Parents can be of the greatest help in child hypnotherapy if, beyond alleviating their fears and misunderstandings, we show them that there are specific reasons for selecting hypnosis as the treatment of choice at a particular time. That is, parental enthusiasm and cooperation will be maximal if hypnosis is perceived not as "just another treatment" but as having its own special advantages. Of course, some of these benefits will be more relevant for one child than for another, and the hypnotherapist should vary the emphasis accordingly.
likelihood of success
The parents can be told that most children are quite easily hypnotized because of several reasons, including their interest in the technique and the absence of pain or unpleasantness in hypnotic induction. Of course, the parents are cautioned that hypnosis is not effective in every case and, even for a particular child, may be helpful for some problems but not others. It may help to discuss the literature on the use of hypnosis for the problem at hand. This might alleviate parental fear that the child is being experimented upon, especially in the unfortunate but all-too-frequent event that hypnosis is being tried as a last resort.
lack of side effects
For many medical and emotional problems, previous treatment has included drugs which produce drowsiness, nausea, or other unpleasant side effects. Parents are relieved to realize that this is not the case with hypnotherapy. Occasionally, they ask if a child can become "addicted" to hypnosis, wanting to be in hypnosis all the time, but they are reassured, especially when reminded that the purpose of posthypnotic suggestions is to carry the benefits of the hypnotic state over into the waking state.
achieving and maintaining the child's motivation
Both parents and children often become enthusiastic when hypnotherapy is suggested, especially if other treatment techniques have failed. It relieves growing despair by offering a new approach. Increased hope then increases cooperation. If the hypnotherapy is successful, the results are usually obvious and appear quickly, thus allowing even young children to see its value.
Many parents, especially those whose children have serious medical or emotional problems, experience marked feelings of helplessness. They feel that they must stand by—at best useless and more often in the way—while the "experts" work to relieve the child's distress. This is not just true of parents who feel guilty or in some way responsible for their child's problem; most parents derive a special sense of pleasure and fulfillment from helping their children and feel frustrated when this is not possible. Parents who are encouraged to assist in hypnotherapeutic sessions, or at least to encourage the child between sessions, enjoy participating with the "experts" in the helping process.
In fact, it is usually not long before a parent notes that the simple, repetitive, soothing features of hypnotic inductions are similar to the normal behavior of parents toward children in distress. Thus, participation in hypnotherapy can be seen by them as an extension of natural parenting behavior and not as part of the vast array of exotic and unpronounceable drugs, machines, paraphernalia, and concepts which comprise most treatment procedures. Parents come to regard hypnosis with an attitude of casual confidence, knowing that neither they nor we fully understand how it works, but still not looking on it as magic.
When hypnosis is presented as a state which can be used for many purposes, parents often find themselves being quite creative in using hypnotherapy for purposes other than those originally intended. Of course this assumes that the parent has had sufficient training to know when hypnosis might not be appropriate and can maintain contact with the hypnotherapist for consultation as needed. Thus, for example, one parent, whose terminally ill child had successfully used hypnosis for relief of pain and nausea, thought of trying it to help curb the child's excessive appetite when he was put on large doses of steroids; the boy cooperated well and the result was a return to normal appetite level after one hypnotic session. The same parent, however, raised thoughtful questions with the hypnotherapist and agreed to abandon her idea of possibly using hypnosis to gain more understanding of the child's concept of death when it became clear that the outcome might produce unnecessary distress for the child.
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HYPNOTISM is by no means a new art. True, it has been developed into a science in comparatively recent years. But the principles of thought control have been used for thousands of years in India, ancient Egypt, among the Persians, Chinese and in many other ancient lands. Miracles of healing by the spoken word and laying on of hands are recorded in many early writings.