Hypnotherapy for Addictions – It’s Not Just About Stopping!
After a lot of contemplation, I have decided it is time to write this blog. It may ruffle a few feathers and even attract some negative attention, but I don’t really care about any of that.
This post is for my fellow professionals (to kick them in the backside), and also for anyone who is struggling with an addiction and considering seeing a hypnotherapist for help.
I have almost 20 years of personal experience with recovery from my own addictions. I also have over 10 years experience of working in a supporting role as a therapist and a coach in this area. In this time, I have pretty much seen and heard it all, and, these days, there is very little that shocks me.
During my time in this role, I have been honored enough to guide clients through transformative experiences of recovery, but I have also had times where, despite giving my best attention and support, my work has failed to have an impact. That’s the honest truth!
In all honesty, I never really know if the work I do with my clients is going to be successful in helping them end addiction. I am delighted when it does, but am also humbled and accepting in the times when it doesn’t.
These days, I am very careful about who I take on as a client. If I don’t see a high level of readiness and a willingness to actively engage in the process, even if they are willing to pay my fee, I won’t take them on as a client.
Overall, I probably turn down around 25% of the people who approach me. This may seem like a poor business strategy, but most of the people I turn down are really appreciative of my honesty. I tell them what I think is needed and where they need to be in themselves before I will work with them.
It is up to them whether or not they follow my guidance. I currently have a three week waiting list for appointments, so something is working for me in this approach.
It’s Not Just About Stopping!
I recently did some ghost emailing and contacted a few hypnotherapists under the guise of a client seeking help for an alcohol addiction. The responses I got were worrying to say the least!
Most of the responses showed a complete lack of understanding of what addiction actually is! Most of the hypnotherapists seemed absolutely certain that they could resolve my addiction in just 2-3 sessions.
One even said with firm conviction that it would take just a single session to resolve. What’s more, some of them claimed to have specialist training in the area of addiction hypnotherapy, whilst a couple of them claimed to have helped thousands of people free themselves of alcohol addiction!
All of this is very worrying for a few good reasons!
What is addiction? These hypnotherapists clearly do not understand what addiction really is! Addiction isn’t just some habit that has gotten a little out of control. Addiction has many levels to it, and each one of these needs to be approached with care. Also, it is not the frequency or amount of alcohol, but the relationship too it that determines addiction.
Duty of care! Not one of these hypnotherapists asked me if I had spoken to my GP, or sought any other professional help before I contacted them. Just stopping alcohol can be extremely dangerous for someone who is addicted to it, and can, in the case of physical dependency, result in death if the appropriate supervision is not given along with prescribed medication.
These hypnotherapists are lying about training! There is, to my knowledge, no certified specialist training in addiction hypnotherapy currently available. I run a workshop for hypnotherapists, which, whilst having solid content, is not accredited by any governing bodies. The London college of clinical hypnotherapy occasionally runs a CPD training day, but that’s about your lot! Neither of these count as “specialist training” in my eyes!
These hypnotherapists are lying about their results! They haven’t helped thousands of people free themselves from alcohol addiction. I partly know this because some of their clients come to me having relapsed!
If these hypnotherapists have seen thousands of clients for this issue, which I seriously doubt, they have most likely helped them to create a temporary break in their pattern. I suspect this is the case for a couple of reasons. One is that I can easily use hypnosis along with strong direct suggestion to create a temporary pattern break.
During the time that this pattern break is effective, which is usually anything from two weeks to (in rare cases) six months, the client will experience little or no desire to drink – but it won’t last because the underlying causes, the actual roots of addiction, have not been dealt with!
And yet these hypnotherapists are ticking these clients off as another success that adds to their “95% success rate”. (It’s against advertising law to make such claims.)
I don’t need to tell you why this is insane! It’s like trimming a privet hedge into a certain shape and expecting it to stay that way forever!
Sphere of competence! Not one of these hypnotherapists seemed to be taking duty of care into account in that they seemed completely unaware of the limitations of their brief. Not one of them suggested a phone call or consultation to see if they could REALLY help, or if my needs were beyond their sphere of competence to work with.
Personally, I will never offer an appointment to a client without first speaking to them about their problem and its history in their lives. I don’t want them to waste their time and money if for some reason I cannot work with them. “First do no harm” is the rule! Believe me when I say that I have learnt this the hard way!
It’s Not Just About Stopping!
Stopping an addiction doesn’t change your life! Stopping an addiction gives you sobriety, and this gives you the stability and clarity you need in order to do some deep work on yourself in which you face, and work through, the issues that led to addiction in the first place.
If the focus of therapy is only on stopping the use of a substance or behavior, then it will not serve the addict in desperate need of help. If anything, it could lead to a deepening of their problems further down the line. Believe me when I say that I have learnt this the hard way!
It’s Not Just About Stopping….. It’s About An Integral Approach!
I use an integral approach in my work with clients who are seeking help for an addiction. Stopping is the easy part! Once the addiction has stopped, then the real work begins. Some examples of what the real work might involve are:
Lifestyle change! This involves creating balance and structure across the whole of a client’s life. It is absolutely unrealistic to expect an addiction to permanently stop if your life is a car crash. A burdened man or woman without nourishment stands no chance.
Scheduling time in the diary for deep relaxation and self-care is an essential part of the work I do with my clients. Once you have good structure in place, you can relax into it. Without it, you are lost and vulnerable to two of the main relapse triggers – boredom and indecision!
Creating space! Lifestyle change takes care of some of this, in that habits and relationships that no longer serve you are let go. Creating internal space is also important!
Taking care of outdated belief systems and identity imprints that no longer serve you is absolutely essential. If you don’t do this work, it’s like trying to create space in your home by re-organising all of the crap that you don’t need anymore. In other words, HOPELESS!
Daily practice! Daily practice is essential. It’s about opening the body and the breath so that you can press out the kinks in your nervous system and break the patterns of habitual holding that are fertile ground for addiction. If the body is soft and relaxed, the breath is deep and full, and your attention is trained, it is almost impossible for an addictive pattern to take hold. In committing to a daily practice, you make your body and mind an inhospitable place for any addictions to survive.
Ingraining a new mindset! The addicted mind is cluttered and undisciplined. Lacking in direction and structure, your attention will spin and grasp for whatever feels good in the moment. The price for living life this way is a high level of mediocrity, which is often accompanied by addiction.
When you live in this undisciplined mindset, you are mostly out of touch with your resources and are a bit like, to quote Steve Chandler, “a millionaire with a dollar in a million different bank accounts”. In other words, even though you are wealthy, you are not going to experience feeling that way!
Clearing the clutter and indecision and disciplining the way you use your mind is an essential part of ending addiction. It’s the essential switch from your thinking using you to you using your thinking. The mind is a great servant, but a terrible master! Make thinking serve you!
Creating a powerful vision! Creating a powerful vision is very important in ending an addiction. The unconscious part of your mind begs for guidance and a powerful vision lays the blueprints for it to align with.
I strongly believe that each and every one of us has a unique purpose for being alive and that addiction is what arises in the lives of those who have not aligned themselves with that purpose.
A powerful vision that is built upon core values and actions brings us back on track and is the perfect channel for the energy that has been bound up in addiction to flow into.
Most addicts I have worked with are creative people. Creative energy can do amazing things, but it can also be destructive if not given a channel of expression. Addiction is our creative energy imploded. The antidote to this implosion is a daily commitment to action that is based on a powerful vision.
Building healthy self-esteem! I have very rarely met anyone who, in my experience, has a truly healthy level of self-esteem. Most people have either low self-esteem, or sometimes an inflated self-esteem that looks like confidence, but isn’t! Wherever you find yourself on the self-esteem scale, the challenge in ending an addiction is one of coming to a place of genuine self-worth.
This takes time! There is no quick fix on this one, and no one can do it for you. As Nathaniel Brandon says, “No one is coming to save you”.
Read that again.
Now, read it again! And again.
Read it again and again until you really get it! “No one is coming to save you”.
This is excellent news because it puts you face to face with the truth that there is only one person who can save you from yourself, and that’s the one who is reading these words right now.
Working a program! For some, myself included, working a program is essential as an accompaniment to therapy. Not everyone needs this, but many do. I still go to my 12-step meetings and I still work the program!
As I write these words, I have the best part of 20 years of freedom from my addiction. And I work the program!
For years I didn’t work the program and, although I remained abstinent, my life lacked stability. The program gives stability!
It’s Not Just About Stopping! It’s About Facing Up To Reality!
To anyone looking for hypnotherapy as a quick fix or magic wand, this post probably won’t have been pleasant reading. For those hypnotherapists who sit on their lofty plinth with outrageous claims, I hope it has been a wake up call!
If you fall into either of those camps, you probably didn’t read this far anyway. If you have read this far and are not put off, then maybe my approach is for you. I don’t claim that my way of working is the only way, or the right way even. What I do know is that it’s honest and real, and has been forged through genuine experience, where the rubber meets the road.
If you are an addict who is genuinely seeking help, let’s have a conversation.
If you are a hypnotherapist looking to deepen this area of your work, let’s have a conversation.