Many people these days have a fairly good idea of what hypnotherapy
is all about, and over the last five years we've had a chance to experience hypnotic induction first-hand at several Brighton & Hove StressBusters events. However the increasingly popular Cognitive Hypnotherapy approach is still a bit of a mystery to most people, so we were very excited to have Jo Alderson
, a Brighton-based specialist, introduce the work that she feels so passionate about.
Cognitive Hypnotherapy is an integrated therapeutic approach which combines a wide range of effective techniques taken from several disciplines, including neurolinguistic programming (NLP)
, positive psychology, behaviourism and Gestalt therapy. Hypnosis
, although playing a significant part in this approach, is not central to its effectiveness. Rather, it seems to enhance the effectiveness of other elements of this approach. Several studies that compared the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioural therapy
with and without hypnosis found cognitive hypnotherapy to be more effective, especially in the treatment of depression
Jo presented the three basic principles behind Cognitive Hypnotherapy:
1. The 'one size fits all' approach does not apply to psychological issues
- each client is unique and requires a unique combination of techniques for their issue to be resolved.
2. Trance is an everyday occurrence
and the issues that we would like to resolve are often automatic (trance) responses to a particular situation - to resolve an issue, we need to tackle that trance state.
3. All our behaviours are based on positive intentions
- even self-destructive behaviours such as drug taking, eating disorders etc. have a positive intention at their point of origin (e.g. being accepted, relieving negative emotions, having a sense of control etc.). The role of a cognitive hypnotherapist therapist is to get to this core in order to resolve the issue.
After this brief introduction, Jo led us into a gentle hypnotic trance, with the aim of increasing our subjective perception of how lucky we are - an important factor which, according to research, does indeed help us seize more opportunities in life. It was so easy to follow her voice and the time seemed to fly - none of us could tell for certain how long it lasted. However, everyone agreed on one point: the experience was immensely enjoyable. By the end of the session we all seemed very relaxed and content, not a bit of stress in the air!
Tension & Trauma Release Exercise - TRE ®
TRE, known by various names including Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercise, Stress Release Exercises
, etc., is rapidly becoming one of the hottest topics in the world of wellbeing. Deborah Brown
, a craniosacral therapist and one of just few qualified TRE practitioners in the UK, was the first person to bring this technique to Brighton & Hove in 2015.
TRE is based on the fact that, as humans, we have lost the ability to regulate stress effectively. In response to any stressful circumstance - be it a lion chasing us, a car accident or an argument with our boss - our body undergoes the 'fight-or-flight' response: the blood flow to our muscles increases (we need it to run away or fight!) while all other functions that are not important for immediate survival - our digestive and reproductive systems - shut down. (This pretty much explains why chronic stress produces such a wide range of health issues, including irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, indigestion and infertility, just to mention a few.)
There is, however, another phase which mammals go through at the end of this fight-or-flight response, and which is thought to enable the body to achieve its homeostasis (return to balance): once the stressor is over, the body starts shaking. Occasionally humans display these so-called neurogenic tremors too, especially in response to traumatic events, but most of the time we only ever experience the fight-or-flight response.
It's not exactly clear why we have lost this ability to rapidly restore homeostasis after stress - perhaps it's because our cortex (the 'thinking' part of the brain) is much more developed than in other animals and this thinking interferes with the more basic regulatory mechanisms. Or perhaps it's because the minor daily stressors that chronically activate our stress 'axis' (the neuroendocrine circuit responsible for the release of stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol), disrupt its effectiveness. Whatever the cause, researchers have suggested that by inducing these instinctual tremors, humans, like animals, can release chronic tension and overcome trauma.
TRE is a set of 7 simple yoga-like exercises which consist of slow movements and calm breathing. The exercises activate the main muslces involved in the fight-or-flight response and by doing so trigger neurogenic tremors that travel through different parts of the body. Debbie demonstrated this with the help of a volunteer. It all looked far too simple and gentle, yet the end result was fascinating: when the volunteer completed the exercises and lay down on the floor, his body started shaking... gently at first and then more vigorously. This lasted for many minutes and ended with complete relaxation.
It was interesting to hear about the effects of TRE practice, both from the volunteer and from Debbie. The main benefits seem to be a general sense of calmness, greater resilience to everyday stressors, and improved physical wellbeing.
Read more about TRE