Category Archives: Mindfulness And Hypnosis Articles

Right Brain Therapy : Benefits For Trauma Survivors

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How Useful Is Right Brain Therapy For Trauma Survivors?

Why is it that right brain therapy may be more appropriate for trauma survivors as opposed to therapies that concentrate largely upon the left brain?

Right Brain And How We Relate To Others :

One of the main symptoms of complex posttraumatic stress disorder (from which we may suffer if we experienced significant and protracted childhood trauma) is having problems relating to others.

The brain is made up of two halves, called hemispheres : the left hemisphere (or, left brain) and the right hemisphere (or, right brain). It is the right brain that plays a vital role in how we relate to others because it is intimately involved with many functions that affect how we get along, or, don’t get along, with other people. These functions include :

– our ability to empathize with other people

– our ability to trust others

– our ability to identify with others

– our ability to read the emotions of other people from their facial expressions

– our ability to form healthy attachments with others

– non-conscious communication

Because these functions can be impaired if we have complex PTSD, and because they are controlled largely by the right brain, it follows logically that therapy to restore these functions to their optimum levels should, too, concentrate on the right brain.

Why Do These Functions Reside In The Right Brain?

This is because, in the first two years of life, according to psychodynamic theory, our interactions with our primary caregiver very significantly lay the foundations of our emotional life, including our expectations regarding relationships with others ; these expectations are encoded, on an unconscious level, in the right brain.

Right Brain Therapy And Self-Esteem :

Those with complex PTSD also frequently have significant problems in relation to their sense of self-esteem and therapy for this, too, is also likely to be especially effective when it concentrates upon the right brain. Again, according to psychodynamic theory, this is because the foundations of our self-esteem are (and it is worth repeating) acquired in our first two years of life and are encoded, on an unconscious level, in the right brain.

It follows, therefore, that if our interactions with our primary caregiver in the first two years of our lives are dysfunctional in a way that leads us to believe others do not regard us as of value and worth, we are at high risk of developing into adults who have an ingrained, deeply embedded, unconscious set of negative expectations with regard our relationships with others and our self-esteem.

In other words, such poor expectations regarding our relationships with others and low self-esteem have their foundations in a set of unconscious beliefs, stored in the right brain, that were laid down during the first two years of our lives.

Right Brain And Our Sense Of Safety :

Another feature of complex PTSD is that of a constant feeling of being unsafe and under threat. Research conducted by Schorre (2003) suggests that the sense of how safe, or unsafe, we feel is largely dictated by the right brain.

How Does Right Brain Therapy Work?

Right brain therapy can work by modifying behavior patterns encoded on an unconscious level in the right brain.

Right Brain And Implicit Memory :

Memories stored in the right brain before the age of about two years are known as IMPLICIT memories. This means we are unable to articulate them in words as they are not stored at a linguistic level. Therefore, such memories can only make themselves known to us in ways that are non-verbal (e.g. via our feelings, body sensations and mental imagery).

However, when these memories are triggered and give rise to these feelings, body sensations and mental images we are unaware of their origin for the very reason that they derive from these unconscious/implicit memories in the right brain.

Only right brain therapy then, that can modify these implicit memories on an unconscious level, may be truly effective as left brain therapy, relying on language, is unable to effectively connect with such non – linguistically stored memories.

Examples Of Right Brain Therapy :

These include :

– Art therapy

– Play therapy

– Self-hypnosis / Hypnotherapy

– Mental imagery

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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What Is Clinical Hypnosis?

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What is clinical hypnosis? In the hypnotic state, the individual becomes extremely relaxed and has an increased ability to concentrate and focus which, in turn, can allow him/her to become more receptive to, and respond more positively to, therapy.

Hypnosis, per se, is not a therapy, but, rather, a tool that can increase the effectiveness of therapies administered to the individual whilst that individual is in hypnosis.

When hypnosis is used in this way (as a medium through which other therapies are delivered), it is referred to as hypnotherapy or clinical hypnosis.

Therefore, a person is not actually treated with hypnosis, but, rather, whilst in hypnosis.

Why Might A Therapy Be More Effective When Received In The Hypnotic State ?

It has been theorized that when in hypnosis the individual enters a state of altered consciousness (see below) that, temporarily, dampens down the activity of the conscious/rational parts of the brain which, in turn, allows the therapy being received greater access to the subconscious and, therefore, makes it more likely to help the individual overcome dysfunctional thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

Hypnosis And Brain Wave Studies: 

When in hypnosis, there is increasing evidence to suggest the individual has entered an altered state of consciousness. For example, there are three types of normal consciousness :

  • rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (dreaming)
  • non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep (non-dreaming sleep)
  • being awake

By using brain scanning techniques to monitor brain activity it has been found that, when in hypnosis, the brain produces a different brain-wave pattern when compared to the brain wave patterns generated by each of the above three states of normal consciousness.

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Which Therapies May Be Integrated With Hypnosis In Order To Augment Their Effects?

Hypnosis can be used as a tool to increase the effectiveness of various therapies and therapeutic techniques including the following:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • person-centered counselling
  • solutions focused therapy
  • cognitive analytic therapy
  • eye movement desensitization and reprocessing
  • therapeutic suggestions
  • exposure therapy
  • free association
  • physical and mental relaxation
  • exposure therapy

Those trained in the use of clinical hypnosis include some doctors, some psychiatrists, some psychologists, some dentists and some practitioners of various types of psychotherapy.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc, PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

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Effects Of Trauma Should Be Addressed Rather Than Its Events

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According to J Fisher, PhD, Assistant Educational Director of The Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute and author of the book Healing The Fragmented Selves Of Trauma Survivors, it is of greater importance to address the effects of a person’s traumatic past rather than its specific events. Why should this be?

Sigmund Freud, often referred to as the ‘father of psychoanalysis’, originally treated his patients by helping them to remember, and piece together, their childhood traumatic experiences, the memory of which had been largely repressed.

The idea was that by talking about what had happened to them during childhood, and bringing their traumatic memories into conscious awareness, they would be able to develop a coherent narrative relating to their adverse experiences which would, in turn, alleviate their psychological distress and the symptoms pertaining to their early life trauma.

This kind of therapy is usually referred to as talk therapy or psychodynamic psychotherapy.

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Above : Possible long-term effects of childhood trauma

However, various researchers (e.g. Herman, 1992) have highlighted the fact that many therapists who have adopted this approach to treating their traumatized patients / clients have found that these same patients / clients are made worse rather than better by this ‘talking cure’ strategy.

Specifically, it had been found that patients / clients, when treated in such a way, can become flooded and overwhelmed by the myriad implicit memories this form of therapy is prone, inadvertently, to trigger. To read my article about trauma and implicit (also referred to as non-declarative) memories, click here.

In her book, Fisher takes the view that, rather than bringing into conscious awareness the ‘full narrative’ of our childhood trauma and replaying it in its raw form until we can ‘face-up’ to it, it is more important to learn how to deal with the effects /symptoms of the trauma, such as learning to feel safe,  secure and relaxed in the here and now and to ameliorate present feelings of fear and panic.

Fisher recommends the following cutting-edge therapies for addressing the effects of trauma : mindfulness a based therapies, internal family systems therapy, sensorimotor psychotherapy and clinical hypnotherapy.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Hypnosis : Why Some Throw Baby Out With Bath Water

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Unfortunately, in the past, hypnosis and hypnotherapy have received a bad press. Why is this? There are, perhaps, three main reasons are :

– Stage hypnotists who claim they are using ‘hypnosis’ to induce volunteers from the audience to do absurd, degrading and demeaning things – in fact, such behaviour is more likely to be play acting or due to the pressure to ‘perform’ once on stage (i.e. compliance with the ‘hypnotist’s’ instructions rather than a genuine, hypnotic response).

– The use of hypnosis to ‘regress people into past lives’

– The use of hypnosis by poorly trained therapists to inadvertently instill false memories of abuse into their patients’ minds during attempted retrieval of ‘buried memories of abuse’ (hypnosis should not normally be used to try to unearth ‘buried memories’ from patients’ minds due to the patients’ high state of suggestibility whilst under hypnosis – to read my article about hypnosis and attempted retrieval of ‘buried memories,’ click here).

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However, despite the above, it is important not to throw the baby out with the bath water when trying to ascertain the effectiveness of hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

Indeed, both the British and the American Medical Associations now recognize hypnosis and hypnotherapy as a valid treatment for psychological problems (for example, addictions, eating disorders and phobias).

There is also a growing body of scientific evidence to show how powerful the effect of hypnosis can be in bypassing our conscious awareness to have a profound influence on our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and beliefs. For example, individuals can be hypnotized to see black and white images as if they were in colour (click here to read my article about this experiment).

Other research has found individuals can use hypnosis to alter their body temperature and blood flow, as well as reduce their experience of physical pain (Casiglia, University of Padua, Italy).

Such studies suggest that hypnosis may be more than ‘just’ a highly focused and relaxed state and that, when hypnotized, something significant and special is going on in the brain which allows us to achieve things over and above what we can achieve using our non-hypnotized brain.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

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PTSD, Self-Hypnosis And Positive Recontextualizing Of Intrusive Memories

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According to the psychologist, Spiegel, self-hypnosis can be a useful tool to help individuals suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) overcome problems associated with the troubling symptom of disturbing, intrusive memories of the original trauma.

Spiegel states that self-hypnosis may be particularly useful because certain qualities of the hypnotic experience have much in common with qualities of the experience of the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), examples of which include :

– a feeling of reliving the traumatic event

– feelings of dissociation (detachment from reality)

– hypersensitivity to stimuli

– a disconnection between cognitive and emotional experience

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Spiegel argues that this similarity between hypnotic phenomena and the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) make sufferers of this most serious and disturbing disorder more hypnotizable than the average member of any given randomly selected population.

It follows from this that those suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be particularly likely to be helped by the utilization of hypnotic techniques and procedures, particularly ‘coupling access to dissociative traumatic memories with positive restructuring of those memories’ (Spiegel et al., 1990). By this statement, Spiegel is suggesting that hypnosis could help bring traumatic memories more fully into conscious awareness and alter the way in which they are stored in memory by associating / pairing / linking them with feelings of safety (such as the feeling of being safe and protected in the therapist’s consulting room) rather than, as had previously been the case, high levels of distress.

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In this way, Spiegel suggests, when these previously disturbing memories are recalled in the future, because they are now associated / paired / linked with feelings of safety, they cease to induce distress.

In effect, then, the traumatic memories have become positively recontextualized  and deprived of their previous power to induce feelings of fear, anxiety and terror.

Therapies other than hypnosis and self-hypnosis that are related to the above theoretical ideas include :
1) Eye Movement Desensitization And Restructuring

2) The Rewind Technique

3) Exposure Therapy

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

 

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Seven Key Elements That Aid Brain Repair

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REPAIRING THE BRAIN :

We have seen from several other articles that I have published on this site how significant childhood trauma can adversely affect the physical development of the brain which, in turn, can result in various cognitive, emotional and behavioural problems in adulthood.

However, we have also seen, thanks to a quality in the brain known as neuroplasticity, that it is now known that, under certain conditions, the brain has the potential to recover from the damage it incurred during early life.

For example, if our brain was affected in such a way when we were young that, as adults, we are extremely anxious and hypersensitive to stress, mindfulness meditation has been shown by much research to have the potential to greatly alleviate this problem.

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In order for positive changes to take place in the brain that are long-lasting, it is necessary to alter the structure of the brain on a neuronal level; seven major elements that are of great importance to achieving this are as follows :

REPAIRING THE BRAIN : THE SEVEN KEY ELEMENTS 

  1. NOVELTY – the brain must receive new information and stimuli in order to change itself
  2. REPETITION – the brain must be repeatedly exposed to this new information to enable it to start making, strengthening and consolidating new neural connections.
  3. ATTENTION – it is necessary to pay good attention to the new information/stimuli for the new, beneficial neural connections to occur (paying attention stimulates the production of acetylcholine in the brain which aids the development of these new neural connections)
  4. DIET – in particular, Omega 3 helps the development of new neural connections (Omega 3 can be bought as a supplement).
  5. AEROBIC EXERCISE – research suggests that this form of exercise helps the brain to positively regenerate itself
  6. RELATIONSHIPS – forming close bonds with others (and, importantly, relating well to ourselves) has also been shown to lead to beneficial brain development
  7. SLEEP – it is important to get sufficient sleep (research suggests that the brain most actively ‘repairs’ itself during sleep).

 

Repeated self-hypnosis can also be used to positively alter the brain 

 

 

eBook :

61VHBbAyGwL. UY250  - Seven Key Elements That Aid Brain Repair

Above eBook now available on Amazon for instant download. CLICK HERE for more details.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Overcoming Early Life Insecure Attachment

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As we have seen in other posts that I have published on this site, some babies are prevented from forming a secure attachment (bond) with their mother and this can have disastrous effects upon their future mental health.

What Can Cause An Insecure Attachment To Develop Between The Mother And Baby?

There are numerous reasons why this failure in healthy bonding between the mother and baby may occur, including:

– the mother being an alcoholic/drug addict

– the mother suffering from clinical depression

– the mother being abusive

– neglect

– the baby being separated from the primary carer (eg due to divorce, hospitalization, death)

(The list provided above is not intended to be exhaustive).

The Adverse Effects Of The Development Of An Insecure Attachment Between The Mother And Baby:

Whether or not a secure attachment is created between the mother and her baby has very serious implications as the quality of the attachment effects how the baby’s brain physically develops.

If a secure attachment has not been achieved, the child is at risk of going on to develop poor self-esteem, difficulties forming and maintaining relationships with others, problems with trusting others, an inability to effectively ‘self-sooth’ and reduced ability to cope with stress / weakened resilience.

Compensatory / Alternative Attachments :

However, if the child has had a bad start in life and has not been able to form a secure attachment with the mother, s/he still has the possibility of forming compensatory /alternative attachments with:

  1. Other Individuals
  2. Institutions, clubs, societies, groups
  3. Pets
  4. ‘Site Attachments’

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

1) Other individuals :

Such as friends, members of extended family etc

2)  Institutions, clubs, societies, groups :

Such as sports clubs, political societies, social clubs etc

3) Pets :

Mammals like cats, dogs and rabbits have a need to bond as we do. Also, stroking a pet is soothing and can have beneficial physiological effects (such as reducing heart rate and lowering blood pressure). However, bonds with pets should not substitute completely for necessary human relationships. ) I myself have a rabbit (called Rambo) who hops around my flat and is currently in the process of gnawing his way through all my furniture

 4) ‘Site attachments’ (familiar/comforting/soothing places of perceived safety and security):

It is also possible to become attached to places (this is sometimes referred to by psychologists as ‘site attachment’).

Children tend to have special ‘safe-havens’ that they can retreat to in times of distress (such as a bedroom, ‘den’ or friend’s house).

Adults, too, may have their own preferred retreats (such as a garden shed or allotment).

It is also possible to retreat into ‘a place of safety’ in one’s imagination; a particularly powerful and effective way of achieving this is through the use of self-hypnosis and visualization.

 

If sufficient compensatory / alternative attachments are made and these are stable, reliable and of good quality, the individual can still move from insecure attachment to secure attachment.

RESOURCES:

Downloadable MP3 self-hypnosis audio :

Develop a ‘safe place’ in your imagination with self-hypnosis. Click here.

eBook :

61VHBbAyGwL. SX312 BO1204203200 1 126x200 - Overcoming Early Life Insecure Attachment

Above eBook now available for instant download on Amazon. Click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Self-Hypnosis For Depression

 

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We have seen from many other articles that I have published on this site that those of us who have suffered significant childhood trauma are at increased risk of developing depression (as well as many other psychiatric conditions) in adulthood than those who had relatively happy and stable childhoods (all else being equal).

One method that can help to reduce feelings of depression, especially when used in conjunction with other therapies such as pharmacology and psychotherapy, is self-hypnosis.

One of the main prevailing theories of the cause of depression is that it arises due to imbalances in certain brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters), in particular serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.

What Is The Function Of These Brain Chemicals?

 – Serotonin is thought to be involved with appetite, digestion, social behaviour, sexual desire, sexual function, sleep, memory and mood.

 – Norepinephrine is thought to be involved with the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response.

 – Dopamine is thought to play a very important role in internal reward-motivated behaviour (eg the pleasurable feelings generated by sex or a large gambling win).

In order to attempt to correct this chemical imbalance, and thus alleviate depressive symptoms, medications are frequently prescribed. Unfortunately, however, not everyone finds them effective.

Self-Hypnosis For Depression :

Another way to alter the brain’s chemical balance in those suffering from depression, research has shown, is by self-suggestion, as used in self-hypnosis, and by altering a person’s level of expectancy regarding their recovery (which plays a major role, of course, in the placebo effect); both of these phenomena have their foundations in the well known phenomenon of  mind-body connection.

Indeed, self-hypnosis for depression (utilizing self-suggestion) combined with psychotherapy and/or drug therapy may be a particularly effective way of alleviating depressive symptoms.

Depression can also be exacerbated by loneliness or due to poor relationships with significant others (an illustrative example of this is that, on average, married people are significantly less likely (some research suggests up to 70% less likely) to suffer from depression compared with their non-married counterparts; here, again, self-hypnosis can be of use in order to assist us to  improve our interpersonal relationships by, for example, helping to repair our disrupted unconscious processes, allowing us to be more able to give and receive love/affection, making us less withdrawn, and reducing tendencies to judge ourselves and others in an overly negative manner.

 

Self-Hypnosis Downloadable Audio MP3s:

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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Hypnosis For Headaches

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Is hypnosis effective for treating headaches?

Research suggests that if we suffered from significant and protracted childhood trauma we will, as adults, have an increased susceptibility to suffering from headaches and migraines during our adult years.

Examples Of Research Studies Showing The Effectiveness Of Hypnosis For The Treatment Of Headaches:

1) A research study conducted by Olness compared the effectiveness of treating headache sufferers in three different ways:

Treatment Condition A: Participants in this group had their headaches treated with a medication called propranolol.

Treatment Condion B: Participants in this group were given placebos

Treatment Condition C: Participants in this condition were trained to use self-hypnosis to treat their headaches.

Results:

Those treated with hypnosis (treatment condition C) improved, on average, to a significantly greater degree than did those in both treatment conditions A (treated with propranolol) and B (given placebos).

2) Research conducted by Anderson was carried out by dividing the migraine suffers who participated in the study into two treatment groups as shown below:

Treatment Condition A : Participants in this group had their migraines treated using hypnosis.

Treatment Condition B : Participants in this treatment group had their migraines treated with medication

Results: Participants in treatment group B, who had their migraines treated with hypnosis were found, when followed up a year later, to:

– have experienced a significantly greater reduction, on average, in the severity of their migraines compared to those treated with medication

– have experienced a significantly greater reduction, on average, in the number of migraines they suffered from in comparison to those treated with medication

Additionally, in the hypnosis treatment group, a significantly greater proportion of participants reported that they had stopped suffering from migraines altogether than did individuals in the group who were treated with medication.

What Types Of Hypnosis Are The Most Effective For The Treatment Of Headaches ?

Alladin, in 1998, conducted a meta-analysis of the research conducted on the effectiveness of hypnosis fir reducing symptoms of headaches and migraines and concluded that the most effective hypnotic treatments were relaxation training and direct suggestion.

Resources:
Ease Tension Headaches
Combat Migraines Before They Start

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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How Deeply Do You Need To Be Hypnotized For Therapeutic Benefits?

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Many people assume that the more deeply a person is hypnotized, the more likely it is that s/he will derive therapeutic benefit from the hypnotherapy session. However, this is not the case. In fact, for most (but not all) problems an individual seeks to address through undergoing hypnotherapy, only a light hypnotic state is necessary.

Below I list the six levels of hypnosis a person can potentially experience (I say potentially as not all people are equally responsive to the process of hypnotic induction) and then go on to explain how each of these levels affect the hypnotized individual together with which problems are best dealt with according to the specific level of hypnosis into which the individual has been induced :

Six Levels Of Hypnosis :

1) light catalepsy

2) moderate catalepsy

3) deep catalepsy

(Catalepsy is characterized by a trance like state, lowered activity of the conscious brain and reduced registering of the external environment by the senses).

4) analgesia / no stress

(Analgesia is the loss of the sensation of pain)

5) light anaesthesia

6) deep anaesthesia

Now let’s look at which levels are best suited to the treatment of which conditions :

Levels 1-3 (Alpha brain wave activity) :

An individual at these levels of hypnosis responds best to hypnotherapy for, for example:

– the elimination of habits (such as nail biting)

– anxiety

– confidence

– sexual dysfunction

– motivation

(this is far from an exhaustive list).

Another benefit of being hypnotized at these first three levels is that they encourage the production of serotonin in the brain (a lack of which is associated with clinical depression).

Levels 4-5 (Delta brain wave activity) :

These two levels of hypnosis may be utilized so that an individual may undergo dentistry work without the need of anaesthetic. They may also be induced in the patient to facilitate minor surgery.

Finally, these levels of hypnosis may be used to help a patient relive traumatic experiences (a technique for treating PTSD) whilst feeling safe and secure. Obviously, this requires a relevantly qualified and experienced hypnotherapist.

Level 6 (Theta brain wave activity) :

This deepest level is sometimes used to facilitate psychosomatic healing.

Conclusion:

To reiterate, then, for most problems levels 1-3 (see above) are the most appropriate levels of hypnosis into which the individual should be induced.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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