Hypnotherapy For Chronic Or Long-Term Illnesses

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Solution-focused hypnotherapist and guest lecturer Kim Clayden has been running her popular 1-day post-graduate CPD (continued professional development) course for over a year now.

We caught up with her to find out why, as hypnotherapists, we should really be looking into gaining skills and insight to work with this ever-growing sector of the population as well as why the solution focused approach can be so successful.

I wanted to give a little more insight into how Solution-Focused Hypnotherapy can really help with chronic or long-term illnesses. This is a subject very close to my heart because I personally use the Solution-Focused approach along with a multidisciplinary team input, to support in managing my own ‘multi-morbidity’ or multiple chronic illnesses.

Latest figures

In some of the latest Department of Heath figures, taken from the Long Term Conditions Compendium of Information report, it is estimated that around 15 million people (over 20%) just in the UK, have one long-term health condition or chronic illness, which are conditions identified as currently without a cure. These conditions are generally managed with drugs, or other treatments and therapies, however, the report noted that the biggest resource in improving the patient’s life can often be the patient themselves.

Solution-Focused Hypnotherapy (SFH) supports this view; one of the central tenets of SFH is that our clients already have the resources and strengths within them, to make significant improvements in their lives. One of the goals of therapy is to support them to identify and draw those out.

But it’s just like treating chronic pain, isn’t it?

Clients with one or more long-term, complex or chronic health conditions, often do not fit under the standard chronic pain ‘empty the stress bucket’ category, which means it can be hugely valuable to offer more understanding and added knowledge to achieve success with these clients.

Why don’t they fit? Unlike someone suffering from chronic pain, which is taught with great success in the HPD course, the pain and symptomatology are more complex, such as with arthritis, hypermobility syndromes, irritable bowel disease, cancer, nerve damage, occipital/trigeminal neuralgia, and lots more. Usually, there are co-morbidities (having more than one health condition at the same time) associated with these conditions too; having a basic understanding of these can make for better client outcomes.

As with all postgraduate learning, deeper knowledge and understanding of how these conditions are different and the many challenges faced by someone affected by these issues is hugely validating for the client and can build healthy client-therapist rapport. Gaining a technical understanding of what can be happening in these clients’ bodies that means they may not respond like typical pain clients, despite asking for help with chronic pain. These clients can also come to us with a massive amount of guilt for things they cannot do and grief for the life they no longer have.

So, what do I do that’s different?

Living with a multitude of chronic illnesses myself, I have the additional knowledge I pass on to my clients in terms of what can help and this, together with significant further research, is the basis for the CPD. Included in the training are specific additions to the initial consultation and revision sessions that are relevant to the way we work, fit into our normal sessions and are based on up-to-date research.  We cover topics such as pacing, as taught to me by independent occupational therapist Jo Southall, which is a revelation to many clients and can transform how they approach their days.

We revise and deepen our understanding of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. How does this affect a client and their symptoms and what can be done to help with those? The gut and brain link and how the gut can activate the brain into fight/flight mode.

We revisit the pain and how it pertains to chronic and long-term health clients, including specialist A fibres; how they can help with pain management, what we can use to create those and how exactly they work in terms of the brain and the sensations we feel.

Positive Action, Interaction and Thought

Often we have to support clients a little differently when it comes to our 3 P’s (positive action, interaction and thought) of serotonin production. For many people coming to terms with chronic or long-term conditions movement generally equals pain in their mind, so having a better understanding of the mechanics of some of the conditions you’re likely to come across, can help you plant seeds within-session so your client can start thinking more creatively about what they can do to increase serotonin production and why this is particularly important for them.

A multidisciplinary approach

Working with long-term and chronic conditions clients means you may find yourself working alongside some great health, medical and allied health professionals such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists. This is due to the complexities that can come along with some of these clients. Being able to have outside support with certain aspects of a client’s overall management is a massive thing for them. There is no ‘one size fits all,’ but together we often make a powerfully therapeutic team.

Solution-Focused Hypnotherapy can help enable these clients to take this information, understand and help guide themselves towards being able to manage their symptoms better, pain better, their lives better, and cope better in general, particularly with flare-ups. As with all our clients, we enable them to bring joy and more balance back into their lives.

They can live a happier, more in control life, it may be different from what they ‘used’ to do, but we are enabling them to create a ‘new normal’ for them. Paving the way for change is a huge aspect of what we do. Our brains always go for the path of least resistance, even if that is detrimental to us. Therefore, I truly believe that we are a big part of how these types of clients can live more joyful lives. Neuroscience education, planting seeds, having that extra knowledge of the conditions, and understanding on how these conditions impact the clients, then how we can use solution-focused questioning to open and expand their thinking, and clinical hypnotherapy to enhance the client experience to be a joyful one.

Why I wrote the CPD

There is only one of me and 15 million people in the UK alone that have these types of conditions. I spent many hours putting this course together to educate and empower more solution-focused hypnotherapists about these conditions and how we can help the many millions of people suffering, struggling and barely getting by. I believe it is essential that we continue to push and educate ourselves about these long-term health conditions so we can be better therapists as a result.

My hope is to eventually have a Solution-Focused Hypnotherapist as part of a client’s multidisciplinary team in the future, no matter where they are based. To get us working within these teams of professionals and support the client’s needs for positive education and change. Solution-focused hypnotherapy changes lives, and I am living proof of that. Additional education and input on these conditions are essential to support them and that is exactly why I wrote my CPD.

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