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Review the different hypnotherapeutic treatments for stress, anxieties and phobias.

Hi guys and welcome to my latest post, I hope you all had a great Christmas and are looking forward to a great new year. This post is an extract from an essay I wrote when first training in hypnotherapy.

I hope you enjoy.

In this essay I intent to discuss the hypnotherapeutic treatments for anxieties, phobias and stress. I will start by giving a brief description of each condition then move on to giving a balanced account of treatments for all three and will finish by discussing the limitations of hypnotherapeutic treatment for the three separate conditions.


I will start with stress. What is stress? The oxford dictionary describes stress as “a specific response by the body to a stimulus, as fear or pain that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism”( So as you can see from this definition stress is a natural and normal response for our body’s to undergo however in today’s world we suffer stress for many different reasons from work to our own health or that of a loved one. In our modern existence stress is not always welcome and with the requirements of modern life we cannot always remove stress from our everyday or indeed remove ourselves from the situation that is causing it. Although stress can be caused by every day existence it can also become a learned behaviour, for example it is not uncommon for a child to become stressed by the same occurrences as their parent as this is a learned behaviour from them. Although stress is commonly seen as a bad thing, it is worth remembering that it is a natural reaction and in some circumstances is a required reaction and in our ancestors is likely to have been the reaction that saved their lives on occasion. Josie Haddley and carol Staydacher say “while certain types of stress can be good for you – such as the stressed caused by romantic encounters or the anticipation of a reward – stress that begins to debilitate or produce depression is completely undesirable” ( Hypnosis for change P. 83)

There as six common kinds of stress and below I will list them and give a brief description of each one.

Hypostress: this is caused by being bored or under stimulated and can lead to depression.

Eustress: this is the opposite of hypostress and is caused by competition or deadlines. This can be a positive form of stress and will make an individual feel invigorated, awake and motivated.

Acute stress: a form of stress that starts to affect the body physically.

Episodic stress: this is long term stress that if left untreated can cause serious long term health implications and can even lead to heart attacks.

Chronic stress: this is the worst kind of stress and will if left untreated cause serious health issues. It has been linked to the lowering of the immune system therefor the individual becomes ill on a more regular basis. It has also been linked to several kinds of cancer and other serious conditions.

Traumatic stress: this is commonly caused by an external event such as a bad car accident or another event in which a serious and life changing outcome has occurred. The most commonly known form of this stress is PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and can commonly been seen in soldiers who have served on the front line.

So when these felling of stress become too much for an individual it is not uncommon for them to seek help in alleviating it. In the case of chronic, traumatic or chronic stress it would be unwise for any individual to try and live with these for any significate period of time.

When treating a client that is suffering from stress, an effective form of treatment is to guide them through a sense of letting go of their worries and helping them to gain the control over their stress levels which will help them live the life they want. A good example of this would be to have them visualise writing their worries onto a piece of paper, once they have done this you then ask them to throw this peace of paper into the stream they are standing next to and watch it wash away. This should hopefully allow them to feel a sense of release and hopefully lower the stress levels of the individual.

The above is just one example of how this can be done. You can also help them to realise that a certain amount of stress is normal and that this is just their body’s natural reaction to a given situation. Another benefit of hypnosis for the treatment of stress is the relaxation itself. When treating a client for stress, the use of a PMR may well have large benefits just on its own as this will help the client to relax which may be something they have not done for a long time. You can also implant the suggestion of a trigger which may help to relieve these physical symptoms in ever day life. This would be something like having them clench their fist and linking a feeling of relaxation to this physical motion. They can then do this in everyday life when their stress levels begin to rise.

Hypnosis can be very effective in treating stress however it does also have its limitations. For the more serious kinds of stress it may well by that a multi-disciplined approach is required. This may require the client to also be under the care of a councillor to work though the issues causing the stress and possibly their GP to offer medical treatment that can lower the stress levels and also to check there is no other underlying condition.


Anxiety is the feeling or feelings we get when we have a sense or fear, worry or apprehension. An example of this would be the fear of not getting your essay in on time and the wrath of your tutor could cause the feelings described above which could lead to the feelings of anxiety. An online dictionary gives the definition of anxiety as: distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune (

Anxiety is a normal reaction which, as in the case of stress can add survival however it becomes a problem when it reaches level which start to affect our everyday lives. The issue with anxiety is it can become a negative self-sustaining feedback loop meaning the more anxious an individual feels, the more they are likely to increase their anxiety levels. Therefore it can become a serious problem where the client is unable to break this downward trend. When anxiety levels have risen to a height that causes problems the client may start to display physical systems such as trembling, stomach upset, tight muscles, heart palpitations, headaches and sweating. It is easy to see how these systems would only serve to further increase the anxiety levels within an individual. Anxiety, as with stress is closely linked to our fight of flight instinct but again this reaction is not always acceptable in our modern day lives, we cannot always run away from the problem and nor is it acceptable or appropriate to fight back against it.

An effective way of treating anxiety is to have the client build a shield that can deflect the anxiety feeling and can allow them to return to a far better state of mind. As anxiety and stress are closely linked the treatments I mentioned under the stress heading can also be an effective way of treating these issues, for example letting go of the feeling that are causing stress which may well be the same ones that are causing anxiety. Another effective way of treating anxiety is to show the client how an animal reacts to a situation and then go on to explain how this is the same for us but not always appropriate in our modern lives. A key point when treating anxiety is to try and find the cause of these feeling. Often a client will know what is causing them but on occasion they may not be aware and it is here that as a hypnotherapist we must be careful as if the client is unaware of the issues causing these feeling, then it may well be the case that there is a serious underlying condition and if we suspect this then we must referrer them on to their GP. If hypnosis is to be a part of their treatment plan then they must have a letter of consent from their GP before any treatment can be undertaken.

The limitation of treating anxiety from a hypnotherapeutic point of view are very similar to the limitations when treating stress as the two conditions are very closely linked snd indeed one can lead to the other or they are likely to both present at the same time. As with stress it is possible that a multi-disciplined approach may be required, with the client also attending counselling and or under the care of their GP. It is important to remember that hypnosis is not a magic pill and may well on its own not be able to help in resolving any of the above issues.


A phobia is an irrational fear of something, someone or some place. definition is a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it (

There are several types of phobia, these are:

Simple phobias: these are fears of single stimuli such as ladders, enclosed spaces, heights, a specific animal etc.

Complex phobias: these are fears of a number of stimuli such as the fear of going on a large boat or the fear of losing control. These are likely to be the combination of several fears rolled into one phobia. For example the phobia of large boats maybe the fear of water and large open spaces combined.

Social phobias: this is the fear of what may happen when you are around other people.

Panic attacks: this is an intense attack of anxiety characterised by feelings of impending doom and may well be accompanied by physical symptoms such as trembling and heart palpitations.

Agoraphobia: this is commonly known as the fear of open spaces but is actually classified as the fear of being too far away from home. The former is a common misconception.

It is also common for panic attacks and agoraphobia to both be classed as social phobias but I have decided to list then separately here as I believe they are worth a mention in their own right.

When treating a client for a phobia it is important to gage the fear that this phobia creates within them, the therapist can do this by asking a question along the lines of, “how much money would it take for you to face your phobia?” a client with a true phobia will quickly say that no amount of money would be enough.

When treating a client for a phobia the release techniques I have mention before which work for stress and anxiety can be very effective. Another very effective way of treating phobias is to use the rewind technique. This is where you have the client view the ISE (initial sensitizing event) or first memory of the phobia occurring on a TV or cinema screen with them sat in the seats watching from a safe distance. You have them play the event from front to back and then in reverse over and over again faster and faster each time and then you have them change the event in their mind until it is no longer threatening or if possible they can even make it funny. With the technique the idea is to have the worry and stress which is linked to that ISE reduced and removes the seriousness and importance the client has linked to it in their mind.

Hypnosis can be very effective in the treatment of simple phobias, in fact it can even greatly reduce a simple phobia in just one session, although this will only be effective if the client is to test the results soon after the session, if for example the client has a fear of flying but has no intension of flying until six months after the session, then the results of that session will be greatly reduced or have dissipated completely. Although hypnosis on its own can be very effective with simple phobias, it has more limitation when it comes to the other groups, these can be more complexed, have underlying courses or offer the client secondary gains, so in the case of the other phobias it may well be that a multi-disciplined approach is required to offer a successful course of treatment.


In conclusion I would say that hypnosis can be a very effective way of treating all of the above conditions, however it does have its limitations and it is up to the individual therapist to realise when hypnosis may not be the best form of treatment for an individual client, in these cases it would be best for the therapist to refer the client on, or for the therapist to offer hypnosis as part of a multi-disciplined approach, including other professions which will ultimately allow the client a better chance of reaching there desired goal and relieving the issues which are coursing them to suffer.

References accessed 19.00 hrs 14/5/2018

Josie Hadley & Carol Staudacher, Hypnosis for change third addition, New Harbinger Publications, inc. 5674 Shattuck Avenue Oakland, CA 94609. Copyright 1996.

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