What is hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is classed as a complementary therapy. This means that it offers an alternative to traditional medicine and healthcare options, often working alongside mainstream medical treatments. However, its origins date back as far as the 18th century but had been surpassed by scientific breakthroughs and modern technology. The more we learned about our anatomy, the less we relied on techniques that had no scientific evidence to support them.
For many years, there has been a heavy focus on our physical health and well-being and less on the health of our minds and souls. But the balance is starting to tip again. More and more people are recognising the benefits of talking therapies, meditation practices, and a mindful approach in nurturing the whole person. And in doing so, treatments such as hypnotherapy have become increasingly more popular once again.
Hypnosis is the process of putting someone into a deep state of relaxation. When we reach this hypnotic state, we can calm our conscious thoughts. So when it's used for the purposes of therapy, we can replace our learned thoughts and behaviours that are having a harmful impact on our lives, with new positive ones; achieved through the power of suggestion.
Many may fear that this is mind control, but actually, the client is always aware of what is going on and has complete control to ‘wake’ themselves up from this state if they choose to.
Hypnotherapy for children
Hypnotherapy works by engaging your senses through imagination. The older we get, the more we lose touch with these fantasy worlds that we used to visit all the time as kids. We are taught to apply logic to things, ask questions and look for evidence and in doing so we lose the magic of Santa Claus, fairies, and mystical creatures.
And this is why for many adults, we struggle to believe that hypnotherapy can work. Because where is the scientific proof? But children are far more accepting of the unknown. Far more entertained by an alternative reality to their own. And this means that child hypnosis can be highly successful in achieving the desired results.
And let's face it if you had the choice to face up to something in the real world that scared you, or to instead, take the same fear to some fantasy land far away; a place where you could draw upon superpowers and weapons, and go into battle knowing that you are safe from harm, what would you choose?
Hypnotherapy for children draws upon their imagination to nurture characteristics such as self-esteem and confidence...The hypnotherapist provides them with the storyline of their own adventure.
How issues form in children
It's important to understand that children are still developing their emotional intelligence and perception skills and so, therefore, see the world very differently from adults.
For instance, when a relationship breaks down and one partner leaves the family home, it can be hard for a child to understand that just because their parents are no longer in love with each other, doesn’t mean that they don’t both still love the child. This could escalate further in them making assumptions that they did something wrong to cause that person to leave. While no two children will respond to a situation exactly the same, it does highlight how issues can start to form.
It's also difficult to get a child to talk about how they are feeling. Instead, these emotions are often repressed and present themselves in other ways such as bad behaviour or bedwetting.
For some, it may be that they are yet to learn how to express their emotions. Whereas others may fear the consequences of opening up, afraid of being told off, or hurting or upsetting someone they love, or even getting someone else into trouble. Whatever the reason, it can be very frustrating for the parents or caregivers, trying to support them through an issue that they may not necessarily be aware of.
Thoughts and behaviours are learned and stored in our subconscious minds. Unfortunately, we cannot filter out the ones that harm our well-being. For example, if we got upset as a child and our parents gave us chocolate to cheer us up, our brain stores the information that eating brings us pleasure. And this is how we can turn to emotional eating for comfort.
Have a quick think about what your bad habits, thoughts, phobias, or self-defeating behaviours are. How many can you relate back to your own childhood?
Our brains aren’t trying to cause us harm, despite how it may seem. Instead, they use whatever evidence is available to them, to make logical conclusions and store this in our subconscious for our own protection or pleasure. The more evidence they can collect over time to support this perception, the stronger the pathway in our brain will form and the harder it becomes to change.
And this is why child hypnotherapy can play such an important part in a child’s development. By providing the right intervention at the right time, the child will be given alternative suggestions to form new conclusions and implement positive changes.
The benefits of hypnotherapy for children
Hypnosis for children can be used to treat a range of issues, from psychological thought patterns to physical behaviours. Some of the conditions that hypnotherapy for children can support include:
- bedwetting (enuresis)
- family issues, including parental divorce and separation
- picky eating
- disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- addictions, such as to their mobile phone or devices
- exam nerves
- low self-esteem
- anger issues
It's important to remember, however, that while hypnotherapy is a complementary treatment option, you should always seek the advice of your GP in the first instance. While bedwetting may, for example, act as the presenting issue to a deep-rooted psychological problem, it could also be a result of a medical condition.
Hypnotherapy works on learned thoughts and behaviours and offers alternative suggestions to instigate change. Hypnotherapists are not trained medical practitioners and therefore are not able to diagnose physical health conditions. And so, by visiting a doctor in the first instance, you can rule out any possible health factors that may be causing the problem. This will help to put both your own and the child's mind at ease.
The doctor will also be able to provide further information on support services and other treatment options, helping you to make an informed decision over the best option for the child’s well-being.
Obviously, above all else, the safety of the child must be always prioritised. When looking for a hypnotherapist to work with children, ensure they have a current Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Certificate that includes a children’s barred list check. This ensures that they have not been involved in any criminal activity, or reported to be unfit to work with children.
For added peace of mind, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), now offers a yearly subscription service. This means that anyone that has signed up for it, can always obtain a current certificate with the latest, up-to-date information. It's recommended that those working with children sign up for this service.
If the therapist you are in contact with has not signed up to the DBS update service, ensure you check the date of their certificate. While there is no regulation that states how long a DBS certificate is valid, it does provide you with the visibility to make an informed choice on whether you think it's still current or not.
Working with children is very different from working with adults. Firstly, adults have autonomy over their decisions. If a thought or behaviour is having a negative impact on their life that they want to change, then they will look at ways to resolve this issue. And in doing so they may choose to give hypnotherapy a try. Whereas for a child, they are reliant on their caregivers to make these decisions on their behalf.
Children are also developing key skills in communication and emotional intelligence. So unlike adults, they may not be able to articulate how they are feeling, or they could fear getting in trouble if they speak about their concerns.
Hypnotherapy creates a safe place for them to face their demons head-on whilst becoming the superhero of their own adventure.
- writes Melanie Peak in 'Child hypnosis: Coping with stress, anxiety and worry'
With this in mind, it's also advisable to check what qualifications the hypnotherapist has in working with children. These do not necessarily need to be specific to child hypnosis as hypnotherapy is a learned technique that puts the client into a deep state of relaxation. This is the same regardless of whether that is being carried out on adults or children. Instead, it's the skills of working with children that are important. This could be in child psychology or possibly courses that look at the developmental stages of childhood, as examples.
This means that the hypnotherapist will know how to engage with the child in a way that makes them feel safe and at ease. They will know how to explain the process in a way that does not trigger fear. And they will know how to answer their questions on a level that the child will understand. The therapist will also pay close attention to any non-verbal cues to ensure their client feels comfortable with the process and not just going along with what the adults have chosen for them.
Another key check is to ensure that the hypnotherapist is a member of an accredited register, such as the National Hypnotherapy Society, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) or Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT).
Using someone that is a member of an accredited register ensures that the training that they have received is up to recognised standards and that they comply with the code of ethics outlined by the governing body in which they belong. They should be happy to share this information with you on request. It also ensures that should the need arise, there is an official complaints procedure that you can raise any concerns through.
On Hypnotherapy Directory, all therapists have met our proof policy guidelines, meaning that they have provided proof of membership with a recognised professional body or a relevant qualification and insurance cover.
And sometimes the best gauge of a situation can be our gut instinct. Even though there is no concrete evidence at times to support why we feel uneasy about a situation, ultimately if it doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it. You are not obliged to go through with anything that you don’t feel comfortable with. And the same goes for the child. If they don’t feel safe and secure, discuss their concerns with them to see if it's an issue that can be addressed and if not, then allow them to make the decision to work with someone else.
The important thing is, if you have concerns over a child's mental health and well-being, then take action now. Don't let negative thoughts and behaviours continue to grow as they move into adulthood. Look for ways to support them through open communication, hypnotherapy, or talking therapies to find new perspectives and challenge current ways of thinking.
As time goes on, these thoughts, habits, and behaviours will only develop stronger pathways in our minds making them more resistant to change. And ultimately, what better coping strategy can you provide your child with than one that reaches out for help and support when they need it?
This fact-sheet was written by hypnotherapist Melanie Peak.
Page last updated: April 2021
Next review due: April 2024