What is Cognitive Hypnotherapy?

Cognitive Hypnotherapy is a highly effective approach developed to help people looking to make lasting change in their thoughts, emotions, behaviour and lives. It  integrates techniques from a variety of approaches, including neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), positive psychology, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and Gestalt therapy, with our proprietary approach to hypnotic suggestion called Wordweaving™ which uses our clients' own language to create suggestions that are specific to them.


Cognitive Hypnotherapy was developed by Trevor Silvester of The Quest Institute in the UK - in the video opposite, he explains its key principles.

"Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy may offer a brief effective treatment for clients with clinically significant levels of anxiety and/or depression, widening client choice," concluded an article in the Mental Health Review Journal in September 2015. This report was the culmination of a four year pilot study into the effectiveness of Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy based on 118 clients presenting for help with anxiety and/or depression. Of those, 71% considered themselves recovered after an average of four sessions. This compared to 42% for other therapies (such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) using the same measures. Learn more about the research project.

The Nerdy Stuff

If you are like me and you love to dig into the detail, then read on below. I'll get into some of the nitty gritty in three areas that, in my opinion, give Cognitive Hypnotherapy a very powerful edge over other therapeutic approaches.


The Unconscious Mind

You might have read or heard references to the unconscious mind, but what the heck is it? It is a concept that explains the differences between the mental processes that we are aware of and the ones going on in the background. The unconscious mind does a number of things: it is responsible for sifting information coming in from our senses and reacting to that information in an emergency situation; it co-ordinates all of our bodily functions and it is a vast information storage and retrieval system - from basic skills that we have automated, to memories, attitudes and beliefs, it is all here. Above all else, the unconscious mind's main function is to protect us.


It is an incredible resource. However, it has it's shortcomings. It is unable to make value judgments, for example - that is a function of our conscious minds. Nor can it process a negative statement - an instruction such as, "I must not eat chocolate," would be understood by the unconscious mind as, "I must eat chocolate." You can start to see how problems could occur!


Young children do not have the capacity of adults to reason, evaluate or form opinions. They do not yet have the ability to see a situation from someone else's perspective. They take what they are told literally.  This limitation on the part of the young child combined with the unconscious mind's inability to make value judgments and obligation to protect us is where many an issue is born, from a simple phobia to the belief, "I am not good enough."


By working with the unconscious mind, Cognitive Hypnotherapy can help to untangle those childhood misconceptions that so often result in our adult issues.


The Map is not The Territory

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) has some very useful ideas about how we make sense of the world. By stating that 'the map is not the territory,' NLP proposes that we all have our own internal version of reality. Consider these two statements: "The world is a dangerous place filled with people who who are trying to cheat you," and "People are fundamentally kind and generous and demonstrate that all the time." They represent completely different versions of reality. The only criteria a Cognitive Hypnotherapist would use to assess your map is - how well is it serving you? If your map of the world is small and impoverished, your expectations of what is possible for you are likely to be similarly impoverished. Helping our clients to improve and expand their internal version of reality is one of ways we help them change their lives.


Reconsolidation Theory

There was a major breakthrough in neuroscience in the 1990's when Joseph Ledoux and others discovered that when a memory is brought into conscious awareness, it effectively becomes unstable. Even though we know that how other people remember an event and how we do may be radically different, we tend to think of our own memories as remaining consistent over time. But this isn't so - we can change our memories. Consider the difference between the question, "How did you feel about that?" and "If that younger version of you had had the knowledge and experience you now have, how would they have felt differently about what happened?" We have effectively just created a time machine in which your older, more sophisticated self is able to resource the younger, more vulnerable you. By putting techniques that use this breakthrough at our clients disposal, Cognitive Hypnotherapy offers a powerful tool for addressing issues originating in childhood (as many do).