The Changing Face of Hypnotherapy

Many years ago, I watched the final episode of the TV series MASH (broadcast 1983), where Hawkeye (played by Alan Alda) suffers a severe trauma and as a consequence is taken to a psychiatric hospital. The psychiatrist treats him by forcing him to remember the details of the traumatic event, which he had “suppressed”. Hawkeye recovers from his mental delusions and all is well again.

Of course, this is all rubbish.

There used to be a theory, with its origins in Freudian psychology, that traumatic or bad memories are suppressed. This would lead to psychiatric difficulties, which could be “cured” by resurfacing the suppressed memories. This lead to a lot of therapeutic practices that involved getting the sufferer to re-explore those memories.

In hypnotherapy, “age regression” became the thing to do, whereby a client was asked to go back and relive a time when they were younger, all while under a state of hypnotic trance. Some hypnotherapists even went so far as to do “past life regression”, taking the client back to a memory from a “past life”. Of course, the mind becomes very creative in a hypnotic trance, so it is not surprising when clients create all sorts of experiences that never happened, which they may mistake for memories.

These ideas are all based on the idea that to solve a psychological problem, you need to analyse the problem and understand it – in the same way that you would need to understand why your car doesn’t work before you can fix it. Of course, the brain is far more sophisticated than your car.

Modern hypnotherapy is very different. Finding a solution to psychological problems is much more to do with looking for the way forward. The unconscious part of the brain – the part we are unaware of – is quite capable of reorganising itself, once you consciously start searching for solutions instead of analysing problems.

In a solution-focused hypnotherapy session, you will find yourself talking with the hypnotherapist about what is good in your life, how to get more of it into your life, where you want to go with your life and what positive things you want to achieve. This discussion could be entirely unrelated to the problem you have. The second part of the session will be hypnosis. The hypnotic state gets you nice and relaxed – a relaxed body and a relaxed mind. While this is going on, the unconscious part of the brain – the part we are not aware of – can find time to start reorganising itself along the lines of the positive things that were discussed earlier.

After a few sessions, clients start to realise that their problem is disappearing, and that they are finding a new way forward in life. This is the miracle that I always love to see.

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

A brief how and why of phobias

Do you ever feel a sudden sense of panic about something that other people find innocuous? Your friends tell you that it’s harmless, but you can’t help feeling that sudden tightness in your chest and the compulsion to get away? Maybe you’re a bit embarrassed about it … join the club, there are thousands of others like you.

We all have anxieties in our lives, some more than others. This is not the same as a phobia. Anxieties are concerns and worries that produce adrenaline and might keep us up at night. This is not the same as the immediate fear as you encounter your phobic fear, accompanied by a sudden surge of adrenaline, tightening of the chest, increase in heart rate, and focused attention on the object of your fear.

Inside your brain

Imagine that you can look inside your brain. One of the things you would find there is a small almond shaped part called the amygdala. The amygdala’s job is to look out for you, and to keep you alive. It checks everything you do to see if it’s safe. If it thinks that there’s some sort of danger, it leaps in to protect you before you have had a chance to think about it.

Many drivers will have experienced seeing someone who looks as if their going to step out in front of the car. Your foot is on the brake before you even know it and you feel a sharp sense of anxiety. You feel the surge of adrenalin rush through your body. That is your amygdala doing its job, protecting your life.

Unfortunately, the amygdala is pretty dim. It is not creative. It can’t think of new ideas. So when it notices something, it has to check on previous patterns of behaviour to decide what to do next. Once you’ve learned to drive, it knows that if something looks dodgy on the road ahead, it has to tell the foot to hit the brake pedal as quickly as possible. It’s done this loads of times so it remembers the pattern.

When the amygdala gets it wrong

So what happens when the amygdala get things wrong? Something happened in your past that taught the amygdala that if you notice “X” then send a massive jolt of adrenaline into your system, and get ready to run. The “X” could be a getting on an airplane, seeing a spider, going out of doors etc. (Insert your own phobia here.) The amygdala has done this loads of times so it remembers exactly what to do.

Most of the time the amygdala looks after you very well – but, because it is stupid, it sometimes gets things wrong. It is trying to look after you, but in this case it has got the wrong programming. We call this a phobia.

What you can do

So what can you do about a phobia? You cannot rationally think it away, because the amygdala is not part of your rational brain. In fact, when it is seriously concerned with a potential “danger”, it will turn the rational part of your brain off while it “deals with the situation”. It’s no good trying to explain to someone with a phobia that “there’s no need to panic”, because the amygdala isn’t clever enough to understand what you’re saying, and it’s the amygdala that’s in charge at that point. The only thing it can do is to react in the same way that it did the last fifty times – panic.

The only way to deal with a phobia is to reprogram the brain so that the amygdala has a different reaction. The amygdala is outside our conscious control, so it has to be done subconsciously. Fortunately, this is quite easy with hypnotherapy.

Treating phobias

If your phobia seriously impacts your life, then it is worth getting treatment for it. Of course, as a hypnotherapist, I favour hypnotherapy, which can treat most phobias in a very relaxed and pleasant state. However, I should also mention that “other treatments are available”, for example:

Systematic desensitisation – becoming slowly more used to the cause of the phobia
CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy
EMDR – eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing

Hypnotherapy treatment for phobias can be done online or face-to-face in as little as four sessions. Clients are sometimes surprised because of the unusual feeling (for them) of being confident when facing something that they used to be scared of. They cannot quite understand how the old fear has gone so quickly, without them having to undergo any anxiety-inducing desensitisation.

If you would like any help for your phobia, contact me at and we can arrange an online meeting and take it from there.

Lovely testimonial

I have just received a wonderful testimonial from a client. I just wanted to share it.

“Working with Tim has really saved me from myself! I’m a mother of three young and very active kids and life can get a bit stressful. His scientific insights and professional knowledge was beyond helpful. Not only did he help me gain a deeper understanding about the complexity and power of the human brain, but he taught me how to use the tools that we all inherently posses to keep our brains healthy and strong, which then helps to foster a healthier and positive experience in everyday living. I know life is hard sometimes, but I realize now that I already have the tools and been taught how to use them to improve and enrich the quality of my life! Tim’s kindness coupled with his professional and skillful approach, he patiently helped me to recognize and acknowledge this, and I will be forever grateful!”

Free lockdown hypnotherapy

While in lockdown, I am offering a limited number of free hypnotherapy sessions online. If you have a phobia that is affecting your life, if you suffer from over-anxiety (particularly during the current lockdown), or if you suffer from other symptoms that you think hypnotherapy would help – message me and we will arrange an initial online video chat. (I will help sort out the technology if you need it).

Going nuts during lockdown?

Are you being driven nuts by the COVID-19 lockdown? Here are a few quick tips for helping you stay mentally healthy.

  1. Positive interaction – Interact with other people in a positive way – people at home, people on the internet, and people that serve you in the shops.
  2. Positive action – Do something positive – help the children with their schooling, cook, go for a walk … and so on.
  3. Positive thinking – Look for the positive things in your life, even though you are in lockdown, there are still positives when you can find them.

Doing all these will help your brain release a steady stream of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This helps regulate mood and social behaviour, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function, as well as keeping us motivated and more able to cope with whatever life throws at us.

Corona virus update

If you are concerned about physical travel during the corona virus outbreak, I can arrange to have video sessions (using Skype, Facebook messenger video or Zoom). Just let me know.