A man at the end his tether called up our hypnotherapist Sarah Eley. He was suffering inexplicable panic attacks – one so severe that he feared a heart attack and called an ambulance. ‘It’s common for such clients to avoid situations where panic might ensue’ Sarah says. ‘They stop attending family events or going out at weekends, so their world starts to shrink. Men, particularly, find it hard to talk about these problems, even more so if someone’s told them “You’ve got to man up!’

Sarah taught her client the principles of hypnotherapy, which very quickly had an impact. People observed that he was looking better, though he hadn’t been aware how tense he seemed  ‘Eventually his wife took him back to the place where he’d had his initial panic attack’ says Sarah ‘and he was absolutely fine.  The spell was broken.’

How does hypnotherapy help mental health

The spell was broken not by any mysterious dark art – as the dubious still see hypnotherapy – but actually by the client himself working on his own wishes for his own wellbeing.  ‘If not fearful, people are often sceptical about hypnosis’ says Sarah, ‘which is why it can be a therapy of last resort for people who’ve tried the GP, CBT and meditation, and failed to affect change.’

Hypnotherapy works well for anxiety, weight loss, panic attacks, OCD and smoking habits.  Trance is something that happens quite naturally to us all: Says Sarah, ‘You may have driven to a familiar place yet remember only the setting off and arriving – nothing in between. We call this automatic pilot, but it’s actually a naturally occurring trance state, which is what we engender in hypnotherapy.  It’s done through simple exercises like relaxing muscle groups, allied with a nice visualisation which might involve a walk through the woods, on the beach or sitting in a comfy chair.’

It’s reassuring to learn how hypnotherapy really works:   ‘The conscious part of your brain makes the rational decision. It’s the problem-solving part of that usually allows us to get things right. The unconscious is the primitive part that basically helps with self-preservation: it fires up and gives us the fight or flight response when we feel threatened.  Interestingly, the subconscious can not innovate. If it knows it kept you safe in the past, then it repeats the same pattern in the future. That was good if you emerged from your ancient cave and found a creature waiting to pounce, but it’s not so good in the 21st century when survival is not at risk.  The subconscious can’t distinguish between real and perceived threat, so hypnotherapy addresses the unconscious while your conscious is at rest.’

A similar pattern is true of those with other challenges such as weight maintenance. Someone might come saying ‘I know it’s bad for me, so why am I still eating too much chocolate?’ The answer is that she had chocolate last week, when feeling blue, and felt better so the subconscious says ‘Oh, do it again!’.  In sessions, I’ll tell her subconscious what her conscious mind already knows, and what she’s also told me  – that she’ll enjoy better health without confectionery.’

Hypnotherapy begins with a brief discussion of a client’s problem, but doesn’t require prolonged probing. ‘We then look at the positives’ says Sarah, ‘at the kinds of things people would expect to be doing if they were feeling better  – even if they took just small steps. Then the actual hypnotherapy process involves listening to my words and feeling free to appreciate the experience of relaxation which everybody says is enjoyable.’

Krysallis has two practitioners registered with the National Council for Hypnotherapy, Patrick Lund and Sarah Eley.  Both give clients a recording to take home so that they can practise between sessions. Hypnotherapy usually runs over 6-8 sessions at an average £50 each.