Anxiety in children and young people
The statistics on the incidence of mental health issues in children and young people are terrifying. One in six have a mental health issue and this is up from one in nine just five years ago. This means an increase of an additional 500,000. For girls between the ages of 17 to 19, the incidence is one in four. Mental health issues include ADHD, ASD, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, anxiety, self-harm, thoughts of suicide, and depression.
The Child and Young Person Mental Health Service (CAMHS) is overstretched and waiting times for initial treatment can be long. If your child develops anxiety and is missing school, your family needs immediate support and you want therapy to have a positive impact in the briefest possible time before behaviours and phobias are too entrenched, and too much education is lost. So, are there alternatives?
One route is solution-focused hypnotherapy. It is one of the fastest-growing psychotherapies in the UK. It was developed by David Newton who founded the prestigious Clifton Practice Hypnotherapy School in Bristol. He combined hypnotherapy with a particular kind of “talking therapy” – which is “solution-focused”.
In SFHT, the therapist sees the child as a person, not as a collection of problems, past experiences, or trauma. The therapist and child work together to focus on the child’s strengths and resources, not their weaknesses and problems, enabling them to look forward to a more positive future, cope better with challenges and feel more in control.
Hypnotherapy differs from other psychotherapies as it is drug-free and the conscious mind, with all its anxious thoughts, is bypassed. It is the conscious mind which can often hinder the success of other forms of psychological work such as counselling or psychotherapy. With SFHT the child and therapist work together to focus on the changes that the child wants to make in their life.
Good outcomes can be achieved faster than with other psychotherapies because there is no focus on the past or problems but on the best hopes for the future. It is a brief therapy, six to eight sessions are usually all that is needed for a good outcome, though they can be more or fewer.
Using hypnosis, the therapist can help the child to fully relax, switching off all the anxieties and intrusive thoughts in their conscious mind. There is no regression to childhood or recent past as in Freudian psychoanalysis (and no past life regression!) and the child always stays in control. For an anxious child or teenager, this approach is very effective.
Relaxation techniques, including relaxation by focusing on breathing, are also taught and rehearsed, enabling the child to learn control when anxieties and negative thoughts intrude. Also, an understanding of the brain’s “flight or fight response” is explained and how to override this response and this is of great value in learning how to harness exam nerves and prevent anxiety from impacting exam performance.
Solution-focused hypnotherapy is also used to help clients stop smoking, deal with fears and phobias, reduce anxiety such as when facing dentistry, cataract operations and MRI scans, help with weight control and reduce anxiety and depression. It has been used very successfully to enhance performance in sports or public speaking.