Behind the scenes: UK Hypnosis Convention


This is the first of many “behind the scenes” posts that will feature on my blog.

A lot goes on behind the scenes that enables me to help you with your issues using hypnotherapy. It’s not just a matter of gaining my diploma all those years ago and just relying on that and my years of experience to influence how I work with my clients. No. For me, it’s important to keep my knowledge and skills updated in line with current research.

So when I’m not seeing clients, I read, explore and research my way through the literature relating to hypnosis, therapy and mental health. I also regularly attend courses, workshops and conventions. All of this ensures that I continue to expand my knowledge and skills so that I can better serve you. Plus I’m a bit of a geek and love learning, so we both benefit!

I’m currently working towards an advanced hypnotherapy diploma (I’ll talk about that in more detail in a few weeks time) which is both challenging and fascinating. So I’m finding myself digging in to a lot of hypnosis research studies recently and there are some truly amazing results amongst them. Hypnosis never fails to amaze me!

At the weekend, I attend the 3rd UK Hypnosis Convention in London. I had planned to record a few video snippets of myself giving a rundown of what I’d seen each day but there was so much to do and I was having a lot of fun that I didn’t record anything. So, you have a blog post instead!

On Monday I posted to social media that I’d attended the convention and briefly mentioned some of the subjects I learn about. I went to see some amazing speakers. If I reflected here on everyone I went to, the post would be too long so I’m only going to mention three that I really enjoyed.

First up is Adam Eason’s talk on hypnosis and the science of placebo. The placebo effect is fascinating - it just blows my mind. I enjoyed learning about some of the studies which demonstrated how powerful the placebo effect is on helping with various physical and mental health issues. If you don’t know much about placebo, I would highly recommend doing a bit of reading on the subject. There is a great chapter in Bad Science by Ben Goldacre which makes for a nice introduction to it. In the talk, I learnt that 50% of the pain relief effect of pain killers was down to the placebo effect and that a whopping 83% of the anti-depressant effect of antidepressants was down to the placebo effect! I recently read The Emperor’s New Drug: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth by Irving Kirsch which talked about the efficacy of antidepressants and the role placebo has so it all fitted really nicely for me, reinforcing my knowledge. When someone says “Ah, it’s just a placebo though” in relation to something having an effect, they tend to be writing it off as not being effective, that it’s “all in the mind”. But so what? The placebo effect illustrates beautifully how powerful our mind can be. So let’s utilise it! Whilst in many trials, placebo pills are slipped to the participants under the guise of them being active medication, studies have also been conducted where researchers have been upfront in telling participants that they are taking placebo pills. And they still work! With medications having so many side effects these days, I welcome the use of placebo pills for certain conditions where they have been shown to work equally, if not better, than the active pills.

Next up is Jorgen Rasmussen’s talk on how to resolve trauma using a psychological illusion model. I don’t tend to work with trauma or PTSD clients all that much but really wanted to expand my knowledge in this area. When we think back to a past event, whether it was traumatic or not, our body responds as if it is happening to us now - the fight or flight response kicks in, emotions come up and we kind of “relive it” in our mind. But that image or memory is not the past, it is not the event, nor are the people in the image the actual people involved. By recognising, whilst recalling the event, that it is just a thought this helps to dampen down the emotional reaction to it. When we start having experiences where we think about it but feel less emotional, we become desensitised to it with repetition and so in the future we are not so affected by the memory. I can see how this would be useful for people with anxiety and phobias too. Whilst their memory or event is not necessarily past related (unless they had a bad experience of course), they often imagine the worst case scenario and being able to recognise that the image is not the future, not the event, they can start to reduce the fear relating to it.

And then we have Gary Turner’s talk on working effectively with fear based disorders. Now this is an area that I do work with a lot. There was a lot of information packed into this talk and it fitted really nicely with the other two talks I mentioned above. It talked about utilising the placebo effect and eliminating the nocebo effect, so in the case of fear related issues, knowing and trusting that you are safe, that it will go well, and that you have all the tools you need to help you, among other things. There was also mention of past and future memories and how they impact on anxiety and fear, as well as other emotions. I particularly liked a technique that was briefly outlined whereby you imagine moving the part that tells you that you’re afraid (of something specific or generally) outside of your body, turn the volume down on that voice and then go about what it is you are scared of. Again, fascinating stuff!

I did get a lot out of all the talks I went to and there was a general theme to many of the talks - that is the importance of critical thinking, evidence-based practice, and striving to be the best therapist I can be for my clients.

It was a great weekend. I have come away feeling enthused, inspired, curious and with a thirst to know more. Looking forward to next year’s convention already.