This article discusses some of the techniques that hypnotherapists use to treat phobias. It is not intended to be a substitute for attending a well-recognized hypnotherapy courses.
Therapy sessions, regardless of the techniques chosen, should always begin by helping the client to understand that all phobias can be reduced to a learned and (subsequently) habitual fear response to a set of stimuli – the object of their fear. The client will recognise that it is often the anticipation or thought of the object or circumstances that trigger the fear. This is especially true for clients with a fear of flying where the anticipation of the event may last for several weeks.
In treating clients it is important to use the language of ‘correcting habits’ rather than applying a medical label. In this way a ‘habitually fearful’ client is more likely to see their phobia as a habit that needs to be broken rather than having a more complex illness.
While there are many approaches to phobia therapy, three are outlined below. Each should begin with an induction and deepening of the trance state.
A regression approach to phobia therapy is based on the premise that uncovering the root cause of the fear (the point from which the learned behaviour stems) allows the client to reflect on and ultimately overcome their habitual response. This could be used successfully with parts integration between the rational and fearful parts of the client’s mind to acknowledge the reason for the fear and suggest alternative behaviours.
Systematic desensitisation (in the context of hypnotherapy) is an alternative approach to phobia therapy that uses visualisation to gradually expose the client to the fear-inducing stimuli. When the client experiences catharsis, the process of gradual exposure is repeated until the fear response dissipates or is reduced to manageable levels. A client with a fear of
The Fast Phobia Model is often favoured by exponents of NLP and lends itself well to hypnotherapy applications. After explaining the nature of phobia and the client’s ability to learn new responses, the therapist establishes the behavioural scenario or strategy employed by the client during the phobic response. One way to do this is using the TOTE model. The client is then asked to replay a scenario in which the fear has manifested itself, but to do this in a dissociated fashion by (for example) visualising themselves watching the events on a movie screen. To emphasise the dissociation, the client would usually be asked to view the movie in black and white. After the movie has finished and the image faded to black or white, the client is asked to associate themselves into the scenario and to run the movie in reverse and in colour to the beginning. For a client with a phobia of
For clients that have identified their phobia with a specific event in their life, such as ‘ever since I went on holiday to Spain as a child, I’ve had a fear of
Whilst parts integration will be useful for analytical clients, this may be less effective for clients that are less able to intellectualise or rationalise their fear. For these clients the systematic desensitisation or fast phobia cure are more appropriate.
If you are thinking about becoming a hypnotherapist please take time to research the type of accreditation and quality of tuition you will receive. Attending a well-recognised hypnotherapy training course is essential if you want to ensure you are safe and competent to practice.