In this writing I would like to use comments made by Dr. Heather Good a clinical hypnotherapist. Heather has worked for many years as a mental health therapist and has dealt with many complex mental health difficulties including depression, anxiety, abuse, and trauma. In an interview on a blog called Addiction Blog.org http://addictionblog.org/ she answered most questions around this subject.
· How hypnotherapy is used in addiction treatment
· What hypnotherapy includes and what a typical session is like
· Whether or not hypnotherapy is best for everyone
· How to avoid danger or risk in seeking hypnotherapy
At the end, if you still have questions about hypnotherapy and its safe use, please use the comments section below. We will do our best to send you a personal and prompt answer.
What is the science behind Hypnotherapy?
We do know that the process of hypnosis accesses a level of the deeper mind (the subconscious) which can initiate long-lasting change. In the trance state, the client is highly suggestible, relaxed, and able to access the deeper mind and more importantly the imagination; the trance state is likened to the state between waking and sleeping. In the trance state, the conscious mind relaxes and all the memories stored in the subconscious are accessible.
The subconscious is like a store-house for all our experiences in the lifetime. People are able to let go of their addiction when (the subconscious mind and the conscious mind are on the same page). When this occurs, people are able to transform the trauma with positive support networks, self-compassion, and coping skills.
Time and time again; most often people leave hypnotherapy feeling a stronger sense of their own power and a sense of peace. Even if they don’t attain abstinence, or if they fall short of meeting the goal they set for themselves, the process of hypnosis helps to release stress that has been held in the body and mind and re-connects oneself to a sense of power and purpose.
What hypnotherapy can do – which is brilliant and needed – is to help to re-write the life story and to release the trauma of the past. As a sense of self-worth and empowerment arises, people begin to learn that they are resourceful and powerful. For some people it can make a huge difference, while for others, it can be an important aspect of their healing journey.
What is the goal of hypnotherapy in the treatment of chemical and process addictions?
One might view the goal of hypnosis and counselling to be abstinence (and this may be necessary and needed). However, I view the goal of hypnosis to be the alleviation of suffering and the strengthening of self-love and self-compassion.
Although the goal of hypnosis varies, what is of the upmost importance is to help the person who is suffering to find freedom from decades or even years of pain, to feel a sense of control and mastery over their lives. Addiction is a complex interplay of causes and conditions which results in a set of behaviors that oftentimes have detrimental results in a person’s life. Support systems and dedication to the recovery process are essential for long-term success for those with serious addiction issues.
Substance use or addictive behaviors arise in order to meet a need. In my view, the goal of hypnotherapy in the treatment of addictions is three-fold.
1. To begin with, the client needs to have a clear picture of what they want their life to look like and they have to be ready for change.
2. Secondly, helping people have greater self-control of their lives elicits greater control within themselves.
3. Finally, through the hypnosis process we remove the energies that are associated with what you might call the “original trauma” so that there is more freedom and peace.
What is the cause of addiction?
As noted earlier, there is not one single cause of addiction.
In his book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Dr. Gabor Mate shares that addiction involves a complex interplay between humans and their environments and that addiction is a chronic neurobiological disease. He suggests that early stress is a potent inducer of addiction as it impairs brain development. He shares in his research that drug addicts show a high likelihood of being victims of early abuse and childhood trauma.
Dr. Mate goes onto to write that there are three main systems involved in addiction. The attachment system involves a sense of belonging and connection with others that may have been disrupted early in life. Secondly, because of early trauma the reward and motivation centres of the brain are impacted. Finally, those with addictions may have difficulty with self-regulation and calming themselves in times of stress.
How effective is hypnotherapy in the treatment of addiction?
Although much more rigorous research is required in the field of hypnotherapy to fully show the efficacy of hypnosis for addictions, based on randomized controlled trials, there is sufficient evidence to show that both relaxation techniques and hypnosis can effectively reduce anxiety, and help patients with chronic pain, insomnia and panic disorders.
As we also know, hypnosis helps people to become non-smokers. Additionally, hypnosis can help patients with cancer control anxiety, pain, nausea and vomiting. Hypnotherapy for trauma has also shown efficacy. Since hypnotherapy is regularly suggested and is used in many group scenarios for healing there is a need for large trials to establish its efficacy, specifically related to addiction.
In the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (2000), Lynn et al., suggests that rarely, if ever, is hypnosis the sole form of treatment with a patient. In fact, the position of the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis is that hypnosis cannot and should not stand alone as the sole medical or psychological intervention for any disorder. Instead, hypnosis is used in addition to some recognized medical or psychological treatment protocol.
For years now, hypnosis has been recognized as a legitimate component of medical treatment by the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association. This being said, I have had experiences where a single session of hypnosis has made a significantly positive impact on the people that I have seen
Can you describe a typical hypnotherapy session step-by-step? What is the expected outcome?
Hypnotherapy can be an amazingly powerful component of a treatment program but one thing is for certain – the person seeking the change has to be 100 % on board with the goal and they need to be ready for change.
When I first talk to people about hypnosis, I find out their goals and I explain how hypnosis works. I then use my voice and deepening techniques to help the client to relax. This is very similar to a guided relaxation process. The client is aware that they can speak to me the whole time, that they will remember everything, and that they are in control. The client will not say anything they don’t want to say and they are completely in control.
Once the client is in a relaxed state then we journey back to clear all the things that they experienced with a negative association in their lifetime. People imagine letting go of these experiences so that when they think about them from this point onwards they do so in a neutral manner. Letting go of what has caused pain and sadness results in a release of fear, anxiety, insecurity and self-doubt. The end result is that the person feels more connected to their true essence and power and feels more accepting of themselves. We integrate in their goals and they determine their action steps for change and we solidify these through anchoring and future visioning.
I believe that strong self-criticism lies at the base of every addictive behavior. Most people I see with addictions are very hard on themselves. As people learn to love themselves more they can choose behaviors that are more in line with self-care and self-nurturing.
What co-occurring conditions do you avoid treating as a hypnotherapist? In other words, who SHOULD NOT seek treatment via hypnotherapy?
I would also never treat anyone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and if someone is in the detoxification or withdrawal state – which can also be accompanied by symptoms of psychosis – I would also not provide hypnosis until the person has stabilized.
What are the risks of hypnotherapy (in general) and how can someone in addiction recovery mitigate these risks?
There are no negative risks associated with hypnotherapy. That being said, hypnosis for healing and with this intention in mind is very powerful and helpful.
Hypnosis is often experienced as a relaxing and pleasant experience. Finding a hypnotherapist, psychiatrist, or counsellor that you trust that uses hypnosis or another type of therapy that is very good for trauma called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can help with deep healing. Other promising therapies include Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP). If you struggle with addictions then having a plan and treatment team to help you will support your healing journey is necessary.
How often is hypnotherapy used for addiction treatment as part of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)? What kinds of overlap exist?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) combined with hypnotherapy can be a part of healing for a wide arrangement of difficulties, including addictions. Although there is very little empirical data related to CBT and hypnotherapy, especially as it relates to addictions, the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Montgomery et al. (2014) determined that the results support Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Hypnosis (CBTH) as an evidence-based intervention to control fatigue in patients undergoing radiotherapy for breast cancer.
CBTH is non-invasive, has no adverse effects, and its’ beneficial effects persist long after the last intervention session. Furthermore, Kirsch et al. (1995) conducted a more broad-spectrum meta-analysis of empirical studies that had compared the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral treatments (CBT) with and without hypnosis across a number of disorders (e.g., obesity, insomnia, anxiety, pain, and hypertension). Patients receiving CBT with hypnosis showed greater improvement than at least 70% of patients who received standard CBT. Second, relaxation did not appear to be the mechanism. Third, there was a hint that the advantages of adding hypnosis to CBT might increase over time, though this was not definitive. Schoenberger’s review (2000) provides further evidence that hypnosis combined with cognitive behavioral methods, generally produce outcomes superior to wait-list and no treatment control conditions.
As you will notice when looking at the Out Patient Drug Rehabilitation Program we use not only CBT but also Transnational Analysis ( PAC) and Mindfulness training in conjunction with