Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy for Treating Depression
What is the value of using Hypnotherapy in addition to Psychotherapy for treating Depression?
I have been working with people who suffer from depression since 2002. I know from experience, not just in my practice but also from my own past experience of having depression that not only is it a very complex emotional and psychological form of suffering but also that no two people experience it in exactly the same way and there is no ‘one size fits all’ for helping people to overcome it.
Help Me to Understand it…
If you have never suffered from depression you could be forgiven for assuming that this overwhelming illness is an extreme version of feeling down or just being sad all the time. The reality is that the experience of depression profoundly influences every aspect of living, emotionally, psychologically and physically. The emotional range of depression varies from sadness, loneliness, emptiness, guilt, remose and self-loathing to agitation, frustration, high anxiety and feeling out of control – just to name some.
It’s not just the feelings…
Psychologically, the thought processes feel as though they are being held hostage to those emotions and they get caught in a never ending and extremely tiring loop of suffering. Before long, the body becomes fatigued in an endless cycle of thinking, worrying, dreaming, sleep disruption and exhaustion.
To Do & Not To Do
To assume that if you could encourage your loved one to get out in the sun and look at nature, or tell them things to help them ‘look on the bright side’, is understandable but it’s like asking someone to drink from an empty well. Your words are landing in a void. Carers and loved ones are undoubtedly doing their best but sometimes these tactics can lead to tension and frustration.
The best thing you can do as a starting point is to listen and empathise without offering a solution. However, although listening and empathy have great value, they are not enough. In fact, too much of it can sometimes make the depression worse.
Neurons That Fire Together, Wire Together
Any talking therapy that focuses solely on the story of the depression – i.e. your history or all the reasons why you are depressed, without gaining any emotional ease or having a goal centred strategy is likely to make depression worse. Every time you revisit the story and feelings, you are effectively sealing the bond in the brain structures that fire off the depression. This isn’t to suggest that there is no counselling element to a good depression treatment but more to understand that it’s useful to know when to start thinking ahead and rehearsing for a life that is free of depression.
Much research shows that there are a number of helpful models of therapy for treating depression which can in some ways add to the confusion when trying to decide which help is right for you. I will simply refer to my own practice, saying that in my experience of working with depressed clients, a good approach is to have a strategic plan.
The reason that I consider hypnotherapy to be a very important element in the treatment of depression is that, in well-trained experienced hands, a process of this nature quickly helps to soothe and lift the emotional suffering, which in itself is a very important first step towards hope. The deep relaxation of therapeutic hypnosis is a calming and reassuring tool for helping a person to begin to lift the symptoms of depression; to bypass the entrenched sense of hopelessness to replenish and enable the sufferer to see beyond the void.
What to expect.
In the beginning you will be supported in gently moving forward step by step, using helpful and easily achieved strategies. Therapy works well with clearly defined outcomes. In each session we identify and agree on a simple ‘next step’ that you feel will take you in the right direction.
It is important that the treatment has a way of reducing the difficult emotions of depression, (deep relaxation or hypnotherapy). If a person is not able to escape the difficult emotions, it feels so much harder for them to modify or change any behaviour that is adding to the depression.
Will it last?
Good therapy teaches coping skills and strategies for maintaining the improved emotional balance and keeping you well. It will help to build a mental and emotional vision of a hopeful and resourceful future helping you to stay on the right path.* Your therapist will support you every step of the way, without judgement, with care and understanding and at whatever pace is right for you.
Further Reading & FAQs
Can I really recover from depression?
As someone who has suffered from depression in the past and as a therapist, I want to tell you that in my experience, depression is treatable. It is possible to live well. With the right help you can feel better and enjoy life. When you are feeling better, you will sleep more soundly, you will start the day feeling more awake and have more energy and motivation for the things that you want to do.
Would meditation help?
Therapeutic hypnosis shares common ground with guided processes such as meditation or visualisation and as a person begins to move out of the clutches of depression, such practices would be recommended. However, the beginning of any therapeutic treatment could be likened to a journey; one in which the traveller will benefit from taking a guide – someone who knows the way and can steer them away from pot holes and cliff edges. Once the territory becomes familiar and the traveller notices an enjoyment of the scenery, then they are more likely to have the capacity, understanding and self-motivation to use some of the helpful processes they have learned.
Is Depression Serious?
The reason depression can be a serious condition is because the sufferer is living with a strong, ongoing state of difficult emotions. Paradoxically, many sufferers will say that when they are in deep depression, they feel numb. But the research is clear; depression is a state of high emotional arousal and if this heightened state is sustained over a long period of time it will result in poor physical, emotional and psychological health.
How do I know if I’m depressed?
The most obvious pointer is that you will have been feeling very low for a while, with a sense that it is not lifting. This low state will have begun to impact on your quality of life. However, here are some common symptoms and if you are regularly experiencing a number of these, you may be depressed.
- Depressed mood
- Profound sadness and/or excessive focus on past hurts
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Appetite disruption – eating less or more than usual
- Disturbed sleep
- Lots of dreaming
- Loss of energy, especially in the mornings
- Loss of interest in sex.
- Can’t think, concentrate, or recall things.
- Overwhelmed by simple tasks
- Worthlessness, guilt or remorse
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
- Reduced pain threshold resulting in unexplained aches and pains
- Anxious or worrisome thoughts
- Loss of confidence and esteem
How do you get depressed?
It used to be believed that depression was the result of a chemical imbalance, and that lowered amounts of the neurotransmitter serotonin, were causing the person to feel depressed. More recent studies have now revealed that low serotonin is a symptom of depression, not the cause.
My mother has depression, have I inherited it from her?
In the 1990’s, the Human Genome Project set about years of study and research, in the hope of finding a ‘gene for everything’. Scientists were surprised to find that there is no depression gene. Furthermore “The marked increase in the rate of depression revealed in epidemiological studies itself shows that depression cannot be a biological disease carried in our genes. Genes do not change that quickly.” (Human Givens, Griffin & Tyrrell, p242).
If there is good news about this understanding, it is that depression is only likely to be passed from parent to child as a learned behaviour. With the right intervention and support, that behaviour can be unlearned, and more helpful behaviours can be learned in place.
So, if it’s not a chemical imbalance or a biological inheritance, what is it?
It is true that a person suffering from depression will have low serotonin levels, though this is the result of prolonged emotional arousal, not the cause. (For more in depth reading see “How to Lift Depression (..fast)” by Joe Griffin & Ivan Tyrrell). There are many situations that can trigger the sort of emotional responses that can lead to depression. Bereavement, divorce, redundancy, bankruptcy etc., will have an understandable emotional impact. So why is it that some people who experience these things fall victim to depression, whilst others may have a similar experience and do not?
Research into Depression
Research shows that a significant factor for depression lies in the thought processes; how the person relates to the events they are experiencing. You are more likely to fall into depression if you have learned to take things personally, to worry that things will never change, or to blame yourself. Consequently there is likely to be a strong internal focus of attention that cannot unhook from the thoughts about personal experience of feelings. High emotions and negative thinking will create a tendency to ruminate (chew the same negative, emotional thoughts over and over).
These ruminations keep the emotions running high because the thoughts are feeding the emotions. When low mood and high emotions become the regular daily experience, it begins to have a negative impact on your view of yourself and your potential for the future. In fact, many depression sufferers cannot envisage a future.
All of this can be quickly and effectively helped with the right support.
Depression is a ‘mood disorder’. It is a serious condition and if it lasts over a prolonged period of time, it can result in poor physical, emotional and psychological health. In really extreme cases depression can be life threatening. However, the good news is that the most up to date research into depression tells us that there is a lot that can be done to help and that you do not have to live with this condition. Nor do you have to use drugs to feel relief. Interestingly, it is now known that depression is not a genetic condition, nor is it the result of a chemical imbalance.*
For more detailed reading about the subject of depression, I highly recommend the book How to Lift Depression (..fast) by Joe Griffin & Ivan Tyrrell. This book will give you more detail about the mechanics of depression and will also explain other common depression experiences such as sleep disruption, excessive dreaming, morning exhaustion and low levels of serotonin.
The HG approach is strongly in favour of helping the sufferer to re-engage with life so that the essential emotional needs are richly met through living well.
What Else Can Help?
Nutrition: A significant, yet often over-looked ingredient in treating depression is nutrition. What we forget is that in order to make chemicals such as serotonin, endorphins or dopamine, the body needs the raw materials – good quality food in adequate quantities. Eat quality proteins like chicken, turkey or tofu; a colourful variety of vegetables and fruits, wholefood carbohydrates and essential oils such as omega 3, 6 & 9. (Recommended reading: The Food and Mood Handbook by Amanda Geary). Solution focused psychotherapy and hypnotherapy, combined with supportive, practical strategies can have a profoundly helpful impact on lifting that depression.*
Yoga; Walking; Dancing; Mindfulness; Meditation; Relaxation; Therapeutic Aromatherapy Massge; Acupuncture; Painting; Drawing; Making Things; Listening to Talking Books; Spending time with People…
For more information about your options in treating depression, please see this website:
Call me to arrange a free consultation and we can discuss how you will benefit – 01273 500136
Below I have listed a selection of helpful reading for depression sufferers or their family/carers. Simply click on the thumbnail and it will take you directly to the Amazon page.
*Disclaimer: Please be aware that the results of any treatment will vary from person to person and no specific guarantees are being made. Mary Condell always endeavours to give her best work to each client with a commitment to the best possible outcome. Please call to discuss any queries or concerns you may have.