For many people, complementary therapies are preferable to more orthodox treatments; however, their practices and techniques really do come to the fore at those times when conventional treatments cease to have a complete answer, as they sometime seem to do.
In my practice, I often employ a combination of treatments and techniques. Of course, no two clients are the same and no two people respond to either treatment or coaching in exactly the same way. For this reason, I find it is helpful to have a number of effective tools in my toolbox. Apart from actual hypnosis, NLP and mindfulness practices, I frequently also employ aspects of one or more of the following disciplines and therapies. My approach, however, very does much depend on the person I am seeing and the issue we are dealing with.
The term “guided imagery” covers a number of techniques now used in clinical practice. Your mental images are at the very heart of both who you think you are and what you believe the world to be like. They determine what you imagine is likely to happen to you and strongly influence your beliefs and attitudes in almost every other area of your life. Although to work with these mental images is probably one of the oldest and one of the most ubiquitous forms of medicine, it is also one that is beginning to find widespread scientific acceptance.
Guided imagery or guided visualisation is widely utilised in various interventions, including those of psychotherapy and performance coaching. We do know that almost all behavioural, emotional and even physical symptoms are affected by your mind. On a physical level, research suggests that imagery has the ability to influence your automatic nervous system, as well as your endocrine and immune systems. If it can promote physiological changes of this nature, it can certainly be employed to aid and even accelerate healing.
Because guided imagery provides us with a method of accessing the powerful unconscious mind, it is able to help resolve many a personal issue you might feel to be problematic. Our work together would initially assist you to gain a greater awareness and a deeper understanding of the specific illness, problem or situation you wish to work with, and would go on to promote real healing or the necessary positive change.
Applications of guided imagery include:
• to teach relaxation
• to alleviate depression
• to reduce or overcome anxiety
• to heal past hurt and traumas
• to break unwanted habits
• to overcome a phobia
• to resolve conflicts
• to relieve psychological or physical symptoms
• to promote pain control
• to prepare for surgery
• to increase motivation
• to improve performance
• to gain confidence
On a practical level, Henry Ford taught us that if you either think you can do a thing, or think you can’t do a thing, you’re invariably right. On a physical level, we know the huge impact the placebo effect can have on the way our bodies respond to our beliefs and perceptions. For these reasons, simply being able to visualise behaving in a more appropriate way, performing better or being more healthy - either physically or emotionally, can in itself be a powerful enough tool to facilitate your desired change.
Hypnotherapists frequently employ guided visualisation techniques, with good effect, to assist clients to shift away from their unhelpful perspectives to ones that are more supportive of peak performance, good health and joyous wellbeing.
Although such treatments are frequently non-interactive, they are not always so. Inspired by the important work of a number of pioneering psychologists of the 1970s, interactive guided imagery has become an established practice. In succeeding to integrate insights and techniques from such diverse sources as Jungian psychology, Gestalt therapy and Ericksonian hypnotherapy, this relatively new way of working has evolved into a powerful therapeutic tool that can be used either on its own, or as the basis for a number of more specialised interventions such as age-regression and parts therapy or ego-state work.
EMDR is a form of psychotherapy that was first developed by the American psychologist and educator Francine Shapiro. It was established in the late 1980s, after she first noticed that certain eye movements had the effect of reducing the intensity of disturbing thoughts. She found that bringing one’s eye movements under voluntary control, while thinking about the traumatic thought or idea, could serve to reduce feelings of anxiety associated with that thought or idea.
Her theory has it that the thoughts, feelings and memories you hold about a traumatic event, can have become “stuck” - a development which may have made it difficult for you to move on from that particular experience. Should this be the case, the bilateral stimulation of EMDR could serve to facilitate your brain’s own natural ability to process such unresolved memories. Treatment involves an eight-phase protocol, which reduces their influence on you, and then enables you to develop more effective ways to carry on with your life.
EMDR is a particularly useful tool for the treatment of people who may have some difficulty in talking about their experiences. It is generally regarded as being safe, even though it may initially serve to trigger some strong emotions in you. Should intense feelings arrise, you can be reassured by the realisation that they are almost certainly caused by the shifting of harmless “old stuff”, which has previously been “stuck” and been holding you back. Such discomfort is simply a part of the powerful desensitising and reprogramming process, and is likely to soon pass.
From the start, EMDR was used to resolve the symptoms of disturbing life experiences and trauma, including those that may have come with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Over the years, various studies have confirmed the treatment’s efficacy and today, EMDR has come to be officially recognised by a number of influential professional organisations around the world as being an effective treatment for trauma. Its applications have further been widen to include the treatment of a number of other conditions, including panic attacks, eating disorders, addictions and anxiety. It is also now used for work with children.
CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems. It enables you to make sense of the difficult issues you face by breaking them down into smaller, easier to handle, parts. It works on the premise that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and behaviours are all interconnected. Each one affects the others, and together they can trigger negative spirals in us. Its methods set out to help break such unhelpful cycles.
CBT is able to achieve its often-impressive results by changing the way you think and behave, providing you, in the process, with practical tools to examine those things that may make you feel bad, frightened or anxious. Its methods will help you to get to grips with negative thought patterns in such a way as to make them more manageable. Skilfully tackling these will in turn change the way you feel and the way you function.
Developed by Aaron Beck and others, CBT is an integration of cognitive therapy and behaviour therapy. After working out, with your therapist, what you are able to change, you will be asked to practice changes in your daily life. Your therapist may ask you to keep a diary during the process, which may also involve some exposure therapy. This is a form of CBT that teaches you to face your fears by increasingly exposing yourself to them. The aim is to desensitise the negative effects of certain situations.
Although CBT is widely used for treating depression, anxiety, panic attacks and phobias, it is also sometimes used to help people cope with the physical symptoms of long-term health conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and arthritis. One of the advantages of CBT is that, even after your sessions have ended, you will be able to continue applying the principles you will have learnt to your daily life. In this way, you will be empowered to reduce the likelihood of a relapse.
Many hypnotherapists use aspects of CBT in their practice; some even go so far as to call themselves CBT-hypnotherapists. Although their approaches are somewhat different from each other, the disciplines of Hypnotherapy and CBT do have quite a bit in common. For instance, both address dysfunctional emotions, unhelpful patterns of behaviour and the content and nature of your thoughts. Also, the procedures of both tend to focus on the “here and now” and they both tend to be relatively quick, solution-focused interventions. Together, they can form a powerful force for change in your life.
You are naturally shaped by the many experiences you have been through during your life. In each case, the memories you have, be they good or bad, will have served to affect your outlook on things. Age-regression is a hypnotherapeutic technique that has the function of helping you tap into this vital history and then go on to deal with its effects on your life.
Under hypnosis, you are taken back to certain significant earlier events that you have experienced, in the process revisiting the feelings and perceptions associated with them. The regression experience can be hugely cathartic, but more importantly, it can reveal just how certain incidents have since unconsciously influenced your perceptions of the world, your core beliefs and the ways in which you now habitually respond to particular situations. It can even serve to establish the root cause of many an issue.
It is widely believed that your unconscious mind always retains full and perfect memory. Treatment can certainly allow you to discover what might actually have taken place during these early events, and can offer an opportunity to review, better understand and reframe what may have happened in the light of the wisdom and experience you have gained during the time since they occurred. Age regression facilitates the healing of old emotional wounds, often transforming them into helpful new insights, lessons and strengths. It can result in a new understanding, compassion and forgiveness, for you and for those who were then close to you.
A word of caution should however be sounded here. Full and perfect memories aside; it seems quite possible, under certain circumstances, to inadvertently plant a false memory into a person’s mind. For this reason, a therapist facilitating age-regression needs to be both ethical and without a personal agenda in respect of the work being done. So as to avoid accidently suggesting an inaccurate idea or thought, he should also be practiced in adopting a “clean” approach to the process.
As an extra precaution, it is advisable that you do not make accusations against a possibly innocent person on the basis of memories that may have immerged during such a session. It is certainly not the objective of the treatment to find a reason to blame anyone for the way you are or the things you may have experienced. Even in the very unlikely event that a disturbing memory about someone may have come up, there is more than enough value to be gained in simply working internally with the way your mind has remembered and processed the incident in question.
Working at this personal level will facilitate inner healing and foster self-empowerment. Indeed, despite its legitimate concerns, age-regression, if used skillfully and ethically, remains a useful and powerful tool. The real objective of the treatment is not so much to help you uncover your past, but to help you better understand and manage your present and future.
As has already been pointed out, age regression provides a method of examining the way certain aspects of the past may continue to impact on what you are experiencing right now in the present. It can help establish the root-cause of an issue. It can help you get an understanding or the origin of certain core beliefs. It can facilitate the healing of deep emotional wounds that you may have been living with. It can then empower you to move on with your life and to live it more effectively.
In theory, EFT is a healing technique that works with the body’s acupuncture/meridian points. Developed by American psychologist Dr Roger Callahan and others more than 30 years ago, it employs a gentle tapping protocol rather than needles, and is designed to release unwanted negative energies in order to stimulate the body’s own natural healing system.
Because EFT is based on an ancient Chinese premise that “negative emotions come about as a result of a disruption of the body’s energy system”, the effectiveness of EFT treatments is difficult to verify in terms of modern evidence-based interventions. None-the-less, many repute it to be a powerful therapeutic tool.
Using affirmations, the protocol involves a sequence of tapping at the ends of the body’s energy meridian points while, at the same time, tuning into whatever thoughts, emotions or cravings might be the target-issue being worked on. Sometimes described as an emotional form of acupuncture, EFT is a simple, easy-to-learn technique, which tends to be used in conjunction with other complimentary disciplines such as hypnotherapy.
Even putting its perhaps somewhat difficult-to-verify energy points aside, such a tapping protocol can have the very useful effect of helping you to become more mindful and more accepting of the way things actually are right now. It is quite common for us to avoid facing up to the full reality of a difficult situation, but future change is unlikely to come about without us first acknowledging the way things are in the present moment.
Typically, EFT is used for:
• The elimination of stress, fears and anxiety
• The relief of trauma
• Successful weight-loss
• The breaking of addictions
• Smoking cessation
• The reduction or elimination of pain
• Motivation and focus
• The implementation of goals
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