Last updated: 16 June 2017
“How can hypnosis help with anxiety and depression?”
This is a common (and fantastic) question.
Which is why we’ve done our best to explain the answer as clearly as possible so you’re able to do the same with your hypnosis subjects.
Reason being, while a lot of hypnotists know that hypnosis can help with anxiety and depression, they might not always be able to clearly articulate the ins and outs of how hypnosis helps treat mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
So this article will equip you with the knowledge to do just that.
How Is Hypnosis Used For Anxiety And Depression And What Does It Have That Most Modern-Day Therapies Lack?
There is one key difference between hypnosis and most modern-day therapies that don’t stack up.
Any idea what this is? We’ll reveal what it is in a minute.
But first, it’s important to explain how hypnosis gives you direct access to the playground of your mind – the unconscious.
This is where your “true identity” lies. Everything and anything that makes up who you are resides in your unconscious.
So the way hypnosis helps you access your mental “playground” is the way it engages your conscious mind.
Or otherwise put, imagine that there was a gatekeeper that kept you from peeking into your unconscious mind’s files and databases making sure you didn’t meddle too much.
Well hypnosis engages and schmoozes this gatekeeper. And once the gatekeeper is occupied, a hypnotist is able to really examine the underpinnings of your unconscious.
So hypnosis and trance simply open up the doorway. They allow you to fully imagine (often in vivid technicolor detail) how much better life can be. What it would be like to take on completely new behaviors, beliefs and identities.
Given this, the one thing hypnosis has that most modern day therapies lack is the ability to quiet your negative internal conversations.
Have you ever wondered about some positive change you’d like to make, only to have that rational mind of yours pop up and tell you why you can’t have it?
That’s the negative internal dialogue that most therapies can’t seem to sneak around. Hypnosis does an incredible job of sidestepping this.
Another thing that sets hypnosis apart is the ability to restructure cognitive distortions.
Hypnosis allows for the accessing and restructuring (changing the pattern) of conscious, automatic and unconscious cognitive distortions and negative self-schema.
(Psst! In case, you’re wondering what the last term refers to – self-schema – it’s your long-lasting and stable set of memories that summarizes your beliefs, experiences and generalizations about yourself in specific behavioral domains).
And it just so happens that hypnosis is naturally adept at altering the self-schema.
Your job as the hypnotist is to identify the thought patterns that have been causing your clients harm and then help them re-write these mental stories.
So now that you know more about how hypnosis is used for anxiety and depression, let’s take a closer look at the mental health epidemic sweeping across the U.S. (and much of the globe).
But what’s important to take into account here is that more often than not when people are seeking out hypnosis to help them change – they’re at their wits end.
Hypnosis is almost always their last line of defense.
But why is this?
Firstly, as you probably have come across if you’re a professional hypnotist, many people are misinformed about what hypnosis is, or have trouble looking beyond its occult reputation.
But the second reason is that many people, including doctors, just aren’t aware that hypnosis can be used to treat a wide range of problems that extend beyond phobias and smoking.
A doctor’s first instinct is to usually send someone to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. And it’s understandable, after all, they’re highly qualified to deal with such conditions.
That said, research has shown that hypnotherapy is highly effective at dealing with anxiety and depression, and what’s more, is that positive results can often be seen in a fraction of the time.
The other benefit here is that hypnotherapy is 100% natural and drug-free – which is also good news given how quick doctors can be to prescribe medication.
We’re not saying that medication is bad, as there’s no disputing that modern medicine has done some absolutely amazing things. Science has made leaps and bounds when it comes to treating depression with medicine.
But it’s important for people to understand there are other alternative options. And that quality therapy can help tremendously too.
Sometimes this might be enough. But other times, a person might benefit from a mixture of medicine and therapy. It’s not a case of one-size-fits-all.
That being said, you’ll have to make some judgment calls as to whether you’re qualified to work with someone suffering from a serious mental illness.
For more information on the legalities around being a hypnotist, check out Do You Need A License To Practice Hypnosis? The Ethical And Legal Obligations Every Hypnotherapist Needs To Know.
And always remember…
Unless you’re a doctor, it’s not your job to advise someone on their medication.
And when in doubt, always refer out to someone more qualified, such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist.
This is because severe mental disorders are usually outside of the realm for most hypnotists unless they have had specific and intensive training to deal with such disorders.
Aside from not being able to give them the treatment they desperately need, you could severely damage your reputation. So always keep your ethics and best practice procedures at the forefront of your mind.
The first rule of thumb is to stay within your scope of practice and use your best judgement, especially when it comes to calling people who are more qualified (such as 911) if you suspect someone is suicidal.
How Can You Help Subjects Suffering From Anxiety And Depression?
Listed below are 3 hypnosis techniques used to help sufferers of depression and anxiety, but before you attempt to work with subjects suffering from a mental illness, it’s important that you undergo comprehensive training first.
1. Help Your Subject To Discover Their Inner Strength
An all too common struggle for people suffering with depression and anxiety is how they view themselves.
They often have a poor and distorted view of themselves.
Their self image can be one of despair and disgust. Or, they feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with tasks in their life.
At this point, it doesn’t really matter what external factors brought their depression full circle. What matters is there is only one way to move… and that’s forward.
One of the most powerful things you can do for your subjects is to help them find resources within themselves that can then be applied to the problem. After all, a problem can no longer exist in a resourceful state.
2. Parts Therapy
Often people who are depressed will have internal struggles. This can often materialize in their language.
In a nutshell, parts therapy is one method in hypnosis used for inner conflict resolution. It helps to resolve and bring opposing ideas or beliefs into harmony and wholeness.
The reason parts therapy is so effective, is that it gives our “problematic parts” an equal voice in the conversation. No one part is considered “bad” or an “inner demon.”
Instead of trying to drown out this voice, we bring it up to the surface and ask it:
“What is your purpose for X (name of individual)?”
Simply by asking a part what its purpose is for them (the subject), it helps to switch a parts role from being on the defensive to being on the offensive. It becomes a team player!
One of the first people to employ parts therapy was Virginia Satir. Her “parts parties” were a way for a client to represent the internal struggles they were dealing with in the external world.
Below is an example of how parts therapy can be used with depression.
Let’s say a subject comes to you because they’re feeling worthless and hopeless. There is often an inner conflict happening. After all, they’ve come to you because part of them wants some relief from this inner conflict.
You could help them explore and make contact with the part of them that is causing them to feel worthless and hopeless.
The two of you would have a non-judgemental “conversation” with this part to discover what this part truly wants.
Let’s say that this part’s purpose is to keep your subject safe from being hurt, for example. It’s not that it’s trying to hurt your subject, it’s acting as a safety blanket. It’s created a role for itself to keep them safe.
Parts never have a harmful or evil intent. There is always a higher purpose for each part. You will discover that the highest purpose is identical for the parts, which is the reason they can be integrated.
Depression and anxiety sufferers are often plagued with very negative thoughts.
Unless you’ve been in the thick of an “episode” it’s often hard to fathom how bad it can get. The negative and warped thinking that accompanies depression and anxiety disorders can hijack what would be an otherwise amazing day for most people.
Reframing allows a person to get a new perspective (aka put a new frame around something in particular.)
So let’s take a look at what a frame is.
A frame is a context in which a belief or idea exists.
Reframing is taking a step back and getting a different perspective. It’s basically putting the belief or idea into a different context.
It’s a way of viewing and experiencing events, ideas, concepts, and emotions to discover more resourceful alternatives.
Reframing allows people to see the silver lining in seemingly bleak situations.
The meaning you attach to a situation depends on the assumptions (that are formed by beliefs, values, etc) you hold about it. What reframing does is open up new personal choices of seeing and experiencing the world.
And lastly, if you’re looking for some scientific proof to share with your subjects to further convince them of the power of hypnosis…
3 Scientific Studies That Show The Effectiveness Of Using Hypnosis To Treat Depression & Anxiety
This kind of style – a meta-analysis – uses a statistical approach to combine the results from multiple studies in an effort to increase power (over individual studies), improve estimates of the size of the effect and/or to resolve uncertainty when reports disagree.
The way they did this was by testing multiple groups with hypnotic interventions which were delivered either by a therapist, or via tapes (self-hypnosis).
According to the authors, “hypnosis appears to be a viable nonpharmacologic intervention for depression.”
If you’re even slightly curious to find out more about how hypnosis can be used to treat depression, you definitely should check out the research referenced in this article.
What’s more, it concludes by saying that hypnotists are in a unique position when it comes to testing out some of the “assumptions about how depression leads to dysfunction, and how brief or even single-session interventions can contribute to rapid early responses or sudden treatment gains.”
This study covers the major components of Cognitive Hypnotherapy for the treatment of MDD (Major Depressive Disorders).
What makes this one of the best studies we’ve found is it covers a wide array of hypnotic approaches (post hypnotic suggestions, regression, metaphors, self-hypnosis, symbolic imagery techniques, modulating positive moods, and social skills training).
It also outlines how a clinician should structure their sessions according to their clients’ needs and takes into account that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment when it comes to working with patients suffering with depression.
So to recap:
Anxiety and depression affect upwards of 55 million people in the U.S. alone. Hypnosis has been proven as a powerful ally in the emotional struggles that haunt depression and anxiety sufferers.
If you choose to work with depression and anxiety sufferers remember to take only on what you are qualified and trained to handle. And be sure to work with a medical doctor’s referral for people with diagnosed depression.