The main hypnotherapy theories:
Neo-dissociation, is a theory based on the idea that there exist multiple cognitive systems under the control of the ‘executive ego’, the ‘central control structure’ (Hilgard, 1974).
This central control system is responsible for monitoring functions of personality and actions. It is believed that under hypnosis we can bypass this control by dissociating. The different cognitive systems can work independently of each other, making suggestions for change easy to integrate.
The social learning theory attached to hypnotherapy came in the mid-eighties with Spanos, who believed that attitudes, beliefs, imaginings, attributions and expectancies, all shaped hypnotic phenomena. This is a 'cognitive-behavioural perspective’.
Another approach by Kirsch developed roughly at the same time goes along the lines that expectancies can directly alter our subjective experience of internal states. When we expect a particular outcome we sometimes unwittingly behave so as to produce that outcome. This describes his response expectancy theory.
In more recent years talks about an integrative approach (Dienes & Perner, Brown & Oakley, Bowers, Kihlstrom) have surfaced. Hypnotherapy becomes goal orientated, with the notion that a successful response to hypnotic suggestions can be achieved by forming an intention to perform the action or cognitive work required.
Today we talk about hypnosis as a therapy using both cognition and an unconscious process. It is goal orientated, the client is active and the relationship with the therapist is also playing an important part in the therapy.
For me, this is an interesting evolution. I sometime tell my clients about this evolution, to explain this integrative approach that I use, using both cognition and unconscious processes.
When I first started working with hypnosis I used to do a lot of smoking secessions and I was working from a place where the unconscious was working alone, using a script that I would tweak from client to client. I had some successes but I never quite understood how this was working and I never felt satisfied that I really understood my client nor really facilitated change. With further studying and understanding of hypnotherapy and other therapy techniques,
I became more versatile, able to adapt better to different clients and really working with both conscious and unconscious processes.
What is interesting about this approach is the way it has evolved over time and is still in evolution today. Gerald Corey, (Theory and Practice of Counselling Therapy, Fifth Edition,1995) summarises this evolution quite well.
He describes the first phase (1940 – 50), as ‘non-directive psychotherapy’, a permissive and non-interruptive process allowing the client to get insight into themselves and their life situations.
He then goes on to talk about a second phase (1950 – 57), reflective psychotherapy, when both the client and the therapist explore the feelings of the clients and avoided threats. Through this the client was able to achieve a greater degree of congruence between real self and ideal self.
The final phase he mentioned was experiential therapy (1957 – 70), a therapeutic approach that encourages patients to identify and address hidden or subconscious issues through experiencing with various activities such as role playing, guided imagery, the use of props, and a range of other active experiences.
This practice originally introduced by Rogers is still evolving today, equine therapy, expressive arts therapy, music therapy, psychodrama etc. all derive from this ongoing evolution. They are all therapies that encourage clients to experience something different, get their guard down and receive specific feedback regarding specific actions or behaviours.
With hypnotherapy, it is common practice to incorporate other approaches or elements of other approaches (CBT, EFT, EMDR, NLP etc.) within the sessions to provide a way of breaking through some barriers and give the clients more tools to use once the sessions are over.
I do not use the same technique with every client as every person is an individual with specific preferences and some clients may be more receptive to one approach than the other.
A little about NLP and EFT:
NLP has interesting tools to work with and although it was created in the 70ies it has changed a lot since these days.
Founded by Richard Bandler and John Grinder at the University of California, Santa Cruz, began a process of discovering how masters in the domain of therapeutic communications performed what these researchers began referring to as ‘magic’. Primarily NLP was a study of language used by exceptional therapists of the time: Fritz Perls (Gestalt Therapy), Virginia Satir
(Family Therapy) and Milton Erickson (Medical Hypnotherapy). Bandler, started to study and mimic the nonverbal elements and worked on a modelling concept. Other famous people then came along studied and brought other elements from different psychology fields to the original NLP concepts, thus creating a toolbox for the therapist to use. Anchoring, sensory acuity, reframing, time line, regression etc. are all tools that were developed later on and form part of NLP. Today, many NLP tools are used within a clinical hypnotherapy setting thanks to the people who put them there in the first place. This is not to say that NLP has stopped evolving, now it has diversified, it has caught up with time and courses are more focussed towards specific aims such as NLP for Change, NLP for Resilience, NLP for Business etc. I enjoy sharing some of these techniques with my clients as I find them very effective both during and out of trance.
Another tool I use quite a lot is EFT. The tapping journey has come on a long way since the late TFT founder Dr. Roger Callahan “cured” Mary's water phobia by tapping under her eye in the 1980s.
Callahan began experimenting with tapping meridian points and soon discovered that by bringing in other meridian points to tap on he could increase his success rate. His ideas were initially known as “Callahan Techniques” but later became Thought Field Therapy. In 1991, Gary Craig became a student of Dr. Roger Callahan, devised EFT a simpler version of TFT.
EFT was originally dealt with phobias, fears, pains etc. the focus was to let go of them in a simple way. Some followers, such as Silvia Hartmann, with a vision that the past should not be revisited and that focus should only be on the present moment and the future have created Positive EFT focusing current needs, dreams and ambitions to help clients. Robert G. Smith, developed Faster EFT, cutting some of the steps and adding some positive visualisation. Another recent form of EFT being developed at present by Gary Craig is called Optimal EFT, which focus on spirituality and Quantum Physic.
As you can see, there is more to hypnotherapy than just putting someone in a trance and making suggestions for change. Every therapist should keep up to date with their skills and knowledge and they should also keep up to date with trends and adapt their practice to a changing society and client base.
Marie claude Bouchet
Mental well-being, stress management, resilience etc.