I want to come off antidepressants - can hypnotherapy help?
This article relates specifically to the SSRI type of antidepressants (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors), citalopram (Cipramil), escitalopram (Cipralex), fluoxetine (Prozac or Oxactin), fluvoxamine (Faverin), paroxetine (Seroxat), sertraline (Lustral).
When considering coming off SSRIs the process must be in consultation with your doctor as there are many factors to consider.
With as many as one in five adults on SSRIs in some areas, this is a question that a lot of hypnotherapist get asked.
Often the focus of the client is that they have been taking SSRIs for depression or anxiety over a long period of time (years). Very often the question (like a lot of questions asked of hypnotherapists) is as if hypnotherapy is a silver bullet. Most hypnotherapists will explain to clients that hypnotherapy is not a “silver bullet” and should be considered a powerful kick-start or catalyst for change, and that they may be required to make some serious effort to change their behaviour and their own though processes consciously between hypnotherapy sessions.
The client may be very much less anxious or depressed then they were when these drugs were originally prescribed and this may be what has prompted the initiative. Again it must be stressed that the client must consult their doctor.
Hypnotherapy can be powerfully effective at reducing anxiety or depression and helping the client to manage themselves is a way that will reduce their stress and negative or catastrophic thought patterns.
However whilst the client is clearly focused on the chemicals that they are taking and wanting to reduce their dependence on them as a sole objective, the therapist has a professional and moral responsibility to be focussed on the overall welfare of the client and what is best for them. If hypnotherapists are to gain further credibility with the medical profession they will do this by complementing the efforts of doctors, not by being at odds with them.
According to NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence), CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) should always be considered and is the preferred route for dealing with anxiety disorders rather than simply prescribing SSRIs (note the writer completed NICE training on the subject), but what is interesting in the NICE guidelines is how much attention they focus on SSRI’s. There is very little mention of stress management, exercise, nutrition, living a balanced life, reducing your alcohol intake, positive thinking, mindfulness or meditation.
If the client turns to their doctor will they always get the best advice? The difficulty doctors have is the very much limited amount of time they can spend with each patient. A doctor can’t really spend much time talking to their patients about how they feel or what they can do to manage their symptoms. Fortunately the access to talking therapies such as CBT has improved radically in recent years, though some doctors are not as proactive at referring patients. Under pressure from their patient, some doctors may reduce the dose of the SSRI to see how it affects the client but many will resist taking a patient off SSRIs if they are still anxious or depressed.
I would like to think that most doctors would advise patients that if they want to try hypnotherapy to manage their anxiety or depression then there is no reason why they should not. Unfortunately many doctors do not have a positive attitude to any forms of complementary therapy. It is important to realise this when you ask for their advice and make your own conclusion.
Hypnotherapists work with clients to manage their stress levels and to help them change their attitude to individual stressors. Phobias in particular can cause huge amounts of stress and yet are relatively simple to deal with in hypnotherapy. Your hypnotherapist can help with motivation towards exercising, managing weight and developing a healthier lifestyle. Combine hypnotherapy with coaching exercises and you can help the client to live a life with more purpose, more focus and more fulfilment – helping them to feel much more balanced. We often use visualisations to help clients become more mindful, achieve very good levels of relaxation and to have a better experience with self-hypnosis.
The answer to the original question – can hypnotherapy help the client come off antidepressants? In summary, the short answer is that it can help facilitate life changes and then when the client has demonstrated changed behaviours, attitudes and probably their lifestyle and is proactively managing stress to reduce anxiety and depression. Then they can contemplate the weaning off of these very widely prescribed drugs. This is not a decision that should be taken at all lightly and should be discussed with, and the process managed, with your doctor.
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About Jeff Cassapi
It is an absolute privilege to be able to help clients with their problems. I get a huge amount of satisfaction helping people change their perspective and overcoming patterns of behaviour or thoughts that they would rather not have. I have my own particular insight into stress management and depression from my own personal experiences.