Daniel P Kohen MD

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In working with hypnotherapeutic techniques with children it is fundamentally important to remember that hypnosis with children is easy but not simple, it is fun but requires concentration, and it should be conducted with respect for the child and his/her intrinsic abilities. Children learn hypnosis even more easily than adults because they are, as part of their normal growth and development, spontaneously in and out of alternative states of awareness (imagination) all day long. They are also usually highly motivated to make a change (in the problem for which they have come). A key to teaching children how to build these self-regulatory skills is trust and rapport with the clinician. The clinician's approach to and language with the child are also more important than the precise "hypnosis" induction or technique utilized.

introducing hypnosis to children

Children understand hypnosis as the same as or analogous to pretending, daydreaming or imagining. Accordingly, it can and should be presented to them as "something you already know how to do but maybe didn't know you knew, or maybe didn't know you could use to help yourself with {whatever problem they are having]." Believing in children's ability, in their awareness, and in their ability and desire to learn something new, I appeal in a matter-of-fact, expectant fashion to those experiences I know they must have had with daydreaming or imagination. I then build on these in order to introduce, explain, and demystify the forthcoming hypnotherapeutic experience. Thus, I may say, "You know how when you daydream you can pretend to be wherever you are daydreaming and still be where you are?" And they understand. And I might add, "And you can notice everything about whatever you are daydreaming about—what you see and hear there. Isn't that pretty neat?" And then I might matter-of-factly present a "quick opportunity" for a safe, brief hypnotic experience, designed purposely to facilitate comfort, trust, and enhance a sense of personal control:

"Well, before we do anything on purpose to work on the [problem], let's just practice some daydreaming and imagining and relaxing together [reassurance to the child that he/she is not alone] to remember how easy it is; . . . and then later [creating expectations] I'll show you how you can use the same thing [anchor] to help yourself [ego-strengthening]. So . . . just get comfortable and close your eyes and start daydreaming or pretending about something." [Note: Children under six or seven may not want to close their eyes. Clinicians must be aware of, prepared for, and comfortable with this. One might say instead, "And you can close your eyes or keep them open until they close or just look at something carefully to help you concentrate the way you want to on your daydream."]

As is critical with most if not all hypnotherapeutic suggestions for children, these statements are framed with certain principles in mind: i.e., choices that imply directly both that change will take place and that the child has options within that choice; that you believe what you are saying and that the child is competent to make a change occur; that the child is in control and you are the coach or teacher; and that you respect and believe in the child.

As the child closes eyes and/or develops fixed gaze to indicate trance has begun, simple suggestions to build the imagery are all that are required to enhance the belief in (and "depth"of) the hypnotic experience. These should be multisensory, permissive, open-ended, and general: "While you are daydreaming or pretending or imagining —I don't know which you like the best—make sure it is really fun because [children, like adults, need a reason to carry out the suggestion] you are the boss of your imagination [ego-strengthening]. Notice [an invitation to concentrate, pay attention] what you see there in your imagining, who is with you or maybe you're alone or with friends or family or new friends. Notice where you are, whether you're inside or outside, whether the weather is hot or cold or in between, or rainy or snowy . . . and hear the sounds there in your favorite place . . . maybe you'll hear voices of people talking, or sounds of music, or machines, or of the weather ... or maybe it's quiet and you'll listen to the quiet . . . and notice the smells where you are imagining, and the tastes there. ..."

Often I will point out to the child the importance of understanding the "natural way that the body relaxes when you focus your imagination this way." This, like other suggestions, is offered in order to demystify the experience, to enhance a sense of personal control, as well as to create awareness of physical changes that occur in relation to changes in the mind. Thus, in expectant fashion, while the child is in a hypnotic state, I will say, "You probably already noticed [and if she didn't, she will now!] that your face muscles are relaxed" [or "your neck muscles" or . . .] and that your breathing is slower than it was before, and that's because you are doing this exactly the right way . . ." [to reinforce personal control, acceptance, and take the whole thing out of the realm of "spooky or scary"]. I then build on this by adding, "And since you and your brain are the boss of your body, you can even make your relaxation even more than it already is . . . because our bodies already know how to relax . . . and we even relax a little bit each time we breathe out . . . just notice how your shoulders go down every time you breathe out . . . [pause, add "that's right" on next exhalation] so, to help relax even more, just take a slow . . . deep . . . breath . . . in . . . and . . . out . . . and when you breathe out . . . say 'relax' to yourself in your inside thinking . . . and just notice what happens as your shoulders go down and relax."

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Advanced Hypnosis For Newbies

Advanced Hypnosis For Newbies

For anyone concerned that this is a report designed to teach readers how to convince crowds of people to act like chickens or dance to an unheard song just with a carefully placed keyword - relax. While hypnosis is often paraded in that form with large crowds visiting celebrity hypnosis experts to see what wonders they can perform, the majority of hypnosis used is to aid people seeking a solution to a problem they cannot resolve easily with any other method.

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