It is often a difficult decision when working with a client – adult or child – as to whether or not you should encourage them to revisit an original traumatising event which has contributed to their current issues. There is a potential for a client to revisit trauma in a way which can be overwhelming and retraumatising. However, avoiding revisiting the original traumatising event in favour of using forward focused therapeutic approaches may fail to work at a deep enough level of create lasting change. Whilst a child may have a range of tools and some new, more realistic beliefs to help them they may retain an underlying sense that there is something wrong within them, retaining implicit memories of trauma deep within their mind and body.
Hypnosis provides a means to reactive the dissociative state of the child, which was experienced during original trauma, and to access the original emotion associated with the trauma. Because hypnosis accesses the brainstem in the same place where traumas appear to be stored or encoded, hypnosis is well suited to the treatment of traumas.
Any therapeutic work which involves looking at and working with the original trauma must be carried out slowly, in a very safe setting, to allow just the right amount of reactivation whilst preventing retraumatisation. Peter Levine describes the process of revisiting trauma as one of ‘titration’, using the metaphor of slowly mixing two potentially explosive substances together in a slow, measured and controlled way. If this slow, measured, drip-by-drip approach was abandoned in favour of introducing one substance to the other, it could result in a massive explosion – in the same way that suddenly revisiting a trauma could result in a massive, uncontainable emotional explosion.
Hypnotherapy provides the means for the chid to direct the pace and depth at which they are comfortable in discussing and revisiting original traumas, and the work can be ‘contained’ within protective and safe boundaries – for instance, by encouraging a child to visualise a traumatic event whilst they are protected from it by a screen, which they have control over. The child can also reinterpret and change the original event through careful use of imagery and metaphors, for instance, by taking the original event and replacing the picture associated with it. A range of scripts and approaches are provided in my new KidsMatters course, which provides training for practitioners who wish to work in the field of children’s hypnotherapy.
Most importantly, the child is always encouraged to feel that they are in control during a hypnotherapy session, and any trauma work is dependent on their full, informed involvement.