Latest Research

There are many complimentary therapies available for most mental health issues. There are even many different types of hypnosis. The difficulty is often choosing a suitable, effective and value for money treatment. Until recently Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) was one of the only treatment types to have been subject to clinical study and been found effective. In June 2015, Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy (a style of hypnosis developed and taught by the Quest Institute) joined the ranks of evidence based therapies after a pilot paper was published in the Mental Health Review Journal (Vol 20 No. 3 2015 pp 199-210).

Quest trained hypnotherapists routinely use the standard IAPT measures in assessing Depression (PHQ-9) and Anxiety (GAD-7); this is the same assessment that your doctor is likely to use. During the Pilot study, clients were measured at the beginning of the treatment and then once treatment was completed. The study concluded that 86 clients (73 percent) improved reliably (i.e. clinically, they were deemed to no longer be in need of treatment). This compares favourably with CBT (the only treatment currently approved by NICE for these issues) which scores around 70%.

A further issue brought to light by the study which bears repeating is that the average number of sessions needed to create the improvement was between three and four, a substantially shorter duration that the typical CBT programme.

This was a pilot study, however, a further study is being compiled currently which consists of a great around 500 cases and this will be published shortly.

Simon Bates
Cognitive Hypnotherapist, Freedom Hypnosis.

Drugs are not the answer….

The government continues to stymie research which could reduce symptoms for people with depression because of their prejudices against certain types of drug.

Psilocybin research may help relieve depression

Psychiatrists, doctors and researches continue to put their faith in some magic bullet drug even though they understand how complex and unique each human brain is and how its structure and function is built by experience that no drug can understand.

Both sides ignore the obvious.  From all my experiance, 99% of moderate depression and anxiety is not caused by chemical imbalances, mostly it’s caused by unresolved trauma (that may lead to ‘chemical imbalances’…).  Resolving trauma and related emotional problems is the only rational way to treat such disorders and give people their lives back.  Since this type of treatment can be completed in less than a month in most cases, why are we still wasting time feeding seriously ill people through such trials?  And whilst on the subject, how does it remain ethical for the other 50% – the placebo group – to get no treatment at all?  We already know the spontaneous remission rates don’t we?  It might suit the researchers but it’s not in the patients’ interest.

Imagine going to your doctor because you’ve been depressed for ages and have a poor quality of life.  You get two choices:

(1)  Enter a six month drug trial, which probably takes many months to begin and it’s probably taken a number of interviews and delays to get to this point.  There’s a 50% chance you will be given a placebo.  The drug is know to have serious side effects which are unpredictable.  It’s unknown what the long term consequences to the person’s mental health will be.  or,

(2)  Book an appointment with a psychologist for proven, effective treatments of depression, say with a Cognitive Hypnotherapist (1 months) or CBT (2-3 months).  No drug side-effects, you can start immediately.

I find it difficult to understand how fully informed people go for choice (1) so I have to question just how vigorously the doctors and researches explain these options to these vulnerable people.  People in fiduciary roles have a higher standard of care than the person on the street, so I struggle to understand how these trials get filled.  It’s clear what’s in it for the doctors and researchers; it’s clearly in their interests to keep you attached to the ‘chemical imbalance’ explanation of depression and anxiety.

At best anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication cover-up unwanted emotions.  In principle it’s no different to getting drunk or stoned to avoid unwanted pain; this is typically where people end-up after years of needing a treatment and not getting one.  Apparently these prescription drugs ‘help some patients cope’.  Frankly, I don’t think this this qualifies as a ‘treatment’ but I know there are far more qualified, better respected and better paid people out there still in bed with the medical/chemical model of depression.  And look where that’s got us.

England’s Top Doc Doesn’t Understand Obesity

Dame Sally Davies, Engand’s Chief Medical Officer, rightly identifies obesity as a huge threat to our health.  She wants to tax sodas and ban ‘2 for 1s’.  I disagree. 

Obese woman looking for answers
Looking for answers in all the wrong places.

A summery of her position is here featured on BBC News.   In order to fix something you have to understand how it comes about, you must identify its real cause.  History is littered with mistakes that demonstrate this.  If you think witches cause crop failure and rouse the townsfolk to burn the witches, you shouldn’t be surprised that nothing good happens. Historically when we’ve not manifested the result we want, we step-up the number and variety of witches that need burning.  This, of course, will not improve the situation yet this is exactly what the Government and Dame Sally are doing.

Dame Sally, and the government that pays her wages, wags her finger at food and shouts ‘burn the witches’.  Actually it’s worse than that, she points the finger a cheap sodas, ‘2 for 1’ offers and others supermarket marketing; that’s just moronic.  Food, even so-called ‘junk food’ is not the cause of obesity, if it was everybody that ate junk food would be obese and clearly they are not.  (It fails both the ‘necessity’ and ‘sufficiency’ requirement to be called a ’cause’.)  Go into McDonalds and actually take a look.  This is something that politicians, doctors and journalists aren’t doing.  There are no trails of fat people queuing out the door, yet we still believe this must be epicentre of the obesity epidemic.

Obesity is caused by chronic over-eating.  Over-eating is taking in more calories than you burn each day (as an adult).  It’s the unchecked imbalance between ‘calories in’ and ‘calories out’ that is the cause of obesity.  If you want to eat more and stay thin you have to burn more calories to stay the same.  It’s simple physics and people in authority should understand that physics trumps poor research, surveys and propaganda.

But what, I hear you say, is the true cause of ‘chronic overeating’.  Simple, it’s eating when you’re not physically hungry.  It’s emotional eating rather than eating for for fuel or nutrician.  We have a biological/neurological system in place to tell us what we need to eat, when to eat and when we are full.  Everything we do to ignore these internal clues will sabotage our ability to stay at a healthy weight.  That’s why ‘finish your plate’ or ‘you must eat five a day to be healthy’ threatens and corrupts a system that been working well for millions of years.  When you add to this the fact that we use food as treats and the cultural acceptance of eating to feel better instead of addressing problems, you see how things have gone so wrong.

Obesity is an emotional disorder, not a nutritional one.  The idea of banning or taxing sodas will not address the county’s increasing problem of obesity, nor will banning 2 for 1’s.  How is it possible for England’s top medical authority to not get this?  That’s another good question.  I think the answer is the old adage, if you’re looking for help and go to a surgeon, he’ll cut you, go to a doctor, he’ll give you pills, go to a leech guy and he’ll bleed you.  Unfortunately, doctors are claiming to be experts on emotional issues when they make such pronouncements and the government listens.  The same applies to depression and anxiety which is why doctors medicate rather than address and treat these issues.  Why do people even go to doctors for such issues?  It’s because of the NHS and the whole socialisation of medicine – don’t get me started on that!

Our emotional mechanism is there to keep us happy and healthy.  When we ignore it or medicate the signals out of our awareness, we lose the motivation to resolve what’s wrong in our lives.  We end-up carrying on as if nothing is wrong – for years and years.  We tread water and stop living life as it’s meant to be lived.

The government and its appointed spokespeople are also nagging us about nutrition but the more I hear these media reports, the more I’m convinced Nutrition is a Pseudo-Science.  See my post on Inner Wisdom vs. the Nutrition Nazis.

When England’s top doc learns how to personally treat emotional disorders (not mask them) she might say something worth listening to; until this time we’ll keep burning witches and the crops will keep failing.

Obesity is an emotional issue, we address this correctly by identifying the cause of the emotional issue and fixing it.  I don’t know how many people I’ll see this year for weight issues but I know I’ll have far more success that England’s top doc.  Unfortunately the Government, the NHS and all the associated health quangos will continue to demand that the witches must be burnt.  Don’t listen.

Mail on Sunday Smears Hypnotist

There is a piece in The Mail on Sunday that smears Trevor Silvester, one of the UK’s most respected hypnotists.  Trevor spent many years working with the Mail’s current target, Kid’s Company.  His work helped hundreds of children involved with drugs, gangs and hopelessness.  Much of it was voluntary work at the Kid’s Company premises.  From the Mail’s piece you’d think children were turning up at Harley Street in stretched limos with wads of cash.

I know Trevor well, his many books and training have helped thousands of people learn how to help others.  There are hundreds of Quest trained Cognitive Hypnotherapists out there today all thanks to Trevor and his wife Rebecca.

The piece went out of its way to present Trevor and his work as weird and left-field.  Of course hypnosis is weird it draws upon resources that people aren’t aware they have.  So what?  At no point did they ask the mysterious former client, ‘did the treatment work?’  Actually I suspect they did, but that might ruin a good story.

I have a bad taste in my mouth after reading the smear piece.  Trevor’s reputation will not be harmed by it. He is too loved and respected by his clients and fellow hypnotists.  So I have to ask the question as to what purpose the piece serves.  Why did they choose not to use Trevor’s response to the journalists enquiry?  Why didn’t they compare the effectiveness of Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy to NHS treatments for drug addiction – now that’s a scandal worth investigating….  Why didn’t they mention the recent publication in the Mental Health Review Journal showing the effectiveness of Quest based Cognitive Hypnotherapy – better results that Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (the only government approved system of therapy for anxiety and depression).

There was no attempt to look for light, or truth; there was just the intention of smearing for the sake of smearing.  It’s really sad that a human being would spend his life doing this work.  It’s sad and pathetic.  I feel very sorry for this journalist.  I don’t know what happened to him as a human being to turn him away from a positive, productive career.  I don’t know why cynicism is so attractive to him.  Clearly people that make their life about making other people feel small and unworthy, have very low opinion of themselves.  I just hope that he will one day find something better to do with his life.

Fear of HIV Disclosure Following Clinic Data Breach

This week the prestigious Dean Street sexual health clinic mistakenly released the names and email addresses of nearly 800 of its HIV clients.

Guardian – London Clinic Mistakenly Releases HIV Email List

Whilst there are a number of fearless individuals who are very open about their HIV status, the fact is that most HIV+ people only discuss their status with very close friends and their partners.

As a therapist, I’m not a fan of secret-keeping, especially when the emotions associated with this disclosure are a constant fear, guilt, shame, remorse or regret.  These are the emotions of depression.  I work within the HIV+ community as a volunteer hypnotist and I’m acutely aware of how much trauma and shame there still is and how this impacts upon mental health.  (Suicide rates for young gay men are insane: Suicide Rates In Young Gay Men.)

Disclosure of HIV status is an incredibly complicated issue.  Information, once out, cannot be controlled.  Do you tell  close friends, work colleagues, brothers and sisters, parents?  Many people that would be prepared to be more open about their status are often held back by the thought of disappointing or scaring their parents (a generation more used to seeing HIV+ people die of AIDS in the 1990’s).  Their parents would be unreasonably worried irrespective of the very positive current medical outcomes due to drugs such as Atripla and Eviplera.  So parents are usually the last to know.

I know that today there will be a lot of very angry, scared, shocked and exposed HIV+ patients.  I know Dean Street well, it’s an excellent clinic and their staff will be utterly devastated by this accident.  Any of us could have been the member of staff that pressed ‘Send’ without checking if you used the BCC box or the CC box.  It’s something that most people wouldn’t get over easily.  People don’t work in this field unless they really care about people.  This person will also need support today.  Whilst the consequences of the data breach will continue to violently crash through the personal and professional lives of many, it’s worth remembering that life goes on, we’re all human, and things will get better.

Whether a person is assaulted, injured, HIV diagnosed or just makes a serious mistake, it’s normal to be upset by matters such as these. We are suppose to be impacted by them.  We’re supposed to lose sleep, be agitated, relive events over and over – and then things should begin to get better.  That’s the normal path of any trauma.  When those thoughts and emotions don’t go away on their own, then it’s time to talk to a professional.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extreme Phobias, Extreme Quacks

Initially, I avoided watching Sky’s latest programme on Extreme Phobias because I thought it might be frivolous.  I was wrong, the programme is positively dangerous.

This episode took ten water-phobics and took them through escallating levels of water exposure – all, it seems, for viewer gratification as the participants predictably fell apart emotionally.  The premise of the programme seems to be that peer pressure and pushing them through highly stressful episodes will retrain their response to water.  Well, the peer pressure does seem to make them compliant to do the tasks but they were mostly petrified throughout.  And if they didn’t want to do a task, the pressure was just raised further.

At one point, a highly emotional participant, didn’t want to do one of the scary tasks and was confronted by one of the psychologist.  They instructed them to breath and said ‘this will help you sit with that anxiety and tolerate it.’  Unbelievable!  Highly emotionally people are highly suggestible.  Why not say,  “I know you’re feeling scared, but it will quickly pass, and once it’s passed, it’s past.”  Not “you’re scared, stay scared and just put up with it!”   I was gobsmacked.  Therapists need to watch their language around scared people; they might believe what you say.

So my question is an ethical one.  Why didn’t the two ‘professional’ psychologists help the participants to remove their irrational fears before beginning?  Two obvious answers come to mind, firstly that it would spoil the TV but more likely, I think, the psychologists just didn’t know how.  And it’s this that’s really shocking.  There’s at least 10,000 therapists in the UK that know how to remove a phobia in a single session, so why didn’t these two professional psychologists know?  I can only assume that they didn’t feel the need to read outside of their field.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for instance, uses types of exposure therapy, gradually reducing the distance to the stimulus.  You start in a room with a spider, you at one end and the spider at the other.  Gradually over weeks the distance is reduced at the rate that the anxiety can be controlled.  The result of this is that after ten weeks you might have a client that’s slightly less scared of spiders together with a very bored spider.  CBT is considered one of the better systems of therapy and is the only generally available psychological treatment available on the NHS – for now.

This programme couldn’t be further away from Sky’s 2005 series by Paul McKenna, called ‘I Can Change Your Life.’  Each week a person with a different serious and persistent mental health issue was treated, quickly, painlessly and effectively, and all without the need for nearly drowning anybody.  Partly it was watching this programme that fired my interest in hypnosis and why I’m proud to be a Cognitive Hypnotherapist.  I don’t think I could look myself in the mirror if I claimed to be a mental health therapists and really couldn’t help people quickly and effectively.

The general public is unfortunately left without any decent guidance in this area.  Most doctors feel adrift in referring people for mental health services.  There simply is no good way of separating the wheat from the chaff.  The only piece of advice I can give is this: most mental health problems can be treated, quickly and painlessly.  Ask for recommendations from friends and ask them specifically, were you treated effectively, and were you treated quickly (less than ten sessions).  It’s not perfect but it’s better than most NHS referrals or answering a TV ad.

 

 

 

Recent Testimonials

I’m always grateful to my clients for their spontaneous feedback:

“I think you listen very well, your understanding of the concerns and how you addressed them.  […] I’ve been seeing the psychologists over a year, I feel I’ve benefited more over the last 3 weeks seeing you.  [And Negative feedback?]    You make me laugh to much 😂”

DG – Trauma and Panic Attacks

“Without sounding mushy, today I felt as though I was walking on a rainbow all day and felt so free and all without having to rehash the gory details to you during the session…. I think I will put on hold my proposed ‘talking therapies’ [NHS prescribed].   I truly believe I can learn more from you than from the generic NHS pillar to post routine. …. The decision is made.  My priority is to complete the sessions with you.”

EK – PTSD/Abusive Relationships

“Thank you so much for the guided meditation/hypnotherapy. I’ve been listening to it every day and loving it. It’s filled with such simple but beautiful intention and possibility. It’s colouring my life and really seems to be working to reboot my tired old brain…  Thank you so much Simon, it’s a beautiful thing and I really appreciate your kind help.”

MW – PTSD/Depression & Anxiety

 

“… just to let you know I have been listening to the cd and it is working, I got through my first year with a high 2.1 with your help so thanks for that.”

LW – Performance Anxiety/Stress

Naturally, results vary from client to client, so please call me to discuss your situation.

The Fourth ‘F’

Fight, Flight and Freeze.  The study of comparative psychology has long since identified three bulk-standard responses inherited from our forebears when under threat. These three responses have a lot in common including high emotional state, typically fear or rage, and physiological preparedness for a fight or to run away. From neurology we know that these responses are managed by the emotional brain, the old lizard brain that sits on top of the brain stem and keeps us alive with its quick and dirty responses. We also know during these responses, blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex changes, effectively shuts down our higher-learning areas, our ability to consider, to weigh choices, to deliberate. Indeed, it’s only when things calm down that our clients can explore choices and perspectives, judge long term consequences. Unfortunately,by this point it’s usually too late, they’ve already glassed their husband.

‘Strong emotions make us stupid’ – Joseph LeDoux.

‘Strong emotions make us stupid’, it’s a common refrain within Cognitive Hypnotherapy. And for many of our clients, strong emotions make them un-resourceful, leaving them with poor and, in most cases, habitual behaviours based upon ‘choices’ made as a child. It’s certainly my experience that a child that fights is an adult that fights. A child that freezes is an adult that freezes. And a child that flees, is an adult that flees.

FourthF-500I want to make the case for a fourth ‘F’ – another type of emotional hijacking. It’s a little more subtle than the others and doesn’t involved the strong behavioural change that you tend to notice with the other three. It’s also an entirely human response, one not available our distant lizard, bird or mammal cousins. The fourth ‘F’ is ‘Fantasy’.

I had a number of clients together exhibiting the same phenomenon over a short period of time, which made me curious about what was going on. And then I saw a TV drama which hit the nail square on the head. A husband was talking to his wife, telling her he’d had an affair and almost without a beat passing she returns with ‘I had a letter from Sheila, she’s having new windows put in. Do you think we should have new windows?’ The only difference was that the voice was just a little agitated and hurried, the glance was away and down. Maybe that nasty thing will go away if we don’t mention it. Now what was for dinner? This is an avoidance strategy, a type of defence to keep the pain away, a deflection, an evasion. You might also call it a type of mental ‘Fleeing’, one that only our type of hardware is capable of.

The way I found it turning up in client sessions is that clients would suddenly not answer important questions but instead start a new thread or find some other way of diverting the conversation. It’s the subconscious saying ‘oh god, not that, anything but that!’ and switching to a completely different track in the hope you’ll lose the scent. This is probably not just in response to questioning from a third party; it probably mimics their internal state every-time they should be evaluating problematic situations, behaviours and emotions. In terms of the hypnotic phenomenon, it marks out a solid ‘deletion’ of their experience, an amnesia, negative hallucination and a launching into some positive hallucination or age progression.

In most cases it’s our job to re-connect our clients to a richer map of the world, to identify the areas they previously marked out as ‘dangerous’, and safely reintegrating this information in a non-threatening way. We also need to consider their strategies too. If their reality is truly unbearable and their fantasy is allowing them to cope, we have to make a choice. Do we help them make better decisions in regards to the big choices in their lives: their partners, jobs, location? Or, say, in the case of terminal cancer, maybe improving or installing a coping strategy might be the best way to go. There’s always the tomato plants to consider! Either way, without identifying that the client has a big hole in their map, it will be difficult to help them since they’ll always be pulling in a different direction, without knowing why.

HIV Diagnosis and The Process of Adjustment

This incredible story of Luke Alexander, who’s been HIV positive for just a year, shows us all how brave and well adjusted a person can be when responding to such devastating news.

BBC Newsbeat: Luke has been HIV+ for a yearThere are so many layers and levels to deal with.  There’s the initial ‘oh shit’ to deal with, there’s the ‘am I going to die’ and there’s the ‘who do I tell?’.  There’s guilt, remorse, regret, anger towards the self and the other person involved, it goes on.  These are not simple points to deal with and require an emotional maturity that you don’t often see in an 19 year old.

In some ways Luke is lucky to be young, there’s a big difference between Luke’s generation, my generation, and my parents’ generation – each of which has its own stereotypes about HIV and AIDS.  Luke lives at a time when HIV is a manageable disease akin to diabetes which can be managed by regular medication.  Nonetheless, it can be truly isolating for some.  Luke’s decision to be public and fearless about his condition means that the people he meets will ‘self-sort’ into those that can see past the disease and those that can’t.  There are enough HIV dating sites and social and support groups to ensure that he’ll be able to find loving, caring HIV+ people to surround himself with, even if he can’t find it in the general population.  His attitude is truly heroic.  His attitude is rare.  Even in gay circles, it’s rare for people to be so open about their HIV status.  There’s still a stigma attached.   There’s still fear about ‘people at work’ finding out, losing friends, or parents that might be devastated. And if you’re heterosexual or black the stigma can be much worse and much more isolating.

I don’t know how Luke managed in the period immediately following his diagnosis but, for most people, there is a lot of adjustments to make.  There is a process to go through.  It can be similar to what goes on when a person grieves: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance.  There are similar processes for people who go through other traumas, such as assault.  There is no time limit for the brain to make these adjustments but in my experience most can do it within a year.  It depends on the person, it depends upon their belief system and resilience and there are other factors we don’t understand yet.  And, there are some people who can’t.

Some people get lost.  Actually, some people get stuck.  I don’t know if there is a technical name for a person that can’t get over a bad diagnosis but for regular trauma cases, the analogue is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), for grief, it’s ‘Prolonged Grief Disorder’!  Just to set the context, in the case of PTSD, it is not a disorder to have nightmares, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, etc.  It only becomes a ‘disorder’ when we don’t return to normal after a reasonable time.  We are supposed to be impacted, shocked, stressed, vigilant, etc. we are supposed to learn lessons, and then we are supposed to move on, that’s how it works.  And, some people can’t because they don’t know how.

This is when it becomes an issue for therapy.  Thankfully chronic trauma, in its many forms, is a treatable condition.  The symptoms are many, isolation, anger, guilt, addiction, etc.  If this applies to you or somebody you care about then it may be time to talk.

Author: Simon Bates, Freedom Hypnosis
Cognitive Hypnotherapist working with London’s YMCA Positve Health Programme.

 

Suicide and Young Gay Men

There’s a disproportionate number of young gay men committing suicide. Very disproportionate. If the figures from Stonewall’s 2011 study of gay and bisexual men is to be believed 27% of gay and 38% of bisexual men said they had considered taking their own life in the previous year – this compares to just 4% of heterosexual men. And this was a big survey – 6,861 respondents from Britain. It gets worse.

Of the respondents, 3% of gay men and 5% of bisexual men had actually taken steps to take their own life in the previous year. Apparently the comparable rate is 0.4% of all men. It gets worse.

What if we look at just the young men? 10% of gay and bisexual men aged between 16 and 19 actually took steps to take their own life in the last year. 1 in 10. If you go to a gay bar with lots of young gay men, look over into one corner – proportionally – all the gay men in that corner took action to kill themselves last year. If that doesn’t shock you, there’s something wrong.

We could spend hours debating the real reason for this: coming out early, coming out late, permissive society, disapproving society, too many rules, not enough rules, too much drugs/alcohol, not enough, too much internet use, not enough, freedom to be gay, not enough freedom to be gay, too many gay role models, not enough,  too selfish, too selfless, being able to marry, not being able to marry, too much coddling, too little, too much religion, not enough. I hope that clears things up.  Certainly, I’ve heard arguments for all the above.

We could ask those young men what’s wrong but most people aren’t good at giving you reasons when they’re an emotional mess.  Frankly, it could be your phone running out of charge that can push a vulnerable person over the edge.

Here’s what I think.  Think about the changes that most of these men are going through in their teenage/early adult years (most of which only apply to young gay men):

  • they are coming out (to mixed reviews!)
  • they are going through the difficult years that follow from puberty
  • they will likely have their most emotionally charged relationships and break-ups in this period
  • they are becoming independent and usually separated from their usual unconditional emotional support
  • they are more likely to have moved from home (young gay men move to the cities, actually they run…)
  • they are experiencing drugs and alcohol for the first time.
  • HIV infection, or constant fear of infection

It’s a lot to deal with for people without enough life experience.  These young men haven’t learnt yet about how to be emotionally resilient. The people they are attached to emotionally and provide emotional support (friends, parents, teachers, lovers) can, and do, suddenly remove that emotional support and even reject them.

Drugs and alcohol are huge problems for young gay men.  They lead to risky behaviour that leads to guilt and regret.  But worse, they lead to huge ups and downs, often days later.  So a normal day might feel like an unbearable weight, for no apparent ‘reason’.

Generally, we all learn to be emotionally resilient over the years – at least to some extent.  The question is whether we manage to do this in time and without too much damage along the way.  Thankfully this emotional resilience can be learnt through CBT and/or Cognitive Hypnotherapy. These are also good ways of dealing with excessive drug or alcohol use, as can issues of identity and self-worth.

And sometimes, people just need somebody to talk to.