Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy - what it is and how it can help you combat anxiety:

Often when clients come to meet me for the first time they seem to think, based on the sloppy portrayals of hypnosis in the media, that I will start swinging a watch in front of their eyes and evoking some sort of mystical persona (perhaps a bit like Gandalf in Lord of The Rings or something from Harry Potter). They've seen things in TV programmes and in films and stage show type environments that leads them to form an opinion that hypnosis is something unknown, mystical and magical in some way. 

They may also think that hypnosis is something you can either do or not do, that is, either you can 'go under' or you can't, either it will work for you or you can't be hypnotised (full stop). And it makes sense that we form these perceptions based upon the things we see and hear about 'going under' and myths about being controlled by the hypnotist.

In fact, part of the reason I went to a hypnotist for help with my anxiety was that I wanted to be 'knocked out' and then come round to find that I had ultra amazing levels of self-belief and confidence, before heading off into the sunset with ultra-confidence and anxiety freedom for ever more (seriously, I thought I would be put under and awake to have all the confidence in the world). The first hypnotist I saw spent hour after hour taking me back through unpleasant and anxiety filled memories in the hope of finding some root cause yet all that did was make me feel more depressed and more anxious. The next hypnotist I saw transformed my life and whilst the results of hypnotherapy often seem magical, they are of course, built upon normal psychological processes that we are all capable of identifying, taking control over and changing.

Rather than being seemingly controlled by ongoing, intrusive and habitual anxiety filled thoughts, those same psychological processes can be used to create thoughts and feelings that leave us feeling happier, calmer and more in control.

Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy 

In this article I'm going to briefly explain what is meant by cognitive-behavioural hypnotherapy and how cognitive-behavioural techniques used within hypnotherapy can help you to overcome your anxiety. 

Cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy refers to a conceptualisation of hypnosis based upon ordinary psychological processes rather than hypnosis being some sort of 'magical state' or a ‘special state’. It can also refer to the integration of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with hypnosis and there is good research that suggests that hypnosis can enhance the effectiveness of CBT to achieve better therapeutic outcomes (so perhaps hypnotherapy should be rebranded as CBT+ instead!!). 

cognitive behavioural therapy ely hypnotherapy 

Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy seeks to use ordinary psychological processes to achieve desired therapeutic goals. This contrasts with proponents of hypnosis as a ‘special state’ who assert that hypnosis is about altered states of consciousness and, perhaps, magical in some way. Instead, hypnosis and hypnotherapy are about using our imagination, motivation, thoughts, ideas and cognitions to achieve goals such as overcoming anxiety. In essence, hypnosis is about adopting a hypnotic “mind set” in which we purposefully utilise our imagination, beliefs, expectations, motivation, mental engagement and thoughts.

In terms of anxiety I think this makes perfect sense. Rather than, for example, running worst case scenarios of things going wrong or badly or others thinking badly of us in some way, we want to learn how to take control over these thoughts and our imagination to focus on what we want to happen, scenarios that are more realistic and likely and develop ways of coping and dealing with whatever comes our way.

Even better, the cognitive behavioural therapy framework encourages you to adopt the mindset and attitudes that are likely to be most beneficial to achieving your goals. And even better, rather than being the passive recipient of therapy, you get to engage in an active, positive and goal focussed way. You get to take control over your thoughts, feelings and behaviours in ways that put you in control over the direction of your life. 

Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy & Anxiety

There are many different techniques within cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy that can help you to overcome anxiety. If you've ever had CBT some of these may sound familiar, however, as mentioned above, we know from research that hypnosis tends to make them more effective.

There is also an additional advantage when anxiety is addressed through hypnotherapy. When we are very anxious or stressed we stop thinking and behaving logically and rationally and every part of us seems to be saying 'don't go there' or 'get out of here'. Later, once the anxiety calms down again and we feel safe, we may wonder why we got so anxious in the first place. Anxiety is not driven and maintained by logic and so if we only attempt to use logical means to manage it, we may struggle (which is where some CBT can become a battle). By learning to become more mentally calm, we are able to make better use of CBT techniques as the anxiety is not overwhelming. As mentioned above, using hypnosis and hypnotherapy, we can more effectively engage our imagination, motivation, thoughts, ideas and cognitions and make changes that will have profound, positive and beneficial results in real life situations.

One example of a cognitive-behavioural technique is systematic desensitisation. As it is not possible to experience anxiety and relaxation at the same time, by learning to cancel out the anxiety, you can successfully face the things that used to cause that anxiety gradually and systematically in a positive and progressive way. By learning and practicing how to take control over thoughts and feelings, you are empowered to take back control and experience those people, places and situations whilst staying calm and in control.

Another useful Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy technique for overcoming anxiety is ‘thought-stopping' which is a way of interrupting negative or intrusive thoughts. In contrast to some techniques that involve disputing cognitions, here you are helped to forcefully interrupt the unhelpful thinking pattern. With anxiety, there is a tendency to imagine all sorts of worst case scenarios, to over think and to catastrophise. These ways of thinking, which can become habitual, lead to all those anxious feelings escalating within you, to the point that they may seem to take over and be overwhelming. And so, one of the most valuable things you can learn is how to powerfully interrupt those anxious thinking patterns and replace them with more helpful thoughts that mean you feel calmer, more confident and more in control.

There are also many other methods that can help you to learn how to cope with situations and experiences, to let go of old negative thinking patterns and develop more empowering and positive thoughts and to diffuse any anxious feelings from those imagined worst case scenarios.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Plus

To overcome anxiety you need to learn how to take control over your thinking patterns and to diffuse those anxious feelings. Within Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy you learn how to use your imagination, motivation, thoughts, ideas and cognitions to achieve goals such as overcoming anxiety. And better still, by learning how to do this effectively, you have the knowledge and capability to stay in control into the future and to handle whatever comes your way in life. 

To your success,

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy Ely, Newmarket, Skype

Looking for help to manage your anxiety? Have a read of this page: Anxiety Help

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