(This is the sixth post in a 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.)
I talked with Ashley Taylor, a certified hypnotherapist in Easton, PA, earlier this week about the basics of hypnotherapy and what to expect during sessions. (Turns out, hypnotherapy is nothing like that silly spectacle of stage hypnosis.)
Today, we discuss what hypnotherapy can do specifically for anxiety sufferers. Our conversation continues below:
Summer: For someone coming in to your hypnotherapy practice with an anxiety-related issue (say, a fear of highway driving), what kinds of affirmations or therapeutic techniques would you employ?
Ashley Taylor, CHt: For any phobia, I would first attempt to understand the initial sensitizing event. Often with phobias, we see there is always an initial event that has caused the fear. So, in this case, perhaps the individual witnessed or was involved in an accident on the highway. For the affirmations, I might say that any old, outdated, unproductive information is no longer beneficial or pertinent to you now. As far as a therapeutic technique, I would suggest exposure therapy so that the individual can face their fears with someone beside them in the vehicle — someone they trust.
So, who should try hypnotherapy? Do you think it’s a good first step for someone experiencing anxiety and panic? Do you envision it more as a complimentary treatment?
Hypnotherapy is often a method others reach out for when they are at their “wits end,” so to speak. At least that’s how it was for me. Anxiety and panic can take such a toll on your life and it is truly difficult to see that light at the end of the tunnel sometimes. I believe in attacking it full force. I believe hypnotherapy is a very effective tool in helping one with their concerns, because it gets at those thoughts we have that we may not even be aware of. That being said, I believe it’s all up to the individual. They may only require hypnotherapy. They may require medication. They may require more of a cognitive behavioral approach. And they may need ALL of these. Hypnotherapy works for anyone who has a true willingness and intent.
How many sessions are typical for one issue?
The number of sessions are all dependent on the individual. Sometimes it’s a once-and-done thing. For example, if someone has misplaced their keys, or lost something of value, hypnotherapy can actually aid in helping them find it! Crazy, huh?
Wow, that IS sort of crazy-sounding, but I can’t say I’m surprised. Whenever I lose something, I can never find it if I get myself worked up. After I calm down, my brain becomes a bit more helpful and that’s usually when I remember where I hid something.
Yes! Anxiety about anything can cloud the mind. With hypnotherapy, we can help the mind take in new and beneficial information that ultimately enables the client to see the world in a different light.
What about for deeper issues or concerns, like ongoing anxiety? How many sessions are generally needed?
With other issues or concerns it often takes at least 2. I do a hypnotherapy session with them, and then a few weeks later I will do a follow up session to see how they are feeling and evaluate their progress since our last visit. I should mention that each hypnosis session is recorded on an mp3 or CD in order that the client plays at bedtime daily. So, I will do the hypnosis session for them and then follow up on their 2nd visit with a 5 minute “mini” recording to re-affirm new beliefs and habits. Sometimes, a person may see me for months at a time. It is all up to them and how they see their treatment going.
I can definitely see how undergoing hypnosis and hearing affirmations might change one’s cognitive processes, but can it have any beneficial physiological effects?
Yes. It can have beneficial physiological effects because the mind and the body are connected. When we heal our mind, we often heal our body. Through hypnotherapy, we have the tools to change our thought process and ultimately relax our body as well. Just the act of undergoing hypnosis and using progressive muscle relaxation helps the body to learn how it can be at ease.
Later this week, my interview with Ashley concludes with a conversation about her first panic attack, her own ongoing struggle with anxiety, and her advice for fellow panic sufferers. To read more about hypnotherapy, including how to find a good hypnotherapist, check out PsychCentral’s “All About Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy” resource page.