There is a beautiful little paragraph in The House at Pooh Corner which captures the value and relief that can be had when we are troubled by something, and can talk to someone else about it:
“Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”
– A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner, 1928
Winnie The Pooh may have been a Bear of Very Little Brain, but he was also a very wise little character, from whom we can learn a lot.
In the practise of hypnotherapy, we use different words to describe the different parts of our mind: words like conscious, unconscious, subconscious; rational mind; thinking mind. These words are metaphors to aid us in understanding the different parts of mind that govern the way we think and feel and react and respond.
Hypnotherapy primarily focuses on influencing the subconscious (or unconscious) mind. This is the part of our mind that can sometimes seem out of reach to us when we consciously make a decision to change. It’s the deeper programming that governs automatic behaviours and thoughts.
BUT…even in hypnotherapy we need to acknowledge that we have a rational, conscious mind. A mind where we make decisions, nut things out, formulate plans. It serves an important function, and so we want to use it!
Talking things over with your hypnotherapist helps them to understand how best to help you in the unconscious, hypnotic work. Furthermore, just like Pooh experienced, having someone to talk over your problems with can allow you to gain some relief from the burden of carrying them alone, and might also help you to get a different perspective on what’s going on and develop strategies to make change.
Isn’t that the same as counselling?
Sort of! The main difference is that a counsellor usually stops after the talk, focuses on the conscious mind, and counselling is based on the idea that talking and consciously strategising will lead to change. Which sometimes it will. Counselling is based on specific theories and rules, and techniques. That’s not to say that all counsellors work in the same way: just as each client is different, so too will each counsellor be.
Counselling is an important and effective means of getting help in times of difficulty. Hypnotherapy is neither better nor worse than counselling – it is simply different. A hypnotherapist seeks to integrate the conscious and unconscious mind using hypnosis. They help you influence that deeper (unconscious) level of mind at which change can occur more readily and easily.
There are no laws in Australia that state a person offering counselling services must have a specific qualification, but a well-educated hypnotherapist will have been required to study counselling subjects as part of their hypnotherapy qualification. Furthermore, an experienced hypnotherapist is going to have spent many hours engaged in talk therapy with many different people. They will have gained counselling skills by way of that experience, as well as from formal and informal study. Continuing professional development is a requirement for qualified professional hypnotherapists, just as it is for qualified counsellors.
Sometimes you and your hypnotherapist will need to spend your session talking together, rather than doing formal hypnosis work. This isn’t all that common. It might be appropriate if you have experienced some trauma, for example, or if this is the first time you’ve ever spoken of your difficulty with another person.
Having someone to help you when you’re feeling stuck can be the catalyst for creating the change you desire. When people choose hypnotherapy over counselling it is usually because they don’t want to go to a counsellor, or they’ve “tried” counselling, or they feel drawn to the idea of hypnosis as a means where perhaps things might be resolved more swiftly and efficiently.