Hello, friends! Bit of a short episode today, but great questions nonetheless! I also mention that I’ve been putting out more great content on Youtube and for my mailing list. Make sure you check those out as well if you can’t get enough great mental health info!
Hi Dr. Duff, I’ve been seeing a therapist for just a few short months. It originally started as pre marital counseling and I was approached a few weeks later asking if I’d be willing to do some private counseling. I’ve not always been depressed and anxious, but in the last few years things in my life haven’t gone exactly as planned, but that’s kind of normal (I think). I’ve had a few childhood traumas that have been dug up and I’ve recently become angry, insecure and especially anxious. My therapist travels and does hypnosis as a profession and asked if I’d be willing to give it a try. What are your thoughts on hypnotherapy? I’m skeptical and hopeful all at the same time. Have you seen success from this kind of practice? Thanks in advance. I love your books and podcast by the way. I admire the no bullshit, reality responses. Thanks again!
Good question. Hypnosis is an interesting one. Hypnosis has gotten a bad rap over the years and I have been skeptical of it myself. The APA’s stance is that the research supports the efficacy of hypnosis for a variety of issues such as pain, smoking cessation, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Hypnosis isn’t like movie or stage hypnosis. The idea isn’t to get you to lose control and for them to make you do things that are silly and out of character. The practitioner uses hypnosis as a means to put you into a more relaxed state, in which you are more open to suggestion. Interestingly one of the origins of psychotherapy is an old practice similar to hypnosis called mesmerism. Turns out that the whole concept of mesmerism was totally flawed and showed no actual health value, but people did improve by nature of someone spending time with them and hearing their problems etc.
Hypnosis itself typically isn’t considered to be the treatment itself but it’s used as an adjunct to therapy. You can think of it just like using guided muscle relaxations or imagery in therapy, which is relatively common. The core concepts are the same in regular therapy and hypnotherapy but you use the hypnosis to facilitate the process. Very much like how EMDR serves as a facilitator for exposure work.
I would be sure to check to see a little bit about your therapist’s background, what hypnosis program they did etc. Just to make sure they are reputable, which it sounds like they are. If you don’t feel comfortable with it, you don’t have to do it. And if you feel like it’s BS and won’t help you, it probably won’t. But if you are open to it, understand that it can help you get into a great state to make some changes, relax, and hear advice, then you could definitely try it out.
As with all types of therapy, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to stick with it if it’s not working for you. I haven’t had a lot of personal experience with people who have significantly benefitted from hypnosis, but the research does seem to indicate that it can have a positive impact and help people change. Remember that you are the consumer here and even if you decide that you want to pursue individual therapy, it doesn’t have to be with this person necessarily if you are ready for a change.
That said, you already probably have a strong rapport with this person and that may help you feel trusting enough of them to allow yourself to settle into a nice hypnotic state during that work together. And in general, as long as your practitioner has appropriate training, there is also little risk to trying it out. Even if all you get from it is a few relaxing sessions, that’s cool too! Their form of therapy may or may not be covered by insurance, so that’s something to be aware of. While it could be a good choice for you, it certainly isn’t the only choice.
You sound motivated to improve yourself and even the fact that you thought to write in a question about this means that you take it seriously. I think you will do well in whatever you chose.
I was wondering if at some point you could discuss dealing with the upcoming holidays. I’ve been through a divorce and my children are not acceptive of my new partner which is fine. But her family is also not accepting of me so it just makes the holidays not as fun as they used to be. Along with the fact of having to deal with my kids refusing to come visit me but they will go to my brothers house to stay and visit. Which is hurtful. How do I change my thinking with both of these?
Sorry to hear that you’re dealing with a bit of a complicated situation. The holidays can absolutely be hard. I’ve done a few episodes about managing the holidays before. For many people who experience mental health difficulties, the holidays cause an uptick in their symptoms All of this is to say that the holidays can be shitty for anybody, but you also get to layer on family issues and divorce. That’s a lot.
So, you asked what you can do to change your thinking with both of these. I just want to make sure that I reassure you that you are allowed to be hurt by this and this is allowed to suck for you. It sounds like your kids are grown, so they get to make their own decisions. You also get to have your own boundaries for them.
Holidays are special if you want them to be but otherwise, they are just another day. You can put as much or as little stock into them as you’d like. There is no law that you HAVE to see your family. Your partner’s for that matter. There’s no law that says you can’t have something small and sweet that you enjoy with just one another. Beyond that, you have some options for dealing with the situation.
First off, have you addressed this with them directly? For instance, with your kids, have you talked about why they don’t come visit you? Is there a way to address the problem either informally or with the help of a family therapist? It may be that you also need to set some significant boundaries with them. This goes for all family involved. They don’t have to like you or your partner, but they do need to treat you with respect if you are going to be interacting with the. Perhaps there are certain topics that need to be “no go” topics from the start. If you feel like you are being mistreated or that your boundaries are being violated, you have the right to leave. Perhaps you can also plan for an intentionally short visit. Stop by, stay for a bit, then bail out. You can make it clear from the start that you will be heading out early, then they can expect it.
When it comes to change your thinking, if you haven’t been explicitly told or shown that your partner’s family doesn’t like you or that your kid’s don’t like your partner, they may call for some digging into. If you haven’t yet, sign up for my mailing list and you get my guide to common thinking traps. In the email sequence that follows, you will also get a video of me showing you how to do an ABC thought log. Basically, the gist is that you become familiar with the common thinking traps and then use the thought log (or any other exercise) as a tool for externalizing your thoughts and assumptions. By externalizing them, you can be a little more analytical and see whether you know these assumptions are true or if you might be engaging in these thinking traps and whether there might be other possibilities.
In some cases, we can interpret the actions of others incorrectly. Even if there are still bad/hard feelings on their part. For example, and this is puuuurely example – I have no idea if this applies to your situation, but let’s say that you are assuming that your kids are mad at you or hate your current partner. It is possible that they have no real hard feelings toward you, but just find that interacting with you without your former spouse is too painful or strange. So if you feel like it is your interpretation of the situations and your own thoughts that are causing you to feel this way, then by all means dig into it. Therapy is always an option to accelerate that process.
Otherwise, remember that you are your own person, you have rights, and you are allowed to set boundaries.
This episode of Hardcore Self Help is sponsored by Himalaya Ashwagandha.
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