CBT is very much a therapy aimed at the conscious mind, while hypnosis involves dialogue and interaction with the subconscious. By combining these two approaches we can, at least in part, usefully bring about a degree of conscious and subconscious cooperative alignment, to better address the client’s presenting issue. Subconsciousness, (that level of consciousness below our normal waking, objective consciousness), is non-judgemental and highly suggestible, utilising this factor, we can effect changes to harmful beliefs and habits at the subconscious level. The subconscious does not have the conscious filter that considers things based on prior experience and learning, it just accepts suggestions with a willingness to experiment and an openness to new ideas. The subconscious also drives the autonomic nervous system (possibly this drive comes from the hypothalamus) which is responsible for all our involuntary body actions i.e.: breathing, heart rate, lymph functions, growth, repair and replacement of dead and dying cells etc. So additionally, it can add great value in addressing physical trauma issues and physical health and wellbeing generally.
CBT is concerned with giving the client a new range of skills consciously; hypnosis brings benefit by providing a very useful vehicle to integrate these skills by bringing the subconscious into a closer supporting alignment. Experimentation and rehearsal of applying these new skills can be carried out in the subconscious during hypnosis. Hypnosis adds a dimension of flexibility in perception and behaviour; the homework and experimental aspects crucial in CBT are likely to be enhanced when reinforced and seeded in the subconscious mind within hypnosis. Having identified the client’s sloppy or unhelpful thinking patterns, we can apply hypnotic interventions to challenge this faulty thinking. In hypnosis we can lead the client to re-evaluate the way he may look at and feel about things in his life, and so help him to rethink about things in a much healthier manner. Another benefit of hypnotic intervention is that by bypassing the conscious and more rigid part of the mind, it is much easier to build these new cognitive associations and dissociations. In hypnosis we can have the client recognise his pattern of thinking for what it really is, and begin to see how it is adding to his problem; it is easier in hypnosis to begin to embrace the new patterns of healthful thinking. Hypnosis allows a degree of detachment from thoughts and feelings, one can stand as if an observer and begin to see that we are not our thoughts and feelings; hypnosis allows us to more readily challenge this and other unhelpful beliefs.
The induction part of the hypnotherapeutic session itself can be used to support the CBT ie: For the client who rushes into making decisions without sufficient thought and planning, we can add wording like: “I’m not sure whether you’ll choose to go into trance straight away, or to enter trance more slowly, after all, the choice is yours etc etc.” The future pacing is a perfect vehicle in hypnosis, for the client to see himself having successfully made appropriate changes in his life. The whole of the PREM can be worded so as to directly and perhaps more subtly support the CBT session.
Edelman, Sarah (Author) Change your thinking, ABC Books, 2006
Yapco, Michael (Author) Breaking the patterns of Depression, Doubleday, NY, 1997
Connirae Andreas (Author) Change Your Mind-and Keep the Change, Real People Press, Moab Utah, 1987