Hypnotherapy for children on the Autistic Spectrum
Children on the Autistic Spectrum often display rigid, black and white thinking patterns and lack the ability to participate in imagination-based thought processes or play. By contrast, hypnosis involves engaging the imagination to visualise things that are helpful to the therapeutic process. Based on this information you might assume that children on the spectrum would not be able to profit from hypnotherapy.
This is not the case!
Many of the techniques used in hypnotherapy are intended to boost feelings of calm and relaxation. This means hypnotherapy can be enormously helpful in managing the anxiety that is frequently an issue for children on the spectrum. Strategies like breathing exercises and learning to relax their muscles give the child the chance to focus on limited sensory input, therefore increasing calm and lowering anxiety.
The process of hypnosis can also be modified to allow for any potential struggle in using the imagination by utilising what is known as the Rewind Technique. This system relies on the child's memories and past experiences instead of imaginary scenarios as the basis for therapeutic change. In this way, the child takes advantage of their concrete thought process rather than being hindered by them, and can therefore experience the desired emotional change.
For example, the child who is anxious about social interaction or situations might be aided in remembering a particular time when they felt this way, whilst at the same time focusing on feeling calm and happy. Hypnosis then facilitates a change in the emotional memory of the experience and the hypnotherapist can then begin the process of generalisation. This allows any similar, future situations to be accompanied by the same new, positive feelings.
Additionally, if the child has any specific obsessions or strong interests, the hypnotherapist can use this to help connect with the child and to facilitate the therapy. So if the child has a fascination with, for example, trains, and they are having trouble eating particular foods, the therapist can use a number of techniques to build a connection in the child's mind, suggesting that the feared foods are as wonderful as their favourite type of train.
This is just an overview of how hypnotherapy can be used to help children on the Autistic Spectrum, and if you have any further interest or questions, contact a hypnotherapist in your local area.
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About Gemma Greenland
Gemma is a fully qualified hypnotherapist running her own private practice in Cardiff. She has a background in education and specialises in treating children age 5 and over. Gemma also treats adults with a wide variety of presenting issues, utilising an integrative approach based on person-centered, cognitive-behavioural and psychodynamic tenants.