Hypnotherapy versus "tick-box" therapy

There has been considerable effort made in recent years to make the talking therapies more accessible to the people that need them. Given what seems to be a genuine increase in the number of people reporting feelings of anxiety and depression it is essential that we respond to what seems a real crisis in mental health provision. Today, most local area health authorities now provide detailed lists of all the many organisations that offer help and many of these are charitable bodies where no fee is required.  

The launch of the initiative known as "Improving Access to Psychological Therapies" has, in particular, done much to assure people that assistance is available for those suffering from problems of the mind. IAPT has even created a whole raft of new NHS therapists who are usually called "well-being practitioners".

The question we must ask now is whether this effort to increase the visibility and depth of mental health services is doing much good?  

The first thing to understand is that NHS mental health provision is, at least to begin with, almost wholly centred on the "Cognitive Behavioural Therapy" approach. CBT attempts to challenge people's entrenched negative thought patterns and the reason that it is favoured by the NHS is that it lends itself to measurement and so it can produce evidence-based statistics to show that it works. When you are seeking funding for a service it helps a lot if you have hard evidence that the money is being well spent.

CBT has an important role to play in mental health services and it has a broadly positive record but it is formulaic and to patients looking for a more personal service can look very "tick-box". The same can be said of counselling which, though it has many different therapeutic modalities like "person-centred", "psychodynamic", "solution focused" and "gestalt", can still seem cramped and going round in circles from the patient perspective.  

Hypnotherapists will all tell you that their consulting rooms are full of people who have been to counselling and CBT. Many have also been to psychotherapy, psychiatry and other specialisms.  Hypnotherapy, unfortunately, too often tends to be the last port of call for people with mental health issues. While CBT can be perfectly worthwhile for some patients its limitation is its lack of what you might call the "experiential" dimension or the introduction of something visceral and game-changing.  

This is where hypnotherapy has something important to offer.

Hypnotherapy is about using the power of your own imagination, of going somewhere different and altering the colours of the mind. Hypnotherapy can allow you to have the inner experiences that bring about the big shift for which you have been looking. True, there are different types of hypnotherapy and sometimes it replicates in trance the standard techniques of psychotherapy. But because hypnotherapy so lends itself to the multi-modal, integrated approach to therapy a practitioner has more room to make allowances for the client and to make their intervention more personal and thus more powerful.

Hypnotherapy could be looked upon as a more subjective, sensory form of therapy than something like CBT which tries to be objective and rational. This is no doubt why hypnotherapy has never quite had the evidence-based statistics for its effectiveness that CBT likes to boast. But the anecdotal evidence is that often CBT and counselling are not on their own enough and that without the deep subconscious conditioning of hypnotherapy something will be left undone.                                      
Maurice Anslow

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