Many people have heard of someone who has used a hypnotherapist to stop smoking or to help sort out a phobia. It is true that hypnotherapy is a very effective way of dealing with these problems, because learned habits, behaviours and response patterns often have origins that date quite a long way back in time.

Behaviours like smoking, often have their origins in pleasant associations, like being part of a gang, being the same as everyone else, being cool. Food will often have been used as a comforter or a reward in early years – to stop a child crying or to placate an angry child, or even to reward a good child. Over time, a person evolves, becomes more sophisticated and has different experiences and ways of relating to the world. The unconscious mind, where all a persons’ life experiences and associations are stored, does not necessarily update through life in the same way. So a person may stay with an old unwanted habit or behaviour pattern because in certain emotional or stressful times they find themselves being unconsciously triggered to automatically reach for a cigarette or a chocolate bar or to bite their nails. This pattern from childhood is a default that gives a needed sense of security or comfort at a stressful time.

This can also become a pattern in relationships. Children pick up ‘normal’ from their first experiences of life. A persons’ early experience of men, women, security, anger management, disagreement resolution, relationships, will form the building blocks on which to interpret the world throughout their life, and also, most importantly, form the basis on how to protect themself and keep themself safe. This early stage can be where a person learns to become needy, or to avoid committment, or to feel unloveable or not good enough.

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All these issues can be helped through a combination of counselling and hypnotherapy. The counselling works with the cognitive part of the mind where common sense prevails and knows how we want to be and ‘should’ be. The hypnotherapy works with the ‘I can’t seem to stop myself’ part of the mind where all automatic behaviours and responses come through from. Using trance work (or hypnosis) therapeutically, helps to heal the old out dated responses and so allow more relevant, more appropriate behaviour and reactions.

A similar situation arises with fears and phobias. A phobia can be described as a learning made in the presence of adrenalin. An illogical or extreme response can grow from a single intense experience, ie a spider running across a face or foot, or a dog sticking its head in a pram. This response is reinforced every time something similar or reminiscent occurs. Again, hypnotherapy can be very beneficial in healing the old unwanted, out dated reaction and allowing more valid, adult behaviour to become the norm.

This is a respectful way of working as it uses the clients own goals and desired outcomes as the benchmark and utilises the clients experiences and resources to heal the problem.

Susan Leigh is a South Manchester based Counsellor and Hypnotherapist with over 20 years experience, regularly helping clients in the areas of confidence, stress management, couples work. She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio. She has recently re launced her web site,

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