Cognitive Hypnotherapy Sessions
As a Cognitive Hypnotherapist, a question I regularly get asked by new clients is “What does a typical session involve?”. The answer is that there isn’t really a ‘typical session’. Cognitive Hypnotherapy sessions take many different forms depending on the client’s needs, what they want to achieve and how far along their therapy journey they are.
Sometimes a session could be purely conversational in the eyes of the client, though it is never ‘just a chat’. The therapist skillfully uses specific language patterns and asks carefully worded questions to help their client shift their thinking and to challenge them on things they believe to be true. They might explain concepts that are important for the client to understand, like ELOC/ILOC whether a client places responsibility for their life choices and actions outside of themselves or sees themselves as responsible for their life choices and actions. “No failure, only feedback” and ‘flow’ would be other examples.
Sometimes it might involve a combination of relaxation and suggestions aimed at the unconscious, priming it to do what it needs to do for the client to feel better. These suggestions are expertly shaped to the solution-state of each individual client.
Often a session is likely to include ‘specific change-work’ – methods to help a client reframe an event or let go of a limiting belief. The client may learn a technique they can use outside of the therapy room to help themselves.
Most Therapy Happens Between Sessions
However, something that’s incredibly important for clients to understand is that most therapy happens between sessions. Change-work happens within a session and then it takes a little time for the unconscious to process what has shifted and figure out where in the filing cabinet of your brain to re-file it now that it doesn’t belong in the same place as that old belief you used to have. Once it’s been processed and re-filed in a better place, it’s up to you to actively practice the things you’ve learnt.
Therapy is two-way – it’s not a magic wand and with one wave you’re ‘fixed’ (mainly because you were never broken in the first place). You must put in just as much work as the therapist does. To help with this, many therapists regularly set clients tasks to do between therapy sessions. These could be writing down positives from their day; performing acts of kindness; or answering questions based on the work done in session.
These tasks aim to move the client out of protection and connect them to a resilient growth mindset, so they become more in charge of their choices and decisions and help themselves get better.
The Five Statement Challenge
I recently came across an idea that combined many exercises into one simple task. I trialled it with several clients and it has been so successful that I now use it with almost every client.
The task is to answer these five statements every evening:
- Today I am grateful for…
- Today I helped someone by…
- Something that I felt happy about today was…
- Today I learned…
- Tomorrow I will…
“Today I am grateful for…”
Gratitude has been big news for a while now. Being grateful for the things that you already have seems to be key in leading a happy life. Gratitude journals are everywhere and numerous studies have shown that expressing gratitude has a positive impact on your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
“Today I helped someone by…”
When you’re struggling with a problem it’s easy to turn inwards and suddenly all you can see are the effects that the problem is having on you. It’s not about being selfish – more just how you’re choosing to focus your attention.
Committing to do something kind every single day makes you face outwards and become more aware of the world around you. It stops you thinking about your struggles so much and makes you focus on other people. This has a threefold positive impact. Firstly, it takes the attention off you so you forget to remember the stuff that’s been bothering you.
Secondly, doing something kind that helps someone else, makes us feel good – it releases endorphins (‘happy hormones’) into our bloodstream. Thirdly, it has a ripple effect – the kind deed you did for someone makes them more likely to do something kind for someone else, and so on. It doesn’t need to be a big thing. It can be as simple as holding a door open for somebody or paying for a coffee for the person behind you in a café.
“Something that I felt happy about today was…”
Research has shown that consistently writing down the positives from your day can be more effective at lifting your mood than certain anti-depressant drugs because it primes your unconscious to actively look for the positive things in your world. If you wake up knowing that you must write something positive at the end of the day, your unconscious looks for it as you are going about your day. Eventually your filters start to shift, and you begin to believe that the world you live in is a happy one (and not a negative one).
“Today I learned…”
Reflecting on your day can be a valuable tool.
Looking back at the things that went well, the things that didn’t go so well and figuring out the reasons why can be powerful. Earlier on in this article I mentioned a phrase “there is no failure only feedback”. It’s something I try to instil in all my clients. It’s ok to make mistakes and get things wrong. By reflecting on them we can learn how to do things differently or better next time. Nothing is ever a ‘failure’ – it was just something that in that moment didn’t work in the way we wanted it to. The key is taking that learning and applying it.
“Tomorrow I will…”
We all have hopes and dreams, desires and ambitions. Even those in the depths of depression usually have some hope that maybe one day they’ll feel better. That’s what keeps us going, keeps us working hard, keeps us wanting to become the best versions of ourselves we can be. But sometimes a goal can be so big that we never get there because the mountain just seems too huge to climb. The only way to do it is to break it down into smaller goals and tasks that are more reachable. The saying that I use with clients to help them understand this is “there’s only one way to eat an elephant – one bite at a time”. The last statement, “Tomorrow I will…” is designed to get you to focus on the next thing you need/want to do. Not the whole thing, just the next thing. Simply writing down one thing that you are going to do the next day means that you are more likely to achieve it.