Many of us have heard the praises and benefits of mindfulness, from workshops in the style of John Kabat-Zinn and mindfulness-based stress reduction, to DBT and Hakomi practices. I have been exploring and playing with these tools and ideas with my clients for four years now and find they are helpful in reducing stress, anxiety, anger, etc.
Before that I had been exploring other kinds of altered and trance states (or what Stan Groff calls Non-Ordinary States) through meditation, journey work, ecstatic dance, and breath work. I discovered that in these Non-Ordinary States (NOS) anxiety, fear and anger simply melt away, and underneath is an innate wisdom residing in that peace. Moving forward, I wanted to find a way to clinically justify bringing my clients to these deeper places inside themselves and to tap into their own resources for growth and healing. Neuroscience research on brainwaves supports this hypothesis.
Our most common (or predominant) waking state of consciousness puts our brainwave frequency in beta. When we shift our level of consciousness, we move into (or add) other brainwave frequencies such as alpha, gamma, theta and delta. Mindfulness and meditation practices are an excellent entry into these various states of consciousness for clients. The state of hypnotic trance can cause a person to be in beta and other frequencies concurrently, allowing them to consciously process the information they might be attaining from the deeper parts of themselves. This is just what I want to bring to my clients.
I have discovered that through various mindfulness practices, some of my clients were naturally slipping into these deeper places of uncharted territory by the conscious mind. It was fascinating to see what emerged from these places and this is key in my own drive to learn more and bring deeper understanding to clients.
To that end, last year I decided to train in the methodology of Depth Hypnosis, as developed by Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D. Depth Hypnosis combines elements of hypnotherapy, transpersonal psychology, Buddhism and shamanism. The hypnosis practices primarily use regression to access earlier experiences, which affect the client currently. From a psychological perspective this can look very similar to aspects of Psychosynthesis, Gestalt dialogue, Focusing, Hakomi and inner child work. However, doing this work in a relaxed and altered state can allow the client to perceive at a deeper level, a clearer understanding of themselves and their experience.
Over the last year, as I’ve brought hypnotherapy tools into my practice, I find that most clients who have already been practicing some kind of mindfulness exercise, more easily accept the process and move into the work beautifully. A majority of my clients start each session with a simple mindfulness exercise, and as they internalize the changes and see the benefits, they begin to look forward to it. I encourage them to practice on their own between sessions, and many do. Regarding hypnosis, some clients’ experiences are profound, allowing them to look at life differently; and some simply rediscover important parts of themselves, which were long forgotten. Whatever they find inside themselves, it is deeply therapeutic because it came from them. The deeper parts of us use our own personal language better than anything someone else could communicate to us.
By Nick Venegoni, MFT & CHT