I often get telephone calls from parents asking if their child can be hypnotised to help with their problems. The answer is always yes. Children are great hypnotic subjects. They go into a trance-like state very easily and accept suggestions very well.
Parents may identify those problems as bed wetting, failure to toilet train, slow readers, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), emotional instability, aggressive behaviour, anxiety, help with ability to read and study, phobias, and failure to socialise.
They hypnotherapist involved needs to be trained in counselling and psychotherapy as well as hypnosis and have experience of working with children. Just having trained in hypnosis is not enough. In New South Wales where I practise, therapists also need to be registered with the government for working with children.
When I see children in my practice I always insist the parents and/or carers attend. Many problems the children suffer may be result of the family dynamics, so I need to be sure that the whole family is behind the child’s treatment program. Also to facilitate a remedy for the child there is a need for certain elements of the family’s relationship to change too. If the child changes and the family stay the same, the treatment program will likely fail. When people in a group change, the group have to change in order to accommodate the person’s change and this includes children.
Hypnosis for helping children overcome their problems can be very successful but it is reliant on the parents’ and carers’ attitude towards supporting the child change. When parents come in with their children and are also willing to follow the therapist’s instructions themselves, the probability of the child changing their behaviour rises considerably.
Recently I saw a family whose six-year-old was not managing to make it to the toilet on time and having constant accidents, which they found very embarrassing. We started by acknowledging that the child was only six years old and that six-year-olds sometimes have accidents. This immediately took the pressure off the situation and normalised the child.
The child was hypnotised in my office and given a hypnosis program to follow at home. Both parents were fully on board with the treatment program and willing to follow the therapeutic instructions. A few days after the initial consultation I made a follow-up telephone call to the parents. The child’s behaviour had changed instantly and there had been no more accidents. The success of this case was just as much reliant on the supportive attitude of the parents as the use of hypnosis with the child.
I am frequently consulted by families with older children who are suffering from the pressure of exams. The child may feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with the academic expectation of the surrounding adults. Using hypnosis and learning techniques, adolescents can be taught to become more efficient and effective students, learning to enjoy and excel at studying and passing exams.
So not only can hypnosis be used with children of all ages but is also an extraordinary way to help children to change their behaviours and life experiences. It is safe and the child can be taught to use self-hypnosis to help them in their young lives.
Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH BHSc, ND is an individual and family therapist and doctor of clinical hypnotherapy. For many years she has worked with children and their families using hypnotic techniques to help overcome problems and go on to have happier childhoods.