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Katie Abbott, Cognitive Hypnotherapist has written for the National Press, including The Guardian and The Observer newspaper. She has recently contributed to Psychologies Magazine offering her expert tips and advice. Please see below for details:

The Guardian

Cognitive hypnotherapy

Cognitive hypnotherapy provides overworked minds with the toolkit they need to fix their own stresses and strains. It is based on modern psychology and neuroscience and, don’t worry, there’s not a pendulum in sight …

What is it?

Chances are, when you think of hypnotherapy, you either imagine a swinging pocket watch or a hapless audience member being made to cluck like a chicken on stage in the name of entertainment. Neither of these preconceptions is true. Cognitive hypnotherapy combines cognitive behavioural therapy and hypnosis with theories based on modern neuroscience.

We all go into natural hypnotic trances every day without even knowing it. It’s comparable to being so absorbed in a book or film that the hours seem to fly by, or being in a meeting where your mind has wandered. It is this natural state of mind that is used in cognitive hypnotherapy. You never lose control and are certainly never put under the control of anyone else. Practitioner Katie Abbott explains: “There are no over-the-top, annoying motivational speeches or long, arduous hours of difficult analysis. Cognitive hypnotherapy is just an extremely effective way of making positive change.”

Is there any evidence?

Controlled trials have shown that hypnosis can reduce anxiety (particularly before medical procedures), although there is still some doubt that the hypnotic state actually exists. In the past five years, however, scientific research has become more credible, thanks to the latest brain imaging technology; brain scans now prove that hypnotised subjects are more susceptible to hypnotic suggestion. In one study, volunteers were given hypnotic suggestions to “see in colour”. Scans showed that areas of the brain associated with colour perception were activated, even though the pictures they were looking at were black and white.

Where does it come from?

In the 18th century, Austrian doctor Franz Anton Mesmer used magnets to practise a form of hypnotism (hence “mesmerising”). His patients claimed they felt no pain while being treated under his trance. Mesmer was later dismissed as a charlatan, but his methods have since been investigated and developed into the form of hypnotherapy we know today.

In 2001, Trevor Silvester set up the Quest Institute (questinstitute.co.uk) and introduced the idea of combining hypnosis with cognitive behavioural therapy, tools from positive psychology, cognitive theory and neuro-linguistic programming.

Who can do it?

“We all see the world in different ways, so hypnotherapy works to readjust your particular frame of reference,” Abbott says. “There’s no one way to treat stress or to encourage relaxation, it all depends on the way you see things – your model of the world. As part of a session, the client is supplied with a toolkit for the mind. This enables them to use different tools to fix different mental states.”

So the theory is that everyone has the capacity to adopt new mental tools, and anyone can be hypnotised. The only prerequisite is to be open to the process.

What results can I expect?

Usually, cognitive hypnotherapy needs two or three sessions in which the foundations for change are effectively put in place, although you are likely to feel relaxed after just one session.

According to Katie Abbott: “Most people report a change after their first meeting. It’s a change of mindset, the move towards a goal. Hypnotherapy can teach you how to control your body’s responses and reactions, and anchor you in calm when you become worried.”

Contra-indications

The hypnotic state is not dangerous, but people with severe depression, psychosis or epilepsy should consult their doctor before seeing a hypnotherapist.

How was it for you?

Kate Abbott (worrier)

I never thought hypnotherapy would be the thing to calm me down, but that’s what Katie Abbott has done for me, Kate Abbott. As I approached the treatment room, I panicked. What if I actually do lose my (self-diagnosed as endearing) neuroses? Or, scarier still: what if my namesake steals my identity?

But as soon as I was ushered into Katie’s Harley Street haven, I realised she wasn’t going to brainwash me like the horror movie reel running through my mind. The session started with a simple chat. We discussed our goal of relaxation versus my reality as a worrier. What followed was an hour of gentle conversation that induced a state of complete calm.

Throughout the session, I was unsure if I was “hypnotised” or just had a case of the cathartics, but I submitted entirely, visualising my past, present and future from a different perspective (“It’s OK not to be perfect”, I tell my 11-year-old self).

The result of this enlightening delve into my personal timeline is the self-hypnosis that I now practise at home. Katie asked me to concentrate on the present moment and to call to mind three things I could hear, three things I could see and three things I think about regularly, and comment on them. As I told Katie about he-who-shall-not-be-named, any angst I’ve ever experienced about relationships, past or imminent, eased off.

I didn’t care when I stumbled out on to Oxford Street moments after my session (I have been known to cry in the face of teeming crowds), and I didn’t experience so much as a sweaty palm onboard a plane the next day. I was in control, calm and confident.

Teach yourself self-hypnosis

Cognitive hypnotherapist Katie Abbott suggests some positive-thinking techniques that can be tried by anyone, anytime, anywhere

Sometimes in life, we feel or act as though we’re in a trance. We do things or feel things we know aren’t good for us, but we carry on doing them regardless. Cognitive hypnotherapy works to take you out of that trance, to dehypnotise you so that you are free to be the way you want to be. Whether you’re at home, at work or on holiday, these simple self – hypnosis exercises will enable you to perform simple mind maintenance …

Learn self-hypnosis

This can be done any time, anywhere, and is a great way to combat stress, re-energise or bring yourself out of a negative mood …

1. Breathe slowly, deeply and evenly from your stomach, not your chest.

2. With every exhale, say a word that represents the way you want to feel. For example, say “calm” or “energised”.

3. Recall a comforting image or memory from your past. Vividly re-experience it, remembering the sights, sounds and smells around you. Was it warm or cold? Were there any intense colours, or perhaps a scent in the air?

4. Try adding your own elements to this – add to the surroundings or environment to make it even more comforting. Practise this for three to five minutes a couple of times a week, and enjoy the benefits it can bring you.

Acting “as if”

There are no physiological differences between real and acted emotions. When you watch a film you may cry if there is an emotional scene, or you may cover your eyes during a frightening scene. You know that these are actors and the story is fictional, yet your mind and body still react as if they are real – your emotions are affected by your imagination. In the same way, acting as if you are happy can allow your brain to believe you are actually happy. The steps to achieve this are simple …

1. If you want to try to change your mood, just remember to act “as if” it were different.

2. If you feel nervous and tense, act as if you are confident and relaxed. If you want, you can even act as if you are someone else – whoever you want to be. Almost immediately, your physiology and mood may alter – it’s that simple.

Rehearsal

If at any time you are faced with a future event you are concerned about, such as an important meeting or interview, rehearsal is a quick way to change your instinctive or emotional response to that situation. This very simple (and very effective) technique conditions you to associate a comforting feeling with the event you are anxious about …

1. Start breathing deeply to encourage a feeling of relaxation.

2. Rehearse the event as if you were at your very best, from the beginning through to its successful completion. Don’t worry, you are not aiming for an Oscar.

3. Imagine there’s a cinema screen in front of you, on which you can see, hear and feel yourself being exactly the way you would like. Enjoy watching yourself in this state, and look forward to a future where you can always be like this.

Tasks

Being given a task can open up many new possibilities for yourself and those around you. The benefits manifest themselves in many surprising ways. Tasks can be tailored to suit individuals, but here are a couple everyone can try.

Random acts of kindness

Try performing one act of kindness a day. It could be buying a plant for a colleague’s desk, or simply making a cup of tea for someone.

Observe humanity

Sit in a cafe alone for no other reason than to observe passers by. Look at the people and things around you. Just observe life as it passes by, and see what you notice.

· Visit katieabbott.co.uk for details

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