HYPNOSIS WITH CHILDREN 
AND 
MAGIC HAPPENS: A PLACEBO STORY

by Ron Stubbs

 



Ron Stubbs, C.Ht, C.I., is a Registered Certified Advanced Clinical Hypnotherapist in the Greater Seattle/San Juan Island area of Washington state. He has become one of the most well respected hypnotherapists in the Pacific Northwest Area. He is a national speaker, teaches nationally with Dr. Kevin Hogan PHD and Marie Mongan (Hypnobirthing Founder), Specializing in Tinnitus, Pediatric (Child) Hypnosis, and seminars on hypnosis. He is currently teaching Hypnosis/Hypnotherapy certification classes at Everett College and in the fall of 2001 will be teaching Hypnosis/Hypnotherapy certification classes at Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon, Washington. He is the co-owner of Islelife Hypnosis, located on beautiful Camano Island, and can be reached at 360-387-1197 or by email at Islelife@Camano.net

HYPNOSIS WITH CHILDREN:

Working with children using hypnotic techniques can be very rewarding for the therapist, although a few basic understandings must be observed. Remembering that children do not process information in the same way that adults do, the therapist thinks as a child would, relating to him/her on the child=s level instead of expecting the child to respond to therapy as an adult would. My own experience has been that working with children that they can and DO enter hypnosis easily. It is my belief that children are ALWAYS in a state of "hypnosis" and we have to bring them OUT of hypnosis to work with them. If the criteria for "Hypnosis" is a focus on a particular thing, narrowing of attention, filtering out outside influences, or using the imagination to see pictures in the mind, isn't that EXACTLY what children are best at? There is also a general feeling that children under the age 4 cannot be hypnotized. This notion is true only if one adheres to the more traditional techniques. If the therapist is willing to forego traditional methods and ideology, there is no limit to what can be accomplished with the mind of a child that hasn't been tainted by adult experiences.

When working with children, three questions should be evaluated: (1) What led the parents to bring the child to treatment at this time? (2) How is the symptom benefiting the child? (3) Is the therapist comfortable with the use of hypnosis in this particular case? What led the parents to bring the child into therapy at this time? It is important to know if it is the parents or some other authority figure that is unhappy with the behavior of the child. Some questions may be; who defined the issue as a behavior problem? Frequently, the parents choose a therapist that uses hypnosis because they feel they have "tried everything else". Hypnosis is the last resort in their eyes. The parents may expect magic results or they may expect NO results at all. This expectancy can be passed on to the child and the child be seen as a "failure". The reason a parent is seeking a hypnotherapist will have a major effect on the hypnotherapeutic approach designed by the therapist. It will also dictate if hypnosis is to be used by itself or in conjunction with other modalities such as REM therapy. The parents or the school often reinforce behavior disorders. If the disorder is being used to discharge tension, the therapist must uncover what is leading to the anxiety and tension. Hypnosis may be used combined with supportive therapy and/or role play/therapy to allow the child to discover and learn more adaptive ways of coping with these problems. If the child has developed low self-esteem through behavior issues, hypnosis may be useful to strengthen ego enhancement through post hypnotic suggestion. When looking at the child=s issues, take time to remember the world of a child is much, much smaller than that of an adult. Their immediate world can consist of 1-2 parents, siblings, grandparents, friends and teachers. Therefore, when looking for root causes it may be wise to look at the family structure as well. In fighting between parents may manifest itself in forms such as behavioral problems, social skills, bedwetting, and learning disorders. The child needs to be secure in the knowledge that whatever passes between the therapist and themselves will remain in the therapist's office. Even when working with a minor, the rule of confidentiality should come into effect. Therefore the parent/s of the child should be briefed, and notified of the confidentiality clause and be in agreement. Punishment at home from speaking out in therapy destroys the efforts of the therapist to bring about change. The parents must be educated in their role of the supportive therapy as well as explained what hypnosis is and what it isn't. Many have seen the stage hypnotists and are familiar with the "parlor" tricks of hypnosis past. The therapist should be prepared to explain what modern day hypnosis techniques are. When working with children the therapist should position him/herself in such a way that the child=s eye level is equal to or slightly above theirs. This downplays the adult dominance factor. By having the child=s eye either the same or slightly above the adults, it sub-consciously tells the child they are equals. Imagine a world where you look up at everyone around you. So take the time to bend down when talking to a youngster, reach them on THEIR level and notice what changes begin to occur. Children live inside a fantasy world so the common inductions that one would use on adults, aren't necessary when working with children. They are more likely to move around, refuse to close their eyes, open and close their eyes from time to time. What child will simply lay back, close their eyes and "relax"? This is like telling an adult who has just drank 6 cups of espresso coffee to "just relax". Although there is exceptions, simply giving the child permission to be curious and stand, move about normally, is enough to satisfy their curiosity and calm them. The therapist working with children must be willing to abandon "traditional technique" for whatever works for the particular child. What is true for a child may not be true in the adult's eyes. What IS necessary is an increased concentration on building rapport. Without trust in the therapist the child will not make changes. Common techniques to gain rapport is to discuss /talk about everything related to their lives, school, sports, hobbies, pets, likes/dislikes, bypassing the critical presenting issues until in later sessions. Kids thrive on the use of metaphor, "magic", story telling and role-playing. The child can sometimes act out issues that cannot be verbalized in a >play= or movie where they are the director and set the scene, actors and events. Coloring, drawing, the use of symbols, props, puppets or dolls can also be of use. They are generally fascinated by the concept of being 'hypnotized". Lucky for the therapist, imagination is the tool of childhood and simply allowing the child to tell their story, in their own words, mannerisms and time can be the most effective option the therapist can offer. Role playing, allowing the client/therapist role to be reversed can also bring about insights into behavioral issues. When the child can "solve" the therapists "issues' or 'problems', their sub-conscious picks up the subliminal messages and facilitates change.

"Chair' therapy, that is the placement of an authority figure in a chair where in the child can say, do or act out anything in their own mind without fear of reprisal in total safety can be a MOST useful tool. This technique can also be used to do grief counseling with children whose loved ones have passed on. ADHD is one of the most common psychological disorders currently affecting children. Children with ADHD may experience behavioral problems such as aggression and impulsivity, have difficulty interacting with family members and be underachievers at school.

For children diagnosed with ADHD, simple relaxation, breathing, self hypnosis techniques, where the child is taught to quiet their mind, slowing and focusing, have been shown to be very successful in allowing the ADHD child to focus, sort out frustration or anger stemmed by the mind working faster than the ability to communicate and direct themselves in a positive manner. One technique I have found to be useful is to have the child imagine a pinwheel or spinning circle. They are instructed to practice speeding the motion up, slowing it down, change directions, colors, size etc. By doing this they are teaching the sub-conscious mind to respond to their own wishes/commands instead of being led by their environment. This allows them to be in control of an environmental situation instead of out of control. Therapists should also make themselves aware of the possibilities of other conditions co-existing with ADHD, like learning and language problems, aggressive or disruptive behavior, depression or anxiety. One-third of children with ADHD also have one of these conditions.

REM therapy, tapping/acupressure techniques, sound therapies have all been proven to be quite useful to varying degrees in the treatment of children. Again, to be successful, the therapist must put aside ego, abandon traditional techniques and focus on whatever it takes to help the child with their issues to bring about the needed/desired change. Not all therapists will enjoy working with children because of the challenges involved, but for those who choose too, it will be perhaps the most rewarding challenge in their career.

MAGIC HAPPENS: A PLACEBO STORY:

Two small words that can change a life, an image, a thought pattern. I first met Tyler, then age 7, in September of 1999. In the six months we were in therapy together, he taught me many wonderful insights that as an adult I believe sometimes we tend to forget. With the pace of our lives, the rush of time and the hurried frenzy of everyday living, people sometimes forget two little words....Magic Happens. Tyler came into my office, a normal seven-year-old boy with ants in his pants and not enough time in the day to get them out. I had had his mother fill out my intake forms and she had given me some background information on Tyler. He had not slept a full night since age two, having a tendency to awaken and sleep walk thru the house, sometimes leaving the house and wandering the yard or street outside. As you may expect this was not a satisfactory arrangement for the parents. Tyler would awaken at night also with severe nightmares and dreams and could not go back to sleep. He was placed on Clonidine (a blood pressure medication) at a dosage of .1milligram and was taking two tablets per night in an attempt to lower his heart rate and allow him to sleep thru the night. Tyler was also diagnosed as hyperactive, had social behavior problems with his peers, i.e. fighting, general misbehavior, and had a problem with enuresis during the daytime hours, particularly at school.

At the time of Tyler's first visit with me he had no knowledge of what information his mother had given me and we proceeded to discuss what he was visiting me for and what he would like to accomplish with these sessions. His short list consisted of stop nail biting, sleep better with no bad dreams, stop wetting his pants at school, stop fighting with his little sister and improving his "jump" shot. I decided to take a "Magic" approach with Tyler with his nail biting to show him how effective "magic" could be. I asked him to place his hands against mine and close his eyes, imaging his nails were groomed, clean and strong. As he was concentrating on the visual image I gave him the suggestion that when we counted to three 'Magic" would take place and he would never again be tempted to bite his nails. As we counted three I dropped my hands suddenly and gave a "Magic" word, HYPNOSIS. His eyes lit up and he was convinced that a spell had taken place in my office. He said his desire to bite his nails, "Had completely disappeared thanks to the Magic spell". We never had to revisit that issue after that one session.

The next step was to address the issue of sleeping and nightmares. After looking over his charts and finding no medical reason for insomnia, again, I chose to use the AMagic@ approach. I explained the legend of the Indian Dreamcatcher to him, in that native American legend a spider made a web in which, when hung over a child's bed at night, traps all the "bad dreams" allowing only the "good dreams" to flow into the child's imagination. I had an example that I had made hanging in my office and showed it to him. Again his face lit up and I asked him if he thought it might help him. I suggested making one and hanging it over his bed to see the results. The results were immediate, no more nightmares, sleeping thru the night without waking, a total change. Since that first session and those two 'magic" suggestions over six months ago, Tyler has completely stopped biting his nails and has slept thru the night without any nightmares without medication. Upon a parent/teacher conference that took place roughly a month after he started the therapy sessions, his teacher remarked that she wasn't sure what his parents had been doing but "keep it up because his behavior has changed dramatically and he doesn't act like the same child". His parents had also told me that the sibling rivalry between his sister and he had stopped and now it was his "job" to protect her. The next process involved many sessions examining the issues around enuresis, i.e. behaviors, school environment, home issues, peer relationships etc. After trying many different approaches with no success, I noticed Tyler looking at a collection of stones and crystals I have in my office. I have long made it a habit of presenting a simple gift of a beach rock with a word written on it to my clients as a gesture of thanks for their business. Tyler, on the other hand valued these small rocks as treasures to him and never forgot at the end of a session that he would receive his rock.

Once again came the idea of "Magic", only this time, it was a little boy, who taught his therapist the meaning of the word. I asked if he wanted to choose a stone from a small bowl. He asked about the various stones, where they were from, their individual 'powers" and after examining the crystals, semi-precious stones and other polished rocks, finally chose a small red rock from the hills surrounding Sedona, AZ. It certainly wasn't the prettiest, most colorful or even one with the most interesting story behind it. When I asked why he had chosen that particular stone, with a look of disbelief that I, his therapist couldn't figure it out, he patiently explained that Sedona was in Arizona. I still didn't see the connection. He told me that Arizona had deserts, and that this rock had come from the desert. Still I, the mighty Hypnotherapist, again couldn't make the connection between a simple red rock and this young man. His words were "Doc, don't ya GET IT?" My reply was 'No, I don't"'. With a look of exasperation upon his little face, he explained that if the stone came from the desert, which was dry, and he kept the stone in the pocket of his jeans, he, in turn could also stay dry, forever, with no accidents. Today, over one year later, Tyler is still dry.... Now if I could only help him with that "jump" shot..... Magic Happens.

Ron and Paul Durbin in Oregon 2002