When I began my training as a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist my own mental health was in a dark and vulnerable place.
A few months after losing my mother to liver cancer, having already lost my father to leukaemia 12 years before, my own mental health was in a vulnerable state. I was also going through a divorce from a 15-year marriage and moving out of my large Cotswold family home into a tiny 2-bedroom flat with my two small children.
I felt like I was drowning in deep grief-related anxiety and fear and my own mental health began to deteriorate rapidly. I became withdrawn, didn’t have a job, didn’t want to socialise and my mind became filled with irrational and anxious thoughts that kept me awake at night.
I was constantly gripped by a fear of the unknown and I couldn’t visualise a positive future for myself. I felt alone, isolated and stuck. I realised I was depressed.
Life had hit rock bottom.
One dark evening, shivering on a cold bathroom floor, as my dried-up tears started to sting life back into my face, I sat staring into a void of nothingness. I knew I had to do something before I was destroyed by my own mental thought-torture. In my mind in that very vulnerable moment, I felt like I only had two choices: Get Up or Stay Down.
I chose to get up, and somehow figure out what I wanted to do with my life. At that time, my life felt like a whole box of jigsaw puzzle pieces scattered all over the floor and I had no idea where to start.
One by one, I realised I had to piece my life together. Piece by piece. The first task I gave myself was to look for the corners and then think about building the frame.
I wanted to get my mental health back on track and somehow cradle my brain and look after it, so it could start looking after me again.
I had heard about how hypnotherapy had helped my friend with her depression, so I started considering hypnotherapists in my area. I couldn’t see anybody that I felt drawn to, but what I did find was The Clifton Practice in Bristol – a hypnotherapy training school in Bristol. I read through the top ten reasons to train as a hypnotherapist on their website, and had a moment of clarity.
It took every amount of courage I could muster up for me to send an email to enquire. A few hours later, I received a call from Susan, the wonderful Practice Manager and a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist herself. She spoke to me kindly and patiently answered all my questions, and her gentle, reassuring voice on the phone felt to me like I was being hugged from the inside out.
She arranged an interview for me to meet the founder of the solution focused hypnotherapy model, David Newton a few days later, and I put the phone down feeling so much better as it felt like I had found the corners of my life puzzle. I felt like I was beginning to take control of my future, and that felt good, scary, but good.
I began my journey training to be a solution focused hypnotherapist, and even through suffering from my own feelings of grief and loss, my focus began to shift into a much more positive place. I began to feel like I was creating the framework for a new life, a new me. The logo for The Clifton Practice has butterflies on it, and it felt to me that I was going through my own personal metamorphosis and powerful transformation.
I felt like I was in my own safe cocoon beginning to grow my delicate wings. That felt very empowering.
Through my hypnotherapy training, I realised the powerful benefits of hypnosis as a therapy. Solution focused hypnotherapy does what it says on the tin. It helps you look for solutions.
Of course, a client will come with a problem, but we are trained to help the client redirect their focus and not dwell on the problem, but keep them looking to the future and focus on their solutions in a positive way.
The therapy has a step by step approach. We begin by asking our client to imagine a miracle has happened in their life, and that if a magic wand was waved and everything is fixed and sorted, what would this look and feel like to them? This question, posed in that way can bring some insightful revelations to the client.
As they begin to imagine their ‘miracle’ and start talking about what would be going on for them if this miracle had occurred, their demeanour changes, they sit up, look up and everything for those moments begins to lighten and lift. That is an incredible thing to witness.
The ‘miracle question’ was developed by Insoo Kim Berg, a Korean-born American psychotherapist who was a pioneer of solution focused brief therapy. The reason why we ask our client to imagine a ‘miracle’, is because we want them to be able to suspend their disbelief for those moments to begin to use their imagination in a positive way.
When someone thinks of a miracle in their life, they don’t have to ‘believe’ it can happen yet, we are simply asking our clients to begin to use their imagination to consider the distance of their future with a ‘fairy-tale’ or fantasy-creating mind-set.
This helps their mind-set shift into a state that is much more positive, forward looking and optimistic. The miracle picture that the client creates in their mind is the first step towards their solution. It becomes a carrot at the end of their stick, keeping them motivated and focused on staying on the path towards their goal.
The word ‘hypnosis’ is often misunderstood. It is my job to explain to my clients what exactly hypnosis is, and I often must start be explaining what it isn’t!
No! Nobody has ever come to me in my therapy room and ask me to turn them into a chicken…! – And if they did, I would tell them to find a Stage Hypnotist to speak to!
I am a Hypnotherapist; I use hypnosis in the form of therapy.
Hypnosis used in therapy will not leave you clucking like a chicken or doing something you don’t want to do. The hypnotherapist doesn’t delve inside your mind and start controlling your thoughts! This is a misconception!
Hypnotherapy isn’t anything like what you see on TV or on a stage show. On TV or on a stage, the hypnotist is simply a performance artist who using hypnosis, but for a very different reason and outcome. It’s for entertainment.
Whereas a hypnotherapist uses hypnosis for THERAPY!
(Does what it says on the tin, again!)
Hypnosis is where your conscious mind goes to sleep and your subconscious mind stays awake. Hypnosis comes from the word ‘Hypnos’, which means ‘sleep’ in Greek. We are all able to go into hypnosis, because we are all able to go to sleep.
However, it’s not like a deep sleep that you go into at night, it’s the in between state in between asleep and awake. It’s the trance state, which is a powerful state in your sleep system, also known as REM (Rapid Eye Movement), which is also the dream state.
When your brain is in REM, your brain is in a trance, and trance is an ordinary, but highly suggestible and powerful place.
When you are in a trance, your brain is relaxed and ready to accept all the positive suggestions that the hypnotherapist will give you, without your critical and overthinking mind getting in the way. We want our clients to be in this suggestible state, because then the therapy will work well. You may have heard this term before where someone is more ‘suggestible’ than normal.
If your mind is suggestible, this just means that you are in a state of compliance, where your belief system is agreeing to what is going on.
Think of it like this. You know when you are dreaming usually your dream is very unusual and abstract –
For example, let’s take my dream from a few days ago as an example:
I am standing in a place where my house used to be but the house has disappeared and I’m surrounded by graffiti walls. I am worried as my children are all trapped in the missing house, and I must find the key that is stuck inside the piano.
(Yes, I know – very random and abstract!)
While I am inside the dream (in the REM state) it does make sense, and it feels totally congruent. I’m in the dream, and while I am there, it all seems plausible. It all feels totally normal!
This shows that the questioning and self-doubting part of my brain, which is called the ‘critical faculty’ has switched off.
The ‘Critical Faculty’ is the part of the brain that questions everything, and analyses and check things out for plausibility. It is perhaps also linked to our belief system of whether we ‘buy’ into the experience. So, in the dream, everything is ‘normal’, but when I wake up and tell someone about the dream, my critical faculty has now switched back on again because I am awake and suddenly I think about the dream as silly and ‘weird’!
Within hypnotherapy, while I talk my client into a relaxed trance state (REM) the critical faculty switches off so they can accept all the positive suggestions into their subconscious mind without any resistance or rejection. And then it’s the subconscious minds’ job to apply the positive suggestions into their life.
The way I explain the difference between conscious and subconscious mind to my clients is: The conscious mind is like the sat nav in your car, pointing you in the right direction and subconscious mind is the driver of the car, the one in control.
The conscious mind thinks it is the driver of the car, but in fact it is the passenger.
As hypnotherapists, we talk to the subconscious mind as the driver of the car because we know that this will drive those positive suggestions forward.
This is a question I get asked a lot. I always say to my clients that we work quickly, but not too quick. Within 8-12 weeks many of my clients have reached their miracle picture and within a few weeks, their ‘miracle’ becomes their reality.
I see clients on a weekly basis, to keep the momentum of the therapy flowing nicely. Thoughts are like habits (negative or positive). Habits are created through repetition, so we want to encourage our clients to build positive habits rather than allow the negative thought habits to sneak in.
Through my personal experience of how hypnotherapy helped me with my own mental health I recognised the powerful benefits of this. Our intensive training does not stop. We keep up to date with latest trends and discoveries in neuroscience and keep our learning current and this keeps us at the cutting edge of brain-based therapy.
I know that solution focused hypnotherapy works and I am, I knew that this was something that could help with most mental health issues.
I am now Living in my Miracle!
Think of it like this. Imagine you, like me had very low confidence and no money, no job, no parents, limited family support, and two kids. Life was feeling tough and harsh. So, for me to think about what I wanted to create in my future was difficult. I couldn’t imagine a positive future.
When I was asked the question of what would be happening in my life if a miracle happened?
This was my answer:
I would be a successful hypnotherapist, running a private practice and be working with groups. Because I love teaching, I would be lecturing and presenting my work on stage and at conferences. I would be able to teach people about the brain and about how grief effects the brain and I would be an excellent role model for my boys. My accommodation will change and I will be living in a nice house and find myself another supportive and loving relationship.
5 years on and I am living in my miracle. My teenage boys are happy and balanced and a joy to be around. I live in a fabulous house with my boys and lovely partner Toby who is my rock.
My debut book Good Grief was published in 2016, and I run a thriving Hypnotherapy Practice from Cirencester, and work with clients online all over the world. I have launched a self-hypnosis audio range and am a lecturer for The Clifton Practice and present hypnotherapy workshops and training around the UK.
I Believe Miracles are Possible When You Get Control of your Mental Health.