hypnotherapy for anxiety



Sally had never had hypnotherapy for anxiety before but she was really struggling, so came to see me to get help while on long term sick leave due to being bullied by a colleague as a result of getting pregnant.

Her home life was stable, she was happy with her partner and children, but this heightened state of anxiety was causing her to frequently snap at her family.

Her GP had prescribed anti-depressants and she was waiting for an appointment for a course of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).

When she came to see me she was in discussions with her employer about returning to work, the thought of returning had increased her anxiety to unmanageable levels and on top of that she found herself unable to read her business emails for fear of what news they may contain.

Sally’s expectations from therapy

Sally wanted to be be able to stand up for herself and to be able to deal with things (like the email) without getting herself into a state of panic. After seeing her doctor and been given a course of anti-depressants she decided to try hypnotherapy for anxiety.

Session 1

I asked Sally to complete a short questionnaire (Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale), her score was off the scale, showing her anxiety levels to be more than severe.

My main priority was to help her deal with the bullying, partly by building her confidence, but I also wanted to help her relax as much as possible and learn how to manage the panic attacks.

I started with a slow induction, followed by a deepener and then worked on helping relax even further by using a mindfulness body scan. This helped Sally into a nice relaxed state. Next I gave her a positive resource (an anchor to recall a powerful positive emotion at will) – something she could use at any time when she felt her anxiety rising. This was followed by visualisation to help her reduce her worries and negative thoughts, and some direct suggestion to help her understand that no matter how bad they might feel, panic attacks will not cause her harm. I finished the session with a control room metaphor which is designed to help her take control of her anxiety and turn it down.

Before she left I gave her some breathing exercises to do at home and asked to her try and take time out to go running – something she had previously told me she really enjoyed.

Session 2

Sally told me that she had started dealing with the business emails she had not been able to read and she was back at work. The bully had been sacked and things were generally going well. I started the second session by asking Sally to complete the same questionnaire, her score had reduced sufficiently to be within the scale but still showed some anxiety.

After inducing a trance state, I worked on helping her let go of worries, using direct suggestion to explain that worrying is predicting the future with a negative outcome. I followed this another control room metaphor and a couple of stories, all designed to give her the ability to let go of such worries and not let them bother her.

Session 3

Sally was visibly brighter and more relaxed but things had taken a downward turn at work; another colleague had taken on the role of bully.

I started the session as usual by asking Sally to complete the questionnaire, her score down again, now showing her anxiety at moderate levels.

For this session I decided to concentrate on helping Sally become more assertive before the new bully got the better of her. I used a mix of direct suggestions, metaphorical stories and visualisations aimed at helping stand up for herself. I finished this session off with an NLP modelling technique to get her to study someone she admires for being assertive and bring the qualities that made that person assertive into herself.

Session 4

With the good progress Sally had shown over the past three weeks we thought that this would probably be the last session. She was much happier and brighter than when we first met and felt able to deal with everyday problems with unnecessary worry and fretting. Furthermore, after completing the questionnaire again her score had fallen to very mild levels of anxiety.

However, the previous week’ conversation it had come out that she had been bullied by a number of people throughout her life and I felt that it was necessary to get her some closure on that bullying in order for her to be able to move on and for the cycle of bullying to stop.

I asked Sally if I could regress her back to the first time she was bullied, and then subsequently to times when she been bullied by other people in her life, giving her the opportunity, in trance, to tell the bullies how they had made her feel, and, if she wished to, then forgive them. This was not going to be easy for her but it would give her the closure she needed. Sally agreed to this and during the process she was emotional, however this was a cathartic emotional release and an important step forward. After this we continued the session re-affirming how she let go of worries and building her self-confidence and assertiveness.

At the end of the session we agreed that Sally had made some great progress and she was now able to manage any worries before they escalated, and so we agreed that we would see how she got on and no more sessions would be planned. If she need to see me then she would call and arrange another appointment.

Post Session

A few weeks later I got a call from Sally. She was pregnant (planned) but the pregnancy has re-ignited some of the anxiety she was feeling about work when we first met.

Unfortunately, we were unable to find a time which was mutually convenient for a couple of weeks but she did come back the following month. She was as bright and happy as I had previously seen her but felt she needed a ‘top-up’.

I asked her to complete the questionnaire again and her score was actually lower than it had been before so we went through all the techniques, methods and metaphors that we had used before and revisited the ones she felt helped her the most.

She also told me that she never took the CBT appointment she was offered as she no longer felt it necessary.

Mark Cousens

*Names and some personal details changed to protect the identity of our clients

Hypnotherapy for Anxiety – case study

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