When I work with children I sometimes use the techniques of pediatric clinical hypnosis and hypnotherapy to help them to master fears, learn new skills, or cope with anxiety. Hypnosis is an effective way to engage a child’s internal resources to solve problems. The approach will feel comfortable to anyone who has had experience with mindfulness meditation, and area of my training and expertise, or other modes of stress reduction although hypnosis is usually used to address a specific condition or problem.
For example, when I work with a child who has been anxious and fearful of “getting a shot” or having his blood drawn I teach him and his parents how to use hypnosis to provide comfort and distraction during medical procedures. Using clinical hypnosis for parent and child together can be transformative, even when the parent has his or her own anxieties about medical procedures.
Sometimes hypnotherapy includes teaching a child self-hypnosis to master new skills. I can help a child who has been wetting her bed at night how to stay dry until she can take herself into the bathroom. A child who has been resistant to being alone at bedtime can learn to use her imagination and special relaxation techniques designed especially for her to feel safe without her parents staying in the room. I can teach a child to manage pain from illness or injury by learning about how her brain notices and reacts to pain and then learning new ways to respond.
Clinical hypnosis is powerful, but it isn’t magic or manipulation. It is simply a way of intentionally focusing one’s attention by being guided into a relaxed and daydream like state of consciousness. For children, this state is easily achieved since they are often deeply absorbed in their own thoughts and feelings. I help a young child imagine a fun activity or a special place where she feels happy and safe and then tell her a story about a child just like her who figured out a way to solve a problem. An older child learns to use her breathing to relax herself when she’s worried. I might help a child to find her own solution to a problem in her imagination and then tell me what she discovers. Some children call me their “imagination coach”.
Older children especially benefit from being taught self-hypnosis. They learn ways to consciously relax themselves and to then imagine and experience or review steps that will help them to solve specific problems. Clinical hypnosis is especially helpful for managing worries about upcoming events such as going to camp, falling asleep, preparing for tests, or doing well in sports. In fact, hypnosis can lead to better performance in school as a child or teen learns to visualize positive outcomes.
I often use the term clinical hypnosis or clinical hypnotherapy because the techniques I use are different from the “hypnosis” you might have seen on reality television shows or in movies. The work that I do is the result of hundreds of hours of training and supervision from experts in the field (you can read about my training in my C.V.) Pediatric hypnotherapy, done well, is individualized for a child’s unique needs, and it is the shaping of each session that is the art and science of effective hypnosis.
You may find that the self-hypnosis techniques are so useful to you and your child that they become part of your daily life together.
If you have any questions about clinical hypnosis and hypnotherapy or the way in which it may be useful to your child, please ask. I am also happy to share readings and references with you about clinical hypnosis and hypnotherapy.