Cognitive Hypnotherapy

What is Cognitive Hypnotherapy?

The QCH approach is significantly different from the traditional schools of Hypnotherapy. We draw on recent discoveries and ideas from Evolutionary Psychology, Positive Psychology, Cognitive Theory and NLP and incorporate them into a modern idea of hypnosis to provide a framework for therapy. We do not advocate one single approach as the answer to all of life’s problems. We use a range of techniques drawn from different disciplines that we have found to be the most effective tools for change. These are moulded into an approach tailored to the specific needs of each client.

Everyday trance states

Trance states have been utilised since the dawn of recorded history. The ancient Egyptians had ‘dream temples’, yogis perform amazing feats using deep level meditation, and the Native Americans used sweat lodges to induce a changed state for ritual purposes. Hypnosis uses mind states that we all enter into on a daily basis: who hasn’t lost themselves in their thoughts on the drive to work?

For us, the interesting question is ‘who was driving the car while you were lost in those thoughts?’.

The role of the unconscious

Our answer would be ‘your unconscious’. In our view, the unconscious acts as a protective device whose purpose is to keep you safe. Moment to moment, it is processing millions of bits of information received from your senses and filtering them to determine what in your environment is likely to bring you pain or pleasure. Without our ever realising it, we will find ourselves motivated to move towards things (people, activities, behaviour) which our unconscious believes are good for us (on the basis of past experience), and to avoid things it believes bring us harm.

The problem is that for 99% of the time the human race has existed we lived a Stone Age existence where ‘harm’ was obvious and physical. Our nervous system (mediated by the unconscious) is geared to protect us from sabre-toothed tigers, not modern stresses.

All behaviour has a positive intention

If any aspect of modern life is viewed by the unconscious as stressful, it treats it like a threat (the tiger) and the fight or flight response is triggered to get you away from it. So, for example, going to pieces in an interview is actually the struggle between your unconscious trying to get you away from that situation and your conscious fighting to stay put. You can see why a basic assumption we use is 'all behaviour has a purpose' -  even when that behaviour is having a negative effect, it has a positive intention behind it.

When the fight or flight response is triggered, your body is flooded with hormones that perform certain functions, such as increasing respiration and body temperature, and moving blood to the muscles from any area of the body that isn’t involved in fighting for survival. That accounts for the butterflies in the stomach. It also takes blood from the brain because you don’t need to think to fight or run away. So you can basically think or feel, but not both at the same time. The moment the feeling of anxiety or nervousness reaches a certain level, you become physically less able to think – that is why your mind goes blank and you struggle to put together a sentence. But boy, could you run from a tiger!

This model of mental functioning can be used to explain the basis of many problems. Even smoking. If you had an experience when you were younger that led your unconscious to believe that smoking was a good thing (for example, it made you feel like you ‘belonged’), then it will continue to motivate you to crave cigarettes, no matter how much you consciously wish to stop.

It can be a mystery to us why we get locked into behaviours, beliefs and habits which we know reduce the quality of our lives. It is because the unconscious tends to keep the thought patterns that generate them out of our awareness. Recent research has shown that the unconscious is responsible for about 90% of our daily behaviour.

Keeping yourself out of unhelpful trances

In Cognitive Hypnotherapy we believe that trance states are part of the normal experience of being human – as the research above suggests, we spend most of our day in some kind of altered state. Most people experience their issues as being beyond their control, as if some part of them takes over and makes them have the cigarette, eat the cake, run from the spider or go sick rather than give a presentation. As already mentioned, this is a consequence of your unconscious trying to keep you safe, and it uses trance states to make it possible. In a way, every time you do something you can’t control, you’re ‘hypnotised’ by your unconscious into seeing, feeling or doing things a certain way. In Cognitive Hypnotherapy we see our job as ‘de-hypnotising’ you so that you have control over those aspects of your life that you want to be different, and are able to see, feel or do whatever gives you the greatest freedom. If trance states are part of the pattern of your problem, then they are also a powerful part of the solution.

In a nutshell, Cognitive Hypnotherapy uses the client’s natural trance states (like those you experience when driving) to assist in uncovering the feelings, thoughts and memory patterns that led to the problem, and which continue to maintain it.

An 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.