By Susanna Sweeney, MSC, MBACP, CHT
Mentioning hypnosis and trauma therapy in the same sentence is not that common. Hypnosis continues to be viewed with suspicion and prejudice and continues to exist on the fringes of the therapy world.
This article is devoted to breaking these hypnosis myths and to re-frame hypnosis as a powerful tool that can help you overcome trauma.
Firstly let me make it clear that there are currently two major and predominant camps in the hypnosis world- there are those hypnotists who were trained in school following the Dave Elman tradition, and there are those trained in schools following the Ericksonian tradition. The essential difference here lies in how each of the two approaches views trance and proposes to bring the conscious mind offline so that the subconscious can be worked with directly.
Once the conscious mind is taken off-guard, and you have an opening where you could conduct actual therapy work with the subconscious, most hypnosis schools in either tradition unfortunately still rely on teaching their students how to use scripts.
A hypnotist who uses a script, practices only suggestion hypnosis, which can be good, and I advocate it for the purposes of self hypnosis at home- but for use in a session with a practitioner mostly let’s the client down as their real live issues won’t be addressed.
Those trained in regression hypnosis will have a session protocol that is much more flexible and can get at the client’s deep seated issues at least to some extent through live interaction during the session. I am using the phrase ‘to some extent’ because although powerful, regression hypnosis is still somewhat cumbersome if you compare it to, for example, hypnosis for permanent and rapid change.
A fast acting content free method like the one above offers excellent trauma tools. There are also some excellent trauma tools derived from Neuro Linguistic Programming that are designed to help process traumatic memories that come in the form of intrusive thought, as nightmares or as flashbacks.
What are you looking for in your hypnosis trauma therapist?
Steer away from anyone who works mostly or exclusively with scripts. Working with scripts basically means the hypnotist will read out a prepared text to you to impress some issues upon your subconscious. While often very powerful, suggestion hypnosis is not enough, and I would even go as far as to say, unsuitable for processing trauma.
You want to work with a hypnotist who is experienced in working with what is called ‘abreactions’ in the hypnosis world, and essentially describes a client becoming upset and crying, or feeling anger or rage or some other strong emotion during the session.
Many script based hypnotists have been told that abreactions are to be avoided and are an undesirable by-product of hypnosis. For me, abreactions are the gold of the session. When I see them I know the client is getting somewhere and working with the core of the matter, and that change is on the way as a result.
The golden rule in therapy is always that you can only accompany your clients as far as you have traveled yourself. And personal work is not always part of hypnosis training. Therefore you need to pick your practitioner carefully and assess carefully the level of experience they do have with hypnosis and trauma.
See my golden nuggets in my article on life regression hypnosis on how to find the right practitioner for you.
As well as following those tips, you want to work with someone who has a deep understanding of trauma science. Why? Because somebody’s theoretical understanding will determine the nature of how they work with you.
There is also an advantage in you understanding the symptoms of trauma and what trauma is. This little bit of theory will likely help you feel less overwhelmed by what is happening with you.
If you have trauma you want to process, and don’t want to discuss the details of the traumatic memories (and many trauma survivors don’t, so you would not exactly be the odd one out), look for a hypnotist who works content free.
You still may have to give the headlines for the nature of the memories you are dealing with, but this will save you from having to disclose painful details and with trauma, from experience, the real charge is often in the detail.
Getting back control over intrusive memories and thoughts will be your uppermost concern if you have been diagnosed with PTSD.
There are various tools and modalities out there that can help you lower the traumatic charge. What I mean by traumatic charge is the hyperarousal of your nervous system that automatically kicks in once the traumatic memory is activated. This hyperarousal will lead to increased adrenaline and cortisol. It will have your heart beating faster and may activate flashbacks and other forms of intrusive memory.
Havening Techniques® have an event protocol which can reliably and almost effortlessly discharge the traumatic stimulation by breaking the link between the cognitive and emotional parts of the memory. In other words, at the end of working with the incident or event and going through the protocol with the help of a practitioner, you will still have the memory, but the feelings connected to it will be gone or almost gone.
Kinetic Shift® hypnosis can work in similar ways and I already discussed certain NLP techniques suitable for lowering the impact of flashbacks and intrusive thought.
Here, Dr. Ruden presents a novel way of interpreting the well known symptoms of trauma, which directs clinicians as to what work they must undertake with their trauma clients so they can become symptom free once more.
Learn the exact sequence of electrical and neuro-chemical events that take place in the brain at the encoding moment of traumatization.
I interviewed Dr. Ron Ruden, the co-founder of Havening Techniques on the findings of his 20 year study of the neuro science of trauma.
I hope you have found this article helpful in guiding you towards the kind of training and experience to look for in a hypnosis trauma therapist.
In the comments below let our community know what you think.