This month I was asked to prepare a session about working with children. Lecture notes and video below.
These are my Teaching notes, happy to share:
Intro think about what children have experienced and how challenging life has been for children.
We love teaching our students how to work with Children. Children have the most amazing imaginations, and they love visualisation.
Up until the age of about 10, children have little distinction between reality and fantasy and can often create wonderful and fantastical scenarios which can be utilised in hypnosis to help a wide range of issues and challenges.
Between the ages of 10 and 12, the Conscious Critical Faculty starts to develop. This acts as a filter between the logical part of our brain, the conscious mind, and the emotional part, the subconscious.
Hypnotherapy relies on switching the conscious mind off for a while and accessing the subconscious, which is the part of our brains where deep-seated emotions and behaviours are rooted.
The participation of parents is important too.
Anxious parents, especially if they have a close bond with their children, can often cause anxious children. They pick up on that anxiety, even if it’s unspoken. Talking things through with parents, offering advice on how they can support their child, both emotionally and practically, is essential in all areas of children’s counselling and hypnotherapy.
Parents often get confused and overwhelmed by the options of therapy available, its can be a challenge to discern between serious mental health problems and more common behavioural issues. Children and young adults respond well to hypnotherapy. They are both imaginative and open minded, they are open to guidance and embrace change.
It's also frustrating with the lack of NHS help available, and if it is available, the extended waiting times for treatment makes this option often impractical. Hypnotherapy is recognised as a treatment option by the National Health Service (NHS) and the Professional Standards Authority (the UK Parliamentary regulator for healthcare), and year on year, more parents are turning to hypnotherapy to help their children overcome behavioural problems, increase confidence and tackle anxiety.
I always have a parent or guardian in the room when I work with children in both the initial interview and during hypnosis. If I can get the whole family there I will.
It's a matter of giving the child a sense of safety. Safety is an essential ingredient for success with hypnosis, so the child most feels safe enough to completely relax. A parents presence contributes to that sense of safety for the child and it's really important for the child to feel very safe with the therapist it's also important for the parent to know that they can observe that their child is safe in my hands so when the parent and child come into my therapy room they'll often find two chairs one comfy chair for the child to sit in I call that my hypnosis chair or my magic chair I might have a blanket and a pillow and possibly a stuffed animal or a toy and I have lots of polished stones crystals nearby that children tend to the like the look of and bring about a sense of fun and wellbeing. Working on zoom I might have a cool background.
The question here is what if the parent is the main source of the child stress. Any parent who's willing to bring a child to my therapy room and pay me for doing something that's not traditional such as hypnosis is willing to do whatever it takes to help a child usually these parents don't fit the profile of an abusive parent. They may be stern, strict or in be creating impossibly high expectations, but they're generally also concerned and loving.
usually, there is an element of stress relief I am providing with the child. The parent is also going to need to learn that they need to change too. So.. may really benefit from experiencing any relaxation therapy intervention that I'm providing.
The stress a child is experiencing is also the stress a parent is experiencing, and the family is also experiencing it too. So, working with the parent present gives them an opportunity to engage and change as well.
Parents are often very focused on what I'm doing with their children so they essentially will be in a light hypnotic state themselves and if they're open to the positive suggestions that I'm giving the child it'll often help the parents too.
If I'm working and I find that the child is unwilling to respond to a question, if they appear uncomfortable following my instructions. l will ask if there's something the child wants to speak to me privately about and if that's the case all then I will ask if the parents would be willing to just step out for a moment while I talked the child in private this is never really happened for me.
In my practise more recently I was working with an older child and having a parent there was a little intrusive but because I was working on zoom I felt it was OK to work with this teenager with parental consent alone and was able to chat at a more deeper level.
Having a parent as an observer gives me an advocate who can report on the session to any other medical practitioners involved. Especially if parents talking with the doctor about the hypnosis it helps doctors maintain their confidence in my work another parents will probably hear about the process and possibly even consider bringing their child to see me or work with me.
Another reason why I have a pair with me in the therapy room is that many of my clients a vulnerable or are teenage girls and as a society we've been rocked by revelations about abuse that has happened within religions within different associations adults that were supposed to be safe have taken liberties with children. So, it's for my own protection that a parent is always present. While I strive to be the safest person my clients ever encounter, I am well aware that many truly good innocent people have also been falsely accused of inappropriate behaviour with children. So, no matter the age or gender of the child I will only work with them if a parent or other responsible adult is willing to sit in on the session.
IF A PARENT GIVES CONSENT FOR THE THERAPUTIC PROCEDURE, BUT THE CHILD DECLINES, THEN THE CHILD’S RIGHT TO REFUSE OVERTURNS THE PARENT’S CONSENT.
Hypnotherapy can help children with:
Habits including thumb-sucking
Nocturnal enuresis (bed-wetting) and Encopresis (soiling)
Nightmares, and other sleep disturbances
Eating issues, food aversions, and choking
Anxiety and stress
Fears and phobias
Problems associated with learning difficulties
Milton Erickson the founder of modern hypnotherapy had a solutions focused approach when working with children to help manage change their feelings and their behaviours. He understood that each of his patients including children knew what they were seeking, He also knew that they had the solutions within themselves and the power to change, but they needed to overcome the natural resistance to change.
What I love about working with children is that they automatically link up stories or metaphors and literal happenings so that when they hear them, their minds very quickly understand what is meant.
If a child listens to a story the areas within their brains which are responsible for emotions are also activated, for this reason children will be very much engaged with the story.
They will engage more with the story then they will often engage with factual information.
Children tend to remember stories for a longer period of time they tend to remember stories longer than they remember facts because stories tend to hold more meaning for them. When stories are told with the intention of changing the way a child thinks or behaves or does things the story becomes a therapeutic metaphor. Whether you're a hypnotherapist or any other type of therapist parent or teacher using metaphors stories can really help maximise a Childs potential for change.
What are your favourite childhood stories?
What makes a good metaphor?
A good metaphor will symbolically represent the Childs challenge or problem and offer a solution in an indirect manner.
Because it's indirect the child has to become actively involved in the process of making sense of it and deciding whether parts of that metaphor or that story relates to them.
If the story is fun and engaging includes the things a child loves or is interested in, it will bypass any conscious resistance and sink very well into the unconscious mind where it will be thought about reflected on possibly for a period of time even if the child doesn't understand the metaphor or thinks it's not relevant their unconscious mind will keep going over it until some Connexions are found with their own situation.
Often, we present children with solutions, the solutions, may be presented to them from a parent, teacher, or a trusted adult but if the solution is discovered by themselves, if the solution is their idea, it's so much more likely to lead to successful positive change.
Once you are happy the child wants to be involved. Always try to gain answers to the following types of questions during your consultation process:
Are they into a certain sport? If so, what team?
What is their favourite TV program? Which character do they like best?
Do they have a computer or games console? If so, what games do they play and
what is the objective of the game?
What is the best subject at school? What is the worst?
Do they have a favourite celebrity?
Who are their best friends? Why them? Names?
For older children and teens, what social networks do they use?
Once you have built a basic picture of their lives, this will allow you a much closer rapport: Whatever they love, you instantly love. If you don’t have a clue what their talking about, then do your research and be genuinely interested as they educate you on the topic.
Once you have left the consultation, it’s time to find out as much as you can about their interests.
It is quite common that you will be invited into a world that you knew nothing about, which is fine, as long you do your best to find out. Any information you gain will fill up the “rapport bucket” and pave the way for a more effective hypnotherapy session.
I have become quite the Spiderman expert and I am not bad at Minecraft breathing…
What if a child is hard to get to know/open up?
It is actually rare that a child will not be shy during the consultation and even early hypnotherapy sessions. But it’s a challenge that’s easily overcome – get props.
Get yourself to your local bargain shops and create a box full of things like:
Colouring books, Crayons, felt tips
Small plastic animals
Interesting backdrops (if on video conferencing)
Use your imagination! It gives the child something to focus on and whilst they are distracted in this way, they are much more likely to interact with you in relation to the game. This opens doors for informal chats about the information you really need to know.
Hypnotherapy with children takes a very different form to that of adults, particularly the induction that’s needed. It is common that when working with a child that little or no induction is required. This is because children naturally have very vivid imaginations, which means that they are very susceptible to entering a hypnotic trance. This was certainly the view of Milton Erickson. However, I suggest a basic induction that is designed to stimulate the imagination right from closing their eyes.
Many Hypnotherapists have misconceptions about how children go into hypnosis. The vast majority of our experience of working with clients involves them been “relaxed” while hypnotised.
Relaxation is not required to hypnotise someone. E.g. you’re not relaxed while driving a car or responding to a stage hypnotists suggestions.
Also, most of our clients while in therapy sit motionless and silent throughout a hypnotherapy session, unless we instruct them to do something or say something.
SO, REMOVE THE MISCONCEPTION THAT WHEN HYPNOTISED YOU ARE RELAXED, MOTIONLESS OR SILENT.
It is VERY common that a child will want to move and “interact” with their imagination. Similar to how they play with their toys, or how we subconsciously make hand gestures.
Expect children to be chatty and ask questions about your suggestions. This demonstrates CO-OPERATION. The child is not resisting. They only resist if they refuse to co-operate. So just go with it and you will find it a naturally enjoyable experience for yourself too.
When deciding on which induction to choose. Here are some ideas for child inductions. But just use them for ideas and think of your own to suit the child you are working with.
4 Fun Mindfulness Activities and Exercises you can do.
Mindfulness is about single tasking (we don’t teach kids to focus but we demand it)
One easy way for children to dip their toes into mindfulness is through the simple method of body poses. To get your kids interested, tell them that doing fun poses can help them feel strong, brave, and happy.
Find somewhere quiet and familiar, a place they feel safe. Next, tell them to try one of the following two poses:
The Superman: this pose is practiced by standing with the feet just wider than the hips, fists clenched, and arms reached out, stretching the body out as long as possible.
The Wonder Woman: this pose is struck by standing tall with legs wider than hip width apart and hands or fists placed on the hips.
While you’re on the subject of superheroes, there is a fun and easy way to introduce your kids to paying attention to the present.
Instruct your kids to turn on their “Spidey senses”, the super-focused senses of smell, sight, hearing, taste, and touch that Spiderman uses to keep tabs on the world around him.
This will encourage them to pause and focus their attention on the present, opening their awareness to the information their senses bring in (Excite Media, 2017).
This is a classic mindfulness exercise, packaged in a fun and easy to understand format that kids will find no difficulty in trying out.
Spiderman breathing is also one of my favourite mindful breathing techniques.
Spiderman 5 mins
Who likes Spiderman?
Let’s help ourselves to feel better by doing some Spiderman breathing.
In for 4, exhale quickly and blow out all those bad feelings. If you like you can imagine that webs are flying out of the ends of your fingers and as the webs fly out so do all those bad feelings. Listen to the sound of the breath coming out of your mouth really quickly and use the sound to help get rid of those bad feelings.
The Mindful Jar
This activity can teach children about how strong emotions can take hold, and how to find peace when these strong emotions come up.
First, get a clear jar, like a Mason jar, and fill it almost all the way with water. Next, add a big spoonful of glitter glue or glue and dry glitter to the jar. Put the lid back on the jar and shake it to make the glitter swirl.
Finally, use the following script or take inspiration from it to form your own mini-lesson:
“Imagine that the glitter is like your thoughts when you’re stressed, mad or upset. See how they whirl around and make it really hard to see clearly? That’s why it’s so easy to make silly decisions when you’re upset – because you’re not thinking clearly. Don’t worry this is normal and it happens in all of us (yep, grownups too).
[Now put the jar down in front of them.]
Now watch what happens when you’re still for a couple of moments. Keep watching. See how the glitter starts to settle and the water clears? Your mind works the same way. When you’re calm for a little while, your thoughts start to settle and you start to see things much clearer” (Excite Media, 2017).
This exercise not only helps children learn about how their emotions can cloud their thoughts, it also facilitates the practice of mindfulness while focusing on the swirling glitter in the jar.
Mindful Bodies breathing 5 mins
There are a couple very important things that help us be mindful.
Get into a comfortable seated or laying position
(If students are at their desks, have them all move their chairs away from their desks and turn them toward the front of the room. Explain that they can do this each time you have mindfulness. Remind them each time until it is a habit).
The first thing that will help us during mindfulness is to let our bodies be very still… let’s try that?
The second thing automatically happens when we get still… what is the noise like in here right now, when you get still? Yes, it gets very quiet.
Now we have still bodies and quiet bodies. That’s what we’ll call our mindful bodies. Now, let’s close our eyes and just sit like that for one minute.
Your eyes can be closed or open if they are open find a nice spot on the floor or wall in front of you to look at.
Now relax your shoulders. Relax your eyes and eyebrows. Relax your jaw. neck and shoulders, arms go really relaxed….. down to the tips of your toes.
Shoulder roll mindful breathing to prep for the story 5 mins
In this exercise, we will breathe in and bring our shoulders up to our ears, as we breathe out we will roll our shoulders back and down. (Model for students.)
We can do shoulder rolls throughout the day to relieve tension. Shoulder rolls also help us get comfortable and focused in preparation for any other mindful breathing exercise
Induction sleepy bodies 5 mins
Now do you remember what it feels like to go to sleep?
Wait for response.
Yes, that's right. And it can feel very good to drift off to sleep, doesn't it? And your body really likes to go to sleep because it feels so good.
So, let’s think about your toes. Your toes can go to sleep. Your toes know how to go to sleep. Let them go to sleep now and tell me when your toes have gone to sleep.
Now your feet send them to sleep… have they gone to sleep? Good
Very good. You are all doing so well!
Now let me know when your calves/lower part of your legs are asleep.
Now let your upper legs go to sleep. Sleepy, sleepy legs. Have your upper legs gone to sleep yet I wonder are your legs nice and sleepy and asleep.
Now your whole legs are asleep. Very sleepy legs. Nice and heavy…just sinking into the floor now.
Now let your bum (bottom) go to sleep. Sleepy, sleepy bum (bottom). Has your when your bum (bottom) gone to sleep?
And your tummy…sleepy, sleepy tummy.
Yawn to encourage your child to feel sleep...
Take the time you need and send your tummy into a deep relaxing sleep.
Pause for response.
Now your chest. Let your chest go to sleep. Sleepy, sleepy chest. Very comfortable. Breathing easy. Tell your chest to go to sleep breathing nice and easy (big sigh).
Pause for response.
Now let your shoulders go to sleep. Heavy, sleepy shoulders. And now your shoulders have gone to sleep.
Pause for response.
And your arms. Now let your arms, all the way down to your hands and fingers go very deeply asleep. Sleepy, sleepy arms. And now your arms feel lovely and relaxed and asleep.
Check the children by lifting their arms and giving lots of praise.
See how heavy and sleepy your arm is now!
And your neck. The neck needs to have a very nice sleep now. Sleepy, sleepy neck. Tell your neck to go to sleep
Pause for response.
And your head. Your face…your cheeks…your forehead…your eyebrows…your mouth and jaw. Your mouth has been busy all day and now needs a nice rest, so let your mouth go to sleep and as it gets sleepier and sleepier it slows right down…right down (i.e. if the child is chatting) so tell your mouth it is time to sleep. Do that in your mind now.
And your eyes. Sleepy, sleepy eyes.
Yawn for effect.
Heavy, sleepy eyes. When they are very sleepy they can’t even open…just let them get heavy and sleepy now.
Repeat until the eyes close – if they are slow to close, tell the child directly to close the eyes... just close your eyes now.
Or tell your child to keep the eyelids open as long as he or she can keep your eyes open as long as you can...your heavy, heavy eyelids, just keep them open, just try really hard to keep them open, and the harder you try, the heavier they get, just try to keep them open, and at some point you can't keep them open any longer and they they will need to close and just let them close, but for now, just keep them open as long as you can.... Keep going until the eyelids close.
Pause for response.
And your ears. Sleepy, sleepy ears. You can hear my voice but your ears get sleepier as your whole body gets so, so sleepy now...so...so sleepy. So as you go sleepier now you have pleasant dreams...pretty dreams in your head...you can tell yourself in your mind “I have happy dreams…I have happy dreams…I have happy dreams…”
And now you are feeling so relaxed and calm I can talk to the part of you that is always listening.
I want you to use the power of your mind and create, make a place where you feel really good.
A place where you feel really confident
A place where you are in control
A place where you feel really happy and peaceful
A place that is very relaxing
Now really feel this place. Listen to all the sounds. Really look around and enjoy this wonderful place you have created.
This is your special place it’s a place where you can feel calm it’s a place where you will always be safe.
This is your special place and the only sensations you can feel here are really good ones.
This is a magical place
Where magical things can happen
And you can have anything you want in this special place
Toys games any possessions
Anything you want anything at all you can simply put it here
And every time you come back here to this special place you will feel 10 times more relaxed 10 times more confident 10 times happier and relaxed.
So go and explore this amazing place you have made.
It’s your special place and remember you can have anything you want here
It’s a magical place
And the only sensations you can feel are good and happy
And you can have anything you want here
Toys games possessions
Anything you want at all
Now I am going to stop talking for a moment so that you can go and really enjoy your special magical place.
Now its time to wake up
I am going to count from 5 to 1 and when I get to 1 you’ll all be wide awake and full of energy feeling really good inside.
Well-done everyone remind them that they can go back to their special place anytime they like and each time they go back it will feel more real and will be more relaxing.
Once upon a time there was a boy, he had the same name as you and even looked just like you. He had the same hair and the same colour eyes. He was even about your age.
However, this boy was different, special as he was a scientist. He worked in fantastic top-secret laboratory so fantastic and so secret he could only access it from a top secret place with the power of his mind.
He needed to use the magic words; I am sure you know what they are.
And he needed to count from 1 to 10 very slowly. Once he had his eyes closed he could enter into his fantastic laboratory.
Let’s go to the fantastic laboratory and have a look around.
Close your eyes and say the magic words. Not out loud just inside your mind.
Now let’s count very slowly, with eyes closed from 1 to 10 and when you get to 10 you can step inside your fantastic laboratory and have a good look around.
1 -2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 and stepping into your laboratory 10.
It’s a large and beautiful room, full of funny little noises, a number of curious silver instruments sanding on spindle-legged tables, whirring and emitting little puffs of smoke. A tall shelving unit with what seems like millions of bottles all different shapes and sizes all filled with liquids and potions of all different colours.
There seems to be a control room area with lots of levers and buttons and a desk with flashing lights and dials.
Go and have a good look around your laboratory and if you like pick things up, examine them, smell them and read the labels on the bottles.
And when you have had a really good look around, I’d like you to find a spot where you can work as today we are going to be mixing potions and making a simply marvellous medicine.
When you have found that spot and you are ready.
We switched off the camera here and came up with lots of metaphor ideas.