A brief comparison between approaches – Hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and psychiatry

Different Approacheson April 5th, 2014No Comments

by Jorg Thonnissen (2010) Registered Psychologist

There are a differences in approach between psychiatry, hypnotherapy and psychotherapy (although hypnotherapy can be applied as part of psychotherapy). Typically, psychiatry and psychotherapy deal mostly with the conscious mind, even though there are approaches that are called ‘free associations’. As the conscious mind is regarded as analytical, technical and largely critical of information entering, these approaches usually take a lot of convincing.

Psychotherapy works by going step by step through the problems or issues and talking things through while at the same time looking at the issues from many different angles. There is no doubt that this helps to identify what needs to be addressed and it will eventually lead step by step to behavioural changes.

Nevertheless, this approach in dealing predominately with the conscious mind exclusively can also be a rather long and drawn out process (psychotherapy in some instances can take years to complete).

Psychiatry most typically includes the use of mind altering medicines. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor with a high degree of training in mental health. It is important to note that people suffering from severe mental conditions such as those who have an inability to separate reality from imagination or the desire to harm others or themselves are best directed to a psychiatrist as they can introduce medications that stabilises such conditions. It is not recommended to use hypnosis with people suffering from certain psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia for example, unless a psychiatrist has assessed whether this is the right way to go about it.

Compared to all the approaches I have outlined above, hypnotherapy aims to directly go to the subconscious source of the problem.Thus, in my experience, after initially defining what the problem is that needs to be resolved, the process of hypnotherapy seems to speed up the desired behavioural changes by a number of factors when compared to approaches that deal predominately with the concious (more critical) part of the mind. Most people that I come accross seem to  know fair well what needs to be done on a conscious level, but even though they know, it doesn’t mean that unwanted thoughts, feelings and the resulting behaviour necessarily brings about the changes they so desperately desire. We just have to ask a smoker or someone that is a chronic procrastinator to understand what that means. Both people would know what needs to change but they may just cannot bring themselves to actually make it happen. Thus, motivating the subconscious mind through the use of hypnosis to do things differently often does the trick.

Today we know that many of our prevailing mindsets are formed at the subconscious level somewhere in the earlier, formative stages of our lives. But what does that mean? Well…to just use one example, for instance we will come to find that we have formed feelings and emotions that are deprived of language when we were much younger. This makes much sense if we think that a baby or younger children don’t have the same ability of language use or ‘critical’ understanding that a matured person has. When we are young we are much more impressionable and the ability for logic and deductive reasoning is much less prevalent. We take things literally – at face value, the boundaries between imagination and reality are blurred.

For instance, when we are very young and feel ‘hungry’ then we don’t even know what that means in terms of logical reasoning. Hunger is merely a feeling that cannot be described as we are lacking the maturity of an adult mind. Hence we feel ‘something’ such as love, warmth, fear or hunger, etc. and those feelings are strong and leave a lasting and powerful deep unconscious impression. Similarly, a little later on, when someone tells us that they have seen ‘pies fly in the sky’  and Santa living on the North Pole we are inocent enough to belief it. It is ‘real’. So everything, including the belief we hold about ourselves based on our earlier experiences has the potential to influence how we come to see the world around us and ourselves in it.

Many of us will still clearly remember our school days, our first embarrassment, or the feeling we had when things were ‘unfair’ and many of these emotions are still playing into our lives right now. Thus, psychotherapists talk about ‘the inner child’ within.

Consequently, our mind can be divided into different memory systems, one that is ‘childlike’ and the other one adult like or mature. Either way, hypnotherapy offers an excellent approach to change our thoughts and feelings on a subconscious level where many of these childlike emotions play out their part.

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