When I am asked by clients and students what prompted my interest in hypnotherapy, I tell them about the truly life-transforming experience I had after jut one hypnotherapy session for a severe driving phobia (I’d been offered a job which required a considerable amount of driving – and realised I couldn’t take it unless I got over my fear!). As well as this great personal experience, I have long held a deep interest in the ways in which people communicate and interact with each other – a subject which I explored during my Ph.D. in Anthropology. Living in a small community, I explored the complexities of communication and how successfully following the ‘rules’ kept a small community running smoothly, and maintained the cultural norms.
My interest in communication and language influences how I work with clients, and how I teach students. As a therapist, what is it that you’re trying to help your client achieve – and how can you most effectively use language to this end? In hypnosis, your client tends to be in a more receptive state to what you have to say, and you can use this window to employ a range of linguistic techniques which help change perspective and enable a high degree of agency. This is a creative process for the therapist, which is incredibly rewarding, and requires an awareness of a range of linguistic approaches. Whilst hypnotic ‘scripts’ have their place (particularly whilst students are training) – it is vital that you learn the linguistic rules behind the scripts, in order to be a responsive therapist who communicate in a deeply personal and meaningful way with your clients.
Anthropology and hypnotherapy have long standing links, and the famous anthropologists Margaret and her husband Gregory Bateson were interested in the work of Milton Erickson. Considering hypnosis from an anthropological viewpoint emphasises the view that we have already been ‘hypnotised’ to believe what is acceptable, and how we should act. Adopting a hypnotherapeutic approach which is aware of the cultural complexities of communication can help to redress some of the negative ideas and values which a person may have internalised, and use communication to help them adopt positive and empowering ideas and values.