Cognitive Hypnotherapy : Combining Hypnosis With CBT


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.


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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Can Hypnosis Help With Mental Illness?


can hypnosis help with mental illness?

I have written in other articles on this site about how helpful I have found self-hypnosis in my own (I hope) continuing recovery (although I have, of course,undertaken many other forms of therapy as well, some of which can be read in the ‘David’s Own Experiences’ section of this blog – seee MAIN MENU).

In this post, I want to give a concise, summarized, general overview of both how and why hypnosis can certainly benefit those suffering from a variety of psychological conditions due to mental illness.

What Are The Psychological Mechanisms At Work That Underlie The Effectiveness Of Hypnosis?

These mechanisms include:

– a deep state of concentration

– highly focused attention

– an elevated state of awareness

– a change in our perceptions (eg studies have been conducted demonstrating that hypnosis can be used by individuals to block the perception of pain – some dentists use it instead of anaesthetic, for example)

– increased motivation

Ways Of Experiencing Hypnosis:

The experience of hypnosis can be achieved:

a) by using self-hypnosis (eg using an MP3 or CD)

b) with the support of a fully professionally qualified therapist (although this can be very expensive)

Two Main Types Of Hypnotherapy:

a) SUGGESTION THERAPY – Once under hypnosis people become more susceptible to therapeutic suggestion and are more likely to respond to these suggestions. Because of this, suggestion-based hypnotherapy is often beneficial in helping individuals who are trying to change their patterns of dysfunctional behaviours ( such as over- eating/comfort eating). This type of therapy can be achieved utilising self-hypnosis.

b) ANALYTIC THERAPY – This type of therapy is employed to help the individual uncover the underlying cause of a psychological disorder which the person may have blocked off from conscious awareness (but see the Important Information About Hypnotherapy section below). This type of hypnotherapy requires working with a fully trained, professionally qualified and experienced therapist.


Status Of Hypnotherapy Within The Discipline Of Psychology:

In 2001, The British Psychological Society (BPS) stated:

Enough studies have now accumulated to suggest that the inclusion of hypnotic procedures may be beneficial in the management and treatment of a wide range of conditions and problems encountered in the practice of medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy.’

Examples Of Conditions That Hypnotherapy Can Help With:

These include, amongst many others:

– fears

– insomnia

– pain management

– general anxiety / trauma-related anxiety

– phobias

– grief / loss

Important Information Relating To Hypnotherapy:

– individuals suffering psychosis should avoid hypnotherapy

– hypnotherapy should not be experienced under the influence of alcohol or drugs

– using hypnotherapy to try to recover ‘buried memories’ should be undertaken with caution due to the possibility of ‘recovering’ false memories (click here to read my article about this)

– hypnosis should only be used for pain relief once the cause of the pain has been diagnosed by a medical doctor.



For those who wish to try self-hypnosis, the most professional site on the web, in my view (which is why I have chosen to affiliate this site to it), is Hypnosis Downloads available by clicking here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)




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Is Your Anxiety Caused By Hyperventilation? A Look At The Science.


Hyperventilation (deriving from HYPER = TOO MUCH and VENTILATION = AIR MOVEMENT) refers to a type of breathing which is too deep and too rapid.

Such breathing results in :

1) too much oxygen


2) too little carbon dioxide

entering the blood stream.

Indeed, severe hyperventilation can result in the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood stream falling by 50℅ within sixty seconds.

Why is a reduction of the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood undesirable?

A significant reduction of the normal amount of carbon dioxide circulating in the blood stream is undesirable because it raises the pH levels in nerve cells.

This, in turn, makes the nerve cells too excitable and can trigger the fight/flight response (click here to read my article about this). The physiological effect of this can then lead to symptoms such as those I list below:

– sweating

– dizziness/faintness/light – headedness

– tingling sensations in the hands and feet

– rapid heart beat ( also known as tachycardia) and/or heart palpitations

– chest pains/heart burn

– a dry mouth

– muscle tension and/or muscle spasms

– shortness of breath/a choking sensation

– difficulty swallowing

– fatigue and/or feelings of weakness

Such symptoms of anxiety can occur very quickly once we start to hyperventilate ; within a minute, in fact.


Lack of awareness:

Many people whose anxiety is linked to the fact that they hyperventilate do not realise that their maladaptive breathing style is significantly contributing to their symptoms. Indeed, many do not realise that they are hyperventilating. I myself hyperventilated for years without being properly aware of the fact and without fully appreciating how important it is to train oneself to stop doing it. I suppose an (irrational) part of me felt that such a simple change could not make a significant difference to how I was feeling.


Two main types of hyperventilation:

These two types are:

1) At rest, breathing from the upper chest instead of from the diaphragm

2) At rest, breathing through the mouth instead of the nose

Many people who suffer from anxiety breathe from the upper chest whilst at rest. Whilst breathing from the upper chest is normal when we are in imminent danger (as it prepares us for ‘ fight or flight’ by introducing extra oxyden into the blood stream) and evolved to help our distant ancestors avoid danger from predators (eg by feeding muscles with extra oxygen to help them run away from the threat as fast as possible), such breathing was designed by evolution to be a temporary response triggered by a life-threatening, physical danger – so it only rarely serves a useful purpose for us today.

On the contrary, in fact, continuous, chronic breathing in this way can effectively permanently trap us in the ‘ fight/flight’ response.

This, in turn, can lead us feel under threat, nervous, fearful and in danger chronically.


Examples of conditions to which hyperventilation can be particularly relevant:

The three examples are :

social phobia

PTSD/flashbacks (click here to read my article about childhood trauma and PTSD)

panic disorder

1) Social phobia:

A person with social phobia may have their tendency to hyperventilate triggered by stressful social situations. The hyperventilation, in turn, will lead to increased symptoms of anxiety which can then result in the person’s hyperventilating becoming more severe still. In this way, a vicious cycle can develop (see below).


2) PTSD/flashbacks:

A similar vicious cycle may occur when anxiety symptoms are triggered by a flashback.

3) Panic disorder:

In extreme cases, the vicious cycle of anxiety/panic can increase symptoms of anxiety to a level at which a panic attack occurs.


Based on the science above, some people find that breathing into a paper bag helps when experiencing a panic attack, as doing so increases carbon dioxide levels in the blood stream and returns them to normal.


Learn Deep Breathing Relaxation Techniques Rapidly. CLICK HERE.


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


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Anxiety, CBT and Neuroplasticity


It is a relatively new discovery within psychology that the brain physically changes throughout our lives (not just during childhood and adolescence as many previously supposed).

Just as the brain’s physical development can be harmed (eg certain types of severe childhood trauma can interfere with the development of the amygdala, which, in turn, is related to the development of borderline personality disorder (BPD)click here to read my article on this), so, too, can its structure and functionality be repaired and enhanced by therapeutic interventions; the harnessing of the power of such  beneficial interventions has come to be known as  SELF-DIRECTED NEURO-PLASTICITY.

Self-directed neuro-plasticity essentially involves us teaching ourselves to think and act in new ways that can positively shape and control the functioning of our physical brain, altering its structure to our advantage and ‘re-wiring’ it in helpful ways (click here to read my article about how the brain can ‘re-wire’ itself).





A recent research study, conducted by the psychologist Schwartz, involved patients suffering from an anxiety disorder being treated with a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) technique (called ‘mindfulness‘). CBT, to explain it in very basic terms, is a form of therapy based on the premise that by changing how we think, we can change how we act and feel, and, furthermore, that many psychological disorders have at their heart a faulty thinking style that causes distress. CBT seeks to correct this faulty thinking style.

But back to Schwartz’s study. He found that those treated with CBT improved to about the same degree as would be expected had they been treated with medication. This having been established, Schwartz then arranged for these improved patients to be given a brain scan (specifically, for those interested, a PET scan, or positron emission tomography scan).

This revealed that certain NEURAL PATHWAYS in the brains of the patients had undergone significant change. Specifically, there was seen to be, after the CBT therapy had been completed, significantly greater activity in the patients’ ORBITAL FRONTAL CORTEX.


As research into neuroplasticity continues and more experiments, such as the one outlined above, are conducted, it is likely that more and more psychological disorders will be amenable to interventions that exploit the phenomenon of neuroplasticity, providing us all, even those with conditions  thought to be deeply entrenched, a good deal of hope that we can get very significantly better.

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


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Infographics : What Mindfulness Is and Its Benefits


The first two infographics AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE help to explain what is meant by mindfulness, whilst the third lists some of its benefits.









David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Treating Symptoms of Stress – Do Complimentary Therapies Work?


One of the major negative outcomes for those of us who have experienced significant childhood trauma is that, as adults, we are frequently hypersensitive to the effects of stress (this is now thought to be, in large part, often due to the actual physical development of our brains having been adversely affected by our painful childhood experiences – CLICK HERE to read my article about this).

This can cause periods, sometimes very protracted periods, of almost unbearable anxiety – I myself suffered this over a period of many years, so I know how desperate a person can become in such a situation : prepared to do just about anything for some relief, however temporary.

Unfortunately, in my own case, I often resorted to large amounts of alcohol which, inevitably, often led to unedifying behaviour and served only to compound the problem in the long-term (and, come to think of it, more often than not, in the short-term, too).

It is not at all uncommon, therefore, for us to frantically search for a remedy, leaving no stone unturned.

It follows, then, that many of us will seek out complimentary therapies, particularly if our condition has so far proved resistant to conventional, orthodox therapeutic interventions. I therefore thought it might be helpful if I devoted this article to :

1) providing a basic description of the main complimentary treatments for the effects of stress that are available

2) looking at the evidence, or lack thereof, for the efficacy of each of these treatments :

Here goes :

1) The main complimentary therapies that are available for the treatment of the effects of stress :

a) ACUPUNCTURE : an ancient Chinese therapy that involves the therapist inserting needles at certain specific points on the body (known to those who practice acupuncture ‘meridians’). It is claimed by its practitioners that it alters the body’s ‘energy flow’ in beneficial ways.

b) ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE : this therapy involves training people to move and use their bodies in more ‘natural’ ways with the aim, amongst others, of enhancing the ability to relax

c) AROMATHERAPY : scented oils are massaged onto the body or inhaled, with the aim of improving mood

d) AUTOGENIC TRAINING : this is self-hypnosis that concentrates on giving people more control over their bodies and involves specific training exercises with a view to improve breathing (eg to control hyperventilation), blood flow and muscular tension.

e) BIOFEEDBACK : bodily processes such as blood pressure and heart rate are monitored and electronically fed back to the person, by lights or sounds. The aim is to train the individual to become more aware of his/her typical physiological responses to events and thereby improve the ability to control them

f) MEDITATION : there are many different types, but all revolve around the mental acts of concentration and contemplation with such aims as reducing heart rate, controlling breathing and reducing tension. The increasingly popular form of therapy known as ‘MINDFULNESS’, used in group therapy in many psychiatric hospitals, is based on meditation techniques. CLICK HERE to read one of my articles on mindfulness.

g) YOGA : the individual is given exercises focusing upon body posture – it is claimed by its practitioners to have physical and ‘spiritual’ benefits.

2) What is the evidence for the effectiveness of each of these treatments? :

a) ACUPUNCTURE : Practitioners claim it is beneficial for treating many conditions. However, scientific evidence for its success is, at the very best, weak and, in relation to most conditions, completely absent. As with any treatment, there is, of course, likely to be some placebo effect at work when people respond to it positively.

b) ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE : There is some evidence that it is beneficial for certain conditions, but, so far, there is a lack of evidence that it helps to reduce stress.

c) AROMATHERAPY : Claims made in favour of the efficacy of aromatherapy are scientifically unsubstantiated. When it is used to treat anxiety, some placebo effect is likely to sometimes occur, however.

d) AUTOGENIC THERAPY : Studies conducted at the University of Exeter, UK have produced evidence suggesting that this form of therapy is useful to reduce the effects of stress, improve sleeping problems, and increase positive emotions and personal sense of control.

e) BIOFEEDBACK : Research has now found that many conditions that used to be thought to be improved by the use of biofeedback, are, in fact, not.

However, the research DOES suggest it is useful in helping people to reduce their levels of anxiety.

f) MEDITATION : A study carried out in 2007, which has been confirmed by the NHS in the UK as being scientifically valid, found that just a short course in meditation could reduce anxiety, lower levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), improve symptoms of depression, reduce feelings of anger, and improve symptoms of fatigue.

Solid scientific evidence for the effectiveness of meditation has steadily grown since, and is likely to continue to do so.

g) YOGA : There is some evidence that yoga may improve symptoms of depression and stress, and, also, help to control high blood pressure and heart disease (both of which conditions may be linked to the effects of stress). However, in general, studies on the value of yoga have been of variable scientific validity.




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


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The Science of Meditation, Stress Reduction and Resilience – Video

the science behind mindfulness meditation

the science behind mindfulness meditation

Here is a video of a discussion between neuroscientists about the science behind mindfulness meditation and how we can use it to reduce feelings of stress and depression and become more resilient in relation to the occurrence of adverse events in our lives. To view the video.  CLICK HERE.

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Study Suggesting Meditation More Effective Than Anti-depressants

mindfulness based cognitive therapy

mindfulness based cognitive therapy

A recent research study, carried out jointly by researchers from the University of Exeter and King’s College, University of London, demonstrated that mindfulness meditation can be more effective at treating depression than anti-depressant medication.

mindfulness - the art of living in the present


In the study, which comprised 123 volunteers suffering from depression, the participants were split into two groups :

GROUP 1 : the participants in this group were given a therapy called mindfulness based cognitive therapy (this therapy combines meditation with traditional cognitive therapy and focuses upon addressing negative thinking patterns and helping the person to concentrate more on the present, rather than obsessing about the past and the future)

GROUP 2 : the participants in this group were treated with anti-depressant medication.

This trial lasted for 8 weeks. By the end of this period, those in Group 1 had been taught meditation techniques they could practice on their own without the assistance of a therapist.

mindfulness meditation - the art of living in the present

mindfulness meditation – the art of living in the present


At the end of the 8 week period, those in Group 1 reported greater control over their negative thinking and over their negative emotions. Furthermore, when the two groups were followed up 15 months later, 60% of those in Group 2 had suffered a relapse compared to just 47% in Group 1. Also, those in Group 1 reported an overall higher quality of life and a greater ability to derive pleasure from life than those in Group 2.


Professor William Kuyken, who led the study, summarized the implications of the findings by explaining that whilst those who take medication for their depression are highly vulnerable to relapse when they cease to take it, mindfulness based cognitive therapy teaches people skills to manage their illness for life. He went on to say that this form of meditation therapy could be a most viable alternative treatment for many of the three-and-a-half million people currently suffering from clinical depression in the United Kingdom.

Indeed, studies are now being carried out that suggest anti-depressant treatment may not be as effective as once thought – for example, a recent study suggested that anti-depressants work little better than placebos (click here to read my article on this).

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

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Physical Symptoms of Stress and How to Reduce Them




Find resources to reduce stress by clicking banner above.

If we have experienced a traumatic childhood, it is frequently the case that our capacity to deal with stress as adults is seriously diminished (click here to read one of my articles about this).

When we experience stress, it almost invariably involves unpleasant physical symptoms; these include :

– dry mouth/throat

– upset stomach

– frequent urges to pass urine

– muscular twitches

– fatigue

– inability to settle/restlessness/fidgeting

– tingling sensations in hands/feet

– indigestion

– trembling

– muscle weakness

– muscle tension

– shallow, fast breathing – also known as hyperventilating  (this worsens the anxiety so it is extremely useful to learn techniques to help control this – see below)

– dilated pupils

– sweating

– loss or increase in appetite

– sweating

– rapid, uneven or pounding heart beat

– a feeling of nausea

– headaches

– sleep difficulties

– over-alertness/feeling extremely ‘on edge’ (this is also sometimes referred to as ‘hypervigilance’ or ‘hyperarousal’)

– aches and pains (eg in the back)

This is not an exhaustive list, but covers most of the main physical symptoms people tend to experience when suffering from the effects of excessive stress.


It sounds too simple to be true, but one of the most effective methods for dealing with the physical symptoms of stress, such as those listed above, is to use controlled breathing techniques.

Normally, of course, breathing is an unconscious process. However, by taking conscious control, for a short period of time, over how we breathe, we can very significantly ameliorate the unpleasant physical sensations which can accompany stress. By changing how we breathe, we can dramatically change how the act of breathing makes our bodies feel.

The beneficial breathing technique which I refer to has been called by various different names – ‘diaphragmatic breathing’, ‘paced respiration’ or, rather less grandly, ‘deep breathing.’ Its physiological effect is simple but effective ; it increases oyygen levels in our bodies and decreases levels of carbon dioxide.


Research is now showing that this conscious breathing technique is much more powerful, and has far more benefits, than people had, hitherto, been aware of. These are :

A) the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated into action and this counters the ‘fight or flight response’ triggered by our sympathetic nervous system

B) it reduces the physical damage stress can do to the body by lowering levels of cortisol (cortisol – a hormone – levels can dangerously increase in response to excessive stress)

C) it increases levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which helps to keep us calm

D) it lowers our blood pressure and our heart rate thus lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease

E) new research now suggests it actually helps a part of the brain involved in attentional processes to grow larger

F) recent research also provides evidence that it helps to improve our immune system


Below I describe a simple breathing technique that helps to counter the effects of stress :

1) Get into as comfortable a position as possible

2) Close eyes

3) Drop jaw and shoulders

4) Allow muscles, especially if you can feel that some muscle groups are particularly tense, to relax as much as possible. Don’t worry if they do not feel completely relaxed.


6) Try to FILL LUNGS as much as possible by EXPANDING ABDOMEN and RAISING RIBCAGE


8) BREATHE OUT SLOWLY AND TRY TO COMPLETELY EMPTY LUNGS (allow abdomen and ribcage to relax to help with this)

Sessions should be at least 5 minutes (although even a shorter length of time is helpful) and the breathing exercise should be carried out without straining.

Mindfulness meditation therapy is becoming increasingly recognized, due to recent and current research being conducted at universities world wide, as being extremely effective for treating stress, anxiety and many other conditions.


MP3s :





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

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Findings of Research into Mindfulness Meditation.

research into mindfulness meditation

mindfulness meditation

There are now, quite literally, thousands of published research studies that support the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation. It has been shown not only to help relieve symptoms of mental illness, but also to greatly benefit those suffering from physical conditions as well as with pain control.

Those who meditate regularly actually beneficially alter the physical structure of their brains. Just as someone who spent years practising the piano would develop a physically denser area of the brain which is involved with the skills of piano playing, those who are experienced in meditation have been found to have undergone beneficial physical changes in the areas of the brain involved in meditation, in particular, the amygdalla (which is involved in emotional control/regulation), leading to the development of a generally much calmer disposition and, also, the insula (the part of the brain related to feelings of empathy) leading to not only greater empathy towards others but also towards oneself (this is of especial benefit to those who suffer clinical depression as such individuals are invariably highly self-critical, self-blaming and psychologically self-lacerating).

In this article, due to the theme of this website, I want to concentrate on the benefits of mindfulness meditation which are specifically related to mental health. As this is really an introductory article to the relevant research findings, I will list those mental health conditions which studies have so far shown can be ameliorated by it :


1) DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY (eg Hick and Chan, 2010)

2) SUBSTANCE ABUSE (eg Alterman et al, 2004)

3) STRESS REDUCTION (eg Austin, 1997)


5) SLEEP DISORDERS (eg Ong et al, 2008)





10) EATING DISORDERS (eg Kristeller and Halleh, 1999)

11) BIPOLAR (eg Weber et al, 2010)

12) AGGRESSION (eg Borders et al, 2010)

In following posts I will look in more detail at what research has discovered in relation to how mindfulness meditation can act as an effective therapy for some of the above conditions.

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

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