Anxiety affects nearly one in five adults in the U.S.—with women being twice as likely to get an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. When left untreated, anxiety can be disabling, impacting all facets of life. With so many ways to manage or treat anxiety, from counseling to medication or a combination of both, some women are opting for alternative methods to self-soothe, cope, and manage their anxiety. In recent years, mindfulness meditation has exploded in popularity, but its lesser-known counterpart—hypnotherapy—might be an even more powerful tool to combat anxiety.
Hypnotherapy is intriguing. It’s been proven helpful for very specific challenges, like losing weight or quitting smoking, or helping to address fears and phobias, like flying. Lately, and I can attest first-hand, hypnotherapy has been used more and more in the management of stress and anxiety, curbing panic attacks, and helping practitioners learn how to live (and thrive) despite these challenges.
My experience is a relatable one. Five years ago, in a senior position for a start-up in London, I was working tirelessly, putting all my energy and efforts into the job, as I placed all my value and self-worth in my performance at work. Like many women, I was (am) a perfectionist and that trait carries through and manifests in unhealthy behaviors. Even during pregnancy, a fear of failure resulted in a further obsession with ‘climbing the corporate ladder’, so as to not be seen as incapable. Everything came to a head while giving a presentation to my colleagues, and my first, major, devastating panic attack occurred.
This incredibly traumatic experience only deepened my anxiety, which extended beyond the workplace and into my personal life—exacerbated more so by the birth of my child and the stress of new parenthood.
Anxiety left me with a deep feeling of shame, both of which I hid from everyone in my life as well as I could. Only after many months of silent suffering did I confide in my husband and begin cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
CBT didn’t work for me. In fact, it made things worse. As did the mindfulness meditation practice I attempted. The reality is, if you’re a perfectionist and/or have perfectionist traits, meditation can ignite that feeling of failure if you’re unable to achieve mental clarity (which is incredibly difficult for anyone, mind you). It requires focus and attention, and—quite frankly—work. It’s a challenge.
Hypnotherapy for Anxiety
Hypnotherapy changed everything. Unlike meditation, hypnotherapy has a broader consideration than mindfulness. Rather, it’s a form of talking therapy between two individuals with the ultimate goal of empowering the practitioner with self-awareness and putting them back in charge of their own behavior. It’s far more free-form than meditation with the allowance of ebbing and flowing thought, and an overall acceptance of ‘leaning back’ and letting go, versus leaning in.
After six sessions of hypnotherapy with Georgia Foster, a clinical hypnotherapist, and countless listens to our recorded sessions—along with extensive market research—Clementine was born. This hypnotherapy app, with Georgia as the main voice, alongside other real, certified hypnotherapists, is designed to help women, like myself, anywhere and everywhere, experience hypnotherapy, too.
That said, there’s a lot of skepticism about how hypnotherapy works and what can be achieved through the practice. Hazel Gale, a cognitive hypnotherapist and the voice behind the new ‘BODY’ sessions in Clementine app, debunks some of the most common myths and fears about hypnotherapy for any curious potential practitioner:
1. You will lose complete control
The most common fear people have about hypnotherapy is that they will lose control. Part of this fear stems from seeing ‘hypnotists’ on TV have people from the audience perform tasks that they wouldn’t normally do and that this ‘lack of control’ will carry on without them being conscious of this.
In reality, the goal of hypnotherapy is “to empower the client with self-awareness and put them back in charge of their own behavior,” rather than to perform some kind of miracle.
2. Hypnosis will put you in a deep trance state
When people think of hypnosis, they think of someone being in a deep trance. Being in a “trance” is not a special, otherworldly state into which we must be “put” by someone else. Rather, it is a natural, everyday occurrence and a standard function of the human mind.
Interestingly, we’re moving between different levels of trance all the time. In fact, 100% consciousness is the rarity (if, indeed, it is possible at all). Any ‘auto-drive’ moment can be considered a hypnotic state. It’s when the subconscious, rather than conscious, mind is calling the shots.
3. There is no scientific evidence that hypnotherapy works for treating anxiety
This is somewhat true because there are lots of different types of hypnotherapy. However, with Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy (QCH) which is significantly different from the traditional schools of hypnotherapy—draws on ideas from evolutionary psychology, positive psychology, cognitive theory, and NLP and incorporates them into a modern idea of hypnosis. QCH therapists don’t advocate one single approach. The therapist will draw from many different approaches and create a framework that suits the client’s individual needs.
CBT is the current leading NHS treatment for these problems in the UK, with a success rate of 42 percent over the course of about 12 sessions. However, using the QCH approach, a recent study showed cognitive hypnotherapy to have a success rate of 71 percent over six sessions, which is very promising. (The study was published in the Mental Health Review Journal in 2015.)
4. Meditation and hypnotherapy are the same
There are some similarities, but also major differences in how these two practices work. The real purpose of mindfulness is to train the mind in noticing thoughts and letting go. This is achieved by turning one’s awareness inwards, giving the mind a simple task like counting breaths, and then practicing the ability to notice the thoughts that distract from that task before returning to it by letting those thoughts go.
Hypnotherapy has a much broader consideration than mindfulness meditation—it’s a form of talking therapy involving two people, rather than an individual practice. It can be used in many different ways in order to achieve the desired result—feeling more calm, more confident, less stressed, sleeping better, losing weight, doing a presentation at work. Hypnotherapy accesses the subconscious mind and therefore allows you to more readily respond to imagery, metaphors, and emotion.