Having a specialty in clinical hypnosis, I am often asked about doing hypnosis with children. Research has shown that children make excellent hypnotic subjects. In fact, they are typically more easily hypnotizable than adults. Kids have very active and creative imaginations, and therefore, usually learn hypnosis more quickly than adults because they can rapidly enter trance states and easily move in and out of trance. Often we see children spontaneously enter into a trance state as they watch a favorite TV show, listen to a fascinating story, or engage in fantasy play. In working with children, hypnotic techniques must take into account the developmental levels, emotional needs and the personality of the child. It is essential to teach hypnosis to children in terms they will understand. I let the child know that it’s something they already know how to do by explaining that “it’s just like pretending, daydreaming, or imagining.” This demystifies the experience and makes the child more at ease. I often tell the child I’m like a coach or a teacher and I’m helping him or her use their “inner mind” in a very special way.
I have utilized hypnosis with children in a wide range of emotional and physiological disorders, including habit problems, enuresis, behavioral problems, anxiety disorders, phobias, chronic and acute pain, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, and chronic illness. It has also been very beneficial for improving self-confidence and performance enhancement.
An extremely important aspect in utilizing hypnosis with children is preparing both the child and the parents. I always explain what hypnosis is to both the child and his parents, as well as get an understanding of their knowledge about hypnosis. I typically will spend a lot of time clarifying any myths and misconceptions that they may have about hypnosis. (Please see my previous blog dated September 23, 2014).
There are many techniques that work well with children. The parents can either be present or not depending upon the age, anxiety, and wishes of the child. Sometimes I will begin hypnotherapy with a brief “fun experience” or “game” in which the child practices day dreaming or imagining so he or she can “see and remember how easy it is.” The child is asked to use her imagination and start pretending or day dreaming about something she enjoys doing very much, or perhaps being in a favorite place. It is important to learn beforehand the type of imaginative scene the child may prefer to visualize. As mentioned previously, it is also important to utilize the technique that fits the age, personality, and interests of the child. I will often teach children basic relaxation techniques, especially when I am dealing with anxiety disorders. As far as the actual therapeutic work, the specific suggestions and metaphors I use will depend upon the nature of the problem, the child’s understanding of the problem, and his interests. For example, I may utilize a computer or sports metaphor with an older child. I will often teach self-hypnosis to kids, as practicing at home can greatly enhance the child’s ability to attain and maintain the sought after changes.
In conclusion, hypnotherapy can be a beneficial approach in working with children. Kids typically will find the approach to be quite enjoyable as it makes use of their active fantasy lives. Furthermore, hypnotherapy can help a child develop a sense of increased mastery and competence, which will result in heightened self-esteem.