Wellness Institute Blog

Can Hypnotherapy Help in Treating a Child with Phobias?

Posted by Diane Zimberoff  Aug 18, 2016 8:30:00 AM

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Children and teenagers love hypnosis. Why, you may ask. The reason is threefold:

  • First, children are naturally in a trance state most of the time. They visualize and fantasize, they tell themselves stories, they use their imagination profusely!
  • Second, they are very much in touch with their bodies and what they feel since they haven¹t learned how to censor “the right or wrong” answer. In other words, they tell it like it is!
  • And third, they are profoundly connected with their senses, seeing, hearing, feeling, etc.

This is exactly how hypnosis works. When we move into the subconscious mind in hypnosis, we bypass the conscious mind of thinking, analyzing and debating. The subconscious mind holds all our bodily sensations as we will see in this recounting of a hypnotherapy session with a nine-year-old who has a long term phobia of spiders, shared with us by therapist Patricia Zishka. All feelings such as fear, anger, shame, excitement are also located within the subconscious mind. So hypnotherapy with children is a natural and this therapist used her creativity and depth of skills to alleviate this phobia in two sessions.

Nine year old Jason was phobic about spiders. His mother had taken him to a therapist for EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and he had not been responsive to that particular process. Because she had benefitted from Heart-centered Hypnotherapy herself, she asked me to do a session with him. He came into my office for an hour the first time I met with him. I asked him what he felt in his body when he saw a spider. He responded easily. "I go all white inside".

After 15 minutes, we went into my hypnotherapy room. Needless to say, he immediately bonded with the release bag. After five minutes of hitting the bag, we did a simple induction and anchoring of a safe place. We ended with my request for him to draw a spider. When he completed it, I asked him if he wanted to take the drawing with him or leave it with me. He wanted me to keep it, so I put it on the bag and told him it would be there when he returned. "I think I know what we're going to do with that when I come back", he said.

Over the next week, his mother helped him with the anchoring of his safe place and the result was he felt confident in accessing his anchor, in his driveway by the basketball hoop with a TV. Fortunately I remembered to place the spider drawing on the bag when he returned. He seemed quite excited to go to the hypnotherapy room again. In the one regression we did, he went back to being "about three" he thought. He had seen a daddy long legs and "it was as big as my head". I had him talk to the spider and he told it how big it was and that he was really afraid of it. His conclusion was that he wasn't able to protect himself and he decided he would try to get away. I asked him what he would like to do currently to the spider and he said "kill it dead". I gave him the hose and told him the spider was on the bag. He beat the spider until he had clearly mutilated the drawing beyond recognition and wanted to open his eyes to be certain of that. While he was hitting the bag, he stopped for a moment and said "my nervous system is all red now". I realize this doesn't need to be said, but Jason had no knowledge of the autonomic nervous system. He just knew at some experiential level what was happening in his body and I interpreted this statement as moving out of the phobic response into a space of empowerment.

At another point in the beating of the spider, he stopped and said, "I feel kinda sorry for the spider". I told him we could talk about that when he was finished. When he was done, he was obviously quite pleased with himself. With a few questions, we were able to determine how he felt inside and we resourced the image he had of himself, the one with the power, complete with a magic sword. I asked him how he now felt about beating and killing the spider and he was, thankfully, ambivalent. We talked about how it might be possible, with his new conclusion of "I'm powerful", not to have to "get away" but to just keep an eye on the spider to be certain IT stayed away.

I spoke with his mother a month later. She said there was no evidence of the phobia.

This work was done in just two one-hour sessions. Try getting those results with CBT.

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Topics: All issues that hypnotherapy helps treat