Kelly came to see me with a fear of spiders. She had no idea where the fear came from, but it she found it a constant problem when having to clear spiders out of her young children’s bedroom at night time. She chose to have hypnotherapy for her fear of spiders after a recommendation from a friend who suffered from a fear of heights.
Kelly’s expectations from therapy
Kelly had no wish to become ‘great friends’ with spiders, but she wanted to be able to deal with them without appearing scared in front of the kids, like she said her mum had been when she was young*.
In most cases I have found that phobias can be permanently removed with just one hypnotherapy session.
Before we started I asked Kelly to close her eyes and imagine a situation where her fear of spiders was strong. While she was doing this I observed how her breathing was getting shallower and quicker as her body was going into fight or flight mode. I then asked her to tell me, on a scale of one to ten, how scared or nervous she felt and she reported 8/10.
I then started Kelly’s session with a relaxing induction and then gave her a guided visualisation where I asked her to imagine sitting comfortably in a special room that was full of her favourite things; a room where she was safe and protected and could return to at any point during the hypnosis.
I followed this with a number of NLP techniques designed to re-frame how she felt about spiders, although NLP can be used on it’s own, it is far more powerful when used in conjunction with hypnotherapy. The first was the cutting the ties technique where I guided her onto a beach and had her stand in a circle, next to another circle with spiders in it. I let her know that she was safe and that the spiders could leave their circle, but there was a thin rope connecting that circle to hers. I then asked her to imagine severing the thin rope between her and spiders, symbolising the cutting of emotional ties.
I followed this with a modelling technique, during which I asked her to think of somebody she admired that had no irrational fears, and to study them and find the qualities they had that made them fearless and then bring those qualities into herself.
I then gave her some direct suggestions about how we are so much bigger than spiders and to fear them is irrational – after all there are no deadly spiders in the UK! I also spoke to her about how happy she would be to be able to rid her children’s bedroom of spiders without fear so they could sleep soundly at night and that she wouldn’t want her children to pick up on her fears.
Finally I finished the session with one of my favourite techniques – the cinema technique. I love this technique because it is so powerful, and my clients frequently report how they enjoyed the experience. I asked her to imagine being in a cinema, sitting looking up at the big screen, and then floating out of herself into the projection room where she could look down at herself as she watched the screen. I then asked her to imagine watching a film showing her in an encounter with a spider. When the film ended I got her to rewind it and the play it again but this time at double speed. I then got her to watch it again but backwards, and then again but backwards and with a silly soundtrack.
I finished by bringing her back to her special room and then counting her out of trance.
Once she was back to full awareness I asked to imagine that same situation that she started off with and then give me another score out of ten. It was clear from observing her breathing while she did this that the fear of spiders had been diminished and this time she reported a feeling a 2 or 3 out 10.
A couple of weeks after this I had a text message form Kelly telling me how she was now able to deal with spiders in her children’s bedroom without fear!
* Though some people develop phobias later in life, most people’s phobias stem from an incident that either happened to them or to a parent in the early childhood.
For example in Kelly’s case, though she couldn’t remember it her phobia most likely came about in a way similar to this:
When Kelly was very young she was playing happily with her mum on the lounge carpet when a spider appeared. Kelly’s mum instinctively shrieked and ran out of the room. Kelly’s perception was that running away from the spider kept her mum safe, and so it was the right thing to do. This reaction was then was stored in her subconscious mind as learned behaviour. The next time Kelly saw a spider she repeated her mum’s behaviour and ran away. She found herself safe, and so this enforced the fact the running was the correct thing to do. This pattern continued on into adulthood and Kelly always viewed spiders as threat.
*Names and some personal details changed to protect the identity of our clients