What is hypnotherapy and how does it work? Can you walk us through your process?
Hypnotherapy is a process for accessing and communicating with the subconscious mind so that you can both find out information and integrate new information organically. In other words, hypnotherapy allows the identification of limiting beliefs and replaces those beliefs with more relevant, life affirming ones. It’s a tool for mental andspiritual hygiene if you will, and for psychological and physical liberation.
I personally use childhood regressions amongst other tools to identify trauma and limiting beliefs: the specific lived experience of that trauma, as well as the personal narratives lingering from those events and experiences.
Thanks to the regressions used with a plethora of other tools, we can see patterns and correlations between events in memories and present-moment issues.
A big part of my process is to let people articulate those correlations for themselves as they integrate them. Of course, I have my own interpretation and grid of understanding as the therapist, and I contribute it in the right time and manner, but for the client to have the space to formulate things for themselves is paramount to the process. What the individual intrerprets is also great information in and of itself. Intrinsic to the method, I have to be prepared to somewhat improvise, always within a specific grid of course, but I can only prepare so much since by definition, information comes up in the state of hypnosis that we did not have prior.
The sessions are a beautiful, intense unraveling, a profound journey, where I act as a guide more so than an all-knowing entity.
One of the main tenets of this method is that if the mind had the power to put in place a belief and the actions and habits attached to that belief, way back when, then it aslo has the power to modify or get rid of negative beliefs and habits.
The last main step of the process is the transformation. During the first session, I ask people to describe to me the beautiful new life they will have once they overcome their issue or adopt their new skill, whatever the case may be. I insist they tell me what it will look like, and feel like, what emotions, and sensations will they feel, and other details specific to the situation.
This is because once you’ve interrupted a neural pathway, once you’ve moved an obstacle out of the way, there is this miraculous bracket of possibility for something new to rush in. If we are intentional and specific at that moment, and flood the open and now-clean wound with all this light, all these images that only were waiting to be expressed and considered, then that tends to have extremely positive and rapid repercussions.
This probably seems pretty woo-woo but it is simply visualization, which requires no more introduction. Enough studies have proved its merit in healing and performance augmentation (https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/flourish/200912/seeing-is-believing-the-power-visualization )
When you think about it, our experience of this existence is entirely reliant on our perception of it, in a very concrete, down-to-earth way. Much like we literally only know the world through our 5 senses and our interpreation of the informatioun they give us, in a more figurative way, we solely know the world through whatever filter we build for ourselves, or as often is the case, whatever filter is built for us by upbringing and life experiences. I like the word “paradigm” a lot.
Our experience of this life is a collection of sensations and actions, which are the results of emotions which are reactions to thoughts (and events, yes), and thoughts are habits of the mind. By cracking the code to changing our habits of thoughts and emotions and actions, we obtain so much agency and individual freedom. By becoming capable of acting intentionally instead of reacting unconsciously, we also contribute greatly to a possibly peaceful and beautiful society (utopian, I know, but let’s imagine it, why not)
As it stands, the vast majority of us default to a state of hypervigilance, stress, and fight-or-flight (or freeze). After finding the events and beliefs that contextualize this fight-or-flight, and replacing them, we work together with the client to create and habitualise a new baseline state, a default return to an available and regulated nervous system, resulting in pure presence and most often in serenity, pleasure, connection, and joy.
What is the difference between psychoanalysis and hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is in the lineage of psychoanalysis. The main difference for me is that psychoanalysis is all about understanding trauma and the self intellectually, as well as the fact that psychoanalysis gets to know the subconscious mind via the conscious mind, which comes with a lot of barriers.
What my practice does, with hypnotherapy and other tools, is that it focuses also on the “now what?” that comes after or during a layer of healing. For example, “Now that I’ve understood my relationship with my father and how it has shaped me and impacted me, what do I do with this understanding? How do I integrate it? Where do I go from there?” Conventional therapy has many assets and offers things that hypnotherapy does not. However, it offers little relief or tools in the moment, or tools to put in your tooklit for your own practice. There is something very disempowering in having to go to years of therapy to get answers that come from outside of you. Long therapy should be an option, but we all deserve options to find relief quicker and to be given grids of understanding of one’s own psyche and inner life.
In the mainstream paradigm, the key to reaching sustained mental health is often held by an outside agent (Doctor or therapist, pharmaceuticals, corresponding to the norm…) and the more you are struggling, the more those outside entities have power over you. I am an advocate of reasoned medication use, classic medicine, and psychiatry and psychoanalysis. I believe these are extremely important and efficient in many ways. But I am also glad that there are tools like hypnotherapy, breathwork, and EFT to give people some agency, some relief, and some freedom before hitting the 10-year mark on the freudian sofa.
I went to hypnotherapy when I was a teen, to stop smoking, and it didn’t work because my mother forced me to go . Is it perhaps also because some people just can’t be hypnotized? I stopped later without hypnosis.
That’s a great question and I’m glad you asked it. Hypnotherapy is a tool, you know, and like any other tool (even magic spells), intention is key. If the tool isn’t used with specific intent, you won’t see any result, no matter how great it is. You can have the most advanced screwdriver in the world, and if you use it merely to screw random things together with no strategy or intention, you won’t build anything at all.
Yet you can’t fail at hypnotherapy, really. There is a bit of a paradox there.
As soon as you consent to see some things change within yourself and your life, as soon as you consent to see some unfamiliar things become familiar and some familiar things become unfamiliar, you will reap beautiful benefits, albeit at a cognitive level. If you show up open and available, if there is an agreement within yourself that says “this is what we’re doing”, and you do sustained work in the month that follows the first hypnosis (new neural pathways, 21 days to form a habit, and all that jazz) then great change will occur.
Does that mean that you have to come already convinced?
No, you don’t, you must simply come with an open mind and some curiousity, which your 16-year-old self was probably unable to do given the circumptsances.
Desire and willmake all the difference. People tend to come to me with something that is very important to them that they want to heal, get past, or change in their lives. Some of them are convinced already and some of them are just giving hypnosis a chance, but in the context of already being seeking solutions for themselves.
This dynamic is diametrically opposed to being dragged into a hypnotherapist’s office reluctantly , whether at the cognitive level or in the way it predisposes (or doesn’t) your subconscious to receive suggestions and express vulnerably,
Like any mountain guide, I can help you with my knowledge of a mysterious journey but I cannot be your legs.
In that case, should more people know about hypnotherapy?
Absolutely, or people should know more accurate things about hypnotherapy. It has nothing to do with the hypnosis you see on shows or in movies. I would neither want to nor know how to make someone do anything they didn’t absolutely want to do. I just induce a very profound relaxation and give certain cues to the mind so that the conscious will take a back seat and the subconscious can come to the forefront.
Mutual consent and trust are absolutely necessary.
But more generally, imagine if more people had access to easy-to-use tools that could allow them to get a break mentallyand to change the way they speak to themselves. This is the backdrop that motivates their choices and reflexes. Imagine giving people the opportunity to know and accept themselves fundamentally, the peace and authenticity and integrity that would result from that.
From a social justice standpoint, this is huge. The urgent mandate is to provide people in situations of struggle with both concrete solutions (housing, education, childcare, healthcare…) and mental tools.
If X grew up in an emotionally abusive household and was told all his life that he is “just like his father”, while witnessing some poor behavior from the father, many inner narratives will come from that. Then, give X long hours, several jobs, pressure to make rent or even pressure to perform academically, a continued challenging relationship with his parents, etc… X lives in survival mode, constantly stressed and exhausted, and most likely the narratives are being reinforced. “I am no good.” “The world is hostile.” “No one can help me.”
If you provide X with the knowledge that he can change that paradigm with better stuff, that he can change the momentum of his life by shifting his focus and the way he speaks to himself, that is key information. And I don’t mean telling X those things theoretically like we are doing now but giving X that experience viscerally and personally.
In other words planting the seed and germinating the idea that an integral part of being human is having a relationship with the self, and there is so much room for creation in that relationship when we give it some attention and intention.
My practice walks people through the process of befriending homeostasis and builds up the ability to respond to life as it keeps coming to you. That is the thing that a lot of therapy does not account for, the idea that healing is a necessary part of the work but that life also continues to happen and we want to be available for it. We want to achieve enough liberating work that we can show up as our whole selves, remain safe, maintain integrity, be it in relationships, career, creativity, activism…
What does success look like, first individually with the patient and then for your career as you imagine it?
That’s a great question. A successful process with a client usually looks something like this (there is no one size fits all though): the client gets really into it, really involved, finds their own words, and makes the process their own. That lasts for a bit, however long, and then the client is able to begin to start to come to therapyless and less over time. Eventually, they come simply for refreshing, for a new thing, for a period of time, whatever the case may be, or they simply don’t come back. I have often received emails from clients 2 years after our therapy sessions saying “My has life changed in such and such way after we worked together”
The 1st session is usually pretty wowing for people, and then they do experience a paradigm shift – a tentative alternate reality that brings new perceptions and forges new neural pathways, reinforced by a recording (that is the neuro-linguistic programming part of what I do, this is specific to the RTT method taught by Marisa Peer)
Often, the new paradigm provides insights into areas that need more work, other challenges and beliefs creeping in the shadows that don’t align. Here’s a metaphor: Your house was all grey but you hadn’t really noticed. I come in and I say, well, you might want to try a new color. We work together to find that color, and then things that made sense in the grey house will come up and seem out of place, so you have to do a bit of Mary Kondo. Does this bring joy? It’s quite simple but also extremely challenging and profound. The psyche bubbles things up for examination, things that the client had previously integrated and accepted as entirely normal.
In other words, the software continues to adjust for a while, and that is greatly helped by a bit of ongoing support.
In that process the client finds clarity and through clarity comes a renewed energy, a readiness to embrace lifewith a default state of serenity. There is something very magical that happens as the person returns to themselves. As a result of our time together, clients typically grow emotionally and spiritually in profound ways, overcoming the often deep subconscious trauma that has been holding them back from finding happiness for years.
As for me, success would be to contribute to the world in a way that would feel authentic, from a place of profound integrity, helping people find some solace, some peace, some pleasure in this life, in a way that depends on their own self, that cannot be taken away from them, bought from them, in a way that is sustainable and easy to cultivate. This is my proposed continuity to a lot of teachings, and my own offering in a great network of peers. This is not my proprietary work, but a global movement in innovative therapeutic technologies I to which I wish to contribute.
Interview by Amaëlle Marchal