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In the recent past, with regards to a 2007 which was carried out in the United States, anxiety disorders were the most prevalent form of mental illness, with about 40 million grown-ups aged above 18 years – an equivalent of 18.1% of the total population being affected every year (Anxiety and Depression Association of America). On the other hand, specific phobias affect about 19 million adults, or an equivalent of 8.7% of the total population of the United States, with women having a higher probability of being affected as compared to men. Moreover, according to statistics from the American Psychological Association (APA), in 2015, the levels of stress in overall were reported to have increased with a greater percentage of adults reporting extreme levels than in the past year. Hypnosis is a crucial, alternative and complementary medicinal technique which attempts to solve different psychological problems including managing stress, anxiety, and phobia.
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According to Golden (2003), Hypnotherapy can be applied in the treating of comprehensive anxiety disorders including job interview, sexual routine anxiety, and other stresses as a result of post traumatic experiences. This method produced compelling results as far as headaches, and irritable bowel disorders which are all stress-related disorders were concerned. On top of that, hypnotherapy can be utilized in the management of phobias such as agoraphobia among others. Hypnotherapeutic treatments for stress, anxiety and phobias are carried out in five stages including orientation where assessment and collection of historical data on the patient occurs, hypnotic induction where the procedure for hypnotic induction is chosen put into use, the in-depth analysis of the hypnosis where several procedures are used, utilization, and termination of hypnosis – the use of numerous techniques to terminate the hypnosis and the patients return to a completely alert state (pp47-56).
The most commonly used hypnotherapeutic treatments for stress, anxiety, and phobias include cognitive-behavior therapy, Ericksonian therapy, Solution-focused brief therapy, curative hypnotherapy and traditional hypnotherapy.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a method of managing stress, anxieties, and phobias. With respect to this model, circumstances do not automatically result to anxiety, rather, anxiety-producing feelings are the ones which lead to anxiety. Cognitive and behavioral techniques with the ability to modify patient’s feelings and judgement to provide a way of managing several disorders that might result from anxiety. Such techniques include coping self-statements, logging, the two-column method, and imagery.
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Coping self-statements can be utilized in reducing anxiety. According to Beck, Emery & Greenberg, this statements are fruitful or productive ideas that can be used by the patients to make themselves ready to face any demanding or stressful situations that they might encounter in the course of their lives. The authors further highlighted that “through the use of imagery, the individual in their heads practice this statements while at the same time imagining or visualizing in their minds how such can be used to manage any demanding situations, in case faced with one (Beck, Emery & Greenberg, 2005 pp1.).
Moreover, logging, which involves beginning a diary to identify thoughts that might lead to anxiety and trying to evade them, helps in identifying anxiety prompts, giving an individual the ability to monitor their anxiety-producing thoughts.
The Two-column method of managing anxiety involves the patient dividing a page into half. The patient then lists all the anxiety-producing thoughts on one side of the page and then generates a set of ideas (coping thoughts) that can be used to manage the situation on the second half of the page (Golden, 2012 pp263).
Using the Cognitive-behavior therapy, treatment of phobias occurs through desensitization. Desensitization is an exposure therapeutic procedure established by Wolpe for management of uncertainties and terrors (Wolpe, 2008 pp239). Desensitization equips individual patients by means of providing an opportunity for them to go up against their terrors, usually in a one step at a time manner. Procedures that enable the body to relax are often utilized in a case where moderation of the situation is of high essence especially if the situation is highly terrifying to the patient. The fear is broken down into particular and specific factors that in some way or the other increase the chance of the patient being anxious. The factors are always grouped in such a way that those factors which increase the likelihood or chance of the patient being anxious are at the top of the pyramid, whereas those with little or no effect on the patient are ordered at the bottom of the pyramid.
An assessment of randomized placebo-controlled trials by Hofmann, & Smits indicates that this kind of hypnotherapeutic techniques are awesome in the management of stress, phobias, and adult anxiety disorders (Hofmann & Smits, 2008 pp621). However, CBT has some limitations too. To begin with, it is not suitable for every individual. CBT requires that the patient be devoted and determined in obtaining a solution or overcoming the condition at hand and improving oneself with the guidance of the psychotherapist (Golden & Friedberg, 1986 pp290).
The Ericksonian hypnotherapy is a very moderate approach to unresolved problems that contribute to stress, anxiety, and phobias. This model was developed by Milton H. Erickson. As a result of Erickson’s use of an informal conversational approach, complex language patterns in addition to therapeutic strategies, his colleagues disputed his labeling of the approach “hypnosis.” Techniques such as self-hypnosis and the rewind technique are used to treat stress, phobias, and anxieties.
According to Mathews, the Ericksonian approach to therapy is based on assumptions including the belief in a changed form of perception coupled up with factors which indicate interference, the supremacy of factors which indicate indirect suggestion over the direct one; and the patients’ vulnerability. The two types of metaphors involved in this form of treatment include isomorphic and interspersal, depending on their nature (Mathews, 2000 pp418).
In his work, Kraft highlights how isomorphic metaphors control the subconscious of the patient by offering some kind of story which has a lesson (a moral lesson). The subconscious will then induce a one-to-one relationship between the occurrences in the story and the one in the situation at hand which needs to be resolved. On the other hand with the other command called the “Embedded Command” technique, the hypnotist tells a motivating story which is aimed at diverting the conscious mind. More often than not, the story would contain a disguised suggestion meant to trick the subconscious into thinking that the story is true. The story furthermore, is usually indirect. The author further states that process instructions, on the other hand, cause the subconscious to locate any kind of memory which can be used as a template for learning from a previous experience so that, that experience can be used to make a crucial positive change in the present( Kraft, 2011 pp235).
In a study conducted to assess the efficacy of the Ericksonian hypnosis, by Holdevici & Craciun, which aimed to reduce stress among patients suffering from stress, and those suffering from other forms of general anxiety, the results exhibited that using the Ericksonian hypnosis led to a considerable decrease in the levels of stress, anxiety, and phobias among the observed patients. Moreover, the process of training in Ericksonian hypnotherapy and applying the learnt knowledge effectively, a hindrance that only a few individuals who are dedicated and ready to work with their therapists can manage to win can manage (Holdevici & Craciun, 2012 pp75).
This form of technique for the treatment of stress, anxiety, and phobias was developed via a combination of aspects of two different techniques – solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) and the Ericksonian hypnotherapy. This combination produced a psychotherapy which is more goal dedicated, compared to the initial one which was more focused on the problem. According to Gingerich & Eisengart, the technique focuses on aiding patients obtain long term remedies to their problems rather than solving problems for a specific time without a lasting solution (2000 pp477).
This approach (SFBT) which was developed in a scientific background amongst many unreliable reports of success from both therapists and clients, had not been exposed to any tests to determine its efficacy.
In their work, (Gingerich & Eisengart, 2000 pp477), carried out an in-depths analysis of all the studies with regards to SFBT to find out the extent with which it was accepted among the people (the extent with which it boasted empirical support). However, this model has various limitations including the continuous perpetuation of the belief that a single can be the same to all the different people (Stalker, Levene & Coady, 2009 pp468).
Curative hypnotherapy was first attempted by David Lesser, who wanted to find the causes to people’s symptoms using both, IMR and detailed questioning. The knowledge possessed by Lesser facilitated the creation of the modern day therapy used today. This treatment method is used in the treatment of stress, anxiety and phobias.
Curative hypnotherapy gives the patient the ability to have access to their instinctive mind. During therapy the patient is able to identify the reasons as to why their instinctive mind is reacting in such a way that it is generating negative symptoms. This process is generally achieved by having a look at the initial event which led to those responses from the subconscious mind. The patient then uses all of the knowledge they have gained from the superseding years to decide whether the response at the time of the original event was the most appropriate or not. This makes it possible for the patients to be able to change their responses, leading to the resolution of the problem and all the relevant symptoms. Depending on the wish of the patients, they may then explain to the therapist the causes of their condition (McGuinness, 2004 pp261).
However, Curative therapy has some limitations too. It is not suitable for every individual. Curative therapy just like CBT requires that the patient be devoted and determined in obtaining a solution or overcoming the condition at hand and improving oneself with the guidance of the psychotherapist (Kraft, 2011 pp235).
This method of treatment of stress, anxiety and phobia, is the most practiced form of hypnotherapy by most Victorian hypnotists. Traditional hypnosis involves making direct suggestions to the unconscious mind. This method of treatment works on patients who particularly accept what they are told without questioning. The limitation of this form of treatment is that they are ineffective for people who analytical or critical in their thinking mechanisms.
In conclusion, hypnotherapeutic treatments for stress, anxiety and phobias involves the use of different techniques such as cognitive-behavior therapy, Ericksonian therapy, Solution-focused brief therapy, curative hypnotherapy, and traditional therapy. Cognitive-behavior therapy is an integrated psychological therapy which utilizes CBH. Ericksonian therapy, on the other hand, was developed by Milton H. Erickson, it has the limitation of requiring several years of training coupled with difficulties in applying the learnt knowledge in real-life as explained. This is a dare that is only acknowledged by the truly dedicated and devoted people. The solution-focused brief therapy was developed via a combination of two techniques (solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT), and the Ericksonian hypnotherapy).Curative hypnotherapy gives patients the ability to have access to their instinctive mind enabling them to identify the factors causing the anxiety after which they are able to focus on how to control them. Finally, there is the traditional hypnotherapeutic treatment in which the patient is required to make direct suggestions to the unconscious mind.
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