How solution focused hypnotherapy can help people with PTSD
There’s a well-used expression in business, that there’s “a solution to every problem”. It certainly doesn’t feel that way when you have post-traumatic stress disorder and struggle with daily symptoms and trauma impact.
However, among the therapy options for PTSD, there are ones that focus on finding solutions! Positive steps forward that may help you to manage your symptoms.
This article explores “what is solution-focused hypnotherapy?” and its potential to be a successful element of PTSD treatment.
First, a definition of hypnotherapy
As the name implies, hypnotherapy is based on putting you into a deeply relaxed state – a trance – using proven hypnosis techniques. Changing the conscious awareness of people to help them tackle all sorts of medical issues is a scientific-based approach, used throughout modern healthcare.
In the last decade, the world of neuroscience, with the aid of neuro-imaging (fMRI scanning), has evolved immensely and we know more about how the brain functions than we ever have. With the aid of hypnosis trance (which is a natural process) we can re-establish and grow new, positive, pathways in the brain, promoting long-lasting and healthy mental behaviour.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is a relaxing and very effective psychotherapeutic therapy which utilises the latest understandings of the brain to help people make significant change in short periods of time. So this is NOT the hocus-pocus used in entertainment!
Therapists trained in this field use various methods to help you feel safe and comfortable. They create a ‘suggestive’ frame of mind, before focusing your attention on issues, events or coping strategies for example.
When done professionally, this process doesn’t reduce your ability to be in control and make decisions. At the end of the hypnotherapy session, you’re carefully brought back to normal consciousness and alertness.
The NHS advice on using hypnotherapy is to find someone with a healthcare background, to ensure your mental health is protected throughout.
So, what is hypnotherapy that’s ‘solution focused’?
In essence, this combines a talking therapy, with the relaxed state that’s achieved during correctly-supported hypnosis.
The keyword in this therapeutic approach is Solution. It doesn’t explore the initial trauma that resulted in PTSD or the historic effects of this condition. Instead, while undergoing hypnotherapy, you are guided to look at things you can do to improve your symptoms and daily life. There is no regression and therefore no focus on reliving previous difficult experiences or past trauma. Many clients find this approach incredibly refreshing and reassuring.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is based on up-to-date neuroscientific research on how the brain works and the focus is always upon the positive rather than the negative. The added benefit of trance, which can be likened to ‘daydreaming’, means that the sessions can be incredibly relaxing and enjoyable. Therapists trained in solution-focused hypnotherapy have structured prompts they use, to support patients in finding ‘a way forward’ and breaking negative thought cycles. The emphasis is on working together to finding positive changes you can make.
A typical solution-focused hypnotherapy treatment plan would include:
- An initial consultation to outline your current mental health status, and discuss goals.
- Evaluation of a more detailed medical history, to ensure this is a therapy that is safe and appropriate for you.
- Discussion about how hypnotherapy works, and the techniques that induce a state of deep relaxation.
- Agreement on the number of sessions likely to bring a significant improvement in PTSD symptoms.
- Sessions in which you get comfortable on a chair or couch before the therapist uses your pre-agreed methods and goals to focus your attention on positive steps forward.
Some therapists also provide recordings that support relaxation, for you to use to reinforce the work done in the sessions.
Does this work for PTSD?
Data that indisputably confirms any approach to treating PTSD is tricky. This is a diverse and personal mental health experience. So naturally, therapies that work for one person could be ineffectual or even unpleasant and unacceptable for another!
Anecdotal evidence suggests that turning attention away from the past, and looking towards small positive steps forward, can be a refreshing and effective therapy option. Particularly as the patient takes the lead in setting realistic goals.
Jason Langely, a Solution focused hypnotherapist talks about his experience with the method and PTSD: My client “found this hypnotherapy worked extremely well for them. Over our time I have seen this client grow as a person, from the first time I met them: a shy and nervous person, who had a nervous eye twitch, to a person that is now confident and in the job he has always wanted.
Jason’s client said this: “After decades of trying to get help with my PTSD and trying everything from CBT, counselling, medication etc. (none of which worked completely) I heard about Jason and what he does. At first I was thinking “yeah right”, but I spoke with Jason and asked questions. The next week I had my first session. It blew me away if I’m honest. After 3 sessions I was already able to sleep at night – something I’ve not been able to do for 40 odd years because my PTSD came out as nightmares: I would wake every 2 hours dripping in sweat screaming. This left me distressed and my life was just about breathing: no job, no sign of a happy future. I continued to work with Jason and all I can say is he helped me get my life back. I was sleeping! No more waking up screaming. It was a miracle in my eyes.
Since working with Jason I now have a full time job and happy family that also now sleep the whole night. My life feels like I have a purpose. I feel human. I feel proud. I feel like I’m not just surviving anymore. I actually walk taller, and my confidence is sky high. I can’t thank Jason enough for walking this journey with me. For me he has given me my life.”
However, some people with PTSD will encounter psychological blocks to looking forward. Or to putting their solutions into practice. For them, sustainable improvements may come from therapies that focus more on the underlying causes of their PTSD. Addressing their long-standing triggers and symptoms rather than concentrating solely on the present and future.
Insights provided by the origins of solution-focused hypnotherapy
David Newton, a highly respected figure in the field of hypnotherapy and psychotherapy, is often described as the Father of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy.
However, it has its roots in similar techniques used for many years. For example, Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) was developed by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg in the USA some years before. This too is a treatment strategy that sets goals.
The basic principle of all ‘solution-focused therapies’ is to help patients to envisage a better future for themselves, and then support them in finding ways to achieve that.
There have been studies on this strategy for treating various mental health conditions. One such piece of research by the University of York concluded: “There was strong evidence that solution-focused brief therapy was an effective treatment, for a wide variety of behavioural and psychological outcomes. It seemed to be shorter, making it cheaper than alternative treatments.”
The UK Department of Education reviewed available studies into Solution Focused Brief Therapy as a way of support children and families. The report concluded that though the evaluation material is sparse: “Within this small pool of ‘best evidence’, however, the great majority of studies indicate at least some positive outcomes for the therapeutic target group. “
Finding a therapist trained in solution-focused hypnotherapy
The recommended place to start in finding a therapist trained in this particular technique to treat PTSD is the Association for Solution Focused Hypnotherapy. The AfSFH is a non-profit organisation with a database of local practitioners who operate within their code of conduct and professional guidelines. You can also find hypnotherpists at The National Council for Hypnotherapy, and UK Confederation of Hypnotherapy Organisations.
It’s important to note, that while choosing your PTSD recovery path you need to address both the symptoms and the underlying condition. NICE guidance updated in 2018 recommends the use of trauma focused psychological treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in adults, specifically the use of Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) and trauma focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Please remember, these aren’t meant to be medical recommendations, but they’re tactics that have worked for others and might work for you, too. Be sure to work with a professional to find the best methods for you.
Many thanks to Jason Langley of JPL Hypnotherapy for his insights and client account within this article.
Effectiveness of solution-focused brief therapy: a systematic qualitative review of controlled outcome studies: WJ Gingerich and LT Peterson
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Treatments for PTSD
It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Traumatic events can be very difficult to come to terms with, but confronting and understanding your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD. You can find out more in the links below, or here.