Tailoring Hypnosis to Children

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As you will see in the presentation in this chapter by Kohen, success in working with children requires that you adapt induction procedures and suggestions to the age of the child. Significant research has documented, for instance, that children have difficulty closing their eyes in hypnosis and will often respond better when this is not demanded (London & Cooper, 1969;

Moore & Cooper, 1966; Moore & Lauer, 1963). Developmental issues with children should be taken into account (e.g., adapting language to the age of the child and considering cognitive and perceptual skills at various ages).

Taking developmental issues into account, Olness and Gardner (1988) recommend induction techniques with children ages two to four that include blowing bubbles, pop-up books, storytelling, using a stereoscopic viewer, imagining a favorite activity, speaking to the child through a stuffed animal or doll, use of a Raggedy Ann or Andy doll, and watching an induction on videotape.

Between the ages of four and six, useful inductions may include imagining a favorite place, imagining interactions with favorite animals, imagining being in a flower garden, storytelling, imagining a chalkboard with letters of the alphabet appearing on it, imagining a television program, use of a stereoscopic viewer, pretending to be bouncing a ball, and imagining activities on a playground (Olness & Gardner, 1988).

In middle childhood (ages seven to eleven), meaningful inductions often include imagining a favorite place, activity, or music, imagining riding a bike or being carried on a magic flying blanket, imagining watching clouds change shapes and colors, or eye fixation on a point on their hand. Adolescents frequently enjoy induction procedures such as arm catalepsy, imagining driving a car, being in a favorite place or engaged in a sports activity, imagining playing or hearing music, arm levitation, absorption in breathing, and adult methods of induction (Olness & Gardner, 1988).

Sometimes parents will be resistant to the idea of using hypnosis with their children because of widespread misconceptions about hypnosis (Gardner, 1974b). Educating parents concerning myths and the nature of hypnosis, as well as the specific advantages of using hypnosis with their child, will be invaluable. You may also allay parental fears by allowing them to observe hypnotherapy with their children, although it has been suggested that this be postponed until after the initial induction (Gardner, 1974b). Some parents may additionally wish to experience hypnosis themselves to set their minds at ease. Gardner's contribution at the beginning of this chapter provides other ideas for helping parents see the advantages of child hypnotherapy.

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