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 Melissa Tiers
One of the most exciting ideas to come from neuroscience in the past decade is that of experience dependent neuroplasticity. The idea that we are literally changing the structure of the brain with every new experience may seem obvious to us now but it wasn’t that long ago that this idea was considered ridiculous.
A big part of my private practice is helping clients to understand and implement this idea. I encourage them to think of their issue as just a habituated pattern in the brain, regardless of whether it’s a habit of thought, feeling or behavior. Reducing most issues in this way makes problems more approachable and solutions more accessible.
The first layer of work is to teach clients rapid techniques that interrupt the pattern as they move clients from hot emotional states like craving, compulsion and anxiety to a more balanced or neutral state. By arming them with many different ways to “stop it” we help them to actively take part in creating new neural connections.
This is considered counter active neuroplasticity in that we are helping our clients to create alternative neural pathways. The more they strengthen the new network the stronger it becomes. The brain regions involved actually get denser with use. Think of it like a muscle that gets pumped up through repetition. The less action the old habit gets the weaker it becomes. This allows the client to take change into their own hands, or rather, their own heads.
The other exciting approach to changing the brain is to understand and utilize memory reconsolidation. What the latest research in neuroscience is indicating is that every time we remember something we unlock it from its neural network and for about six hours it becomes malleable. We now know that we can help our clients to actually rewrite old pathways and change explicit and implicit memories and their emotional impact. So instead of creating counter or alternative pathways, we are actually extinguishing the old network.
This finding helps to explain some of the near miraculous effects that we witness in our hypnosis practices and helps to allow us to be even more strategic in our work. This is a game changer. It has the potential, in my opinion, of not only changing the game, but changing the whole field.
So the second layer of work is to help rewire old emotional primes. By helping clients to change and modify the emotional tone of old memories and traumas, we neutralize triggers and rewrite the old programs. Now we are all doing this with our clients already. The coolest part of all this research is it gives us a new way of understanding and talking about our work. It explains why things like regression to cause, reimprinting, EFT and all the other interventions that manipulate the emotional aspects of memory, work.
I believe it is the balance of both forms of neuroplasticity that create a more transformative and generative change. It’s a combination that creates a true cooperative approach with our clients that extends far beyond the issues they come in for. I will be teaching many of the more strategic ways of encouraging brain change in the workshop so you will be able to integrate these techniques and ideas into whatever type of practice you have. I will also share ways of utilizing the research as therapeutic metaphors to engage and influence the conscious and the unconscious mind.
Melissa’s workshop is Sunday, April 3, 2016 at the ACHE 28th Annual Hypnotherapy Conference. Register today: https://hypnotistexaminers.org/conference-registration/
Melissa Tiers is the founder of The Center for Integrative Hypnotherapy in New York City. She is an international instructor, an award winning presenter, and a two-time recipient of the Pen and Quill award for her books. Melissa teaches classes in clinical hypnosis, neuro linguistic psychology, and mental health coaching. She is an adjunct faculty member at the New York Open Center and the Tri-State College of Acupuncture where she teaches a course on mind/body medicine.