by David Mason
A new method has been proposed for treating people who hear voices. Most people who hear voices don't like them; the voices say terrible things about them; and its gets so bad for some people that they will do anything to turn them off, from abusing alcohol to killing themselves. Occasionally some people hear the voices telling them to hurt other people, but mostly the sufferers just hurt themselves.
The standard treatment has been to try to teach people to ignore the voices, or to prescribe medication that numbs the person so they don't react to the voices. However this approach has had limited success.
The latest technique uses a computer to let the sufferer create an image of the thing doing the talking, an avatar. The therapist then talks through the avatar remotely, and gets their patient to talk back to the taunts of the avatar. Because they created the avatar, it does not seem so frightening. And then over several weeks, the therapist works with their patient to gradually change the avatar on the screen, so that they become more comfortable answering back and disputing what the voice is saying. It apparently works quite well.
However, it is reliant on having a fairly sophisticated computer set up, which can be a drawback. Other therapists point out that using dolls or empty chairs works just as well and doesn't need expensive gear.
When I read the report, it struck me that this was something that could be attempted by a hypnotist, with clients at the less severe end of the spectrum. It would not be difficult to get someone to build up an image of their tormentor and to do sort of gestalt technique to get them to answer back. Then over several sessions the image and personality of the voice could be changed to something less disturbing, and gradually accustom the client to become at ease with disputing the messages. Combined with teaching how to relax deeply, I think this would be a valuable way forward for some clients.
by David Mason
The study of smoking and smoking cessation continues to be plagued by bad science. A recent study in the journal Tobacco Control reported that each smoker costs an American employer $5,800 per year on average.
This does not seem unreasonable until you start to look at how the figure was arrived at. Most of the cost is estimated as lost productivity due to leaving work to go outside and smoke. Then there are the sick days taken by smokers; increased health care costs for the employer, offset by the reduced pension costs due to smokers dying earlier; and lower productivity during working time due to withdrawal symptoms,.
It was this last one that caused me to query these figures. How does a smoker get withdrawal symptoms if they are still smoking? According to the researchers every smoker gets withdrawal symptoms within thirty minutes of putting out their last smoke. Having interviewed thousands of smokers this idea just doesn't stand up to checking. Many people smoke in the morning and then don't smoke all day if they are busy at work: they just forget to smoke. Are we to believe that they are suffering withdrawal symptoms all this time? It doesn't make sense.
Then there is the issue of does smoking more cost the employer more. This is not addressed because the researchers didn't actually speak to any smokers. They read and analysed what other academics had written about smokers. That analysis is how they arrived at the main cost. They did not actually measure how long workers took to go and smoke, they estimated from their reading that smokers would take five fifteen minute breaks during an eight hour day. It strikes me as astonishing that anyone would create an estimate of work time lost without measuring how long smokers actually took for their smoke breaks.
And once you start questioning the method, other issues come up. If smokers are to blamed for loss of work time, what about sports players, who lose time at work through injuries, pains, sprains and so on. I am no apologist for smokers, but if you are costing in smoking time, you also need to cost in the benefits of smoking to the smoker. Many smokers use the time to review what they have to done, or to plan the next move, or just calm down from a stressful situation. What about value of the ideas exchanged between groups of smokers as they congregate socially outside? I am sure that you can come up with your own list of objections.
The flaws in the reported methodology, in my view, make this 'scientific' report unusable. Sadly, too much research into smoking is done by non-smokers speculating about what smokers might be doing and thinking, and not enough is done by studying smokers' behaviour.
by David Mason
He said doubt.
Doubt about what?
Doubt about whether I really want to stop.
I asked him to close his eyes and think about what he gets from smoking.
I asked him what his image of smoking looked like and he reported that he had an image of himself walking along a river bank , smoking and being by himself. Very positive image of good smoking.
Still with his eyes closed, I got him to imagine being back on that riverbank, and then suggested that he take out a cigarette. I then suggestede that the cigarette turned into some horrible crawling that wrapped around his fingers and started crawling up his arm. I got him to imagine ripping it off his arm and throwing it into the water where it thrashed about and drowned. Then he looks at the packet and the whole pack was full of gross crawling squirming things trying to get into his mouth. He had to throw the pack on the ground and stamp it out until they were all dead.
That soon fixed his positive image.
When I asked him what he felt now. he said he rejected cigarettes.
The thing is, his mind will always have that picture now. Once you see a thing differently, you cannot unsee it. And everytime he thinks about a cigarette in the future he will have that feeling of fear and revulsion.
Simple things can be very effective.
by David Mason
I have heard some quite remarkable reasons for wanting to give up smoking but the client I had last week must be unique.
He wants to stop smoking because he wants his wife back. She left him because of his miserable behaviour. He loves her and wants her to come back into his life.
He doesn't think that he could find another woman who would accept his cross dressing the way she did. So he wants to show her how much he loves her by stopping smoking. He hopes this will prove that he would do anything to win her back.
It doesn't get more romantic than that.
by David Mason
There is no point in using the Stanford Scale. It has no clinical value: its measures are consistent, but meaningless. I say this as someone who teaches Research Methods in a university, and is a holder of a Masters Degree in psychology.
The Stanford Scale was developed to test susceptibility to hypnosis so that hypnosis could be measured and assessed as a therapy. It was done in the standard way that hard scientists go about all research. That is, isolate the thing you are interested in and control everything else. What the did was to get patients in a room and try to hypnotise them in a standard way. They recorded a (rather bad) hypnosis script and played it on a tape recorder to the patients. This was done so that every patient got exactly the same instructions, delivered in exactly the same way, in the same voice and for the same length of time. It was administered in the same room by a nameless student in a white coat who deliberately refrained from interacting with the patient, so that everything would be the same for every patient. It was then found that some patients went into trance and some did not. Some exhibited particular hypnotic behaviour, and some did not. The scientists then attempted to extract statistical inferences from these behaviours. The Scale is the result of their labours.
Now the most amazing thing about the Stanford procedure is that anybody went into hypnosis at all. It would be difficult to think of a procedure less likely to induce hypnosis. What they found was that highly susceptible people went into trance, and non susceptible people didn't.
But they only didn't go into trance under the bizarre conditions set by the Stanford researchers.
What the Stanford researchers missed is that everyone will go into trance given the right conditions. Given the wrong conditions: they won't. And that is the only thing they proved.
Everyone can be hypnotized if the procedure is tailored to their needs. Everyone is different and using a standard approach to everyone just will not work. Stanford demonstrated that rather well.
If you establish rapport with the client; watch how they react and alter your procedure to take that into account; test and re-test to gauge their reactions, then every normal person on the planet will go into trance. The only exception is people who are mentally ill and cannot maintain a coherent thought pattern. Some people are hard to get to, you may need to use several different methods, but it is clearly proven that Stanford were wrong, everyone will go into trance eventually. The skill of the hypnotist is finding the right way quickly. The failing of the psychology researchers was to assume that one-size-fits-all, that everyone is the same. They are not.
There is no particular reason why a therapist would test for susceptibility. What would it tell you? That some people are more susceptible than others? We already know that, and it doesn't help. The best way to find if someone is susceptible or not is to try to hypnotize them. If it works then they are susceptible, if it doesn't then you have learned something and you try a different induction method.
With a flexible approach based on the individual's personal belief system, and using positive feedback to monitor reactions, 95% of people will go into trance in less than five minutes, sometimes in less than forty seconds, irrespective of their susceptibility profile. The other 5% will need a bit more work but will go into trance in about eight minutes. Maybe one in 200 will be so anxious that they need to be taught to relax in one session before coming back for the main treatment in a later session.
My advice to you is to forget about susceptibility. Assume that everyone will go into trace and then practice at improving your skills with each client you work on.
by David Mason
I've heard many times, that if that person's will's too strong, then that person cannot be hypnotized. And hypnosis won't work on that person.
Is that true?
All sorts of nonsense is talked about hypnosis, so it is hard to know where to start.
You need to be clear what you mean by 'strong will'.
If a person knows that someone is trying to hypnotize them, then all they have to do is to mentally sing a song in their head and no amount of hypnosis talk will affect them, because they cannot hear the words being spoken.
If you surprise someone with an instant induction, they will go into trance, but some will pop right out again in a second or so. This has nothing to do with 'will' and everything to do with not wanting to lose control.
If the person is overly analytic, and mentally questions every word that is said, and goes off on thoughts of their own and analyses the talk instead of acting on it then they cannot be hypnotized until the hypnotist finds a way to get and keep their attention. This is also basically about fear of losing control to another.
There is no type of person with any particular kind of personality who cannot be hypnotized. Every one can be hypnotized: you just need to find the right method.
by David Mason
Depression is usually seen as a negative disease. However, not everything about depression needs to be bad. Not that it is something you would wish on anyone: I have it myself, and I would much rather n0t have it.
However, a client this week reminded me that there are positive aspects to depression, although it might not seem so to some people.
This woman was successful at business, had a good marriage but was so wound up all the time that she couldn't enjoy them. She used to be carefree and relaxed but now was stressed about everything. She had high expectations of herself, was driven all the time, was always looking for things that could go wrong.
She said she had been brought up in a family where she had to be a provider early on and her step father was a drunk. She had felt that it was always up to her to save the day.
It is no surprise that a woman with such a background would be depressed. But in this case, the depression was the driving force to her success. Depression makes you anxious about things going wrong, you worry and catastrophize about everything. In this woman's case, the worry actually drove her to take action, to do everything she could to meet trouble before it started, to always be ready. She had high standards, almost perfectionism from her black and white thinking, and that led to success in her profession and to recognition of her abilities. From this she started her own business and it is ironic to think that it is in fact the depression and dread of failure that has driven her to the top.
I wonder how many other people are successful as a by-product of depression?