The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners.
by Axsel Sogstad
An important aspect of hypnotherapy is to make the client aware of her own resources for self- healing. Also, we want to guide the client into a suitable trance. The latter requires the client to experience a certain fascination. For some, a veil of magic may do just that. The procedure below, based on these principles, has been used with clients who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The procedure can of course be applied to any condition where the concept of metaphorical medicine is suitable.
Before performing the actual procedure, it is first necessary to help the client acquire certain skills. These are built up gradually, giving the client an opportunity to experience proof of her own abilities. The skills necessary can be developed in a first session, and subsequently applied in a second. Experienced clients may well be able to do it all in a single session. Please note that the client does not need to achieve any perfection of these skills for the procedure to work satisfactory. Today, for good therapy, it is well known that intention is more important than form. I do not provide an explanation for how the various elements of the procedure contribute to the overall effect, but in general one could say that the purpose is to generate an emotional base to help achieve our desired goals.
So, even if the reader most likely is already familiar with these skills or methods, let’s go through them in the given context. First, we provide a proof that hypnotherapy can ease the client’s condition. Pain is common symptom of many unwanted conditions. One effective method for reducing pain, even chronic and severe, is to dissociate, split, and then transform the pain experience. First, get the client to describe the pain she experiences here and now using various adjectives and adverbs. Then, focusing on the strongest part of the pain, ask the client to experience it a little stronger, but only for a short while, before asking her to experience it becoming a little weaker, perhaps now feeling it even less than before. It is useful to use a scale from 1 to 10 to help the client express her pain level. Note that the point is not to attempt to remove all of the pain, but to simply make a proof that hypnotherapy can successfully transform the client’s pain experience. A manifestation of this proof will help the client motivate herself for further healing.
Second, it is necessary to aid the client in experiencing visualisation. Again, the point is not to become an expert visualiser, but instead to point out her own ability to experience the effect of her own visualisation. Also, it is necessary to develop the visualisation pertaining to her condition. So, let the client choose herself, or suggest for her, a special place, for example the usual beach, and then give some suggestions to engage the different modalities, as well as suggestions for relaxation. The experience of this visualisation and engagement of modalities becomes a proof of the client’s ability to create visualisations that have a positive effect on her. Then have the client develop a visualisation of the problem area. In the case of IBS this is the digestive system, all the way from the mouth, through the throat, down the oesophagus, into the stomach, through the small and great intestines, and into the colon.
Third, it is necessary for the client to be able to allow for ideomotoric movement through regression. I believe ideomotoric motion is learned most easily when linked to regression. First, ask her to identify the arm that feels lightest. Then ask her to think back to some difficult, but not too difficult, situation she once went through, imagining herself stepping into that situation, and let the energy of this situation manifest itself by allowing her arm to raise and ascend upwards. It is enough to let her raise her arm out in front of herself. Having made the levitation, make her open her eyes, forget about the levitating arm, and describe the situation. This works as another proof of being able to go though difficulties, and also to let go of them, like she has just let go of her arm in mid air. If necessary, you can help her arm ascend by holding your own hand just above hers and move it upwards – hers will then usually follow, or you can ask her to allow her shoulder to rotate and elbow to bend, while she allows her hand to ascend. Again, it is not necessary to perform a perfect arm lift.
Fourth, it is also necessary to create a metaphor for the healed condition. The client may just give you one if you ask her, or you can provide her with some alternatives. For IBS it can be a gentle river flowing, at just the right speed, neither too fast nor too slow.
With these experiences and proofs in place, you are ready to put it all together in a next session. Ask her to think about a challenge she once went through, allowing her lightest hand to ascend upwards as a manifestation of the energy of the visualisation as before. Ask her to open her eyes and imagine seeing a crystal ball in her palm representing this experience. Ask about the colour of the ball.
While keeping this hand raised, ask her to visualise doing something she is good at, something she can do quite easily, and in the same way let the energy of this experience manifest by allowing her other arm to ascend. Ask her to visualise another crystal ball in the same way, again asking its colour.
Ask her now to imagine that these two crystal balls attract each other. As she allows this attraction to increase, her hands are being pulled together, gradually coming closer, and when they meet, the two crystal balls merge into a larger crystal ball. What is the colour of the larger ball? Ask her to imagine that her hands have the power to shrink and concentrate the crystal ball into what becomes the magic pill. Ask for any change in colour or intensity. Make her do another arm raise up to her mouth in order to swallow the pill. Give her suggestions for healing throughout the digestive system building upon her metaphor for the healed condition (the smooth river). Ask her if it would be a good idea if she were to make some more pills later on.
I usually end each therapy session by giving an abstract recap of the session, some suggestions for time distortion, for being open to new ideas to do the right things, as well as a reminder that it all belongs to her, before returning to normal consciousness, fresh and awake, feeling comfortable and happy in every way.
Aksel Sogstad works as a hypnotherapist in Oslo, Norway. He is particularly interested in medical hypnosis, transforming negative patterns, and stress and pain management. His website is www.helesinnet.no