Therapy Models at Skyline Recovery: Clinical Hypnosis
There is a lot of mythology when it comes to hypnosis. It can conjure up images of swinging stopwatches and daytime talk show spectacles of people hopping on one leg and barking like a dog, or miraculously stopping smoking after just 10 minutes of “being under”. Obviously, if it was such a magic bullet, no one would eat a late-night bowl of cereal or smoke a cigarette anywhere in the world if they didn’t want to. However, that is not to say that clinical hypnosis is not a powerful tool, especially with young people.
One of the common themes that I find when working with young adults is that they are so disconnected from their bodies, emotions, and from their core self. You ask them what they are feeling, and they give you a stream of thoughts. You try to redirect them, perhaps even hand them a feelings chart, and they still look at you with a blank face and say “I’m good”, or “I’m fine”. Meanwhile, you can literally feel their body vibrating because they are so anxious, activated, or emotional.
A lot of young people can be pretty wary about experiential therapies like hypnosis. Most of the time they express extreme skepticism (often masking fear as it’s a therapeutic modality that has been horribly misrepresented in pop culture), but typically they just say it sounds weird. And to be honest with you, it is kind of weird, and one of the first things that I start doing with young people is addressing that; joking about clinical hypnosis, talking about my own personal experiences, and dispelling the mythology of what it is and what it is not. Showing them what a simple hypnotic induction looks like and feels like without taking them under any kind of trance. I show them my hypnosis voice, which is a combination between an English actor and Bob Ross from the joy of painting, which makes a lot of my clients instantly crack up the first few times they hear it (yes, the hypnotic voice is a real thing that was taught to me in my training, and sometimes really cheesy).
Over time, many of the young adults that I work with end up opening up to the idea of trying clinical hypnosis, and for some of them, it’s not very effective. This might be simply because certain modalities are not for certain people. Some of them might be too guarded. But for many others, it’s incredibly powerful. I remember one young adult I was working with who just simply could not access his body or any emotion in any real way. I would ask him what he was feeling and noticing in his body and he would get frustrated and repeatedly say, “I don’t know?” But when he would go under hypnotic induction, and find his safe place; a cabin in a remote forest, he could connect with all sorts of different teachers, inspirational figures, representations of a higher power, and he would experience a plethora of different emotions and sensations. At first, when he would come out of hypnosis he would return immediately to his flat self, but over time he started returning from his sessions into a more emotionally aware and somatically present version of himself: He would cry when sad, laugh when amused, and get red in the face and angry when something upset him versus the dissociated statue that sat before me a few months prior. He was able to identify emotions, magnify positive ones, and of course to intervene on negative thoughts and feelings before they would sweep over him like a tsunami that he didn’t see coming.
The above case is a common experience for many of the young male-identified clients I use clinical hypnosis with at Skyline. For others, it’s simply another tool to help them relax or to practice mindfulness. And for those that do not respond to it, they at least get to make fun of my hypnotic voice for the many weeks they’re in our program.