What is Cognitive Hypnotherapy?

Many of us live our lives with beliefs, habits and behaviours which we consciously know reduce the quality of our life. We can get locked into negative patterns and behaviours without fully understanding the reasons why. This is because the unconscious keeps the patterns that generate these reasons out of our conscious awareness, to protect us.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy looks to ‘update the software’ of the unconscious mind by getting to the root of a problem, fear or phobia. Cognitive Hypnotherapy and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) are used together and work by communicating with the part of your mind that is responsible for ‘doing the problem’. It is a powerful way to release old unconscious blocks that stand in your path enabling you to let go of outdated beliefs, limiting fears, habits and unnecessary behaviours.

The role of the unconscious

The role of the unconscious mind is to keep us safe and out of harms way. It uses past experiences to give context to present situations. Our unconscious drives our behaviour 90% of the time; think of the daily things you do such as cleaning your teeth, tying shoelaces, making a coffee; you don’t have to consciously think about how to do or achieve these, you just do them! This means that technically you are only in the driving seat of your decision making 10% of the time!

Sometimes we have strong or disproportionate emotional reactions to things in our life. If the protection system of the unconscious mind kicks in to keep us safe from a perceived trigger such as a fear, anxiety or a phobia, our body activates a physical reaction to encourage us to try and avoid the very thing that it believes may bring us harm. Our unconscious mind is driving our behaviour during these times.

All behaviour has a positive intention

In today’s busy and modern world we still very often live in the fight, flight or freeze mode of our Stone Age ancestors, whose main threats were dangerous and physical. Our nervous system (managed by our unconscious mind) is still equipped to protect us from that sabre-toothed tiger, not the stresses of everyday modern life.

When our unconscious views an aspect of our life as stressful it reacts as though it is a threat (the tiger) and the flight or flight response is instantly triggered to make us move from it as quickly and safely as possible.  So crumbling with anxiety during an important presentation at work is actually a conflict between the unconscious trying to get you to leave the situation to keep you safe and your conscious mind fighting for you to stay and complete the presentation; showing that even when a behaviour is having a negative effect it has a positive intention behind it.

As this fight or flight response activates, your body is flooded with hormones that perform certain functions such as gearing your muscles up to be able to run from a situation the unconscious deems as unsafe. This also explains butterflies in the tummy. The blood drains away from the brain because you don’t need to think to fight or run away. This is why when the anxiety culminates at a certain point you become physically unable to think straight; your mind goes blank and you may encounter difficulty stringing a sentence together. Strong emotions make us stupid.

This can begin to explain the basis of many problems.  Even something as seemingly simple as nail biting. If you had an experience at a young age that made your unconscious believe that nail biting was a good thing (for example, like you ‘belonged’) then it will encourage you to continue with that behaviour, no matter how much you consciously wish to stop.

Everyday nature of trance

Cognitive Hypnotherapy works by recognising that we live with the ‘everyday nature of trance’; a natural, daydreaming state that we unconsciously enter all the time such as when driving.  These daydreams mean we often lose conscious awareness of what is going on around us and are in a natural trance more often than not, meaning our behaviour is not always consciously driven.

The same thing happens when a fear, phobia or stress is activated within us; we go into a trance state whilst we are ‘doing our problem’ meaning we have very little conscious control over our reactions. Consequently we call in sick to avoid the work presentation, run from the spider, hide from the scary dog, smoke the cigarette or hide from our anxieties. These trances are a form of hypnosis in themselves. Essentially, Cognitive Hypnotherapy works to de-hypnotise you from the trance state that your unconscious puts you in to protect you.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy looks to uncover the natural trance states to assist in uncovering the thoughts, feelings at patterns that led to the problem and which continue to maintain it. Simple, effective techniques are used to modify these patterns to enable you to take back control of your behaviour.

Evidence based approach

Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy (QCH) launched a unique research project in 2011. Using a team of QCH therapists, clients with anxiety and depression were assessed using the same outcome measures currently used to assess the effectiveness of talking therapies within the NHS. The pilot study was published in the Mental Health Review Journal in 2015. It recorded that, using 118 cases measuring the effectiveness of Cognitive Hypnotherapy for the treatment of depression and anxiety, 71% considered themselves recovered after an average of 4 sessions. This compared to an average of 42% for other approaches using the same measures (like CBT). To our knowledge, this is the only hypnotherapy approach to have been validated in this way. For further information concerning the research project and pilot study released in the Mental Health Review Journal please visit the evidence-based therapy research page.