The different types of Hypnotherapy
Since a few decades, hypnotherapy has grown in popularity. As a result, there is a lot of things said on tv, written on the internet, and it can be confusing. There are different approaches to hypnotherapy: cognitive, behavioural, Ericksonian, and hypnoanalytic…
All these approaches share some similarities. But the differences between all these approaches to hypnotherapy are not always clear.
I do mostly cognitive-behavioural hypnotherapy. I picked this approach for some reasons. But let’s be clear there is not a good or a wrong approach. I just profoundly think that knowing the differences between the different types of hypnotherapy will help you to choose the therapy that can serve your goals the best.
The so-called “Ericksonian” approach is one of the most popular approaches to Hypnotherapynowadays. It is derived loosely from the work of Milton Erikson. The Milton Erikson method is well-known due to the particular way it recommends communicating the hypnotic suggestions to the client to avoid his “resistance”. Therefore the suggestions in these approaches often are indirect, covert, and permissive suggestions. These principles conflict with the non-deceptive, non-state-based, evidence-based approaches to cognitive and behavioural hypnotherapy. However, it has similarities with behavioural in that they both principally address a behaviour that creates a disturbance.
Because Milton Erikson never set up a protocol or used a systematic methodology. Therefore there is only weak research evidence on the positive outcomes of the Ericksonian approach, which is a difference with cognitive-behavioural hypnotherapy.
These principles conflict with the non-deceptive, evidence-based approaches of cognitive and behavioural HypnotherapyHypnotherapy. However, it has similarities with behavioural in that they both principally address a behaviour that creates a disturbance.
The hypnoanalytic (“regression”) approach began with Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. The similarities between this approach and Ericksonian therapy is that they both claim they can access an “unconscious” part of the mind through their protocol. They are among the so-called “state theories” and are poorly evidenced.
For the hypnoanalytic therapist, a disturbance is due to an originating problem (often a repressed memory) which creates defence mechanisms, acquired to cope with trauma and anxiety-inducing situations. The main difference between the hypnoanalytic approach and the other approach of hypnotherapy is the conceptualisation of the problem. The first approach focuses on “why” and not “how.” Hypnoanalytic asks, “Why are they doing what they are doing?” whereas modern hypnotherapy seeks to answer the question, “How are they maintaining their problems?”
Behavioural approaches assume that most responses are learned by ongoing and complex conditioning and that disturbances are the result of learning maladaptive habits.
Cognitive approaches attempt to identify the irrational, unrealistic, and maladaptive ways of thinking to change them into more helpful.
Cognitive Hypnotherapy could be considered falling between behavioural and psychoanalytic approaches:
Behaviour approaches do not place the emphasises so much on the early experiences but are concerned to modify the habits. It focuses on how the problem is maintaining, attacking it on the visible part of the iceberg “the behaviour”. Even if both cognitive and behavioural approaches are not concerned to look at early-age events of life, the cognitive approach addresses it in some ways. Past experiences tend to create certain biases in the way people perceive their world. Their actual thoughts that are for sure influenced by those past experiences. But the focus is on the “here and now” of the vicious circle.
Two approaches cognitive / behavioural together are often combined. The following are three hypnotic techniques used in cognitive behavioural Hypnotherapy:
- Hypnotic Imagery-based Recall and Evocative Imagery: To be able to deal with negative and unhelpful cognitions, we must uncover them first. During the assessment, it is useful to help the client identify their negative thoughts. These techniques can seem similar, to those of “regression therapy”. However, the aim is not “abreaction” but merely seeking insight and increased awareness of cognitions and feelings to help, for example, build a multi-modal assessment.
- Hypnotic Graded Exposure: Also known as hypnotic desensitisation. Yes just like some people get desensitised from some allergens.
The good thing with hypnosis is that instead of physically expose you to your triggers, you do it mentally. This technique is powerful at exposing and confronting someone with their feared situation and allows them to rehearse their coping skills in a relaxed setting. The only cons are that the motivation and will of the client to deal with these situations does not always apply in real life, which is key to success. The skills and methods learned in therapy need to be “transfer” into your daily life if you want to maintain the benefits of them in the long term.
- Covert Sensitisation with Aversion Hypnotherapy: This is a sort of reverse principle of the technique above. I was reluctant to use this method because of the negative principle behind it. It leads someone to have an aversion for a product! However, I had come to understand the benefits of this technique when I studied the “smoking cessation” protocol. It’s mainly used for relapse prevention, mostly in smoking cessation protocols. It is useful to help clients deal with situations as addiction relapses. It involves the association of a habit with an unpleasant experience.