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Can Ericksonian Hypnosis Help for Trauma Treatment?

Updated: Dec 11, 2023


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Hypnosis can access states of consciousness that allow for gentler trauma processing. Photo: Alexander Grey.

When you think about hypnosis, you might think about weight loss, smoking cessation, or relaxation. All of those things are worthy targets of hypnotherapy. However, Ericksonian hypnosis can also be used for many other purposes. In this post I will discuss Ericksonian hypnosis for trauma treatment. Ericksonian hypnosis is a gentle, effective, and respectful way to treat your traumatic symptoms. Here's how hypnosis can help you feel better from your post traumatic stress:

Ericksonian hypnosis accesses your subconscious/unconscious mind.

Your traumatic memories are stored in a fragmented way, which makes it hard for you to create a cohesive story in your mind (and subjective experience) of what happened. Hypnosis for trauma treatment can help you access your subconscious mind, where traumatic memories and emotions are often stored. This can assist you in processing and releasing these emotions in a controlled environment.


Recent research has found that memory reconsolidation is an important part of trauma treatment. In setting aside your usual consciousness, you allow for more possibilities such as revisiting -- and changing -- memories that have troubled you about the trauma. Perhaps you keep having the same nightmare about the trauma, and it has you in its grips.


The original memory (learning) needs to be destabilized in order to change, and in a hypnotic state, you can allow for that change to your existing memory. This is made possible by trance logic, a concept researched by Martin Orne, PhD. When the memory is reconsolidated, it can lead to resolution of the trauma and a more realistic, less emotional experience when you recall the memory.


You can compartmentalize trauma and dissociate from it productively

Ericksonian hypnosis (and all hypnosis, really) uses dissociation in a healthy, productive way so that you can gain a healthy distance from emotions and memories that flood you or disrupt your life. Sometimes, when you're too emotionally distraught, you can't make sense of what happened to you and you might act impulsively or have a distorted world view. You need to be able to compartmentalize so you can be more objective and rational, but the pull of your feelings is very strong.


An Ericksonian hypnotherapist can achieve this by giving you enough distance from the memory that you can view it from afar. You can see a more mature, stronger version of yourself watching the younger version of yourself looking at the memory.


This, along with the memory reconsolidation, can give you a greater sense of empowerment. With the ability to distance yourself from the memory and emotions adaptively, you gain a sense of control over your traumatic experiences. You can confront and process your emotions at your own pace, in a way that feels right for you.


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Sadly, trauma survivors might turn to unhealthy habits to deal with depressive or anxious symptoms.

Reduce your anxiety with Ericksonian hypnosis for trauma treatment

Hypnosis can help you achieve a state of deep relaxation, which can be beneficial for those experiencing anxiety or panic as a result of trauma. This relaxation can help reduce the intensity of trauma-related symptoms.


While in this deep state of absorption, you can also learn new ways to think that reduce the likelihood of your jumping to catastrophic conclusions or thinking unrealistically about the future. Ericksonian hypnosis involves tailoring the intervention to you, and helps your body to learn how to shift out of the sympathetic nervous system into the parasympathetic one.


Learning skill sets and adaptive behavioral change with Ericksonian hypnosis

Hypnotherapy can help you change harmful behaviors or thought patterns resulting from trauma. Avoidance usually comes from feeling unskilled, or feeling out of control. If you learn how to distinguish the past from the present, how to think critically about situations that trigger you, or how to delay gratification, then you don't have to engage in self-destructive, maladaptive coping like substance abuse or overeating.


You might have learned to avoid situations that remind you of the traumatic event, or you're escaping your negative feelings with substance use or being on your phone all the time. These can be addressed through hypnosis and changed for the better. In hypnosis you learn more adaptive behavior and healthier coping strategies.


Manage your pain from the traumatic event with hypnosis.

If your traumatic event has resulted in physical pain or tension, hypnosis can be used as an adjunctive therapy to manage and reduce pain. I worked with a woman who had significant pain from dog bites and was able to help her manage her pain by visualization and other hypnotic techniques. Ericksonian hypnosis, with its permissive style, was gentle and non-authoritarian enough for her to accept, whereas more directive approaches would have felt insulting and invasive to her.


The same principles of imagination, dissociation and compartmentalization can be useful for reducing physical pain as emotional pain. It is also empowering when you learn that you can produce similar effects on your own, by practicing self hypnosis.


It's essential to work with a qualified and experienced therapist or hypnotherapist who specializes in trauma recovery when considering hypnosis. Not everyone responds the same way to this approach, and you may find greater relief with another type of therapy like EMDR therapy or the Flash Technique.


Nonetheless, Ericksonian hypnosis is so versatile and effective for so many things that it's worth trying for at least one of these benefits listed above. Any of the stages of trauma recovery can be an entry place for hypnosis. If you'd like to discuss how to use it in your trauma recovery, please call 661-233-6771.


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