Cognitive Behaviour Hypnotherapy: A Game-Changer in Mental Health Treatment, Cognitive Behaviour Hypnotherapy combines the power of cognitive behavioural therapy and hypnosis to help individuals overcome a range of mental health issues. In this blog, we’ll explore the benefits of this innovative therapy, how it works, and what to expect from a session.
Hypnosis is a special way of using our psychological and physiological states
Hypnosis can be considered as a way of us using our natural psychological and physiological states to comply and get on board with a central suggestion. That suggestion may be one that is provided by a hypnotherapist, who is acting as a guide or jockey, or to the person themselves who indulges in self-hypnosis.
What do we mean by a physiological state? We refer to the focus on the body and its parts, our senses, and the feelings they generate. What do we mean by a Psychological state? We refer to how we think, feel and act, our emotions and behaviours.
Hypnosis is a team effort and needs commitment
The process of hypnosis is one of collaboration, with each party securing and understanding their particular roles in a collaborative effort. The client allows themselves to fully participate and follow the guidance of the therapist, by using their imagination to evoke positive emotions and to develop in rehearsal, behaviour change within themselves. The same process can be done without the therapist in the form of self-hypnosis.
Self-guided hypnosis or hypnotherapy with a therapist requires the right mindset, commitment, and practice. It is best to consider hypnosis in the realm of a learned skill rather than something magical that is done to you by a hypnotist.
In principle, any person with the desire to do so, can be hypnotised and be hypnotised because they have that desire, of their own free will. To be hypnotised is not a state of unconsciousness or to be put in a state of sleep. Without your free will and consent to do so, you cannot be hypnotised.
Stage or Comedy Hypnosis
This is in stark contrast to stage hypnosis or comedy hypnosis which has very little to do with clinical hypnotherapy. There is a lot going on in a stage hypnosis event, including other techniques and strategies of persuasion. There are many things that set this type of hypnosis apart you begin to see they are quite different domains. Firstly a stage with an audience is not a quiet private space of a therapy room. A stag is not a place to work through your inner struggles and other daemons. The pressure to comply on stage with the hypnotist’s instructions is unfathomably strong.
All is not what it may seem with a grey area between what is the show and what is the hypnosis. There are so many differences that stage hypnosis is really parked in a different domain than clinical hypnotherapy. You are not going to go on stage to seek help with anxiety for example.
The Power of Hypnotic Suggestion and the Cognitive Behavioural Approach to Therapy
What is the hypnotic suggestion? When we are in our place of hypnosis, research tells us we are more suggestible to suggestion. So what does that mean, and why does this matter? If we have a mechanism to be more open to accepting suggestions that is an incredibly powerful thing to draw on in an effort to elicit change within.
Therefore if we have the means of change, it would be logical to assume that if we marry the capability of change with some structured approach in cognitive Behavioural Therapy, to help identify what change is needed, In a nutshell, this is the foundation of taking a holistic approach to therapy of combining hypnotherapy, behavioural therapy, and cognitive therapy into a solution focus melting pot.
It cannot be stressed enough, that for hypnosis to be able to deliver a positive outcome, the client in the first instance needs to be in an accepting and positive mindset when it comes to responding to the hypnotherapist’s suggestions. Hypnosis will not make the client do something they do not want to do or do not buy into.
Suggestion vs Instruction
This has more to do with hypnotherapy than self-hypnosis, as a client in hypnosis you will often be provided with an interwoven weave of information from the hypnotherapist in the form of both instruction and suggestion. We take our meanings from it through our senses, ideas, beliefs and cognitive processing. Instructions from the hypnotherapist tend to be in the form of adopting new strategies and suggestion follows to reinforce those strategies, The skill of the hypnotherapist act as the guide will make these transitions as seamless as possible. You as the client simply embrace the journey you are agreeing to embark on.
The effectiveness of combining Hypnosis with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Combining hypnosis with cognitive behavioural therapy (approaches of CBT) can be an effective treatment for a variety of mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, and addiction. Hypnosis can help individuals achieve a state of relaxation and heightened suggestibility, which can make it easier for them to adopt new thought patterns and behaviours. Cognitive and Behavioural strategies, on the other hand, are a goal-oriented form of therapy that helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours. Combining these two approaches can result in a more comprehensive and effective treatment plan. Studies have shown that the use of hypnosis with the approaches of CBT can lead to significant improvements in symptoms and quality of life for individuals struggling with mental health concerns. Additionally, this combination approach can be particularly helpful for individuals who may have difficulty engaging with traditional talk therapy. Overall, the integration of hypnosis with Cognitive behavioural therapy can be a powerful tool for individuals seeking to overcome mental health challenges and achieve lasting change.
The core applications of Clinical Hypnotherapy
- Anxiety and stress management – from work to public speaking to social anxiety and everything in between
- Overcoming sleep disorders
- The management of pain
- Treating certain psychosomatic or stress-related illnesses.
- Relaxation, thinking positively, and help improve your habitual feelings & behaviour.
Stress & Anxiety. For example, panic attacks, social anxiety, phobias, sexual anxiety, work-related stress, low confidence, etc.
Habits. Including mild addictions and bad habits, e.g., smoking, nail-biting, over-eating, etc. Hypnotherapists should not prescribe significant changes to diet or exercise unless they are qualified to do so. Changes in the use of certain drugs may require specialist advice on withdrawal, etc.
Depressed Mood. Controversy surrounds the use of hypnotherapy to treat clinical depression because of ambiguity in the diagnosis. Severe cases of depression, especially where the disorder is mainly organic (endogenous) or accompanied by self-harm, suicidal ideation, or psychotic symptoms may be considered contra-indicated for hypnotherapy. However, mild cases of (so-called) “neurotic” or “reactive” depression, or sub-clinical “depressed mood” (dysphoria), may be closely related to anxiety disorders and treatable by hypnotherapy.
Personal Development. For example, public speaking, study skills, sports performance, or creative and spiritual applications, etc.
Potential Risks and Concerns
While CBH is a potent tool in the therapeutic arsenal, it’s essential to be aware of potential risks and concerns:
- False Memories: One of the concerns with any form of hypnotherapy is the potential for creating false memories. It’s crucial for the therapist to avoid leading questions and ensure that the therapy remains grounded in factual experiences.
- Not Suitable for Everyone: While many people can benefit from CBH, it might not be suitable for those with severe mental disorders or certain types of personality disorders. An initial assessment is crucial.
- Importance of a Certified Professional: Given the delicate nature of working with an individual’s subconscious, it’s imperative to see a certified and trained professional. An untrained practitioner can unintentionally cause harm or ineffectively address the issues.
- Side Effects: Some individuals might experience headaches, dizziness, or anxiety post therapy. While these are generally rare and mild, it’s essential to be aware and discuss any concerns with the therapist.
The Science Behind CBH
Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CBH) is a fascinating blend of the cognitive-behavioural model and the altered states of consciousness induced by hypnosis. Here’s a deeper dive into the science:
- Neurological Changes: During hypnosis, research has shown that there are tangible changes in the brain’s activity. Brain imaging studies, using fMRI and EEG, have revealed alterations in the connectivity between different brain regions. Specifically, there’s an increase in connections between the dorsal anterior cingulate, thalamus, and the insula during hypnosis. This may explain the heightened state of focused attention and suggestibility. Studies have also replicated the same patterns in imagined against real-life exposure. In other words, we can imagine we are eating an Apple generates the same signature as eating an apple.
- A study conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine scanned the brains of subjects while they were hypnotized and found changes in three areas of the brain1. The researchers suggest that these neural changes could alter someone’s capacity to be hypnotized or the effectiveness of hypnosis for problems like pain control1.
- A study from the University of Turku found that during hypnosis, the brain shifted to a state where individual brain regions acted more independently of each other. This finding shows that the brain may function quite differently during hypnosis when compared to a normal waking state2.
- An article titled “The Neurological Underpinnings of Hypnosis and its Clinical Applications” discusses how hypnosis is associated with changes in various areas of the brain, including the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), various areas of the prefrontal cortex and frontal lobes, and changes in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in these areas3.
- Neural Pathways: Our brain functions through a series of interconnected neural pathways. These pathways are strengthened or weakened based on our experiences and learnings. CBH works by helping individuals identify negative thought patterns and behaviours and then uses hypnosis to reinforce positive changes, effectively altering these pathways.
- A page on Neurorehabilitation UK discusses how Neural Pathways provides therapy and rehabilitation for adults and children with neurological conditions across the UK1. This suggests that experiences and therapies can indeed alter neural pathways.
- The BBC Bitesize page on the structure and function of neural pathways explains how neural pathways can take different forms: converging, diverging, and reverberating2. This underscores the flexibility of neural pathways and their ability to change based on inputs.
- An article on Geeky Medics discusses how the central nervous system uses ascending and descending pathways to communicate with the external environment. This highlights the interconnected nature of neural pathways.
- While these references do not directly mention CBH (Cognitive Behavioral Hypnotherapy), they do provide evidence that our brain functions through a series of interconnected neural pathways, which can be strengthened or weakened based on our experiences and learnings. This aligns with the concept that CBH could potentially work by helping individuals identify negative thought patterns and behaviours, and then using hypnosis to reinforce positive changes, effectively altering these pathways. However, more specific studies would be needed to confirm this.
- Brain Imaging Studies: Studies have shown that during therapy sessions, areas of the brain associated with focus and attention are more active, while those linked with the critical faculties and external awareness become less active. This underscores the heightened suggestibility and focus of the patient during hypnotherapy.
- A systematic review and meta-analysis of the neural effects of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in psychiatric disorders found that CBT can impact the activity of brain regions and functional integration between regions1. The study revealed that altered activation in the prefrontal cortex and precuneus were key regions related to the effects of CBT1.
- Another study on brain imaging before and after COVID-19 found significant effects of the disease in the brain with a loss of grey matter in certain areas2. This suggests that changes in brain structure and function can be detected through imaging techniques.
- A third reference discusses how magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) can be used to map brain structure and function at the macroscopic level, including the wiring and cross-talk between brain regions3.
- While these references do not directly mention CBH sessions, they do provide evidence that brain imaging can detect changes in brain activity associated with different mental states and therapies. This could potentially include the heightened suggestibility and focus observed during hypnotherapy. However, more specific studies would be needed to confirm this.
Finding the Right Therapist
Putting aside that you are reading this post by a therapist from a London CBH practice called the Bohangar City Practice, and would love to engage with anyone who is seeking therapy (use contacts on the page), navigating the world of therapy can be overwhelming, especially when you’re seeking specialised treatment like Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CBH). Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you find the right CBH therapist and ensure you receive the best care:
- Credentials Matter: The field of CBH requires a unique blend of training in both cognitive behavioural therapy and hypnotherapy. Ensure that the therapist you’re considering is certified by recognized institutions or professional bodies in both these areas. Certifications are not just pieces of paper; they are an assurance that the therapist has undergone rigorous training and adheres to a code of professional ethics.
- Initial Consultations: A good therapist will often offer an initial consultation, either free or at a reduced cost. This session is a golden opportunity for you to gauge if you’re comfortable with the therapist, understand their approach, and get a feel for their expertise. It’s essential to remember that therapy is a partnership, and mutual trust and understanding are foundational.
- Ask the Right Questions: Before committing to a therapy regimen, ensure you have clarity on some critical aspects. Here are some questions you might consider:
- What is your experience with CBH, and how long have you been practising it?
- Can you provide any testimonials or references from previous patients?
- How do you tailor the therapy to individual needs?
- What are your views on integrating CBH with other therapeutic methods?
- How do you handle situations where a patient might not respond to CBH?
- Personal Comfort: Beyond credentials and expertise, it’s essential that you feel comfortable and safe with your therapist. Therapy requires vulnerability, and you should feel confident in opening up about your challenges and concerns.
- Continued Learning: The world of therapy, especially areas like CBH, is continuously evolving. It’s a good sign if your therapist is committed to continued learning, attending workshops, or being a part of professional networks. This shows their dedication to offering the most updated and effective treatments to their patients.
- Transparency on Costs and Duration: A responsible therapist will be upfront about the costs involved, the expected duration of the therapy, and any other logistical details. This transparency ensures there are no surprises down the road and helps you plan accordingly.
Remember, taking the step to seek therapy is a commendable decision, indicative of your commitment to personal growth and well-being. As a dedicated CBH therapist, I prioritize your mental health, ensuring a tailored approach that addresses your unique challenges. With the right partnership, you’re not just investing in therapy; you’re investing in a brighter, healthier future.