Category Archives: Mindfulness And Hypnosis Articles

Hypnosis For Anxiety

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How effective is hypnosis for anxiety?

If we suffered significant and protracted trauma during our childhoods, we are far more likely than those who were fortunate enough to have experienced a relatively stable and secure upbringing (all else being) to develop severe anxiety and associated conditions in adulthood.

We feel anxiety when we perceive a threat (and the threat may be real or imagined).

Our perception of being under threat causes stress hormones, such as adrenalin and cortisol, to be released into the brain.

The release of these stress hormones into the body can result in distressing physical sensations; these differ depending upon the particular individual concerned and include the following (to list just a few examples):

headaches

– stomach aches

– dry mouth

– trembling

– heart palpitations

– sweating

– feeling faint/dizziness

hyperventilation

Vicious Cycle:

These physical symptoms of stress form part of a vicious cycle; this viscous cycle is caused by the various aspects of stress feeding off one another as I describe below:

1) Anxious thoughts lead to the production of stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol

2) These stress hormones produce physical symptoms in the body which exacerbate anxious thoughts

3) These further anxious thoughts then cause yet more stress hormones to flood the brain…and, thus, the vicious cycle continues

How Do You Break This Vicious Cycle?

In order to break this vicious cycle, a component of it needs to be broken so that the elements it is made up of can no longer feed off one another. Using hypnosis for anxiety therapy can do this in different ways, for example:

– the excessive production of stress hormones flooding the brain can be halted using self hypnosis techniques such as calming imagery/visualisation.

OR:

anxious thoughts can be reduced under hypnosis. This can be achieved in many ways, two of which I describe below:

Two ways to use hypnosis for anxiety :

1) The ‘Helium Voice’ technique:

Under hypnosis the individual is given the post hypnotic suggestion that when s/he has self-critical thoughts during internal dialogues (i.e. negative, introspective, mentally internal self-talk) the ‘voice’ of these thoughts will sound squeaky and high-pitched (as happens when a person inhales helium from a balloon), thus rendering them ridiculous and robbing them of any credibility (whilst this sounds silly, it can be remarkably effective).

2) The ‘Compassionate Friend’ Technique:

To simplify: under hypnosis, the individual is given the post hypnotic suggestion that when s/he has negative, anxiety producing thoughts s/he will be able to imagine what an ideal compassionate friend would say in response to them in order to comfort and reassure, so it becomes rather like having a tiny personal counsellor taking up residence in one’s head!

And, finally, many readers will already be aware that mindfulness meditation is often an extremely effective way of coping with stress and anxiety, though requires practice.

Resources:

Hypnosis For Generalised Anxiety Download – Click here.

Mindfulness Meditation Hypnosis Pack – Click here.

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Hypnosis For Simple Phobias

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Research shows that those who suffered significant trauma as children are at elevated risk of developing anxiety conditions as adults; simple phobias are one (amongst many) expression of such anxiety.

A simple phobia is an irrational fear of a single object, activity or situation (unlike complex phobias that may have multiple triggers, such as social phobia). The individual who has the phobia is fully aware that his/her phobia is irrational, but, despite this awareness, at the point of starting therapy has been unable to overcome it.

Research:

Whilst further research needs to be conducted on the effectiveness of hypnotherapy as a treatment for individuals suffering from simple phobias, several studies have shown it to be helpful (e.g. McGuinness, 1984; Rustvold, 1994).

How Is Hypnotherapy Used To Treat Simple Phobias?

One of the most effective ways of treating a simple phobia with hypnosis is to employ the method of desensitization and I explain the process below, using the example of arachnophobia (a phobia of spiders).

1) A deep sense of relaxation and safety is hypnotically induced in the patient.

2) The patient is instructed to visualize a small spider from a distance

3) The patient is instructed to visualize the same spider but from a closer distance

4) The patient is instructed to visualize an average sized spider from a distance

…etc…etc

The final stage might consist of the hypnotherapist instructing the patient to visualize picking a large spider up with a people piece of tissue paper and dropping it out of the window.

The idea is that at each subsequent stage the patient is gradually exposed, in imagination only, to increasingly, potentially anxiety-provoking ‘encounters’ with the spider. It is unnecessary for the patient to come into contact with a real spider.

Throughout the process, the client receives suggestions that s/he will feel relaxed, safe and in control.

When successful, this process has the effect of gradually and systematically ‘desensitizing’ the patient to spiders (ie causing the patient to stop responding fearfully to them in a way that is TRANSFERABLE TO REAL SITUATIONS).

Phobias, Logic And Reasoning:

Many individuals who suffer from phobias become frustrated that they are unable to overcome their phobia through logical and reasoned thinking given that they know their fear to be irrational; repeatedly telling themselves the object of their fears presents no threat or danger to them tends not to work which means cognitive based therapies may be unsuccessful.

When individuals try to cure their phobia by logic and reason they are using the brain’s left hemisphere.

However, the benefit of using hypnosis to treat phobias is that it taps into the brain’s right hemisphere and this side of the brain is involved in emotional processing, feelings, instincts and visualization, all of which hypnosis harnesses to help the individual overcome his/her phobia.

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

How Hypnosis Works : Two Powerful Examples

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How does hypnosis work?

I have written in other articles that have been published on this site about how hypnosis can help alleviate many adult psychological problems we may have connected to our experience of childhood trauma, such as anxiety, social anxiety, relationship problems feelings associated with rejection and feelings relating to having felt unloved as a child and aches and pains that have a psychosomatic basis (see below).
In this article I will briefly outline two impressive scientific experiments that demonstrat just how powerful the effects of hypnosis can be.

FIRST EXAMPLE OF THE POWER OF HYPNOSIS:

The first experiment was carried out by the researcher of hypnotic phenomenon, Ernest Hilgard, and relates to how people’s perception of pain can be altered.

The experiment involved participants placing their arm in a container filled with ice cold water.

The participants were split into 2 groups as follows:

GROUP 1: These participants had been hypnotized to increase their pain tolerance threshold.

GROUP 2: These participants formed the ‘control’ group (ie. they had received no hypnosis to help them to withstand pain).

RESULTS OF EXPERIMENT:

It was found that the participants in group 1 (who had received hypnosis) were able to keep their arms submerged in the ice cold water for a significantly longer time period than those in group 2 (who had received no such hypnosis).
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PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS OF THESE FINDINGS:

Due to the power of hypnosis to lower our perception of pain, hypnotherapy can be very effectively used, for example, to:

– reduce dental pain

– reduce the pain experienced during childbirth

– help alleviate chronic pain conditions (such as arthritis)

SECOND EXAMPLE OF THE POWER OF HYPNOSIS:

The second experiment of interest involved an examination of how our beliefs can effect our bodily responses in extremely surprising ways.

The experiment focused upon individuals who were allergic to a certain kind of plant leaf. Under hypnosis they were given the posthypnotic suggestion that a leaf the experimenter was shortly going to rub on their hand was from the plant to which they were allergic.

In fact, though, this was intended deception; the leaf was completely harmless to them.

However, when this harmless leaf was rubbed on the back of their hands, because of the posthypnotic suggestion they actually developed an allergic reaction to it in the form of a rash, just as they would have done had the leaf been of the type to which they were actually were allergic.

THE POWER OF THE MIND-BODY CONNECTIION :

Both these experiments, and the applications of hypnotherapy also detailed above, serve to indicate the power of the mind-body connection, and how hypnosis is able to enhance its effect.

 

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Trauma, Anxiety, The Amygdala And Hypnosis

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We have seen from many other articles that I have published on this site that significant and protracted childhood trauma can lead to physical damage being done to the development of a brain region known as the amygala, locking it into a state of over-activity.

This damage can lead to severe psychological and behavioral problems in our adult live, such as:

– an inability to control our emotions

– easily triggered outbursts of aggression/rage

– severe, debilitating anxiety

– intense feelings of fear/terror without obvious cause

This over-activity of the amygdala also frequently produces physiological symptoms of anxiety such as racing heart, hyperventilation, sweating, trembling etc. In other words, we get ‘stuck’ in fight or flight mode.

The amygdala evolved to increase our survival chances and reacts to fear-inducing stimuli at lightning speed.

Indeed, the amygdala responds to frightening stimuli before we are even consciously aware of why we are afraid – the response is automatic and NOT consciously willed.

This is because if our distant, primitive ancestors encountered dangers such as hungry tigers they needed to run away immediately rather than sit around deliberating whether or not it was completely necessary to do so.

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The other way that the brain produces a response to fear is as follows:

The threatening stimuli in the form of sensory input is registered in the thalamus and this information is then relayed to the cortex.

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However, this process is slower than the process involving the amygdala described in the above paragraph.

Harnessing The Power Of The Prefrontal Cortex :

Over-activity of the amygdala can be dampened down by another region of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex. Amongst other functions, the prefrontal cortex is involved in:

–    reappraising problems and generating new solutions

–   visualization

–   planning

By the use of hypnosis, we are able to harness the power of the prefrontal cortex so that it, in effect, ‘turns down’ activity in the amygdala and thus reduces feelings of fear and anxiety.

One technique which may achieve this goal is repeated self-hypnosis that induces visualization (remember, the prefrontal cortex is intimately involved in the mental process of visualization) of a ‘safe place’ in which one is completely protected from danger.

A second technique is that hypnosis can be used to help us reappraise our problems (again, the prefrontal cortex is closely involved in the process of reappraisal, as we saw above); for example, if we lose our job we may initially feel very disheartened; however, hypnosis can help us to positively reframe what has happened and to start viewing it from a positive perspective (e.g. focusing on the fact that by no longer having to do our previous job we now have the opportunity to retrain for something better, start our own business, or undertake studies as a nature student, perhaps in something we’ve always wanted to do).

Resource:

Overcome Fear And Anxiety – click image below:

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Resource:

Improve Visualization – click image below:


eBook : Childhood Trauma And Its Link To Depression And Anxiety by David Hosier MSc. Click here for details.

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

PTSD Sufferers Make Good Hypnotic Subjects

 

Those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder display an array of distressing symptoms including flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, insomnia, hypervigilence and hypersensitivity to stress.

Fortunately, however, research has found that those who suffer from PTSD tend to be more hypnotizable than the average person (this is thought to be because they can vividly imagine things which is an important component that helps to make an individual able to respond to hypnotherapy positively.

Many PTSD sufferers, therefore, can potentially be helped by practicing self-hypnosis.

What Is The Evidence That Hypnotherapy Can Effectively Reduce Symptoms Of PTSD?

There is a growing body of scientific evidence showing that those with PTSD can be helped by taking advantage of hypnotherapy. I briefly examine some of this evidence below:

1) Bryant et al carried out a research study that showed the more vividly PTSD sufferers experienced flashbacks and nightmares, the more hypnotizable they tended to be.

2) Brom et al ran an experiment in which PTSD sufferers were split into three groups :

Group 1 received psychodynamic psychotherapy

Group 2 received were treated using systematic desensitization techniques

Group 3 received hypnotherapy

Results : Whilst all three groups responded equally well, group 3, comprising individuals who underwent hypnotherapy, required the fewest treatment sessions.

Other Research:

Forbes et al. found hypnotherapy to be an effective means of reducing nightmares and flashbacks in PTSD sufferers.

Krakow et al. carried out research showing that children who had experienced early life trauma were able to use imagery under hypnosis which reduced their nightmares and intrusive thoughts, as well as reducing their levels of emotional arousal and improving their quality of sleep.

Furthermore, there is good evidence that hypnotherapy can substantially help those suffering from mental health issues linked to PTSD such as depression and anxiety.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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Effect Of Childhood Trauma On The Limbic System

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If we have suffered severe and chronic childhood trauma, there is a risk that an area of our brain called the limbic system may have incurred developmental damage which severely affects how we feel and behave as adults.

What Is The Limbic System’s Normal Function?

The limbic system is a region of our brain that experiences emotional reactions to information relayed by our five senses : taste, touch, vision, smell and hearing. These emotional reactions are strongly shaped by the memories stored in the limbic system connected to past experiences associated with these senses.

To provide a simple example : if our ancestors heard the roar of a lion behind them, because this sound is associated (from past experience) in the limbic system with danger, they would react with fear and run away. This function of the limbic system clearly has survival value, which is why modern day humans have inherited it.

Components Of The Limbic System:

The limbic system comprises :

– the amygdala

– the hippocampus

– mammillary body

– hypothalamus

– olfactory cortex

– thalamus

– cingulate gyrus

– fornix

The positioning in the brain of the above regions is shown in the diagram below:

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How Can The Experience Of Childhood Trauma Cause The Limbic System To Become Dysfunctional?

If as children, our limbic system was repeatedly activated by threatening and frightening experiences then its development may have been disrupted. This may mean that it becomes HYPERSENSITIVE to perceived threat AND OVER- REACTIVE to perceived threat.

Importantly, the limbic system may cause us to OVER-REACT TO PERCEIVED THREATS THAT WE ONLY PERCEIVE ON AN UNCONSCIOUS LEVEL. For example, if someone in authority speaks to us in a manner that, on an unconscious level, reminds us of how an abusive parent used to speak to us, we might become extremely anxious, frightened or aggressive (aggression here would represent an unconscious drive to defend ourselves).

Theoretical Reversibility:

However, because of a quality of the brain known as neuroplasticity, this disrupted part of the brain can begin to heal itself through factors including the avoidance of excessive stress, strong and reliable emotional support, self-compassion, a safe and stable environment, and, research has shown, the practice of mindfulness meditation.

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

 

 

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Recovering Our Self-Esteem : 6 Key Elements.

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If we have experienced significant childhood trauma, such as parental rejection, our self-esteem is likely to have been severely damaged. However, it is possible for us to rebuild it.

Branden (1994) identified six key foundations upon which the development of a healthy level of self-esteem is built; these six building blocks of self-esteem are as follows:

THE SIX KEY FACTORS THAT UNDERPIN A HEALTHY LEVEL OF SELF-ESTEEM:

1) Being consciously engaged with the present

2) Being accepting of oneself

3) Taking responsibility for oneself

4) Having a definite and meaningful purpose in life

5) Having personal integrity

6) Having a capability to act in an assertive manner when necessary

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Let’s look at each of these in turn:

1) Being consciously engaged in the present :

When a young child is playing, s/he becomes ‘lost’ in the present, utterly mentally involved with the activity and living entirely in the here and now.

As adults, we tend to lose this ability; instead of living in the present we dwell on/ ruminate about the past (as is often the case for people suffering from clinical depression) and/or worry about the future (which frequently occurs, often to an obsessive degree, in people who suffer from an anxiety disorder), rarely living for now.

Whole lifetimes can be wasted in this manner, possibly spent using drink and drugs in a futile attempt to recapture this childhood mental state of unsullied psychological purity.

However, we can train ourselves to live more in the present through the practice of mindfulness meditation. Indeed, research into the positive psychological effect of mindfulness meditation had yielded impressive results.

2) Accepting oneself :

This means accepting both one’s good qualities and bad (after learning from our mistakes and undertaking not to repeat them we need to forgive ourselves, acknowledging we are a highly fallible human being, like everyone else, rather than torturing ourselves with guilt. Also, making mistakes ourselves can give us empathy for others around us who make mistakes too, and help us not to judge them.

3) Taking responsibility for ourselves :

If we deny any responsibility for our own lives, we deprive ourselves of the motivating belief that we can significantly contribute towards the shaping our own destinies.

4) Having a definite and meaningful purpose in life:

This could be finding one’s true vocation (rather than a job one would rather not do due to financial necessity) which may involve downsizing and living a less materialistic life.

And, of course, some find meaning through religion, spirituality or a political or social cause.

5) Having personal integrity :

This means living an authentic life that is true to who we are, developing our own moral code based on personal reasoning and attempting to live by it.

6) Having a capability to act assertively when necessary :

A key component of this is to value our own needs and not allow ourselves to be exploited by others. This means having the strength and courage to stand up for ourselves in a firm, but not aggressive, manner.

Resource:

hypnosis packs 200x133 - Recovering Our Self-Esteem : 6 Key Elements.Ten Steps To Solid Self-Esteem. Click here.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

How Hypnosis Changes The Brain

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We have seen from many of the articles that I have previously published on this site that significant childhood trauma can actually physically damage the developing human brain; in particular, it can adversely affect the development of a brain area called the amygdala, which is involved in emotional processing.

However, we have also seen that, because it is now known the brain can change itself in positive ways when we are adults (due to a property of the brain known as neuroplasticity), this damage can be reversed.

The use of mindfulness meditation has been shown in research to help the brain recovery from the physical damage done to it in childhood, and, now, recent research has shown hypnosis, too, can change the way in which the brain works and in a manner that can be detected through the use of brain scans / brain imaging.

 

HOW HYPNOSIS CHANGES THE BRAIN:

Kosslyn, a researcher from Harvard University, USA, carried out an experiment on colour perception which involved eight participants.

Each participant was shown brightly coloured rectangles and, under hypnosis, instructed to imagine the colour ‘draining’ from them. This resulted in brain activity that caused them to pereive the brightly coloured blocks as gray.

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The reverse was also true; when instructed, under hypnosis, to ‘see’ gray blocks as brightly colored, they did indeed, due to the change in brain activity caused by hypnosis, perceive the (in reality, gray) blocks as colored.

(For those who are interested, the brain activity of the participants was measured by employing the use of PET [positron emission tomography] scans.

It is also highly important to note that when the participants were asked to perceive these color changes taking place but were NOT under hypnosis, the same changes in brain activity and color perception did NOT occur: this demonstrates that hypnosis used in the experiment was having a very real, measurable and observable (via brain scanning) effect.

This effect is thought to work, Kosslyn explains, because under hypnosis the brain’s right hemisphere, which deals with, amongst other imagination and expectations, is ACTIVATED (whereas the left hemisphere of the brain, dominant when the individual is not under hypnosis, operates more according to logic).

Kosslyn suggests that it might very well be the ability of hypnosis to activate the right hemisphere of the brain that also lies behind the success that hypnotherapy can have when it is used to treat problems such as insomnia, anxiety, pain management and other difficulties in which a person’s psychology plays a pivotal role.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

How The Brain Can Change And Recover From Harm.

 

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Whilst the basic structure of the brain is formed by early childhood, this physical structure changes throughout life as a result of our experiences and learning.

A well known example of this is relates to a study of London taxi drivers (who undergo years of extensive training to learn their way around the London streets) ; it was found, through the use of brain scans, that as a result of this training the part of their brain that deals with spatial awareness actually increased in size.

This ability of the brain to physically change throughout life is due to a quality it possesses called neuroplasticity.

The main phases of brain development and change can be divided into 3 stages. I briefly describe each of these below:

1) The Precritical Phase:

This occurs during early childhood. During this phase, the brain’s neurons (nerve cells) are formed, as are the connections between them.

These neurons communicate with each other by the process of electro-chemical signalling.

The brain consists of about 100 billion (100,000,000,000) neurons and each of these neurons may be connected up to 10,000 other neurons.

Mind-bogglingly, this means that our neurons communicate with one another via a network of about 1,000 trillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) connections (known as synaptic connections).

2) The second phase relates to the changes that occur to the brain after childhood as a result of our learning and the experiences (eg. see example of London taxi drivers above).

3) Later life : If the brain does not receive adequate stimulation, its processing ability may be adversely affected, as may memory. However, brain training exercises can help to prevent such deterioration.

BRAIN DAMAGE REVERSIBILITY:

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We have seen, in other articles that I have published on this site, that severe childhood trauma can harm the way in which the brain develops.

However, such harm to the brain is frequently reversible, at least in part. Two ways in which the brain is able to repair itself are:

– by developing new connections between neurons

– redirecting specific brain functions to alternative brain regions.

Furthermore, studies now reveal that, in certain situations, the brain is actually capable of developing new neurons.

APPLICATIONS TO ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION:

Meditation, visualisation and repeated hypnosis/self-hypnosis that enhances relaxation has been found to alter the brain in a beneficial manner. These changes help to dampen down negative emotions such as depression, anxiety and anger; also, they help both the brain and the body to heal themselves.

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

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

 

 

 

 

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Cognitive Hypnotherapy : Combining Hypnosis With CBT

 

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The practice of cognitive hypnotherapy derives from recent discoveries in psychology and studies of the workings of the physical brain (neuroscience).

As can be inferred from the name of the therapy, it is a hybrid of cognitive behavioral therapy (click here to read one of my articles on CBT) and hypnotherapy (click here to read my article on what brain scans reveal about the effectiveness of hypnotherapy).

The use of hypnotherapy is becoming increasingly mainstream. For example, many dentists now use hypnotherapy in order to reduce the anxiety of their patients. Also, it is used by some doctors in connection with certain medical procedures. Likewise, cognitive hypnotherapy is becoming more and more widely used as evidence for the effectiveness of hypnotherapy continues to build up.

Scientific Studies

One study has shown that some individuals, when under hypnosis and told the back of their hand is being rubbed with poison ivy (when, in fact, unknown to the hypnotized individual, this is not true – the back of their hand is, in fact, only rubbed with a completely harmless plant), the hypnotized individual develops a rash anyway.

Another study involved showing hypnotized individuals black and white photographs. However, whilst in the hypnotic state, they were instructed to imagine that the black and white photographs they were looking at were in colour. Brain scans made during this procedure revealed that the brain was indeed responding by processing the visual information as if the photographs really were in colour.

 

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There is also much scientific evidence for the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in the treatment of many psychological conditions; one of the first to combine CBT with hypnotherapy was Trevor Silvester in 2001; he also included in this new type of hybrid therapy elements of neuro-linguistic programming, cognitive theory and positive psychology.

Cognitive hypnotherapy is usually a relatively short form of therapy, often only requiring a few sessions, and helps people to change their mindset, attitude and style of thinking. Many report improvement after just one session.

To read more of my articles about hypnosis click here.

For self-hypnosis downloads, click here.

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

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Copyright 2015 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery