When I work with children I use a variety of techniques to help them master fears, learn new skills, or cope with anxiety. One very effective technique, clinical hypnosis (sometimes called hypnotherapy) is an innovative and effective way to engage a child’s internal resources to solve problems. Similar to mindfulness meditation, an area of my training and expertise, hypnosis utilizes many of the same relaxation principles, but in a targeted, goal oriented way to address a specific problem.
Clinical hypnosis is an evidenced based, highly effective tool for helping children in many areas, both physical and emotional. It can be applied to anxiety, fears, or different types of physical symptoms such as bedwetting, tummy aches, headaches, and tics. One common use of hypnosis is in helping children manage fears in medical settings. 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 with parent and child together can be transformative. Many parents report that not only do they notice their child being more confident and in control, they also feel markedly lower levels of anxiety and worry themselves when assisting their child with the procedure.
Sometimes our work includes teaching a child self-hypnosis to master new skills. A wonderful and highly effective application is in teaching a child the skill to stay dry at night. I can help a child who has been wetting her bed (sometimes called enuresis) learn how to stay dry until she can take herself into the bathroom. Another nighttime confidence building application is in helping a child who has been resistant to being alone at bedtime 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. 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.
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.
Some children call me their “imagination coach” as we work together to build this skill into something that is most useful for the child.
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 questions about clinical hypnosis and hypnotherapy or the way in which it may be useful to your child, please contact me.