Cognitive Hypnotherapy Research – Evidence it works!”
QCH may offer a brief effective treatment for clients with clinically significant levels of anxiety and/or depression, widening client choice.” Mental Health Review Journal September 2015
You have no idea how much work was involved in getting this phrase printed as the conclusion of a research study published in an esteemed peer-reviewed journal. This is a game-changer because there is no other study that demonstrates the effectiveness of any other form of hypnotherapy in this way.
This is why it was so important:
Traditional hypnotherapy has long been limited by its lack of an evidence base, largely because there is such a lack of agreement from within the profession about what hypnosis actually is, and the great range of differing approaches carried out by individual practitioners. Without any coherence of approach, research is impossible, and hypnotherapy remains trapped as an ‘alternative’ approach without real credibility.
Four years ago we saw the likelihood of hypnotherapy being marginalised by this lack of evidence (it has largely already happened in the USA). Hypnotherapy is often described by others as something that is not an approach in itself, but just a technique because it lacks a coherent ‘theory of mind’ – a ‘why it works’. This allows other approaches to marginalise it, or absorb it into their methodology as just another option. We felt that our approach was too powerful for it to be diluted in this way, and that it had the advantage of a coherent theoretical underpinning – a theory of mind – that qualified it as a distinct psychotherapy (you can read about it here) So we decided to launch a research project.
That was a lot harder than we thought. Firstly, how to measure it? CBT has been very successful in attracting public funding, despite its effectiveness being no more than 52%, because other approaches have failed to evidence their own success rates. CBT used the highest standard of measurement – double-blind randomised studies. We couldn’t use them for at least two good reasons: Every client needs to receive exactly the same service, so CBT minimises the relationship between therapist and client. That was no good for us. All research shows that the strength of such a relationship is the most powerful predictor of success, so to delete it from our work seems crazy. The second reason is that every client needs to receive the same treatment, which leads to a system whereby a client/patient is given a diagnosis, and everybody given that same label receives exactly the same treatment. That is anathema to us. We don’t label people, and we find that everyone, irrespective of the name they’d give to their issue, needs a different combination of techniques in order to help them their way.
Our wonderful Research Manager at the time, Julie Gibbs, pulled her hair out looking for a solution for quite some time, until she happened to stumble across Bill Andrews, from the Pragmatic Research Network. His experience, and messianic enthusiasm for creating meaningful evidence, was the spark that set our research rocket flying. The genius of his methodology was to use the same outcome measures used by IAPT – the ones used to measure existing therapies offered within the NHS. We would be comparing ourselves directly against the likes of CBT. Perfect. Alright, a bit nerve-wracking, but perfect.
Recruiting a team of Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapists prepared to put the graft into collecting data wasn’t easy either. They’re all self-employed and in private practice. Anything that takes time is a drag on their business, and being measured is a test of a healthy ego, but enough saw the big picture to step forward.
Fast forward four years. A lot of time, sweat and money, and we have the fruits of our labour. In September 2015 the pilot study was published in the Mental Health Review Journal. It recorded that, using 118 cases measuring the effectiveness of Cognitive Hypnotherapy for the treatment of depression and anxiety, 71% considered themselves recovered after an average of 4 sessions. This compared to an average of 42% for other approaches using the same measures (like CBT).
This gives us the opportunity to knock on the doors of NICE and make Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy a mainstream offering to the public, which has been a long-held dream. The need for the QCHPA really stems from this research, because we need a coherent voice to bring the power of this approach to those who could make it more available to those who need it.
And, along the way, the research project has transformed our approach. Now every Quest student is trained in outcome measurement, and every member of the QCHPA offers the measures to their clients, as evidence shows that people who involve themselves in feedback about their treatment are most likely to get what they came for.
The future is very exciting. Especially with another 500 closed cases ready to be turned into an even bigger published study.