Sunday, 27 November 2011

REM Sleep Helps Process Negative Thoughts and Memories

Stress Bucket holds our Negative Thoughts and MemoriesWhen we think negatively about events and situations in our lives, these negative thoughts and memories are accumulated and stored by our brain. I like to think of these negative thoughts and memories as being stored in a stress bucket. This stress bucket fills up with our daily negative experiences and thoughts which contribute to stress; these things can be small things like being late for work or not being able to find a parking space, or large things like losing your job or a relationship breakdown. They all add up and our head can get rather crowded by these unwanted thoughts and memories!

If you are a fan of Harry Potter, you might recall the ‘pensieve’ that Dumbledore uses. When he has too many thoughts and memories in his head, he siphons the excess thoughts into the basin using his wand. He says that "it becomes easier to spot patterns and links" in the memories when they're collected in the “pensieve”. In reality, REM sleep, or Rapid Eye Movement, is our equivalent of this “pensieve”.

At night, we enter in to REM sleep; the stage of sleep where we dream. During this stage of sleep, we re-run the events of our day and anything that might be in our stress buckets, either in clear exactly as it happened or metaphorically. These thoughts are then moved from the primitive part of the brain, where they are an emotional memory, to the intellectual part of the brain where they become a narrative memory. What this means is that the emotion has been stripped from the memory and you have a better control over it – you can think about it when you want to rather than it randomly popping up in your head when you don’t want it to. You can still recall that is wasn’t a pleasant experience but it no longer triggers the same emotional response as it once did and you are able to rationalise what happened.

I am sure that you are already familiar with how REM works, even without realising. Let’s say someone says something to you at work that upsets you. You go to bed that night and during your REM sleep your brain enters in to the process of emptying your stress bucket, changing those memories from emotional to narrative. So when you awaken in the morning, you may well have forgotten about what the person said, or you might not but you will definitely have more perspective on the event and be able to see the bigger picture, like with the “pensieve”.

Recently, BBC News Health reported that dreaming ‘eases painful memories’. Using MRI scans, Scientists were able to shed more light on how the brain deals with the memory of traumatic events and other negative, unpleasant experiences. The research carried out at The University of California showed that after a period of REM sleep, there was less activity in the areas of the brain linked to emotion (the amygdala) but instead, the part of the brain linked to rational thought (the prefrontal cortex) was more active.

In addition to emptying our stress bucket, during REM sleep there is a decrease in the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, a chemical transmitted by the brain associated with stress.

So as you can see, REM sleep is pivotal at helping to keep our stress levels down and emptying out those thoughts and memories which are no longer useful for us anymore. It is also of great advantage to those suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

When our stress buckets are full to capacity or even overflowing, it makes sense that our brain would want to partake in more REM sleep to empty it. Unfortunately, this is not possible as the REM stage of sleep is restricted to approximately 20% of our sleeping patterns. So if our stress bucket is full, we never completely empty our buckets during our sleep and wake up still feeling stressed and affected by those unprocessed memories.

But there is good news! Hypnotherapy mimics REM sleep, helping to trigger a reduction in stress hormones and allowing your brain to process those painful memories and empty that stress bucket. Another great advantage of the hypnosis-induced REM state is that it doesn’t eat in to the 20% REM allowance of your sleep pattern – so you can go for a hypnotherapy session, listen to a hypnosis CD before you go to bed then still have your full 20% allowance of REM sleep, helping to process all those negative memories and thoughts and empty your stress bucket quickly and effectively.

Read the BBC News Health article Dreaming ‘eases painful memories’
Read The University of California Berkeley article Dream sleep takes sting out of painful memories

Read more about what Hypnotherapy is and what to expect from a hypnotherapy session

Read more on how hypnotherapy can help Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

BBC Radio Bristol Interview

Click on the video below to hear me talking with Dr Phil Hammond on BBC Radio Bristol Saturday Surgery about Seasonal Affective Disorder and Hypnotherapy.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

How Hypnotherapy Can Help Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

seasonal affective disorder and hypnotherapyEarlier today I appeared as a guest speaker on BBC Radio Bristol’s Saturday Surgery programme hosted by Dr Phil Hammond. The Saturday morning show discusses topical medical issues and this week one of the issues they were looking at was Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), what with the clocks going back this evening and winter looming. As a Clinical Hypnotherapist, I was asked to speak about this disorder and how it can be helped with Hypnotherapy.

According to the NHS, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern. The cause of this disorder is not fully understood although it is thought that it may be linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter days of the year.

A lack of light affects the levels of two very important chemicals that are produced by our brains; Melatonin and Serotonin.

Melatonin is produced when it gets dark and makes us sleepy – it is how our body knows it is night time and that we should go to sleep. When the nights get in, we produce more Melatonin which makes us feel drowsy and encourages us to sleep more. People who suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder produce much higher than normal levels of this hormone.

Sunlight affects the production of Serotonin so as the days get shorter, we start producing less Serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for maintaining a healthy state of mind. Serotonin is what helps us feel motivated, enthusiastic, happy and in control of our life and has a big effect on our mood and behaviour. It also has an effect on our appetite, sleeping pattern, memory and learning ability. People with Depression, including Seasonal Affective Disorder, produce much lower than average serotonin levels. Hypnotherapy helps stimulate the production of serotonin.

There are a wide range of symptoms associated with depression including:
• Depressed mood, feeling sad or empty, tearful
• Diminished interest or pleasure in daily activities
• Significant weight changes, change in appetite and cravings
• Sleeping too much, sleep disturbances
• Hand wringing, twitching, pacing, tapping foot, hair twiddling etc.
• Fatigue, loss of energy
• Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, guilt
• Diminished ability to think, lack of concentration, indecisiveness
• Loss of libido

SAD affects an estimated 7% of the UK population every winter. If it was just down to the fact that we get less sunlight during the winter, then perhaps we would see a higher percentage of people suffering from the disorder, so there are clearly other factors involved.

The way we think plays a key role in whether we experience depression or not and this can also be said about SAD.

People often say “We are what we eat”, but also “we are what we think”. If we are constantly thinking in a negative way we are more likely to have negative experiences, feel anxious and depressed compared to when we have a more positive outlook. It’s all about perception! So if we are a “glass half full” kind of person we will be focusing on the positive aspects of the season, perhaps looking forward to taking the kids trick or treating, going shopping for some new jumpers or thinking about spending time with family and friends this Christmas and just getting on with life in a positive way. While the “glass half empty” person will be dreading having to get up in the dark and going to work, coming home in the dark, perhaps thinking about how they always feel fed up at this time of year and how its only going to get worse as the days get shorter.

Hypnosis helps the SAD sufferer to reframe their views on this time of the year creating a more positive and relaxed state of mind. Hypnotherapy helps to lift your mood enabling you to break the cycle of depression and get you focused on the positive aspects of your life, leading to an improvement in the symptoms associated with SAD.

Another thing worth mentioning is that our brain will always refer to previous patterns of behaviour in any given situation. So for example, if you reacted to a spider in an anxious way last time you saw one, then your brain will encourage you to do the same again. Let’s say that for the past 5 winters, you’ve felt depressed, slept a lot, put on weight, and not socialised much because it’s cold and dark. Now over the last few weeks the nights have started to get in and it’s going to get even darker in the evenings after the clocks go back tonight. Subconsciously, your brain is thinking what happened last time it was cold and dark? Well, you were depressed, you ate more and slept more and that worked last time so lets do it again! Hypnotherapy helps to change these templates enabling you to feel more positive and in control of the situation.

If you are suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder in Bristol and would like to find out more about how Hypnotherapy can help you through the winter, call me on 07851 307 062 or email to book your FREE initial consultation.

Listen to me talking to Dr Phil Hammond about Seasonal Affective Disorder and Hypnotherapy

More information:
How Hypnotherapy can help with Depression, including Seasonal Affective Disorder
Information from the NHS on Seasonal Affective Disorder
Light Boxes and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

How Hypnosis Allowed Me to Give Blood

Being able to give blood is such an amazing gift that I can now do thanks to overcoming my fear of needles with hypnotherapy.

Giving blood is such a quick and easy process and saves lives. Despite this fact, in the past I have been unable to even contemplate doing it. Not because I had an illness or travel regularly that prevented me from doing so but because I had a phobia of needles, also known as Trypanophobia. Just the thought of having an injection or giving blood made me break out in a sweat and feel anxious.

As far back as I can remember, I have been scared of needles. I remember standing in line at secondary school waiting to have an injection and the closer I got to the front of the queue the more wound up I became about the whole experience until eventually I had a panic attack. As I got older I thought this would improve but in fact it just got worse. Instead of acting in an adult way when faced with an injection or blood test, I would be reduced to a child-like gibbering wreck. Needle phobias are quite common but that wasn’t really a comfort to me. I resigned myself to the fact that this was how it would be for me, never thinking that my experience with needles could change in some way.

Then at the beginning of 2010, I decided to embark on a career change and started training to be a Clinical Hypnotherapist at The Clifton Practice in Bristol. About three months in to the course, I learnt about the fear response and phobias. It was kind of an enlightenment moment for me as it was at this time I realised why I reacted the way I did and that this could be changed allowing me to act in a more rational, calm, and adult-like way when I’m having an injection or blood test. It was a great relief for me. On one of the training days, I was grouped with two fellow students to practice the very effective fast phobia cure or rewind technique. We worked on each others fears which included a fear of heights, a fear of being sick and my fear of needles and we all went away feeling much calmer about our respective fears.

Six months later I got to test it out! I was due to go in to hospital for an operation on my foot and as with all operations, I was required to go for a pre-op assessment to check my health and during this appointment I had to have a blood sample taken. Instead of resisting, crying, panicking and having to lie down in case I fainted, I just sat there calmly and even watched the nurse draw blood from my arm with no anxiety at all. I was so proud of myself and very impressed with the result. My needle phobia was cured!

Getting rid of this phobia opened up the opportunity for me to give blood, something I could never have done before. So I went online and registered my interest to donate blood.

Upon arriving at the local donation centre, I was greeted by one of the nurses and taken through a quick medical questionnaire, had a quick pin prick test to check if I was anaemic and then hopped on the couch for the donation. I felt that the needle was just a minor inconvenience when compared to saving a life. The actual blood donation part only lasted 5-10 minutes and then I was escorted to the refreshment area where I was given a cup of coffee and some biscuits. I felt extremely chuffed with myself afterwards, knowing that my blood is going to someone in great need of it. I’m looking forward to my next visit in January!

I completed my Hypnotherapy training at the beginning of 2011 and I now help other people combat their fears, among other things, using Hypnosis. There are so many people out there with phobias of spiders, heights, and confined spaces, to name a few, and they no longer have to be limited by them any more. Hypnotherapy helped me overcome my phobia and it can do the same for you.

Find out more on how hypnotherapy can help you overcome your fears and phobias.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Hypnotherapy Provides Support for Irritable Bowel Syndrome Sufferers

Hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Sarah Mortimer Hypotherapy BristolSarah Mortimer Hypnotherapy is marking Gut Week 2011 (22-28 August) by highlighting how the therapy can help clients cope with the symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

According to the organisers of Gut Week, about a third of the population experience IBS at some time in their lives. The condition affects the large bowel and symptoms might include abdominal pain and spasms, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and excess wind. It can also involve an urgent need to visit the toilet and even incontinence if you don’t get there in time.

In 2008, NICE published guidelines for GPs for the diagnosis and management of IBS. Once diagnosed, the guidelines recommend 12 months of traditional treatments ranging from dietary advice through to anti-diarrhoea or anti-constipation medications as appropriate, or even low dose antidepressants to reduce pain and spasms. If the IBS has not responded to this treatment, it is classed as 'intractable'.(1)

In such cases, NICE recommends Hypnotherapy as an option to help the condition. In fact there are a small number of Hypnotherapists specialising in IBS working within NHS hospitals. According to the NHS on-line portal, NHS Choices, which offers information about how to make choices about your health:

Hypnotherapy has been shown to help some people with IBS to reduce their symptoms of pain and discomfort... You can have Hypnotherapy as an outpatient in some NHS hospital pain clinics, or you can learn self-hypnosis techniques to do at home.”

Dr Roland Valori, editor of Frontline Gastroenterology, said of the first 100 of his patients treated with hypnotherapy, symptoms improved significantly for nine in 10. He said that although previous research has shown Hypnotherapy is effective for IBS sufferers, it is not widely used. Back in June, the Royal Society of Medicine announced that they were seeking to make hypnosis more widely used within the NHS.

IBS is more common in women than men and may be aggravated by stress and life changes. Hypnotherapy can help to alleviate symptoms often by addressing the underlying anxiety. It also gives you the tools to be able to cope better so that stress no longer triggers IBS symptoms. Hypnotherapy also helps to manage any pain that might be experienced as a result of the condition.

Sarah Mortimer would always recommend that a client seeks advice from their GP if they are experiencing any bowel symptoms to ensure there is nothing more sinister going on. In the event that traditional treatments for IBS prove ineffectual, Hypnotherapy has been shown to be beneficial. Many hypnotherapists who are members of the AfSFH like Sarah, receive referrals from local Gastroenterologists and GPs as they understand that Hypnosis can help alleviate the symptoms of IBS, especially where anxiety is involved.

If you would like to find out more about how Hypnotherapy can help you with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, then please contact Sarah on 07851 307 062 or email to book a free initial consultation. Find out more about Sarah Mortimer Hypnotherapy.

(1)Adapted from an article “Hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is Evidence-Based and Highly Effective”, January 12th, 2011 by Helen Bremner

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Curious About Curiosity

I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
I would never have said I was a curious person, just someone with lots of questions and ideas. I have never been afraid of asking questions and many of mine have been quite strange at times such as do chickens have periods? Do butterflies know they used to be caterpillars? (I actually asked an evolutionary biologist this question) and many other similar questions. It would seem I’m not the only person who asks questions like this and they made a book out of it! The New Scientists books such as Does Anything Eat Wasps?: And 101 Other Questions is a great read for the naturally curious person! I have to say that I am delighted that Google and Wikipedia are so easily available to help answer my many questions.

The concept of curiosity seems to have curiously entered my life quite recently. According to (another great site for the curious), curiosity is a strong desire to know or learn something.

As a Hypnotherapist, I am required to attend regular group supervision sessions to discuss various aspects of hypnotherapy, my practice, learn new techniques, keep abreast of current developments and to talk about case studies etc. My supervisor talks about being curious and curiosity quite a lot – it seems to be his buzz word and although I understand what curiosity is, you could say I was curious about the use of curiosity in hypnotherapy. I then went on an NLP workshop at the Folkhouse in Bristol and the workshop facilitator also talked about curiosity and guided us through a short visualisation, known as anchoring, which took us back to a time when we felt curious, helping us to re-develop our curiosity.

The time I recalled where I felt curiosity was an evening walking around the rock pools along the beach on Koh Phangan in Thailand a few years ago. The tide had gone out leaving tiny rock pools teeming with life – sea cucumbers, little crabs, and brightly coloured fish. They were all new to me and I’d never seen anything like them before so every time I saw something, I’d say to my partner “Wow! Look at that!” and “Wow! What’s that?” - It was like being a child again; I was so excited to be seeing these new curious little sea creatures. While visualising this scene and seeing in detail what I saw, hearing what I heard, and feeling what I felt it really transported me back there and I could really feel the feelings of curiosity within me and it made me feel excited and even more curious.
Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why." ~Bernard Baruch
Many things we use today, such as mobile phones, computers, cars, washing machines etc. would not exist if their inventors didn’t have curiosity! Hypnotherapy and NLP wouldn’t exist if the pioneers in those fields weren’t curious people. I wouldn’t have learnt Hypnotherapy or anything else I chose to study, if I wasn’t curious. Now there is a very well known saying that “Curiosity killed the cat”, but I would have to add that the cat wouldn’t have been fed either if he hadn’t been curious (check out the photo above, taken by foxypar4)!

Curiosity is important in our life; it is what makes life interesting and as Dorothy Parker once said “The cure for boredom is curiosity”. It also makes our mind active instead of passive, asking questions and wondering about possibilities and ideas. It is often said that the mind is like a muscle and the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes and curiosity is a vigorous session at the gym for your mind!

The Pegasus NLP Blog says this about curiosity:
“When we are curious we are not self-absorbed. Our attention, instead of being on ourselves and how we feel and what people think of us, is on the world outside us – on other people and on what is happening around us.

In the state of curiosity we take a break from that little dark room in our minds with all the chatter and analysis and doubts and hopes and irritabilities and guilts and resentments.

In the state of curiosity we take a holiday from self-absorbed thinking! We replace self-consciousness with other-consciousness.”
With this in mind, curiosity can be used to help our thought processes and internal dialogue become more positive and solution focused. So for example, if we do, say or think something which we are upset or annoyed about, instead of beating ourselves up about it and being self-judgmental like our inner voice might ordinarily do, we should be curious about it and say to ourselves “Isn’t that interesting! I wonder why that happened! Isn’t that curious!” Being curious helps us to have a different perspective on things and can also foster a more positive way of thinking in addition to helping us come up with solutions to our problems. Thinking “I shouldn’t have done that I’m so stupid” doesn’t get us anywhere but curiously asking “Why did I do that and what could I do differently next time?” can help us to move forward. Many of the questions I use in my hypnotherapy sessions foster curiosity and help clients to move forward with their lives.
“I keep six honest serving-men,
They taught me all I knew;
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.”
~Rudyard Kipling
Now go be curious!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Member of the National Council for Hypnotherapy

I have just become a full licenciate member of the National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH). The NCH represents over 1800 hypnotherapy professionals within the United Kingdom, of which I am now one of them!

There are many Hypnotherapy Associations that a qualified Hypnotherapist can join but I decided to join the NCH as it is a very respected and well known association and only practitioners with a Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma (HPD) can be a member. The HPD is an externally verified qualification, bringing it in line with other health care professions.

To ensure high professional standards, the NCH devised a Code of Conduct which all its members must abide to.

The NCH encourages all its members to continue to improve their skills and grow their knowledge. Each year, I am required to practice Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in order for me to stay a member of the association. I regularly attend group supervision sessions, workshops and talks on various aspects of Hypnotherapy, NLP and Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). I also regularly read books, journals, magazines and websites on various aspects of Hypnotherapy, Mental Health, Psychotherapy, How the Brain Works and any other subject that might relate to and enhance my Hypnotherapy practice. All these activities help to enhance my skills and knowledge in hypnotherapy and keeps me in touch with current practices.

Although not part of the CPD program, I regularly practice self hypnosis and regularly have hypnotherapy sessions with another hypnotherapist. I feel that this is an important part of being a therapist as it allows me to experience what it is like to be a client, to see how other therapists work, and it also looks after my own wellbeing.

The NCH holds a register of all of its members so you can find a Hypnotherapist near you and be sure that they are trained to the highest standards, are fully insured and work to a strict professional code of conduct. Check out the NCH Therapist Finder.

View my NCH practitioner profile.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Closing the Gate on Pain

Closing the Gate on PainIn 1965, Psychologist Ronald Melzack and Neurobiologist Patrick Wall proposed a new theory on how pain is perceived. I first learnt about this theory while attending an NHS-run pain management programme and again later during my Hypnotherapy training at The Clifton Practice. This theory was the catalyst that led to my recovery from chronic pain and as such I feel it is the most important piece of information that I can relay to my clients. It also actively demonstrates that changing the way one mentally perceives pain can actually change (decrease) the experience of pain on a physiological level.(1)

Melzack and Wall’s Gate Control Theory of Pain suggested that when there is damage to the body, be it a cut or burn, fracture or sprain, messages carrying information about the injury travel up to the brain along two separate sets of nerve fibers; small nerve fibers (pain receptors) and large nerve fibers (“normal” receptors).(2)

The large fibers transmit messages about sensations such as joint movement, heat, cold, touch, etc. while the smaller fibers carry pain signals. The large fibers are faster transmitters of messages compared to the small fibers therefore messages being transmitted by the large fibers arrive at the spinal cord before those being transmitted by the small fibers.

According to Melzack, “Pain messages flowing along peripheral nerves to the spinal cord on their way to the brain encounter ‘nerve gates’ that can inhibit (close) or facilitate (open) the incoming nerve impulses.” (3) It’s the balance between the messages flowing along the small fibers (pain) and the messages flowing along the large fibers (pressure) that determines whether this gate opens and pain is perceived or the gate closes blocking the pain signals from reaching the brain.(4) The nerve or pain gate opens when there are more messages being transmitted along the smaller fibers and the pain gate closes when there are more messages being transmitted along the larger fibers.

In addition to these ascending nerve pathways which transmit messages up to the brain, there are also descending pathways which transmit messages down from the brain. These messages are what causes your hand to pull away from something that is causing you pain and they also depress the reactions from the autonomic nervous system such as increased heart rate and blood pressure which would have been triggered as a result of the pain. More importantly the descending messages cause a release of natural pain-relieving opiate-like neurotransmitters such as endorphins, dynorphins and enkephalins which closes the gate and also blocks the release of neurotransmitters which are responsible for increasing pain such as Substance P.(4)

Melzacks model suggested that “psychological factors such as past experience, attention, and emotion influence pain response and perception by acting on the gate control system”.(3) People who suffer with chronic pain often note that their pain is worse when they are feeling stressed or having a bad day!

When people suffer from chronic pain they often withdraw from activities, such as socialising, going out, exercising, housework, going to work etc., based on the idea that it will minimise the pain. But what actually happens is the opposite! It’s quite ironic really how we stop doing all the things that actually could help keep that pain gate closed.

Things that cause the "gate" to open and therefore making the pain worse include stress, tension, anxiety, worry, depression and negative thoughts; focusing on your pain; boredom; and lack of activity and exercise.

Things that help close the "gate" on pain include relaxation; feeling happy and thinking positively; socialising, taking an interest in life and doing things you enjoy; being active and exercising regularly even if it is only light exercise or walking; and counter-stimulation such as massage, acupuncture, heat/cold, and TENS.

Knowing about the Gate Control Theory of Pain made me realise that I had a choice; I could either continue living my life as I had been where the pain was in control or I could take positive steps to help close the gate on pain for good. That is when I decided to try hypnotherapy to help reduce my stress and anxiety levels, stop the negative thoughts about my pain, and help me realise what I wanted from life rather than just “not being in pain”!

More information on how Hypnotherapy can help you manage chronic pain

Check out my Bristol Hypnotherapy website to find out more about Hypnotherapy and where I practice.

(1) Dalton, Ph.D., Erik. The Pain Game Part Two, Massage & Bodywork Magazine (2006)
(2) Freudenrich, Ph.D., Craig. How Pain Works, (2007)
(3) Melzack, T., Wall, P. D., Pain Mechanisms: A New Theory, Science 150 (1965): 971.
(4) Koman, K. The Science of Hurt, Harvard Magazine, (2005)

Dalton, Ph.D., Erik. The Pain Game Part One, Massage & Bodywork Magazine (2006)
Jackson, M. Pain and Its Mysteries, Adapted from Pain the Fifth Vital Sign (2002)

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Hypnotherapy in the News

This week there have been two news reports about Hypnotherapy.

The two stories were both publicised on Monday 6th June 2011 – the major story referred to a stage hypnotist who faked a fall during his act, apparently knocking himself unconscious, to test whether hypnotised subjects would remain in trance or wake up naturally if the hypnotist became incapacitated.

The Association for Solution Focused Hypnotherapists (AfSFH) wishes to reassure the public that hypnotic ‘trance’ is a perfectly natural state, and that should anything befall the hypnosis practitioner, their subject would ‘wake up’ in their own time anyway.

Association Trustee and Company Secretary, Nicola Griffiths, explains,
‘We all drift in and out of the ‘trance’ state many times a day – concentrating so hard on a report or spreadsheet at work that you are oblivious to your colleagues’ banter, becoming so engrossed in a book or TV programme that you are unaware that your partner has been trying to attract your attention, or being so involved in an activity, even ironing, that you lose track of time.

The only difference between this state and being hypnotised is that the practitioner guides you into the state in order to engage your full attention. You cannot be made to do anything against your will and should anything untoward happen to your practitioner then you would simply wake up naturally.’

The second story concerned the news that the Royal Society of Medicine is seeking to make hypnosis more widely used within the NHS. It is already used in a range of areas, but the Society would like it to be much more commonplace, such that it is simply another tool at the medical profession’s disposal.

The story discussed the use of hypnosis to help with anxiety, depression, chronic pain and disease. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), who are responsible for providing national guidance on promoting good health and preventing and treating ill health, already advise GPs to refer patients suffering with Irritable Bowel Syndrome for psychological interventions (CBT, Hypnotherapy or Psychotherapy) if they have not responded to pharmacological treatments.

Myself and the AfSFH welcomes the news that the Royal Society is recommending the use of hypnosis by more medical professionals but are concerned that an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme may have given the impression that unless a therapist is medically trained they are somehow ‘strange’ with ‘questionable qualifications’.

Whilst there is no doubt that the quality of training varies across the Hypnotherapy field, there are a number of highly credible training schools whose courses have been externally accredited and are nationally recognised. To put it into context, the Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma (HPD), which is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ in Hypnotherapy training, has been recognised by the Open University to be the equivalent of 45 points at Undergraduate Level 1 (FHEQ Level 4).

I would encourage any member of the public seeking the services of a Hypnotherapist to ensure that they are registered with a professional body. This will mean the therapist is properly trained, insured and adheres to a professional code of conduct.

As a qualified Hypnotherapist, I have undergone extensive training with one of the leading Hypnotherapy Schools in the Country, The Clifton Practice in Bristol, and obtained the HPD qualification. My training is also enhanced by ongoing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and regular Supervision. I am a member of the AfSFH.

I offer Hypnotherapy at The Harbourside Practice in Bristol. To find out more about hypnotherapy or to book an initial consultation please get in touch. Check out my Bristol Hypnotherapy website.

Below you can find the original News stories:

BBC Health (Video) - NHS should offer hypnosis as standard says new report
BBC Radio 4 (Audio) - Hypnosis 'is more than a placebo'

For more information on how hypnotherapy can help with various medical conditions:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Pain Management

Friday, 29 April 2011

Hypnotherapy Provides Support for Asthma Sufferers by Helping to Reduce Anxiety

A Hypnotherapy Association is marking Asthma Awareness Week (9-15th May 2011) by highlighting how the therapy can help clients cope with the condition by reducing their levels of anxiety.

According to Asthma UK, a charity dedicated to improving the health and well-being of people whose lives are affected by asthma, 5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).

There is an inter-relationship between anxiety and asthma – for some people, anxiety can be a trigger for asthma, for others it is the asthma itself which causes anxiety. After all, there are few things more frightening than struggling to breathe. The link between anxiety and asthma can lead to an unhelpful cycle of cause and effect which can be difficult to break.

In fact some of the symptoms of a panic attack (hyperventilation) and asthma overlap making it difficult to distinguish between the two. In some cases, a panic attack can actually lead to an asthma attack in someone who already suffers with asthma.

It’s not just asthma patients who are affected by anxiety – parents, partners and other carers can become anxious if the condition appears to be poorly managed.

Hypnotherapy combines psychotherapy (a talking therapy) with hypnosis and can provide clients with effective coping mechanisms aimed at reducing their anxiety generally. Used in conjunction with a patient’s prescribed medication and treatment regimes, hypnotherapy can help clients deal better with life’s stresses, thus minimising the anxiety which could precipitate an asthma attack.

There is a large body of research on the effective use of self-hypnosis, guided imagery, hypnosis and relaxation in asthma in adults and children. A review of research into hypnosis and asthma carried out in 2000 highlighted that studies conducted up to that date consistently demonstrated an effect of hypnosis with asthma. Although more research is needed, the studies showed that its efficacy is enhanced in subjects who are more “susceptible”, where the practitioner is experienced, when it is administered over several sessions, and when it is reinforced by patient self-hypnosis. Children in particular appear to respond well to hypnosis as a tool for improving asthma symptoms.

Hypnotherapy helps to reduce anxiety by assisting clients to visualise their preferred future, i.e. a future in which they are coping better with the problem that is causing them stress. This helps clients to regain a sense of perspective and breaks the cycle of anxiety-asthma-anxiety. The therapy encourages positive thinking by helping clients to focus on solutions to problems, rather than dwelling on the problems themselves.

The Association for Solution Focused Hypnotherapists (AfSFH) has been established to promote the benefits of the Solution Focused approach to improving mental well-being so that the public are more aware of this valuable resource.

I am a member of the AfSFH and I am very enthusiastic about the efficacy of the approach. “Clients are often relieved to learn that we will not be dwelling on their problems or on how bad things are. They soon get the hang of thinking in a more positive way – describing how they want things to be, rather than how they don’t them to be. It sounds simple, but in fact it is an amazingly powerful technique”.

I am a Clinical Hypnotherapist practising at The Harbourside Practice in Bristol. Call 07851 307 062 to book your FREE initial consultation. For more information on Sarah Mortimer Hypnotherapy, visit

To find out more about the new association, visit

For more information about Asthma Awareness Week, visit

Research:- Ewer and Stewart, 1996; Hackman, Stern, and Gershwin, 2000; Maher-Loughna, Macdonald, et al, 1962
- Anbar, 2001; Anbar, 2002; Castes, Hagel, et al, 1999; Kohen, Olness, et al, 1984
- Hypnosis and asthma: a critical review, Hackman RM, Stern JS, Gershwin ME, 2000

First Post for Sarah Mortimer Hypnotherapy

Sarah Mortimer Solution Focused Hypnotherapist BristolHello and welcome to my Hypnotherapy blog!

My name is Sarah Mortimer and I am a Clinical Hypnotherapist in Bristol, UK.

I trained at The Clifton Practice where I gained a Diploma in Hypnotherapy & Psychotherapy (DHP) and a Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma (HPD). My training was very thorough and I saw clients from very early on so I gained a lot of experience in treating a wide variety of issues even before I qualified.

I have always had an interest in helping people starting off volunteering with St Johns Ambulance brigade as a teenager. I later went on to became an auxiliary nurse (healthcare assistant) on a respiratory & palliative care ward at Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham.

I became interested in complementary therapies while studying at university, using various therapies to help with anxiety leading up to exams and for general stress relief. One of the therapies I found most useful was Hypnotherapy. I was amazed at how effective it was at helping me to reduces my stress levels and allow me to think clearer which is so important during examination time.

After leaving University, I decided to retrain in Complementary Therapies - quite different to the Computer Science that I had been studying! I have always been very keen on learning new skills and information.

After working as a self employed Complementary Therapist in Bristol for 4 years, I decided to train in Hypnotherapy which has led me to where I am today! I was totally convinced that I wanted to train in the area of hypnotherapy after receiving a course of hypnotherapy to help me manage chronic pain which I had been suffering with for 5 years. I had tried everything under the sun - both conventional and complementary and nothing had worked until I had hypnotherapy. I was completely blown away by how effective it was and it gave me my life back. I thought I was doomed to be in pain for the rest of my life but I can happily say now that I no longer suffer with chronic pain in my back! I will write more about chronic pain and how I overcome it in a future post.

I really enjoy using hypnotherapy with my clients and they are often amazed at how quickly they can turn their life around with the techniques I teach them. Hypnotherapy is a very positive, forward-thinking therapy and provides you with the tools to help you change the way you think, feel and behave so that you can achieve your goal for therapy and help you move forward in your life!

I have successfully helped many people with a wide variety of issues including helping people through recent bereavements and relationship breakdowns; helping people reduce their stress and anxiety levels; helping people overcome phobias including arachnophobia (fear of spiders), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) and alektorophobia (fear of chickens); helping people lift themselves out of depression; helping women prepare for childbirth; helping people with chronic pain and stress-related illnesses; helping learner drivers control their nerves and feel confident ready for their driving tests; and many many more.

I offer Hypnotherapy at The Harbourside Practice, Bristol where appointments are available morning, afternoon and early evenings on Tuesdays, Wednesday's and Thursdays.

I have created this blog to provide information about hypnosis, hypnotherapy and the various issues it can help with. I will also include some self-help techniques and anything else which I feel is helpful to maintain good mental health and happiness. I would be happy to answer anyone's questions on hypnotherapy so please feel free to email me. I will also post news about my business and experiences as a Hypnotherapist. I hope you enjoy reading my blog!

For more information on Hypnotherapy, visit Sarah Mortimer Hypnotherapy.