Hypnotherapy and Depression
Many people still think of hypnosis as a magic trick in a Las Vegas lounge act. But hypnosis today is a widely accepted therapeutic approach that has many important uses in psychology and medicine.
It’s used to ease childbirth, to help with medical conditions and even help calm children who are about to have surgery. Hypnotherapy has become a staple in emotional health care, particularly for depression. There are several popular forms, including these.
- Hypnoanalysis is a structured approach geared toward identifying and resolving the cause of a problem. It may take the form of regression therapy, going directly back into a specific incident or trauma, or it can be free association, where a patient allows one memory to lead into another until insights become clearer.
- Hypno-psychotherapy combines hypnotherapy with psychotherapy, and goes into deeper problems than hypnotherapy may go on its own, including trauma.
- Cognitive behavioral hypnotherapy combines hypnotherapy techniques with cognitive–behavioral concepts and takes into consideration a client’s current patterns of thinking, especially beliefs and conceptualizations about life.
- Solution-focused hypnotherapy focuses on looking at what the client wants to achieve rather than on the problem or problems that led them to seek therapy.
- Ericksonian hypnotherapy aims the focus on self-healing. Hallmark techniques include indirect suggestion, metaphor and storytelling (as opposed to the direct type of suggestions).
Inside a Hypnotherapy for Depression Session
If someone suffering from depression wants to try this approach, they should seek a credentialed therapist or psychologist trained in hypnotherapy. For example, Ericksonian hypnotherapy is a popular model founded by renowned psychiatrist Milton Erickson, MD. It’s based on the belief that the solutions to emotional problems lie within each person. In a session, a therapist may do the following:
- Take a complete medical and psychological history, including medications and history of depression.
- Ask the client what they’d like to achieve (in addition to relief from depression symptoms). It may be a particular feeling or experience, such as relationship happiness, success at work and family peace.
- Explain how hypnosis works and how it targets the subconscious mind in order to stimulate change in the conscious mind that can lead to important life changes.
- Encourage clients to take time to discuss some of the issues causing stress, anxiety and depression.
- Invite the client to sit in a comfortable position, often with their feet on the floor and hands in lap, and to relax as the therapist gently leads them into a trancelike state. They will use a method that helps people fall into a deeply relaxed state, such as counting backward from 10 and making the suggestion, with each spoken number, that they become more at ease.
The Therapist Guides the Session
When people are depressed, they feel hopeless and unmotivated. The mind will freeze-frame on all that’s wrong in life and they may get stuck in a repetitive loop of negative thoughts and reliving past trauma.
Hypnosis for depression is not about filling the mind with affirmations and fanciful stories. It is about encouraging a deep relaxation that allows the therapist to relay a more hopeful life scenario to the subconscious mind and helps the client become open to a new point of view.
Once a person is deeply relaxed, the practitioner will often tell stories and use specific phrases to evoke images and feelings of wellness. They may weave positive suggestions for wellness into a story, such as:
Allison walked into the meadow feeling happy and light. She was happy as an innocent child who spent her days playing and enjoying life. She watched the birds on the trees and smiled, knowing this would be another happy day. A successful day, where she could accomplish many things. She was free to live her dreams.
When reaching the end of the session, rather than say, “When you wake you are no longer depressed,” the practitioner may suggest, “You awake energized and happy, excited to be alive.”
Not an Overnight Cure
Hypnotherapy for depression will not create changes overnight. It can take numerous sessions before a patient sees results. Along the way, hypnotherapy professionals will often teach their clients self-hypnosis techniques to help in between sessions.
Ultimately, hypnosis for depression can bring the relaxation and peace needed to help clear the mind, lift the darkness and allow people to take an active role in their own healing process.
Hypnotic Intervention for Ambiguity as a Depressive Risk Factor
Hypnosis in Treating Symptoms and Risk Factors of Major Depression
Hypnosis in the Treatment of Depression: Considerations in Research Design and Methods
Treating Postpartum Depression with Hypnosis: Addressing Specific Symptoms Presented by the Client
The successful treatment of a case of acute hysterical depression by a return under hypnosis to a critical phase of childhood (original research by Erikson).
Cognitive Hypnotherapy for Depression: An Empirical Investigation
Meditation with yoga, group therapy with hypnosis, and psychoeducation for long-term depressed mood: a randomized pilot trial
Hypnosis in the Treatment of Depression: An Overdue Approach for Encouraging Skillful Mood Management
Psychoanalytic approaches to clinical hypnosis
What is Hypno-psycotherapy
Use of Hypnosis in Medicine
Reflections on Milton Erikson
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