Archive | September, 2012

Psychogenic Pain

24 Sep

A psychogenic pain is a physical pain that is caused, increased or prolonged by mental, emotional or behavioural factors, with headaches, muscle, back and stomach pains being some of the more common types.

Psychogenic Pain can be helped with Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy

You might think that the term pretty much encompasses any kind of pain that you can think of. However, as a therapist you will rarely, if ever, have someone referred to you because they’re suffering from psychogenic pain.

Technically, it’s a form of chronic pain that is itself a variant of a somatoform disorder (a mental disorder characterised by physical symptoms suggesting physical illness or injury but that cannot be explained by a medical condition or mental disorder or by the effect of a substance).

In pain circles then, psychogenic is a dirty word and one not to be bandied lightly. Using it courts controversy.

However, by the time a pain sufferer is referred to a therapist, either by themselves directly, or though a doctor, physician or pain clinic, it is usually because they have been dealing with it for quite some time, conventional medical treatment has failed, the professionals are stumped and the client is at their wit’s end.

As the medical doctor and hypnotherapist Dabney Ewin says, “Constant pain is nearly always psychological in my experience, almost any physical pain can be temporarily relived by medication, rest, sleep or positioning.”

Pain control, thankfully, is one of hypnotherapy’s success stories.

It is an excellent tool for the treatment of many acute pain conditions. However, with chronic pain conditions, things get a little more complicated and a multi-modal approach, such as the one offered by cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy, becomes a more elegant tool.

As a therapist or hypnotherapist, you don’t need to use the term ‘psychogenic’ with anyone (least of all the patient), but you do need to keep it very much in mind.

What cognitive factors and unhealthy beliefs are influencing that person’s perception of pain and how? Does the client present with emotional problems in other areas of their lives that are having an impact upon the pain and how they perceive it? Does the client exhibit maladaptive coping mechanisms to guard the pain that need to be addressed and, what on earth do you focus on first?

As the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) says, “pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.”


If you are already working in pain control, wish to see clients who present with pain problems or are simply interested in the subject then the CCBH masterclass in psychogenic pain control is for you.

On it, you will learn how to effectively formulate a treatment plan on a case-by-case basis, confidently assess pain levels, accurately work out how their emotions affect their pain and vice versa, break down typical unhealthy beliefs that increase the perception of pain, and better understand the various hypnotherapy techniques that can manipulate the symptoms of pain.

The treatment of pain can be a complicated business. The effective use of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy allows you to tailor a pain control program to the individual rather than take a prescribed approach to the treatment of the symptom.

As with any other client walking in through your door, you are treating a person, not a symptom and you need to find out as much about them as you can.

Find out how to treat the person, and you find out how to treat the pain.

Emotional Blog Series #6: Jealousy and Concern for your relationship

11 Sep

In our series on negative emotions we are looking at the unhealthy negative emotion of Jealousy  that are mainly provoked by holding  unhealthy beliefs or attitudes (demands) about the threat by another person to a relationship that is important to us.  Relationships we may experience the feeling of Jealousy about are not just the romantic ones.  We can feel jealousy about threats to other relationships too, close friends, family members for example. This blog will look at jealousy in romantic relationships.

Jealousy is an unhealthy emotion

Its healthy negative emotional counterpart is Concern for one’s relationship, rather unwieldy but there is not a more appropriate term in the English language.

Jealousy, in effect, involves three people so there is a triangular relationship and it is a defining characteristic of jealousy; there is, you, a person who is important to you with whom you are in some kind of relationship and thirdly another person who you perceive is a threat.

When you are unhealthily jealous you tend to imagine that your partner is interested in another person and twist any information to absolute beliefs even when there is no real evidence.

How do you know if you are jealousy or have healthy concern for you relationship?

Jealousy is a highly destructive emotion.  You might experience jealousy if you see your partner paying attention to someone else or if you feel you are not being paid enough attention. When you feel jealous, you tend to behave in a possessive manner, looking and finding signs of infidelity (or of love interest) by your partner.  It is destructive because the pain and misery is not just felt by the sufferer of jealousy but by the partner too.    If you feel jealous you tend to monitor and check your partner; checking text messages, emails, letters, aftershave/perfume, underwear, questioning your partner and so on.   A lot of the time your mind is preoccupied with thoughts of infidelity wondering if your partner is committing it or thinking about it. With the constant vigilance over your partner’s behaviour, it is more than probable that you are also experiencing intense anxiety for much of your time.  Even when you are in the company of your partner, the vigilance is apparent as you look for signs of the threat when out socialising together.  You may remain preoccupied with it mentally even you get home or you may start quizzing or accusing your partner.

If you experience jealousy you may hold a belief that you can only feel “worthwhile” if you are the centre and object of your partner’s love interest.  This means that your worth is dependent on your partner’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour towards you.  Unfortunately, this is out of your control and it is important to care but no so that your life and worth depends on it.

When you experience concern for your relationship you do not confabulate stories in your mind about their infidelity and imagine they will leave you or prefer the other person.  You accept the fact that your partner may well find someone else interesting or attractive, you are not threatened by this as you hold beliefs of self acceptance and worth and you are able to conduct yourself assertively and communicate effectively with your partner.


  • Accept the things that are within your control and the things that are not.  You can control what you believe and what you do.  You are not in control of what your partner thinks, feels, imagines or does.
  • Accept yourself unconditionally.  Your worth does not depend on anyone or on anything.
  • Get involved yourself in activities that you enjoy and build your own pleasure in life rather than making your life completely about your partner.
  • Express your feelings of concern rather than interrogating your partner.

History of Mental Health Treatment

6 Sep

For this blog post, we decided to write a potted history of the development of mental health treatment over the ages, having found an interesting article on this topic. It is amazing to see how treatment has progressed to where we are today…

Mental Health treatment has come a long way

The treatment and support offered to people suffering from mental health problemsthroughout history has been both complex and bizarre. Although well intentioned, the lack of understanding and knowledge often led to inhumane and distressing events.

Looking at early beliefs, we can see a pattern emerging. The most common cause was believed to be demonic possession or some other supernatural force. For example as early as 5000 BC, early man believed that mental health problems were the result of supernatural phenomena, as can be seen by   the discovery of trepanned skulls, where holes were made in the skull to release the ‘demon’. In ancient Mesopotamia, the sufferers were treated using exorcisms, incantations, prayer, atonement, and other various mystical rituals in an effort to drive out the evil spirit.

Hebrews believed that all illness was inflicted upon humans by God as punishment for committing sin, and therefore Priests would appeal to God as the ultimate healer to cure the sickness.  Ancient Persians attributed illness to demons and believed that good health could be achieved through proper precautions to prevent diseases.

As we move forward in time, there seems to be more understanding and attempts at therapy start to include engagement of the brain and thought processes. Indeed the Ancient Egyptians recommended that those afflicted should engage in recreational activities such as concerts, dances, and painting in order to relieve symptoms and achieve some sense of normalcy.

The Greek physician Hippocrates denied that people suffered from mental health problemsdue to supernatural forces and instead proposed that it stemmed from natural occurrences in the human body, particularly pathology in the brain. Although, of course a far more enlightened belief, this resulted in treatments such as emetics and laxatives being used or patients were bled using leeches. Not so enlightened!

By the time we arrive in the sixteenth century, the shame and stigma attached to mental health problems often caused people to hide their family members suffering from mental health problems or simply abandon them, leaving them to a life of begging and vagrancy. Asylums began to be established around the world, but living conditions were often deplorable and there were very little attempts at treatment or support of the patients.

Obviously reform was needed!

Philippe Pinel in 1792, showed that patients with mental health problems would improve, if they were treated with kindness and consideration. Further advances were made with the development of psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud. Freud believed that anxiety arose as different parts of the human mind battled each other, resulting in mental health problems. The resulting treatments created by Freud are known as psychoanalysis, or “talking cures” and began with hypnosis.

Other treatments about this time included electroconvulsive therapy and psychopharmacology, which were designed to correct a patient’s chemical imbalance. This was further developed with the first shock therapy using electricity in 1938. Anti-psychotic drug therapy became more common in the 1940s, such as thorazine, valium and prozac, although these treatments were only able to control the symptoms. This led to many people being convinced that all illnesses could be effectively managed with medication, and resulted in patients once again being left unsupported.

So having looked at this history as a whole, we find there have been much needed developments in mental health care but improvement was still needed…

In more recent times we have seen the evolution of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This took place in three stages.  The first stage was when behaviour therapy started to emerge independently, in both UK and America. The second stage was the growth of cognitive therapy, which took place in America during the mid-1960s. The third stage was the merging of behaviour and cognitive therapy into cognitive behaviour therapy, in the late 1980s. CBT is now widely accepted and is practised by a growing number of clinicians.  It is, probably, the most broadly and confidently endorsed form of psychotherapy.  CBT dominates clinical research and practice in many parts of the world. CBT is also advocated by the NHS as part of the treatment process. Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CBH), the combination of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Hypnosis, which is of particular interest to us at the college, is proving to be extremely effective in the treatment and support of patients.

Look out for another blog post coming soon with more on the evolution of CBT.

Back to School Worries

5 Sep

As the summer holidays draw to a close, it may not be the lack of sunshine that is in the forefront of many parents’ minds. After such a long break from the normal routine of attending school, many children can find the prospect of returning to school very daunting. There are lots of things to think about, such as, what will my new school be like, will I make some new friends, will my lessons be hard, will I be left out? These sorts of concerns can cause a great deal of anxiety.

Back to School can be stressful

Parents can also dread the start of the new term, if they anticipate their child will experience anxiety and distress. Fortunately for most children, once over the hurdle of getting through the school gates, the excitement of new friends, teachers and subjects takes over and they quickly settle down and enjoy the familiarity of school routines.

However, this is not always the case, as for some children, the anxiety can persist past the school gate, leading to psychosomatic symptoms or acting out behaviours. These can include feeling ill in the mornings and sleep problems, and if the anxiety problems are not resolved, the child may refuse to attend school.

To prevent an outright refusal to go to school, it is helpful for parents to talk with their child about their worries so they feel safe and secure. It is important to talk about school in a light and fun way, encouraging the child to talk about their thoughts and feelings, so any issues can be resolved quickly.

There are some simple but effective ways of allaying their anxiety such as:

  • When dropping children at school, parents should smile, hug, kiss and wave goodbye. It is important to create a light and positive atmosphere, so the child picks up on this instead of anxiety.
  • When shopping  for school supplies, take the opportunity to chat about school in a healthy, relaxed and fun way.
  • Make sure there is enough time in the morning to get your child to school in a calm fashion without rushing and shouting.
  • Let younger children know in advance what is happening. Nobody likes the unknown and  the anxious child struggles with it even more so. Surprises can be very hard to cope with when you are already in a state of anxiety.
  • Try to meet at the school gate with a fellow student so the child has company.
  • With a younger child, ensure they know where to look for you at the end of the day and make sure you are not late.

As we said earlier, most children quickly settle back to school without any major problems, but a child who becomes very withdrawn or experiences loss of appetite and lethargy may be experiencing depression. Any dramatic change in mood and behaviour, that does not seem to be diminishing as the term progresses, should be seen as a sign and it may be necessary to seek advice from a professional.