Archive | February, 2012

Book Review: Mindfulness and Hypnosis

6 Feb

The Power of Suggestion to Transform Experience By M. Yapko (2011) – W.W Norton and Co. (New York and London)

Mindfulness and Hypnosis

Michael D. Yapko’s most recent book, is a treasure chest of inspiration and a must read for every aspiring Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist. Here, Yapko has lighted on the recent interest in the ancient Buddhist meditation of Mindfulness, which has been shown to be so successful in the treatment of recurrent depression and related anxiety problems.

In his usual style he goes straight to the point and explains his rationale simply and clearly, without obfuscating and without over reaching.

He draws a distinction between the practice of meditation as an individual pursuit, seen by some as a spiritual quest, or a strategy for self-help, and the clinical use of guided mindfulness meditation, GMM, as a interpersonal approach to emotional, cognitive and behavioural change.

The simplicity of Yapko’s approach is summarised as follows, “The very first thing you learn when you study hypnosis is this: What you focus on, you amplify. If I ask you to be aware of the sensations right now in your right hand, such as its temperature, the pressure or weight of anything you might be holding, or whatever else you might become aware of related to that hand, you can focus your attention increasingly on that hand and really become aware of it, and while you do so, you have no awareness of your left foot, until I draw your attention to it.” (Page 29)

In various ways, Yapko demonstrates the benefits of focussing awareness, to the exclusion of all else, and the practise of this strategy as a way of achieving change. CBH uses hypnosis for a variety of purposes from assessment to belief change, and so we are well used to focussing the awareness of our clients in this way. But Yapko uses this phenomenon to achieve an elegant approach to treatment.

“If you know the phrase, ‘he only sees what he wants to see,’ then you are already aware that people can notice what they choose to notice. By implication, we can also not notice what we choose not to notice. This perceptual phenomenon is referred to as selective attention, that is, the ability to focus on one portion of an experience while turning out the rest.” (Page 125)

By helping clients to recognise that they are paying selective attention to the events on their lives, past, present and future, we can help them to expand their awareness of those things that they habitually ignore or ‘turn out’, thereby restoring a balance, and improving emotional health.

There is much here to inspire, and a wealth of practical material for those already practicing and for those just starting out.

Ian Martin, Dec, 2011.

Book Review: Act with Love

2 Feb

Russ Harris, 2009, New Harbinger Publications, Oakland

ACT with Love

ACT with Love

I was looking for new ideas for helping people in the workplace to resolve their interpersonal problems, and  this book was one of those Beverley Harper included in her recommended book list at the end of the CCBH Diploma course.  I very much liked it. I was able to use some ideas to help people sort out their problems with colleagues. However, the book is more useful for improving couples’ lives together. It  is aimed at couples whose relationship is ‘in reasonable shape’ or in ‘bad shape’, people who are not currently in a relationship but want to learn what went wrong in their previous ones, or for therapists looking for ideas how to work with relationship issues.

The volume is divided into three parts. It looks at what goes wrong in relationships, what commitment means if you want to make the relationship work, what kind of partner you want to be and how mindfulness can help you to handle your thoughts and feelings better. The basic principles of ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) are used, and you are taught how to apply them to make relationships work.  LOVE is used as an acronym for ‘Letting go’, ‘Opening up’, ‘Valuing’ and ‘Engaging’.  It encourages you to develop ‘psychological flexibility’, an ability to adapt to a situation with openness, awareness and focus, and to take action guided by your values.

Since reading the book I have been very motivated to help people with relationship issues, but unfortunately haven’t found the right situation to be  able to test out the ideas yet, so cannot tell you if they work! The exercises at the end of each chapter are designed to be used with a partner (‘If your partner is willing’), but also give useful ideas for the therapist for the homework assignments for clients – with or without a partner. I agree with the book’s claim that ‘it gives realistic hope without promising too much or raising false expectations’. The language is easy to read, light hearted but doesn’t  neglect the basic principles of ACT. What I would have liked to see more is the preventative side – how to build a good relationship from the beginning, and be prepared to share your life with someone you love – not waiting for things to go wrong first!  Because of the practical aspects of the book, I think it could also be very useful as a resource with groups.

So thank you, Beverley, for your great booklist!


Lea Clark

Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist

60 Seconds with Avy Joseph

2 Feb

Avy Joseph, CCBH Co-founder and Course Director

60 Seconds with Avy Joseph

60 Seconds with Avy Joseph

What inspired you to become a therapist?
A desire to understand why we feel as we do and how we can change that, plus a genuine interest in people and a desire to help.
When did you first hear about REBT?
When I did my first course in counselling skills over two decades ago.  I saw a video called ‘Gloria’ about a patient who went to see different counsellors who each specialised in a different counselling model.  Ellis was one of them and I remember thinking ‘now that’s interesting’

Ellis or Beck and why?
Both are great thinkers.  For me it is Ellis most of the time.  He put forward a philosophical as well as scientific theory that resonated with me immediately.  It’s very persuasive.  It makes sense and clients understand it.  You can work with symptoms as well as learning a philosophy of healthy thinking.  It is empowering and freeing when you apply it.  It doesn’t shy away from facing the worst case scenario but it helps you deal with it in a balanced and healthy way.

Favourite Ellis (or other) quote?
I want what I want, but I don’t absolutely need it.

What element of the CBH philosophy most resonates with you?
That we create our problems by the way we continue to think and behave.  It’s not the past that causes the problem but whatever unhealthy beliefs we are maintaining and living by today.  I also enjoy the humour in it, it’s one of the most effective ways to help us to see the irrationality of our demands!
What inspires you?
Lots of things.  Seeing people achieve their goals through hard work and persistence, ideas, music, friends, students, clients, seeing something truly beautiful like the Grand Canyon. I could go on and on.  So much in life and on Earth to draw inspiration from.

If you weren’t a therapist, what would you be?
I’d be a Doctor.

How do you unwind at the end of the day?
Cooking, eating too much, watching rubbish TV.  Heaven.

Investing in your relationships

1 Feb

Christmas can be a tough time for many people, either triggering problems or highlighting existing problems in relationships, not just with distant family who we may only see at Christmas time, but on our relationships with our close family.  It’s therefore no surprise that January is the most popular time for a couple to file for divorce in the UK – not a great start to the New Year is it?

Invest in your relationships

Invest in your relationships

It’s common for most of us at one point on another to have experienced difficulties or challenges in our personal relationships. While these feelings are common, and on the whole, not an issue, its once they become entrenched or habitual when real issues start to arise, such as experiencing anxiety, irrationality, anger, hurt, depression and unhealthy jealousy. Once we start to experience these feelings, that run in to Christmas can take us to breaking point – hence November being the most popular month for couples to start talking to solicitors…

Divorce Rates

It’s quite well documented that divorce rates are on the rise, and this trend hasn’t changed with 2010 seeing 119,589 divorces in England and Wales, up from 113,949 in 2009. The numbers are highest amongst couples in their early 40s, typically between the age of 40 and 44, with the most popular reason for divorce often given as unreasonable behaviour.

Christmas period

Couples who are struggling find that the onset of the Christmas period really doesn’t help. Everything that comes with the festive season results in increased financial demands being made on couples, as well as having to spend more time together and with the in-laws.

Combine all these facts and feelings with the fact that the festive season provides people with time to reflect and make a final decision on the state of their marriage; it’s perhaps no surprise then that final applications for divorce are made in January.

Financial climate

The current financial climate has a role to play – not only in adding pressure to our daily lives (money matters always adds strain on relationships) but also by influencing our decision about divorce. Many couples feel forced to stick together simply because they cannot afford to get a divorce. This recent trend though is probably set to change, as there seems to be no end of the economic gloom, couples wish to take control back of their lives and are starting to prepare to cut their losses.

How do things get that far?

The majority of couples get married with no fear of a possible end in sight – which is how things should be, however the stresses of modern life, financial pressures and general day to day life make us often forget the more important things in life. It’s normal to face challenges in our relationships, these challenges are common place, and in many ways help us grow as a couple. But challenges that we don’t overcome, or ignore are dangerous. Negative feelings are common place, but once they become entrenched in our daily lives and become the “norm”, then real issues have started to appear with any relationship.

It’s common to experience hurt where you think that your partner’s insensitive behaviour towards you implies lack of care or love. It’s also common to experience guilt regarding your past behaviours and wrong doings. Many individuals may also feel anxiety about a whole host of reasons, ranging from anxiety about irrational jealousy to anxiety about our partner’s anger. So you see there are so many things to deal with when we look at relationships – what’s important is that we deal with these feelings sooner rather than later. For some, divorce may be the only safe and viable option, for others, a little time and investment back into their relationships is all that is needed.

Relationships that are generally successful and work well in the long term tend to have the following ingredients; good communication between the partners, compatibility and shared values and last but not least emotional stability of the partners.  It is more likely than not that love will last in a healthy way this way.

Addressing our emotional state

At the heart of CBT and CBH is a belief that our thoughts and beliefs are the key drivers of our emotional state and cause our behaviours. If your thoughts or beliefs about your partner are unhealthy, then your relationship will become unhealthy. Essentially the message is that we are responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, our behaviours and the types of relationships that we tolerate. When we don’t take responsibility, it will more than likely be projected onto our partner – with you now believing that they are the cause of these feelings.

So some basic techniques from CBT which you may find helpful as a starting point are listed below:

  1. Accept that you are responsible for your own emotions and actions
  2. Communicate without pointing a finger, use expressions like, “I feel angry about…” and not “You made me angry about…”
  3. Accept yourself as a valuable but imperfect human being.  Judge your behaviour rather than your worth, for example, accept you are a fallible person, but you can learn from your mistakes
  4. Be assertive but not aggressive. Communicate thoughts and feelings appropriately and not defensively
  5. Always keep in mind the bigger picture and remember to focus on your partner’s good qualities.