Brookside Center for Counseling and Hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy With Non-Achievers
by Maurice Kouguell, Ph.D., BCETS.
For the purpose of this presentation, "Non-Achievers" may be defined as students or employees who have made a choice not to achieve. I will use the example of "students" to illustrate my discussion. Non-achieving students may be those registered in a course of study, such as high school or college, who gradually refuse to attend and refuse to achieve. They seem to take the path of least resistance by avoiding school, avoiding persons that they are accountable to or feel that they are accountable to. The path of least resistance is frequently not one which is comfortable. These students experience guilt, anxiety and somatizations of all kinds, manifesting themselves as stomach cramps or back aches. Daily, they may make decisions which may not be completely based on their own wishes. Even when they choose to leave the campus, the fact that they came onto the campus (or were in the vicinity of the campus) and the fact that they left their home, is an indication in and of itself that they still retain some contact with the institution.
These students feel trapped and they do not wish to be trapped; they feel frustrated and they do not wish to feel frustrated; and above all, they end up feeling very angry toward the institution and with themselves.
With each day that passes, their anxiety becomes more and more overwhelming. Gradually, they develop a whole system of thought which they use to justify their avoidance of the educational process, the process of attendance and their behavior. They see themselves as having made the right choices. "School stinks. The whole world stinks. I will never be able to use what the school is teaching me."
There is a definite distinction between non-achieving students and school phobic
students. The non-achieving student can move in and out of the school grounds and the
school structure quite comfortably. The school phobic cannot leave his or her house.
Both groups have emotional problems in common. This article will limit itself to
the non-achieving student, the one who can go in and sit in class but chooses not to. I
will address myself specifically to the techniques used with those students in individual
sessions of hypnotherapy.
The common traits found among all students with whom I have worked are:
1. Poor self-esteem
2. Poor self-image
4. A wish to return to the mainstream but feeling trapped in this new way of life.
8. Resignation to the current fate
9. Hostility misdirected
10. Rejection by a parent, authority figures within the school system and/or some of their peers
The First Visit
The first interview must convey the feeling of an alliance between the hypnotherapist and the client. The student's pain needs to be articulated. Often they feel that no one understands them, no one cares and basically no one knows how much pain they are experiencing. Most of the experiences with authority figures such as parents or teachers have been based on, or characterized by, reprimands and techniques geared at belittling their self-worth.
They come to your office usually prepared not to listen and prepared not to return. Therefore, the very first visit is the most essential. At that time, I choose to explain how she or he might feel, emphasizing that it takes courage to take that step forward, to seek help. Often their response to that is, "I'm here because somebody told me I'd better come here or else...", I will continue to reinforce the fact that the client has the courage to reach out and it takes courage to look at oneself.
As they reveal negative statements about school or home, I quickly agree, pointing out that they have good judgment, namely: why should one like anything if what is offered does not meet his/her needs? I then point out that it is unfortunate that the reward for not attending school is the extension of the academic year by two more months in the summer, the possible retention of another year, thus extending a painful experience by a year and a summer in addition to the current requirements.
It is a surprise to see how few students have thought about it in this way. I explain that what we will do is use hypnosis as a way to make them feel better quickly. I also explain that I feel that their lifestyles have been such that they usually seek quick answers to any kind of discomfort and that is what hypnosis will give them.
I conclude by stating that hypnosis will give them a certain feeling of power and
they will have control over what they really want to do. Usually, the response is:
"What I want to do I am doing now, which is not being in school." Once again, I
reiterate, "Hypnosis will give you power."
Up to now, they have been demonstrating power not to do what is expected of them. They may choose to use hypnosis for whatever they really wish to do. I simply reinforce the statement that hypnosis will give them power. One must bear in mind that they are in my office because they are experiencing a certain amount of guilt, fear and anxiety. I ask them what they know about hypnosis and explain to them the usual explanation given to any of my clients.
When I ask them what they know about hypnosis, most of my student population expect to see me working with a crystal pendulum and using strong authoritarian suggestions. When this clue is given to me, I use a pendulum and I play the role of the hypnotist. The result is they expect and end up playing the "patient role" as they see it. This is done spontaneously and quickly. It is important for me during that first session to impress on them the power of hypnosis. I may choose to use the pendulum in any way I please, however, my technique is always accompanied by other techniques of quick hypnosis, such as used by Dave Elman. The hypnosis is reinforced by using deepening techniques.
During that very first session the client is given the feeling of self-confidence and relaxation. When they leave the office after the first session, they have actual proof of how hypnosis works for relaxation and stress reduction.
When they can leave this experience feeling good, they will anticipate that they
will get quick results simply because this population generally exhibits a low frustration
tolerance, indicating that they do not have the patience to become involved in any
long-term projects such as being in any kind of institution, school, college or home. In
the visits to follow, I address myself to the ten points previously listed.
Depending on the individual case, I frequently use the imagery of guilt, shame and anger being put into a balloon attached to or being held in the patient's hand. I have them letting the balloon go, going up into the sky until it is no longer seen, thus giving up some of those negative feelings.Techniques of ego-strengthening are used in each session and are primarily based on the induction as used by John Hartland.
All the above are directions which I see as being various little streams leading
into a large river. The larger river is to become the hypnotherapists own direction
to each specific case, always bearing in mind that this population will respect best to
him/her as an alliance which is being formed between two parties. One must also keep in
mind that for most of those patients the hypnotherapist might well be the first
non-judgmental person to listen to them. (At one of the sessions, for instance, the story
of Pinocchio is brought up while purposely omitting the moral.)
Finally always remain aware of your patient's needs. Hypnosis, imagery and visualizations are techniques. The goal is the resolution of the conflict within the patient. The hypnotherapist must keep in mind that this population does not expect anything to work. They are dealing with past histories of having failed to accept or comply with family life, school or authority figures.Frequently some of my clients remain guarded and analytic during the sessions. In order to free them from this, I use multi-inductions after they have gone into trance. As I talk to them, I will simultaneously play one of my own tapes talking to them. The purpose of this technique is for them to receive messages while they enter a state of confusion, abandoning their analytical thinking. They will then experience a feeling of letting go. The basic thrust is the use of imagery. I will list a few.
Imagery that uses themes of rebirth. The metaphor of the little chick about to be hatched with the expectations of himself in a new world from which he has been isolated. This metaphor also involves that he had no choice of being isolated.
The induction then proceeds to relate how the chick feels anticipating being hatched, the process of cracking the shell, the process of coming out of the shell, looking at the world through a totally new perspective, beginning to relate to the outside world, starting with the immediate parents and going onto further horizons. I may use other such fantasies. I have found that with some subjects, less abstract themes, such as the grass not being greener on the other side can be used effectively.
Poor self-esteem and poor self-image are approached with the purpose of eradicating from their minds the use of any negative terminology or any negative connotations and by using the kind of vocabulary which will build up a positive attitude. Additionally, I use the blackboard technique. I have them list all the negative labels they have ever heard applied to themselves. Then, they are told to erase those negative labels and replace them with new positive aspects.
[For more on the treatment of trauma in different situations see School-Related Trauma and Healing Invisible Scars.]
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