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How paediatric hypnosis can arrest bad behaviour

March 3, 2017

The common techniques of relaxation, storytelling and imagination are often used to transform a child's life in positive ways.

paediatric-hypnosisBy Sheila Menon

While not totally kid’s play, paediatric hypnosis has been successful in transforming the life of children. This is because the language patterns used in clinical hypnosis are very similar to the way children naturally think.

The three most common techniques used are relaxation, storytelling and imagination while the most important part of the process is building trust with the young person.

Children have excellent imaginations. The clinical hypnotherapist will generally help the young person get comfortable and then create an interesting story about the problem to be solved. Using special hypnosis techniques the child embarks on a journey of imagination and metaphor, which is consistent with their own worldview. The child is shown how to solve the problems in this fantasy world and how to acquire the skills they need to cope in real life.

Solving behavioural issues

Clinical hypnosis can be helpful for simple behaviour problems such as coping with new environments (like a new school), situations that cause stress like school bullies, a lack of confidence, fear of the dark and bed wetting. It has also proved helpful in dealing with painful illnesses or medical procedures.

Clinical hypnotherapy can also provide support for children who have become confused about adult situations. Some children can become disturbed by seeing or hearing their parents argue. These children are either more sensitive to complex emotions or they do not have the skills or knowledge to cope with the situation. Rather than place the blame on one or more parent, there is a tendency to assume responsibility for the fight or unpleasant vibe.

This can give rise to feelings of guilt such as “Mum and dad fight because of me” or “I am bad” or simply “It’s my fault”. Another common response is to become like a sponge absorbing all the negative emotions in the home. An indication that your child is unhappy and needs help is when they start to withdraw, act out or become moody. In very extreme situations they may also think about running away or harming themselves.

In the USA about two-thirds of pediatrists regularly use techniques such as relaxation, storytelling and imagination when dealing with behavioural issues. The key to working with children is to provide the young person with a safe place, the tools to solve the problem and someone whom they feel is completely on their side and will not judge them.

How parents can help

Parents also play an important role in paediatric hypnosis. Most therapy sessions begin with the child, parent and therapist. The parent(s) is invited to wait outside whist the clinical hypnotherapist gets to know the child. The session generally ends with the parents rejoining the therapy so the child can share what he or she has learned.

In this way the parents can play an active role in the solution. Sometimes the clinical hypnotherapist will discuss the matter with the parents independently in a separate session. Of course the way these sessions are organised are highly individual and depend on the situation, the problem and the patient.

Clinical hypnosis can also help children prepare for difficult or painful medical procedures. Evidence suggests clinical hypnosis provides relief for both acute and chronic pain management. It works by addressing two key areas, anxiety about the procedure and management of uncomfortable or painful experiences.

The first step would be to discuss the matter with the child’s doctor and on their agreement, to include a clinical hypnotherapist as part of the team. Sometimes the clinical hypnotherapist will teach the accompanying parent how to use simple techniques so that they can continue to support their children at home.

Parents themselves can start the process of contributing to their child’s self-confidence and coping skills by three simple rules i.e. providing consistent boundaries and home rules that are fair and transparent; encouraging good behaviour rather than focusing on disruptive behaviour (the 3:1 rule of three positive to every criticism works); and by being liberal with love and hugs.

Sheila Menon is Principal of the London College of Clinical Hypnosis (LCCH Asia). You can visit the www.lcch.asia website; email [email protected]; or call 03-7960-6439 for more information.

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