the likelihood of disturbance. Maybe your partner could take the dogs out on a walk or you, the kids are in bed, and the postman is not likely to knock. Of course, there may be unexpected surprises but try to minimise these as much as possible.

Lighting

Your brain is very receptive to different qualities of light. Our circadian rhythm is finely tuned to different light conditions. The slightest variations can have an impact on our relaxation levels. The best quality of light is in a dim room with the curtains closed and a warm, halogen lamp close by to create some atmosphere. LED lighting can produce a harsher blue light that can tell your brain to remain alert. This can slow the ease in which you go into a trance.

Communicate with the hypnotherapist

In the clinic, it is straightforward for me to control the variables to ensure the best experience. When doing live hypnotherapy, I am using lots of cues from your body (including breathing, REM and biofeedback). This is different online as you will have a practical role to play to feel comfortable and relaxed. If there are issues, such as connection speeds, sound quality, etc.) let me know. The most essential consideration in hypnotherapy is that you are comfortable. We can work together to ensure this is the case.

What will be will be

Hypnotherapy is a beautiful model of therapy that can work online as well as in a clinic setting. However, with these new variables comes a range of challenges and opportunities; the doorbell sounds, a dog barks outside, the telephone rings… In reality, the only problems that stop hypnotherapy working are the problems we create ourselves. If we don’t see these disturbances as problems, merely as something that adds to this new, online dynamic, your body will relax, and it won’t be a problem for our progress.

If you would like to find out more, I still offer a free initial consultation – to book please click here

You can also find more information, including costs here

How does Hypnotherapy work?

If you are looking for help to manage anxiety or depression, to conquer a phobia or addiction or to improve your business or sports performance, you may be surprised to know how effective hypnotherapy can be as a solution.

Most people’s first point of reference for hypnotherapy may be a stage hypnotist; a dark and enigmatic character who puts people under their spell for the amusement of audiences. Although this idea can intimidate people, it shouldn’t. Stage hypnotism shows the power of trance and suggestion, but think of Hypnotherapy as a distant cousin. We use trance in a relaxing way that the client is completely in control of and the results can be staggering.

The success is a lot to do with a part of the brain called the ‘Conscious Critical Faculty’ – think of like a gateway to the brain. If we have a belief about something then the conscious critical faculty will block out any information that conflicts with it. This is a logical programme our brains have. If we have a belief that a viper is poisonous, our brains will block out any ideas that say otherwise causing us to back away from it and not to pet it!

But what if some of these beliefs are false or damaging? What if we have beliefs that we are worthless? That we cannot achieve our goals? That we will never be happy?… Then our brains can block out any positive information that might conflict. Hypnotherapy bypasses these systems and allows some of these positive messages through without being blocked by a fear of threat or danger.

The hypnotherapist can play with this communication by encouraging the mind away from limitations and negativity and towards positive goals and success.

But changes in our mind-set are only the start. Scientists are now fully aware of the physiology of our bodies and the interconnectedness of all of our systems. The brain and the body are so closely aligned. Negative emotions are often the root cause of physical symptoms. This is why hypnotherapy can have such an impact on a range of physical conditions – tiredness, memory, focus, digestion, fertility, skin conditions, digestion, sleep… the list seems limitless.

Hypnotherapy, in some form or another, is one of the oldest forms of therapeutic repair, dating back to the days of emerging human awareness. Very few therapies have stood the test of time in quite the same way suggesting that it is one of the most effective treatments that people can use to help support them with a range of goals or conditions.

What to expect from a Hypnotherapy session

The first visit to a hypnotherapist can be a daunting affair. You may already be suffering from an anxiety related condition and this unknown element can sometimes add to your stress but there is really nothing to fear.

Often, a client’s only point of reference for hypnotherapy is its close cousin of ‘Stage Hypnotherapy.’ This is where the hypnotist places their subjects into such a deep state of hypnotic trance that they are compelled to walk like a chicken, eat onions like apples and perform an array of demeaning tricks for the amusement of the audience. This is a form of somnambulism and bears little resemblance to what goes on in a clinic. For a start, only 3% of the population can get into such a deep state of trance that they are that susceptible to outrageous suggestions and furthermore, the kind of performances they create are suggestible because, deep down, they want to take part… No one can control your mind better than you can!

Hypnotherapy Crawley
Hypnotherapy Crawley

The first visit my clinic will involve an informal chat about your reasons for coming to see a hypnotherapist and the goals you wish to achieve. We may talk in a little detail about your current circumstances but only as much as you are comfortable with. I am a solution focused hypnotherapist which means that it is more beneficial to talk about your potential positive future rather than the worries that brought you here. I will also explain a little bit about how the brain works and how anxiety, depression, phobias, habits and fears are created. Often, this is the most important part and a lot of my clients pinpoint this as the exact moment that recovery began. If you are happy with me and how hypnotherapy works, we will look to book our first session.

Each session of hypnotherapy is similar. We will discuss you targets for the week (which I can use to tailor your hypnotic experience) and review how the brain works. We then do some hypnotic work on the therapy bed in which we motivate your brain to achieve these goals whilst your mind and body are relaxed. Some people can recall every word or this and some sleep through it, others drift in or out but there is no optimum way to experience it. Most people agree that it is highly relaxing and that 40 minutes can feel like five.

Change happens post hypnotically. In Stop Smoking Hypnotherapy the client may be a little confused at first by the thought of smoking and after a couple of hours is adamantly rejecting the habit. Most depression and anxiety sufferers notice change quickly and the rate of change seems enormous in the first few weeks. I have a special computer program that measures change so you can literally see your progress.

The bottom line with hypnotherapy is that you generally ‘get what you want.’ If you genuinely want to be less anxious you will find that this happens pretty quickly. A hypnotherapist can’t make you feel something you don’t want to feel, rather we work as a team: you have the desire and I help to focus that desire in trance and find the way to get it.  At the time of writing this, the statistical change in my clients over 8 sessions was an amazing 98.17% improvement in perceived positive change.

Paul Milham currently works in London, Crawley and West Sussex to support  clients with a range of targets and goals…

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