Can Hypnotherapy be used with children?
by Lynda Hudson BA (Hons) Psych D Hyp (Dist) Dip App Ling Dip Stress Mgmt, Adv Certs CBT Trauma & CISD, NLP MAC MBSCH MBPS
Yes, certainly it can, and generally therapists who work with children make use of a very light state of hypnosis where the child may not seem at first sight to be in anything other than in a ‘day dreamy' state. Children experience this kind of state many times a day quite naturally; when they are waking from sleep or falling asleep, or just becoming absorbed in thought or in imaginative play. Children have a well developed sense of imagination and frequently imagine they are Harry Potter or whichever hero is currently in vogue. In this kind of state their minds are really creative and receptive to positive suggestions and can come up with solutions to problems.
Usually children from ten upwards (sometimes several years younger too) are quite happy to close their eyes and relax and enjoy a guided daydream packed full of positive suggestions for them to ‘act out' in their imagination. My sessions will certainly always include positive suggestions for confidence and self esteem whatever problem is being addressed.
Younger children can be reluctant to close their eyes and don't necessarily even relax very much at all in the way which is characteristic of adults; they just see/ feel /hear things in their imagination as guided by the therapist. The process is more like engaging in active imagination games which they do with the greatest of ease. Ask them to see their problem as a shape or a colour and shrink it or change it, they just do it! Children spend half their lives in their imaginations and when I ‘work' with them in my consulting room I just get them to use their imagination in a positive way in order to help overcome their problems.
In the case of very young children I always encourage parents to stay in the room, especially for the first session, so a child will feel more at ease. It also puts your mind (as the parent) at ease to see that the process is safe and positive; gentle or fun as appropriate. Sometimes older children prefer to be on their own so they don't have a sense of ‘being observed'. I recommend you to have a chat with your child and go along with their preferences as even some younger children are quite happy on their own after a first or second session. Also remember that children mature quite differently and can often seem considerably older or younger than their chronological age.
First of all we have a chat about the issue they have come for. I always talk directly to your child rather than just ask you questions about them however and generally I ask you to let them answer for themselves rather than jumping in to help them. When I need extra information I usually ask them if it is ok now if I ask mum or dad a question to see what they think; in this way they are reassured that they are the important person in the room and their opinion counts. I will often ask you to tell me some of the things you really like and value about them.
We talk about how things are now, how long they have been this way and how they would prefer to think, feel and behave instead. I ask them (and sometimes you) about the qualities they already have which will help them get over the problem and in this way elicit from them that they are strong, optimistic, determined or confident in other situations. Focusing on a positive element will help with the solution. Naturally I adapt my language to the age and interests of the child in question.
Then, according to their age and disposition, I might help them to relax just in a similar way to the way I would do with adults but using appropriate language for their age group (‘now just let your arms go all floppy and tired, now see if your legs are more or less floppy and tired etc'). I might just get them to imagine something as if telling them a story. They may close their eyes or they may just seem wide awake; whatever they do will be perfect for them. Whatever is perfect for them will be fine with me. They are encouraged to relax, feel at ease and a little day dreamy but they do not go to sleep and they do hear everything that is said, albeit in a possibly dreamy way.
he kinds of problem that I deal with on a very regular basis are fears, anxieties and worries, bedwetting, soiling, sleeping difficulties, coping with being bullied, trichotillomania, thumb sucking, nail biting, lack of confidence or lack of self esteem. Treatment varies according to the problem and to the age of the child but will always include positive suggestions for confidence and guided imagery so that they vividly imagine themselves overcoming their problem with ease. They are encouraged to see, hear and feel themselves responding in a more appropriate way which seems right for them.
Everything is gentle and positive and is aimed at helping them overcome their present difficulty. There is absolutely no ‘messing with minds', as some parents fear, and since in any case you can elect to be there with them you can be completely reassured that the process is natural and safe.
Lynda Hudson specialises in using hypnotherapy with children helping them to overcome a variety of problems many of which are anxiety based She has produced an innovative series of CDs for children and the successful results of these, sometimes just from one listening, have been featured in national magazines and television.
She is an examiner for the LCCH Certificate and Diploma courses and is a free lance lecturer particularly in the field of children and also l ectures in clinical hypnosis to medical students. She has recorded a wide range of CDs for adults as well as for children and runs a thriving practice in Beckenham, South East London Contact her on 020 8402 1928 www.firstwayforward.com and www.firstwayforwardcds.com