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Hypnosis for children
by Geoffrey Knight
Geoffrey Knight

There are many children's problems that hypnotherapy can help with. And, the great thing is that children are usually excellent hypnotic subjects. They have such wonderful imaginations that you can induce the hypnotic state easily and rapidly by getting them, for example, to imagine taking off in a space craft or taking part in their favorite television program.

A surprisingly large percentage of childhood complaints stem from unresolved emotional issues. Many children, for example, who suffer from Bronchial Asthma are anxiety-ridden, lack confidence and are dependent on one or both of their parents to an extreme degree. There may be physical factors that are directly implicated, but often the parent is told that the child will "grow out of it". More likely the child (and maybe even the parent) simply matures enough to resolve the emotional issues that triggered the problem in the first place.

Allergies are another problem suffered by children, and allergic reactions are often associated with stress. There can be a whole host of stressful events in a child's life such as relations with siblings, school, dependency on a parent, fear of interaction with peer groups, and aggression towards one or both parents sometimes arising from a past traumatic event. You may have heard about an experiment carried out on children whose allergen was flower pollen. In hypnosis they were asked to smell a rose in a sealed glass jar, whereupon they immediately had an asthmatic attack. Subsequently under therapy they were instructed in ways to control, and then stop altogether, having asthmatic attacks, principally through the use of self-hypnosis.

Nail biting, stuttering, various kinds of habitual spasms, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) on which I wrote in the last issue, can all be addressed by hypnosis. I am not saying hypnosis is always successful, but in the substantial majority of cases I have seen and treated, the child has achieved a satisfactory outcome. Perhaps the one factor that I enjoy most is giving a child an effective therapy that does not rely on synthetic drugs. Even if I had the power to prescribe pharmaceuticals, I would never wish to do so because of the great potential for harm.

I believe that the widespread prescription of the drug Ritalin is a crime being perpetrated on today's children with so-called Attention Deficit Disorder. The power of the child's mind in hypnosis is much more effective, and physiologically harmless.

In a study on Dyslexia in 1975, Crasilneck and Hall showed that over 75% of dyslexic children can be helped with direct hypnosis. Following hypnotherapy that included suggestions for improving performance and pronunciation, recognition of words became automatic and more rapid. The results in this study were as good as, or slightly better than, those reported by special behavior modifiers.

Nocturnal Enuresis, or bed-wetting, is particularly distressing to both child and parents. There are a number of possible physical causes that need to be checked out by a doctor. Equally there are a number of psychogenic factors that may play a role such as loss of a mother, sibling rivalry, emotional immaturity due to overprotection, etc. Very often the symptom is a form of passive rebellion by the child against the parent. The child discovers that when he wets his bed he has a real weapon against his parent, and often he will continue this pattern long after the original cause for his hostility is forgotten. Bed-wetting is a difficult problem to overcome because you have to help the child establish a motivation for bringing about a change in his life. Hpnotherapy can also help other behavior disorders such as thumb sucking and examination anxiety.

Finally, there is the terror of the dentist's chair. There are a few enlightened dentists who have had an adequate training in hypnosis and can eliminate the child's phobia of the dentist's chair by using hypnosis. A professional hypnotherapist is able to use post hypnotic suggestions with the child before the visit to the dentist. In extreme cases the therapist can accompany the child to the dentist, and immediately bring about a deep hypnotic trace state by a simple cued induction. You do need a sympathetic dentist. My dentist refuses to rely on my self-hypnotic state and always insists on giving me a Novocain injection, because she is afraid I will feel pain and move at some critical stage. I am working on her, however, and she has admitted that she has never had an extraction with less bleeding. Oh ye of little faith!

Geoffrey Knight is a clinical hypnotherapist and Director of the Knightsbridge Institute for Hypnotherapy and NLP. He is a Member of the Oregon Hypnotherapy Association. He can be reached at (503) 246-7300. Address: 3446 SW Alice St, Portland, OR 97219. (New address & phone!)