The IAPH Survey:
Between July 2008 and July 2009 the IAPH conducted a type of survey (known as a cross sectional study) of clients who had completed a course of hypnoanalysis. We now know that a successful outcome, i.e. profound change that is effortless to maintain, is achieved in hypnoanalysis through the mechanism of memory reconsolidation.
This paper presents a summary of the project following one year. A number of follow-ups were planned over a further 12 month period.
Clients who had completed a course of hypnoanalysis were invited to participate in an online survey indicating the degree to which their original presenting ‘complaint’ had been affected following the course of therapy. The initial feedback indicated that all participating clients had reported a reduction in, or resolution of, their original symptoms.
The initial feedback indicated that all participating clients had reported a reduction in, or resolution of, their original symptoms.
Respondents also produced detailed additional comments regarding their experiences of therapy. A follow-up was planned at twelve months.
Why did we do this?
Hypnoanalysis traces its origins back to 1974, since when the practice has been developed and modified. The terms hypnotherapy and hypnoanalysis are frequently used in medical literature but have wildly differing interpretations; as such, any previous research cannot be drawn upon as evidence for the effectiveness of Pure Hypnoanalysis as it is unlikely that hypnotherapists were using this specific technique. It was for this reason that we developed our survey. We were interested in hearing from clients who had been through ‘our’ therapy in contrast to other forms of hypnotherapy.
How does hypnoanalysis work?
The practice of hypnoanalysis involves working with a client for approximately eight to sixteen sessions at weekly intervals. Its underlying premise being that we all have unresolved or unprocessed material stemming from earlier periods of our lives and that this has a significant role in the development and maintenance of some physical and psychological problems: (it is a condition of therapy that presenting physical problems should have been thoroughly investigated prior to therapy). The degree to which this ‘hidden’ material will affect an individual’s functioning will vary from person to person. Practitioners do not however interpret or analyse client’s recollections in the traditional sense, (such as frequently seen in the practice of psychoanalysis in films), but rather allow the opportunity for material to surface using a version of free association (FA) whilst the client is in a pleasant, relaxed hypnotic state, (sometimes referred to as a ‘focused state of mind’).
This simply means talking freely and without hindrance. Clients are encouraged to link associations and ‘here and now’ experiences rather than to recall a chronological history. Practitioners are extremely aware of the risks associated with ‘leading’ a client, especially when in hypnosis and, for this reason, interventions made by them should only be for prompts or clarification.
What did we already know?
Practitioners’ experiences to date have strongly suggested that using this method, clients can reach a point of insight at between six to sixteen sessions on average and that, having done so, this leads to a reduction or disappearance of the presenting problem. Evidence from clients suggests that it is not the recollection of a client’s history which is significant but the processing and releasing of emotions (i.e. as they are occurring in the clients mind at the time of therapy) which has the therapeutic effect.
A number of terms have been used to describe how a client feels after the completion of therapy. The words ‘enlightened’ and ‘liberated’ have been in common use for some years. Clients are offered the opportunity for a follow-up appointment after the course of therapy before being discharged. Prior to the survey, no systematic collation of client’s responses had been co-ordinated, although several validated anecdotal accounts, including testimonials, were in existence.
How did we conduct the survey?
The survey was administered nationally (in the UK) and all practising IAPH members were able to bring it to the awareness of discharged clients. On completion of therapy, clients were given a card offering them the opportunity to log on to the IAPH web site if they wished to participate.
This process included gaining their consent. Participants were then directed to an online questionnaire which asked a number of ‘direct’ and ‘choice’ questions. Most questions contained additional comment boxes. The inclusion criteria meant that only clients who had completed the course of therapy were included. For this study no provision was made to follow up those who decided not to complete the course of therapy. The study design was subject to ethical approval by the IAPH Council.
What did we find out?
The majority of respondents were female. The largest age group category for both groups being 26-35 yrs followed by 36-45 yrs. No respondents were aged over 65 yrs. The majority of clients completed therapy within 10-14 sessions, with the next largest group completing in 7-9 sessions. The majority of clients presented with problems under the heading of ‘general anxiety’ although several also indicated other presenting difficulties, the second highest category being ‘social phobia’ and ‘depression’.
These were self-diagnosed conditions which were used by participants to best describe their situation. Clients were offered a rating scale to indicate the ‘intensity’ of their problem for a pre- and post-therapy rating. This ranged from “No interruption to everyday thinking, feeling and behaviour” to “Very significant interruption to everyday thinking, feeling and behaviour” on a five point scale.
All clients reported a reduction from their original rating on completion of the course.
A number of comments were received, for example;
‘Before therapy I felt my life had come to an end. I was unable to do normal everyday things like eating out, going on public transport, hairdressers etc. The normal things that people take for granted’
(This client rated from ‘significant interruption to daily living’ to ‘no interruption to daily living’ on pre- and post-therapy scales).
Clients were asked about their understanding of the originating cause of their problem. Approximately 50% stated that what they experienced in therapy was a complete surprise, (usually meaning that what the participant had thought was the cause of their problem turned out to be incorrect), with the remainder having ‘some idea’ (albeit vaguely) of the contributing cause. For these clients, therapy was rather like a jigsaw puzzle with the missing pieces joined together. All clients reported a reduction in their original presenting problems. A number stated that it had now been completely resolved, (often following a number of years during which other treatments had been tried).
This cross sectional survey indicates very positive results for clients who have undertaken a course of hypnoanalysis as practiced at the time by most IAPH members. The responses and detailed comments from this sample group indicate that hypnoanalysis has been effective at symptom removal and allowed clients the opportunity to lead improved lives as a result.
The above is an abridged version of the original study. At the time, the results of the survey were encouraging, but even so we were always aware of those clients who failed to get their ‘liberating moment’ – a source of frustration and disappointment for both client and therapist. With the recent advances in neuroscience, we now have a better understanding of the actual change we seek – memory reconsolidation – which in turn guides us to greater success. Having said that, there is always space for the type of client who overthinks and ruminates to do some beliefs work and improve their symptoms where they were essentially caused by their own poorly managed thinking.