These Wellington Hypnosis case studies show how although each client is different many of the same problems come up again and again. This page describes some common problems that hypnotherapy can eliminate. Each of these hypnotherapy examples are based on real cases with a confirmed successful outcome.
Learning to drive
Dread of being late
Male Sexual Anxiety
Henry will come for one session to stop smoking. The first stage will explore his relationship with smoking, establish when he smokes and why he smokes, and uncover any hidden beliefs about stopping smoking. I will explain the myths of smoking, the real nature of addiction and why he has not been able to give up successfully in the past. The second stage, the actual hypnosis session, will be quite lengthy. It will use direct suggestion to overcome false beliefs about himself and his smoking, then use visualisation to boost his self image, parts therapy to reprogram his unconscious values and finally reframing for every smoking situation in order to remove any triggers which might encourage restarting. He will leave the office with absolutely no desire to smoke, no cravings and a feeling of boundless confidence and energy.
Most people are able to stop immediately with no craving and no desire to smoke. But for a few people, after some weeks have gone by with no problems, they begin to think about smoking again, and typically start to talk themselves into ' I wonder what it would taste like?' or 'I just want see if I have really given it up'.
This is because they have are reverting to their normal state and long term issues are returning. They sense the long term issues and also remember the feeling of smoking associated with those long term issues. The faulty logic of their mind bring out an old belief that smoking has something to do with the issue and that if the issue is there, smoking should be there too. They don't actually feel a craving, just a vague feeling of loss because the have always associated smoking with the issue, and now there is no smoking, and they feel it should be there, that somehow it is right to be there.
In that case a second session focuses on identifying the issues Henry associates with smoking. Any trigger situations not brought up in the first session will be dealt with. This session of hypnosis will allow Henry to become aware of the hidden reason why he smoked in the first place and to eliminate that reason. A suitable therapy or therapies, such as Cognitive Modelling, Behaviour Replacement or NLP, will be used to remove the last traces of his reasons for smoking, and then he is a non smoker for life.
Most clients see a dramatic improvement within one to three sessions, but for some clients it is impossible to predict how many sessions will be needed. In the case of Amanda her anxiety could have many sources. The anxiety may arise only in one situation or only with one person. It may be triggered by particular emotions or thoughts. The anxiety may be part of another problem such as depression or low self esteem or may even be a mild form of agoraphobia. It may be fear of another problem happening such as panic attacks or performance anxiety. In many cases the client has suffered the anxiety for years, and may have lost all faith in her ability to improve.
In this case the session started by establishing exactly what the problem was, and getting Amanda to describe three things she could not do due to her anxiety. She was asked to describe one particular situation where the anxiety was present, or one time when she was particularly conscious of feeling anxious. She was asked to picture the feeling of anxiety and to describe the picture. It turned out to be a picture of two people, one large and threatening, the other small and frightened. Exploring the picture revealed that in her mind, Amanda was still paralyzed by fear of a controlling ex-husband, and by memories of a controlling mother. Amanda was taken through metaphor modelling, a process that involves changing the picture without going back to the frightening situation. Changing the picture changed how her mind represented the fear, and changing how she represented it released her from her anxiety. At the end of the session Amanda was asked to describe how she now felt about each of the three situations she had previously described as impossible. She was able to see her herself doing those things easily and confidently. Her anxiety had all but gone, and would reduce even further in time as she experienced more and more success in dealing with situations that she previously could not face.
I am interested in trying out hypnotherapy. I have a few issues I would like to work through but central to all of these is my insecurity. I'm told I come across as quite a confident person and for a majority of the time I would agree and I feel quite happy with myself. However I have a bit of a rollercoaster type personality and when I feel bad I tend to fall into fairly extreme slumps, scared of leaving the house and wanting to avoid socialising at any cost.
I have only recently realised how much I rely on positive affirmations from others to the degree that I am sometimes an attention seeker. This attention seeking is relatively invisible until I have a few drinks when it can become so extreme that I will do anything for attention. I tend not to drink too often but when I do I find it almost impossible to stop at one and often end up blacking out before the end of the night.
Until recently I always thought it was just the drinking that was the problem but I knew there must be something deep in my sub conscious that was making me do these crazy and 'out of character' things whenever I was drunk - all of which, without fail, I do not remember the next morning.
I want to be in control of my life and I want to be able to enjoy social occasions without fear of doing something that could ruin a relationship or my career.
Michael will probably only need one session. Michael has never been comfortable when asked to speak in public. He stumbles through meetings and tries to avoid gatherings where he would have to speak in front of others. But he has a major presentation coming up. He is afraid that he will look like a fool in front of everyone and as the date approaches he is getting more and more convinced that he will ruin his career.
This type of problem is ideally suited to hypnotherapy. The treatment plan would be in two parts: 1) teach Michael how to get control of runaway thoughts, and 2) use a hypnotic technique to change how he experiences the situation.
One hypnosis option might be Regression to Cause to find the original situation that first triggered the problem. With public speaking the source is almost always due to the client getting humiliated in school when trying to answer a question. The child's mind tries to protect the child from ever again being in that situation by creating imaginary barriers which discourage the child from entering that situation. The more the child tries to perform, the more frantically the mind tries to prevent it. The child then generalises the fear of humiliation in the classroom to a fear of speaking out anywhere. Treatment consists of reframing the source event in order for the mind to re-evaluate its meaning. By giving that situation a different meaning the mind will no longer try to prevent it.
The second hypnosis option consists of visualisation and direct suggestion aimed at replacing the fear with confidence. While in trance the client is walked through every step of the upcoming event and is guided to associating good feelings with every step. By rehearsing this mentally several times Michael's mind will come to associate positive outcomes with the actions and he will leave the office looking forward to really blowing them away with his presentation. And he will never be afraid of public speaking again.
Casey has a debilitating lack of self confidence. She actually likes herself, knows she is smart, knows she looks good, knows she can succeed at anything. But somehow she has no confidence in herself. She pretends to everyone. She feels inferior all the time, but at the same time she knows she isn't. She feels anxious in social situations. Even going out to meet friends she will greet them warmly, settle in, and then be totally unable to give her opinion, even though part of her was aware that this was silly behaviour, that she is actually smarter than these other women. She wants to become a consultant, but although she knows she would be good at it, has the training, the skills, the drive, she just can not accept that it would ever happen. Not for her. Something in her would stop her from having that, even starting to have that, she couldn't even allow herself to think that it could be possible. And because of that, because she can't get rid of that irrational stupid shameful feeling, she thinks she is stupid, worthless, hates the way she can't do things she knows she can do. And she can't see any way out of it.
Casey is crippled by totally irrational beliefs about herself. She has been to counseling. With counseling she felt totally understood. But it didn't fix anything. She had been to a psychotherapist. The therapist identified the things in childhood that probably caused it. But that didn't fix anything either.
What Casey has is a deep drive that keeps her doing what she is doing. The answer was metaphor modelling therapy. The Metaphor Therapy consisted of associating into her feeling of inferiority by Focusing. This identified a first metaphor - a huge grey ball that was crushing her. She was guided to find a way of altering it. She found a way to have it 'dry out' and disappear. The change was then tested. She was asked to visualise being in a group and immediately said she felt 'scared'. This feeling was used to lead to her second metaphor, being surrounded by spikes suspended in the air. They were there to hold her back and stop her getting into trouble. This was probably the actual cause of her problems, an originally helpful behaviour response that had gone out of control. Instead of keeping her out of trouble, it was now stopping her doing anything at all. To transform the spikes she was asked to look really closely at them, and when she did so she was surprised to find that each one she looked at just popped out of existence. She cleared all the spikes this way. When she was mentally led into the group situation this time she was totally confident that she could join in and even lead the group naturally and easily.
She was then asked to imagine a friend asking her to start a company, another thing she said could not imagine doing. She immediately came up with a third metaphor. She was inside a cage with black steel bars and she was calling out people walking by but they couldn't see her. She was able to transform the cage so that the walls disappeared but she found that she still was holding on to a few bars, even though she was now outside the cage. She found that she did not want to let go. This indicated that the symbol represented some sort of resource for her, and she did want to lose it. Valuable resources are always kept, so it was suggested she transform the bars into something useful that she could carry around with her. It turned into a silver ball in her hand. But as soon as she felt it in her hand part of her wanted to throw it away. So she transformed it again and it turned into something she could keep in her pocket. As soon as it was in the pocket it merged with her body and ceased to exist separately. She then said that she was walking along with all the other people and they were not paying any attention to her. She was again tested against all her scenarios. All her fears had totally cleared. As she was tested against each of the things she said she could not do, an immense grin appeared on her face and just kept getting wider and wider as she realized that it was all over. She was free of it.
Sylvia lives in perpetual dread of being late. She turns up half an hour early for doctor's appointments, and gets into a panic if there is even the possibility of being late for something. This applies to social engagements as well as to formal appointments. If she has agreed to meet a friend for coffee at eleven o'clock and she is unexpectedly caught in traffic then as the minutes tick away she gets hot, her hands sweat, she begins to get palpitations of the heart, she can't breathe and as the deadline approaches she will become too ill to carry on and will turn around and go home.
Sylvia suffers from a fairly common ailment - unprovoked dread. She is competent and able in every other part of her life.
There are several possible treatments which would be effective. Regression to Cause would identify and fix the first occasion that this problem arose. Metaphor modelling would be effective in creating resources to destroy the nameless dread that lurks around the idea of being late. It could be treated as a phobia, chronophobia, the fear of being late. However the simplest treatment is usually the best so the treatment plan in this case was to hypnotize Sylvia and use the technique of incrementalism.
The waking mind is sometimes so afraid of the thing it fears that even the thought of going near it causes anxiety and the client cannot even bear to contemplate the idea. In cases like that it is often possible to creep up on the fear, and show the client that it is not really as frightening as they thought. Once the client can look at the fear straight on it becomes apparent that there really isn't anything there to fear.
In this case I simply asked Sylvia to close her eyes and to imagine she was on the way to an appointment. I asked her how she would feel if she was ten minutes early. Then how she would feel if she was five minutes early, or four or two or one or thirty seconds early. At each stage I confirmed that she felt good and in control. Then I asked how she would feel about being ten seconds early, then five, then one. And then how she would feel about being exactly on time. I confirmed that being exactly on time left her confident and pleased with herself.
Then I asked how she would feel if she was one second beyond being exactly on time. She said that would be OK. Then I progressed with the same questions through two seconds, five seconds, ten, thirty, forty, sixty. By progressing in tiny increments I could get Sylvia to accept that she could be a tiny bit late and still feel OK. And then a little bit more late, and a bit more. And so on. Sylvia was unable to tell me at what point she would feel bad. Therefore I did a few more imaginary appointments, this time starting with being ten seconds late and then a different appointment being two minutes late. Sylvia finally accepted that she could be late and nothing would happen. I then did some future pacing getting Sylvia to describe how she would act if she was one minute late, then a different scenario with five minutes late and so on, until she felt confident about being late and feeling OK. At the end of the session Sylvia looked and sounded puzzled when she said "I really can't understand why there was a problem. There certainly isn't now!"
Peter is confident about most things in his life and in fact has excelled in many areas. But he is quite unable to bring himself to start driving lessons. He is not afraid of the car or traffic or anything logical. He is just unable to get the first lesson started. He actually owns a car and is happy to be a passenger but cannot take that first step to getting his licence. This type of problem is fairly common and is easily solved by hypnotherapy.
The treatment plan would be to hypnotise Peter and use the hypnotic technique of Reconnection. In reconnection the client is guided back into their own history and reminded of things that they know they can do, things that other people may not be able to do, things that they once could not do but now do easily, skillfully and automatically. Connecting the subconscious with its past successes causes the mind to re-evaluate what the client believes about their own abilities. When the current problem is reframed in terms of past successes, then current problem is seen as just one more thing that the client can do. The feeling of helplessness, of being unable to even start is replaced by a confidence based on past competence. Peter would then be taken through a future pacing session where he learns to associate success with every step and stage of learning to drive. He is then guided to visualise himself being handed his pass notice and the treatment finishes with a pattern of direct suggestions aimed at boosting his self image and cementing in his confidence in learning to drive. Peter will probably only need one session.
Melanie is a young woman who has never been able to sustain a relationship. She has no trouble meeting guys but her uncontrollable jealousy always drives them away. Almost from the first minute Melanie needs constant reassurance from the guy that he is still there, still thinks about her and there is no one else. As the relationship progresses she gets more and more distressed, she checks his cellphone to see who he has been calling, she interrogates friends about who he was with, she follows him around in secret and watches who he talks to. If they are out together and there are other girls around she openly accuses the girls of flirting and interfering. This behaviour has always resulted in driving the guy away and alienating all her friends but she can't stop it. Even after the relationship is over she still stalks the guy, abuses him for breaking up and tries to stop him meeting anyone else. She is tired of people thinking she is a nut case, she knows there is no reason not to trust the guy and just wants to have a normal relationship like everybody else.
What Melanie is suffering from is an uncontrollable fear of the pain that will follow from a broken relationship. It is the same type of fear that some people have of needles. The actual pain is next to nothing, but the fear of it is irrational, seems gigantic, causes immediate panic and has to be avoided at all costs. Everything Melanie is doing makes perfect sense to her unconscious mind because it is all aimed at monitoring the relationship and making sure it does not end, because she is terrified of the overwhelming pain that will surely come.
I this case I decided to use Dragon Slaying. This is a metaphor therapy that works very well for formless fears tied to strong emotions. I asked Melanie "If your feelings were a dragon, what colour would it be?". She immediately said "Red". I then asked her to describe the dragon. She answered that it was "Nasty, Scary, Fierce." I then asked her to describe its head, back, tail, feet, skin and so on. What this does is to project the set of behaviours onto a metaphorical object. The object equals the behaviours and the behaviours equal the object. A different set of behaviours would give a different looking dragon. However, because one is exactly equal to the other, creating a different dragon will lead to different behaviour.
When Melanie had described her dragon in as much detail as she could I then started to get her to create a replacement dragon. I asked "And what is the opposite of 'Red'?". She said "Pink". "And what is the opposite of 'Nasty'?" She said "Friendly". I then went on to reverse every bit of the dragon. If it had a short neck originally, I asked her to think of it with a long neck, and so on.
The result of this process is that by the time she had built up an image of a fluffy, pink, friendly, helpful, warm, smooth dragon her automatic behaviour about relationships had changed completely. When I tested her by asking her to imagine a situation where her current boyfriend was in the middle of a bunch of girls in a restaurant, she just shrugged and said "That's OK. He can talk to who he wants. I'm not bothered".
Desmond is a young man who has lost his confidence in sexually intimate situations. He had failed to perform once and that preyed on his mind. The result was that his fiancee felt he didn't find her attractive enough and started to criticise him which made matters even worse. This tension caused another failure, which just confirmed her belief. A few more failures and the situation then spiralled out of control. The relationship broke up and Desmond worried so much about what might happen the next time that he stopped looking for a girlfriend. He began to avoid situations where he might come up against the chance of sex. For a young attractive man this is a disaster.
The cause of this problem is that by going over and over in his mind what might happen Desmond has hypnotised himself into making sure that it will happen.
Male sexual problems are surprisingly common. The treatment for this consists of two sessions. The first will teach Desmond how to change his thinking style and stop catastrophizing. This consists of learning how to use visualisation techniques and how to apply them to problem situations.
The second session is hypnosis. In trance I would take Desmond through the whole courtship process, and instill overwhelming confidence at every step of the way. If there is any particular aspect that triggers the problem that is targeted specifically. That anchors a feeling of pride and certainty to replace any feeling of fear of failure. Along the way I would deal with whatever latent lack of self esteem or self confidence issues had caused the very first failure.
Then when Desmond does meet a girl, at every stage his mind automatically fills with images of success and feelings of confidence. All the old fears have been wiped away and when the time comes he will just do what comes naturally.
Helen has a problem with her weight. She is not obese but from time to time she gets into a state where she just gorges on food. She will eat a whole packet of biscuits and then go back to the fridge for ice cream. This will happen for a couple of days, and then she gets back on the diet and stays on it until the next binge.
The interview revealed that she also has a history of other self destructive behaviour, hurting herself and sometimes cutting her arms. This was all part of a pattern: at college she had drank too much, over worked, over partied and now she was over eating. Her pattern seemed to be overdoing it and then withdrawing into herself. She was generally bright and cheerful but just could not break this pattern.
The nature of Helen's problems indicated that she probably had deep self esteem issues and didn't like herself much. She reported that she had a bad childhood. I did not want to go back and revisit old hurts so I chose to use Metaphor Modelling as the therapy.
In the session I started by asking Helen "When you are binging, what is that like". She immediately came up with the words "absolute self loathing". I then asked what absolute self loathing looked like. She said "It's grey, sludgy, oppressive and heavy". I then started exploring that metaphor and came to 'lonely' as a main theme. I then started exploring 'lonely' and arrived at a metaphor of a figure standing on a beach. This then eventually led to the figure getting into a car and driving to Helen's home and falling asleep. The sleeping figure put a 'warm yellow blanket around the house'.
Testing what 'bingeing' was like now revealed another metaphor, a rock. Helen was reluctant to get rid of the rock. When asked what it was for, she said "To hold memories". Further questioning revealed that it held memories of 'rejection'. She couldn't let the memories of rejection go because remembering about rejection kept her safe from future rejection. But remembering about rejection made her feel bad all the time. The inability to let go was causing inner frustration, which was causing the behaviour. Further development of the rock metaphor allowed her to be able to keep just one of the memories to stay safe, but to let the rest 'trickle away into the sand on the beach'. By letting go of the constant feeling of rejection Helen was able to resume a normal life again.
Vanessa recently discovered that her husband had been having an affair with another woman, and for more than seven years she had been quite unaware of it. She feels betrayed, hurt, angry, stupid, confused. She has decided to give the marriage another go but she just cannot get rid of the feeling of betrayal. She wants to move on and get her life back on track but something inside her just isn't right. She cannot get rid of this dread feeling inside. She cannot laugh and has lost all her confidence. She wants to feel the way she used to feel before this terrible thing happened. She has forgiven her husband but it still isn't right.
Vanessa has been hurt and embarrassed and feels numb. She needs to get out of that feeling if she is to start working on her marriage again. She has been to counselling for a few weeks but it is not helping. The problem with Vanessa is that she keeps seeing the two of them together, she keeps imagining how stupid she must look, she cannot get the image out of her mind and that is what is keeping her feeling bad.
The way to get back to normal is for her to learn how to deal with these horrible images. Vanessa was taught a series of mental exercises that showed her how to get control of the images, how to create new images, and how to alter the images she had. This allowed her to cancel out the unhappy memories, and to deal with anything that might come up in the future.
Then I dealt with the immediate problem, the whole thing about the affair. I did not ask any questions about it or get her to go over any of it. What I did was to get her to visualise the affair as one picture in the middle of a huge noticeboard. I got her to describe it: dark, angry, pulsating, evil. I then got her to remember a happy occasion, and to create a picture of that. I then instructed her to sneak the happy picture on to the noticeboard without the dark picture being aware of it, and to pin the happy picture high up near one corner. Then I got her to grab the happy picture by the corners and suddenly stretch it out like a tablecloth, and wrap the ugly dark picture in the bright happy picture, and then wring the dark picture inside the tablecloth and pulverise it. And then to do it again and again until the dark picture had been completely wiped out by the happy picture.
At the end of the session the dark picture had gone, and so had her dark feelings. She had got her confidence back and when she thought about it, the affair now seemed old news, a long time ago, and no longer hurt. She was able to go back and start over with her husband.
Bob came to therapy because his wife insisted that he do something about his drinking. He didn't drink all that often, but when he did he couldn't just go home when he should. Instead he would stay out drinking to the last and then arrive home drunk many hours after he had promised. This upset his wife. She thought he was unreliable and disrespectful. She was unhappy and the marriage was under strain. Bob was also unhappy. He loved his wife and family and generally was a good husband, worked hard and contributed to the household. But when he went out for a drink with his friends he just could not bring himself to go home at the time he had agreed to. He felt bad about his behaviour, he realised it was upsetting his wife, he did not want to upset her, but he did not seem to be able to leave the bar and go home when he was supposed to. He had thought about his behaviour, tried to understand it, could not see any reason for it, tried to change, but just could not go home at the right time.
Questioning Bob uncovered the reason for his behaviour. He had been born in Turkey but his parents left him with his grandparents while they went to Germany to look for work. Bob had a wonderful childhood living on a farm with his grandmother and dozens of aunts and cousins and cats, dogs, pigs and everything else that a young boy could love. That all ended abruptly when he was five and half. His mother came to the farm one day to take him away. Suddenly he was living in a tiny apartment, alone most of the day, with adults who were complete strangers and where he couldn't understand a word anyone said. And instead of a warm loving circle of indulgent relatives, he now had these strangers pushing him around.
So he rebelled. He decided that no one was going to tell him what to do. That frightened little boy decided that defiance was how to get control back into his life. And so he grew up with a determination never to let anyone tell him what to do. He learned that he could happily obey some rules, but would not tolerate anything relating to his personal freedom. He did what he wanted. And this rule served him very well, most of the time. It got him thrown out his family home at seventeen, but he became successful in business, never working for anyone else, because he would not have anyone telling him when to go for lunch or what time to get to work.
But then he got married. And he could no longer have everything his own way. He had to make allowances for somebody else. Someone who had their own rights and expectations: who wanted him home by a certain time. So now Bob had a problem. His internal rule was to never let anyone tell him what to do, but if he followed that rule he would make his wife unhappy which made him unhappy. So he found himself in a bind. He could not go home when he said he would because that meant he was being told what to do in his personal life, but he actually wanted to go home, and he dreaded the phone calls from his wife reminding him to get home on time because that made him even more anxious. The more anxious he got the more he drank and the easier it was to stay on and drink some more. Part of him wanted to leave and go home to a welcoming wife and family, and part of him was determined to show that he wasn't going to be pushed around. Logically he knew what he should do, but his mind just wouldn't let him.
The treatment consisted of getting Bob to accept one part of the dilemma, and to reject the other. The way to do that was to get him to realise that he could control his drinking by controlling the way he thought. Metaphor therapy is based on the idea that every feeling and memory is associated with a picture, an image that is actually a metaphor that represents that feeling or memory. Metaphor Therapy consists of changing the feeling by changing the image. I taught Bob how to visualise his feelings, and then how to alter the images that represented the feelings. Then I showed him the Swish Technique and he was able to transfer images that represented success to the image that represented his problem. One cancelled out the other. He was able to alter his behaviour immediately and get his marriage back.
Angela had recently fallen out with her business partner. The business had failed and left her with lots of debt. She came to therapy to try to get rid of feelings of anger about the whole thing, and specifically about any communication she got from the ex-partner.
When I started talking with her a pattern emerged. She was a people pleaser and would to anything, agree to anything to avoid conflict. She knew that other people were doing things less well than she could, but she still couldn't confront them. So she bottled it up inside. Over time she was losing it. She would turn up to work, stay sitting in the car, unable to force herself to get out. She would decide on a plan, but when it came time to do it, she would find an excuse to not do anything. She was becoming bitchy to her husband for no reason, always finding fault. She wasn't sleeping, worrying about the debt. She was losing interest in life and things just seemed pointless.
Angela had been brought up in a very religious household. There was always tension in the home between her parents. From an early age she was aware of having sudden outbursts against things the she saw as wrong. She was always looking at ways that things might go wrong, going over things from the past, and she said that her mind was always busy. She had a loving husband, happy children but still found everything was a struggle.
The origin of her problem actually started way back. She is suffering from a form of depression that shows itself mainly as anger. In her mind, things should be done one way, the right way, or she got angry at herself and others. This is called Black and White thinking: it is either completely right or it is completely wrong. The depression was making her procrastinate, lose interest in life, and causing catastrophic thoughts about her future.
What she has is a condition inherited from her parents - a tendency to get depressed following stress. Although it is genetic, it can be treated successfully by life style changes and by learning how to deal with the circular thinking patterns. So she was referred to her doctor to get her physical needs sorted, and given mental exercises to do to combat the tendency to over analyse and not let things get on top of her.
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