Why hypnotherapy for anxiety instead of CBT or counselling
In the UK, the NHS offers therapies for anxiety. These usually take the form of Counselling or CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), and in some cases results are good, however in many cases they are not. The old saying 'nothing works for everyone' is very true.
To explain why sometimes certain therapies work and sometimes they don't, we need to know what anxiety is. Anxiety is a protection mechanism working with what are, in effect, very outdated thought patterns. Anxiety is a cyclical problem in the subconscious which gets out of control and leads to a constant horrible feeling of dread. It can get so bad that the sufferer has a panic attack. The basis of the panic attack is that the subconscious cannot tell the difference between reality and imagination. Have you ever cried or got scared in a cinema? The brain creates the same neurotransmitters when something is imagined as when it is real, so the panic attack usually starts with something that trips off the imagination. This means the brain releases chemicals which in this case are usually fight or flight chemicals such as adrenaline. This gives us a feeling or experience which leads to a belief that something (bad) is happening. That belief fires up the imagination even more, which means more brain chemicals and a stronger experience, so now a real belief that you are about to die. Your heart is pounding, chest is tight and you feel you cant breathe - not nice! In fact, so not nice that people now even fear the panic attack.
"What causes my brain to think like this?". The answer is probably way back in your past. The role of the subconscious is to protect you, to keep you standing and living for as long as possible. It wants to stop you getting hurt, so as you gain experiences that are not nice it creates fear, even though that fear may be totally irrational. When you are born you have no fear. You just have an unblemished blueprint for life. Then life happens and the blueprint gets tarnished. We fall over, fall off our bike, get bullied at school, get abused, lose friends or family members to accidents and illness and so on. Ultimately you end up in a state of perpetual fear, and even though you know the fear is 99% unlikely to happen, there is nothing you can do about it. Your mind is constantly thinking "what if that happens", and then finding ways of makings sure you stay away from any potential threat. In theory this should be ok, but to the anxiety sufferer everything is a threat. This can even lead to things like agoraphobia, psychosomatic illnesses and even pain. Your brain is very smart when it comes to finding ways of slowing you up.
So what's the answer? As I said earlier, the problem is a subconscious one. It is inside you, out of control, and you do not know how to stop it. This is because the root of the problem never comes to conscious awareness. This is the reason counselling and CBT can fail. They are working on the conscious awareness side of things. This means that when CBT or counselling hasn't solved the problem, hypnotherapy is a good idea because it works with the subconscious.
Personally, I find that what is called “content free" hypnotherapy works best because it means the client does not have to relive all the traumas of their life. In many cases the hypnotherapist doesn’t even need to know why the client is sat in the chair. That, to many, will sound ridiculous, but if the problem is not coming up to the conscious level, the client is likely only to know the triggers and not the source. Content free hypnotherapy starts with the belief that inside everyone on the planet is a clean, unbroken version - literally a blueprint. That's the version before life got in the way and distorted the picture with the different problems we encounter.
By releasing the negatives which are held in the mind, we bring about transforming lasting change for our clients in a few sessions. This happens because the levers of the sub-conscious mind are used to do all of the work without the client having to re-live anything negative.
In the case of anxiety, the subconscious is given new ways to think, a kind of thought retraining that rewires the brain to think about what the person wants to happen instead of what it doesn’t want to happen.
Many studies have shown the effectiveness of hypnotherapy when dealing with anxiety. If you are suffering it is well worth seeing what it can do for you.
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About John Gotelee
I am a hypnotherapist specialising in Anxiety and weight management