(This is the fifth post in a new series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy. Biofeedback. Medication. Meditation. Exercise. Nutrition. Talk therapy.
There’s a laundry list of therapeutic approaches to the treatment of anxiety. You’re probably familiar with several of them. Some involve treatment of the body (nutrition, exercise) and some involve treatment of the mind (meditation, talk therapy). Other modalities incorporate both mind and body into treatment.
Hypnotherapy is one of those modalities that involves both the body and the mind.
Meet Ashley Taylor. She’s a certified hypnotherapist, an entrepreneur, and an anxiety sufferer. While walking through the halls between classes in 6th grade, Ashley experienced her first panic attack — complete with a racing heart, dizziness, and shortness of breath. She chalked it up to the standard middle-school stressors like hormonal changes and dealing with bullies.
Her anxiety continued into adulthood, however. After consulting with a trained hypnotherapist and undergoing a few sessions to help her tackle her own anxiety, Ashley felt motivated to pursue hypnotherapy as a career path. She founded Mindful Change Hypnotherapy in Easton, PA. Her personal experience with anxiety, she says, helps her to better relate with her clients.
We recently chatted about hypnotherapy itself, what it entails, and what it can do for stress and anxiety sufferers.
Summer: So, I guess I’ll start with this: what IS hypnotherapy?
Ashley Taylor, CHt: Hypnotherapy combines interactive cognitive behavioral therapy with a hypnosis session at the end in order to help others reach their goals — whether it be quitting smoking, weight management, stress relief, improving academic performance, increasing confidence, and so on. The list is literally endless. When someone has the intent and willingness, hypnotherapy can aid in virtually any issue or concern.
How does real-life hypnotherapy differ from the kinds of self-hypnosis exercises that you can download on the internet?
Real-life hypnotherapy is different because the individual is engaging and interacting with the hypnotherapist in a discussion regarding their issue or concern. I provide an intake form for my clients to fill out, which is simply a form asking LOTS of questions regarding their issue.
This form is discussed in great detail in my office in an attempt to learn about the strengths and vulnerabilities that my client has. This form serves to give me the specific affirmations that resonate with the individual – and every individual is different. Downloading self-hypnosis exercises can be a valuable tool, but it differs because they are missing the one-on-one conversation, suggestions, and affirmations that will really get into their subconscious and rewire those automatic negative thoughts.
Stress relief and confidence-building are important issues for many of my readers. Anxiety and panic can take a toll on self-confidence. How can hypnotherapy help with stress & confidence levels?
Yes – anxiety and panic can certainly take a toll on self-confidence. During the hypnosis session, the client is simply in a state of deep relaxation. It is much different than stage hypnosis where we see people doing silly things for entertainment value. After deeply relaxed through progressive muscle relaxation, they are awake, aware, and in control. During that time, I repeat positive suggestions and affirmations to them regarding their confidence levels. In this state of relaxation, the conscious critical part of our mind steps aside, allowing the subconscious to take in new ideas and information.
Those of us with anxiety disorders often have difficulty trying new things or visiting unfamiliar places. Can you describe the typical setup in a hypnotherapist’s office?
Sure. The fear of the unknown is difficult. My office is a very warm, inviting atmosphere. I have a comfortable couch for the client to sit on. I also have my chair which i will be sitting in across from the client, and my desk there with my computer. I chose colors that I thought would be soothing to an individual in the hope of creating a serene, positive atmosphere.
Does the patient have to lie down or sit up during the session?
The patient may do absolutely whatever he or she wishes. Typically they sit up during the therapy portion of the session. During the hypnosis session at the end, they usually prefer to lie down, though this is not required. I have blankets and comfortable pillows and they may close their eyes or keep them open if they wish. I have an initial phone conversation with the client during which time I do my best to explain exactly what they can expect to hopefully alleviate any concerns. And I always make sure to answer any questions they may have. The goal is to build that rapport right away so there is that feeling of trust — which can be quite comforting.
Later this week, we’ll hear about how Ashley treats her anxious clients and how her own struggles with anxiety led her to this career. To read more about hypnotherapy, including how to find a good hypnotherapist, check out PsychCentral’s “All About Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy” resource page.