Using heart-centered hypnotherapy with children
Abstract: This article presents the inclusion of parents in hypnotherapy with children. Understanding the process helps parents to better support and reinforce the child’s desired changes. Also mentioned is the need to prepare children prior to the session to eliminate anxiety. This knowledge provides a more relaxed and focused experience in session. The examples given of using hypnotherapy with children support the conclusion that hypnotherapy is a valuable technique to implement to have children remain focused, recall memories, identify core issues, change behaviors, and access a deep level of healing.
In this article I share my experiences of using Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy with children. I discuss what information to share with parents when suggesting the use of hypnotherapy with their child, and how to prepare the child for the hypnotherapy session. I then give examples of how hypnotherapy helps children remain focused, recall memories, identify core issues, change behaviors, and access a deep level of healing.
When approaching parents with the idea of using hypnotherapy with their child, I briefly explain the hypnotherapy process. During the discussion with parents and children, it is important to use words that would be most familiar to them. For example, I substitute “guided imagery” for “induction.” While discussing the session with parents, I mention the likelihood of the child needing to release stored energy. I explain some of the possible tools the child may use to release this energy, such as an “energy release hose” and punching bag. I have found it better to explain this before the session rather than after.
Once, after a session, a young child told his parent how good it felt to hit a punching bag with a hose. This parent was upset at first, but after explaining the rationale behind getting the child to release his pent up energy the parent was accepting. However, explaining it beforehand could have eliminated the parent’s immediate misconception of her child being “out of control.” If after explaining the hypnotherapy process the parent still feels unsure, I may offer the parent an opportunity to do the “guided imagery” segment with the child. I have found it reassuring for parents to experience the self-control the child will have during and after the session.
After explaining the hypnotherapy process to parents, I change the focus to preparing children. Before beginning the hypnotherapy session with the child, I get him/her familiar with the process. First, the child gets to choose where to sit during the session: the couch, chair, or beanbag chair. The beanbag chair seems to be the favorite, while I sit on the floor beside the child. The child will reach a deeper level of relaxation when he/she is in a position that is most comfortable. When situated, I show the child the tools that may be used during the session and have the child practice using each of them. I introduce the idea of tapping the forehead to begin the age regression. Because my place of employment suggests I do not touch my clients, I have the child tap his/her own forehead. I model the tapping first on my own head and then have the child copy me as we practice together. I inform the child that I will let him/her know when to use the tools and tapping technique, and when to stop. Then we proceed with the session.
Before completion we audiotape the healing portion of the session. The child brings home the tape and is instructed to listen to it once a day until our next session. I remind the child that only the guided imagery and healing portion of the session were taped. The child also gets an index card with new affirmations written on it. This card should be posted where the child will read it several times a day. Depending on the age and/or ability of the child, it is suggested to say aloud or write the affirmations ten times a day. If this is the first hypnotherapy session, I offer the child to take home the teddy bear used in the healing portion of the session. Hopefully the bear will continue to remind the child of the positive healing experience. The child is encouraged to bring the bear back to use in future sessions, but if forgotten I let the child borrow a bear from my office. With younger children, I may ask if the child would like to share any of his/her experiences with the parent. If so, the parent is invited in and we briefly talk. This helps the parent of young children to better understand and support the child after a session. Parents try to reinforce the child’s new affirmations at home. However, if the child does not want to include the parents, I respect that decision. In either case, I tell parents about the affirmation and tape assignment given to the child. I have found that children are more likely to do the assignment if they know the parents are aware of the assignment.
The next section shares with the reader my successful experiences with children and hypnotherapy. I have found that hypnotherapy increases children’s ability to remain focused, recall painful memories, identify core issues, change certain behaviors, and access a deep level of healing. The names of the children discussed in the examples below have been changed to protect their identities.
I have found that hypnotherapy is a helpful technique to get children to focus. For various reasons, children may find it difficult to stay connected to a conversation in a therapy session.
This was true for my nine-year-old client, Brian. He was diagnosed with ADHD, and was always distracted during our sessions. Brian’s attention was easily withdrawn from conversations by the sights and sounds around the office. He also had a habit of looking at the clock to see how much time we had left in our session. Often, it felt like there was more time spent redirecting Brian than actually talking about his situation. However, this changed in his hypnotherapy session. Brian was able to remain focused for the entire session. Encouraging Brian to keep his eyes closed helped to eliminate the visual distractions. Because Brian was deeply connected to his experiences in the session, he did not react to the sounds that had usually distracted him. At the end of the session Brian opened his eyes and eventually looked at the clock. Brian jokingly commented how he had never talked to anyone for that length of time. Brian made some valuable gains in his session due to his ability to remain focused.
Recall Painful Memories
I have noticed how Hypnotherapy has allowed children to recall painful experiences with more ease than “talking” about the experience. When past experiences are painful or embarrassing for children, they become reluctant to share the information. They try to avoid judgment on themselves or the situation. However, in hypnotherapy children let down this guard and access the painful memories they otherwise avoid.
Once, I was working with a fourteen-year-old girl named Judy who was sexually abused by her father. Judy had an extremely difficult time discussing anything related to the abuse. Judy assumed that she was betraying her father if she mentioned anything about his behavior or her feelings toward him. This “protection of her father” made it very difficult to discuss any of her experiences. To Judy’s advantage, during her hypnotherapy session, she regressed to a time when her father was abusing her. Judy was able to recall some of the details about the abuse she had “forgotten.” It was crucial for Judy to return to this experience in order to get in touch with her repressed and “forgotten” emotions. After identifying the emotions Judy experienced during the abuse, she was then able to release emotions she had hidden for several years. After the session, Judy expressed her sense of relief after finally releasing her feelings.
Identify Core Issues
Through the hypnotherapy process, I guide children to identify core issues that ignite current problems. Children often assume they know the direction to follow when trying to solve a problem. Thankfully, the steps in the hypnotherapy process keep children in touch with the real issue.
I was working with a sixteen-year-old named Sally, who at the time was having severe fighting issues with her mother. During Sally’s earlier years, her mother was an alcoholic and drug addict. As we began to talk about her past, Sally insisted that she was angry enough with her mother and did not want to “go there.” Instead, Sally wanted to talk about the presenting issue of how to get along with her mother. However, getting along with her mother was not the sole answer. There was an underlying core issue that was producing the fights between Sally and her mother. If the issue was not addressed it would continue to produce the same or similar patterns of behavior. In the hypnotherapy session, Sally began with a recent fight she had with her mother. Sally acknowledged her feeling of anger. Eventually, the feeling linked Sally back to the time when her mother made her live with another family member due to the mother’s excessive use of alcohol and drugs.
By returning to these past experiences, Sally was able to recognize her sense of abandonment by her mother. Sally connected this abandonment with her resistance in getting along with her mother at this time in her life. As the pattern of her behavior became clear, Sally realized she needed to continue her work on abandonment before any changes could take place with her mother. After the session, Sally expressed her surprise that feelings from long ago would still be affecting her now.
Change Certain Behaviors
I have found that hypnotherapy provides children with an understanding of “why” they engage in certain behaviors and “how” they can change those behaviors. Unfortunately, some children accept the way things are. However, I have seen how hypnotherapy with children can change this perception.
I worked with a thirteen-year-old boy, Jake, who was repeatedly sent down to the principal’s office for fighting. When we talked about the situation, Jake replied, “I don’t know why I fight with them, I just do.” Jake was accepting his behavior as if he couldn’t understand or control it. That is, until he experienced a hypnotherapy session. Through age regression, Jake went back to a time in his life when he concluded that he was not good enough to get others’ attention. Consequently, Jake made the decision that arguing was the way to get attention. By returning to this developmental stage in which the experience occurred, Jake successfully corrected the false conclusion he had made. By correcting this experience and developing the new conclusion that he deserves a positive relationship with others, Jake created new decisions on how he could appropriately gain attention from others. After the session, Jake shared his enlightenment. Several months following the session, Jake reported that he no longer is sent down to the principal’s office and has been invited to more social events with friends.
Access a Deep Level of Healing
I appreciate how the hypnotherapy process provides structure for deep levels of healing within children. I have found the healing portion of the session to be powerful and nurturing for children.
Tonya, a sixteen-year-old client, was trying to overcome her fear of confronting a friend. Although she knew that she had to address the way her friend was treating her, Tonya’s lack of self-confidence and self-esteem kept getting in the way. This began to change for Tonya, after engaging in hypnotherapy. Through age regressions, emotions were released and new conclusions were developed, which helped Tonya gain insightful information. She recognized the old insecurities that prevented her from addressing present issues. In the healing portion of the session, Tonya connected with her “younger child within”–the six-year-old she went to during age regressions. She identified and delivered what this child needed to hear and feel in order to heal from the experience.
This level of healing needed to take place in order for Tonya to change her perception of herself and her needs. Tonya’s experience of “talking” to her six-year-old permitted her to see that it was important to Tonya to be able to stand up for herself and protect that child. The affirmations she created at the end of the session supported a positive self-esteem and ability to stand up for her own needs. A few weeks after her sessions, Tonya reported that things were going well. She had written out her affirmations and continued to listen to her taped session daily. Tonya had a “talk” with her friend about how she was being treated and claimed this helped their relationship immensely. Tonya’s mother reported that Tonya had a superb performance in her sporting activities two weeks in a row. I believe the hypnotherapy session, Tonya’s ability to connect with her “younger child,” and the reinforcement work at home helped Tonya develop her self-confidence.
In conclusion, it is experiences like Tonya’s and the other children’s that encourage me to continue the use of hypnotherapy. For continued success, parents will always be informed about the hypnotherapy process to eliminate any misconceptions. This also puts them at ease when deciding to use hypnotherapy with their child. I will also continue to prepare children prior to their session to alleviate anxiety. It is in this environment that children can successfully remain focused, recall memories, identify core issues, change certain behaviors, and access a deep level of healing. I feel the children I work with, and their parents are thankful for the positive changes that take place as a result of hypnotherapy.
Cathy Geniti, M.Ed., Educator/Counselor, 359 Ballston Ave., Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, email@example.com
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