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 Decluttering Interview


I am constantly exploring the most effective therapies that are available to us all.  Hypnosis is an art that is very much misunderstood in the press, so I asked an expert some of the questions we would all like the answers to:


An interview with Registerd Hypnotherapist Ian Sherred of Tadpole Hypnotherapy Southampton:


What types of issues can be helped with hypnosis?


People commonly visit hypnotherapists for help to stop smoking and other unwanted habits, control their weight, or cure phobias.  However, it can really be used for anything where people need to get rid of old, unhelpful patterns, and learn new, more helpful ones, quickly and easily. So stress, anxiety, depression, confidence and motivation are all things that we help with at the practice. 

We also use it to improve physical wellbeing.  It’s particularly effective as a way of controlling pain or improving sleep.


Hypnosis is effective in these circumstances because it deals directly with the part of the mind that keeps problems in place – the unconscious. 

To demystify the process could you tell me what happens in a typical hypnosis session? 


Certainly.  Each session lasts between an hour and ninety minutes, most of which will be spent in conversation.  We’re solution focused and future oriented, which is just a way of saying we like to help our clients identify their goals and get them there as quickly as possible!  Obviously we need to understand the problem, but we don’t dwell on it and we certainly don’t need to endlessly go over the past.


We’re also looking to find out what’s going on in a person’s life that can help them.  People have amazing resources, although if they’re anxious or emotional, they can sometimes forget that.  For example, I’ve spoken to severely depressed people who apparently spend most of the day either sleeping or crying – and yet somehow they’ve continued to take the kids to school, or look after an elderly relative.  That takes strength, even if they don’t realise it! 


So, we work together to identify a goal, and we make sure it’s a good, clear one.  Ideally the client will know exactly what, where, when and with whom things will be happening once they’ve got to where they want to be.  For example, I spoke to a lady who’d come for help with her weight, and after we’d spoken, she knew that she’d be on the right track when she was writing reports during the afternoon at work – because that would mean she wasn’t wandering down to the vending machine to stock up on chocolate.


We then use hypnosis to reinforce that goal, by getting rid of old habits in various ways, and more importantly, by laying down new and more helpful patterns of behaviour.  We might also teach our clients self-hypnosis or other tools to help them after the session, and we always like to set a bit of homework too!

Hypnosis does not seem to be understood very well and suffers from many misconceptions in the general press, can you put my mind at rest and tell me whether it can be dangerous, or if you can make me do something I don't want to do?

You’ve hit the nail on the head there, Sasha.  When we do talks, I often start off with the line “if anybody here thinks hypnosis is some form of mind control, allow me to raise your hand.”  Occasionally, people do raise their hands!  I think the popular image of hypnosis is still that of stage hypnotism, where people are made to cluck like chickens or sing like Elvis or other amusing/humiliating things.


But I can definitely put your mind at rest.  Hypnosis is a very pleasant and relaxing experience, and you’re aware of what’s going on at all times.  And nobody can make you do anything you don’t want to do.

Can everyone be hypnotised?

Yes – because it’s a naturally occurring state of mind that everyone experiences dozens of times a day.  It’s impossible not to experience it, in fact!  A common example are those times when you’ve driven somewhere, and the radio’s on, and your mind is sort of tra-la-la-ing away and you arrive at your destination and think – did I stop at that red light?  Did I give way at that roundabout?  Or even those times when you’re really absorbed in a TV programme, and somebody says something to you, and you’re kind of aware they’ve spoken but really your whole attention is on that fascinating TV show.


In fact, that’s all hypnosis really is – a focused state of attention.  This can be external, in the case of that fascinating TV show, or internal, when you’re driving, or which we’re creating in the hypnotherapy session.  Going back to your previous question, although the unconscious mind has taken over for a while in these situations, the conscious mind hasn’t gone away.  If a police car came up behind you whilst you were driving, or the fire alarm went off during the hypnotherapy session, you’d be very aware of it!


So everyone can be hypnotised if they want to be, and, thinking about a formal hypnotherapy session, if they can understand what the therapist is saying to them.  I should also point out that the influence of drink or drugs will impair the ability to be hypnotised.


How many sessions are required generally?

That depends on the individual and what they’re hoping to achieve.  Sometimes one session is all it takes – in fact, phobias are generally dealt with in just one session, although occasionally we’ve had to do more where other stuff was going on. 


Other issues may take a little longer, just to be sure that all the angles are covered.  For something like depression, the first session is often spent just calming the mind and teaching the client proper relaxation skills.  This is like letting light into a darkened room.  Once you’ve done that, you can see to start sorting things out.


Two to three is the average, although it could be a little more depending on circumstances.  In any event we aim to get people to where they want to be as quickly as possible, so we’re not talking dozens of sessions. 


Can you tell me a little about you, what led you to become a hypnotist?

It’s something I’ve always had a great interest in – the way the mind works and the way we function as human beings.  And I guess like a lot of people who work as therapists, I was curious about myself.  Why do I behave in this way when I know perfectly well that I want to behave in that way, and what can I do about it?


It was one of those serendipitous things in that I found out about a weekend course being run by a company called Uncommon Knowledge.  My partner and I went along and we were bowled over by it – their approach was practical, common sense, thoroughly grounded in the latest research, non-dogmatic, and above all, it worked! 


After that, we signed up for their Diploma course, which is great, because you’re assessed in real client sessions with real people.  Scary at the time, but invaluable, because real people teach you everything you need to know, and they seldom conform to theories.


What are the greatest benefits you have seen in your clients?

The lovely thing about this line of work is that you often see immediate benefits – I like my clients to leave feeling more relaxed than when they came in.  People are physically transformed when they’ve properly relaxed, especially depressed clients for whom the session might be the first proper relaxation they’ve had in months (although depression might look catatonic from the outside, there’s an awful lot of emotional turmoil going on inside).


The sheer relief and the huge increase in energy are the main benefits once that old problem has disappeared.  If you think about a phobia, for instance, that’s literally a case of the fight-or-flight response being switched on permanently.  Somebody who’s scared of dogs will be constantly scanning the environment looking for dogs.  That takes an enormous amount of energy.  All emotional problems take an enormous amount of energy to maintain, and it’s great when clients can use that energy for something more beneficial to them.

I have heard that self-hypnosis can be useful, who can benefit from this do you think?

Self-hypnosis is a wonderful tool, and I think everyone can benefit to some degree, even if it’s just to relax.  I can’t emphasize enough how important proper relaxation is.  It’s probably the single most significant thing you can do for your own health and wellbeing.


Here’s a simple technique, which we’ve borrowed from the therapist David Botsford.  Find somewhere where you can rest comfortably and without interruption for a little while.  Take a moment to pay attention to your breathing – notice what happens when you breathe out for just a little bit longer than you breathe in.  Some people find that counting helps, perhaps in for 5 and out for 9, or in for 7 and out for 11, whatever feels comfortable for you.


As you breathe out, say the word “calm” in your mind.  Do that a few times, and then as you breathe out, see the word “calm” written right there in front of you in the mind’s eye, like skywriting in a blue summer’s sky.


Allow your mind to drift away, perhaps to a place that you know and love, and imagine yourself being there, looking at the sights and hearing the sounds.  Or if there’s something coming up in your life that you want to prepare for, such as a presentation at work, imagine everything going smoothly.  You can even use this to practice your golf swing in your mind!


Allow yourself to come back to everyday awareness at your own pace and in your own time.

Finally, do you have any advice on how to find a reputable hypnotist?


That’s an excellent question, Sasha.  At present, hypnotherapy is an unregulated profession, which means that anybody could set themselves up as one.  So it’s very important that people are confident that they’re dealing with a reputable practitioner.


There’s a more detailed article on our website - , but the main things people should find out about are the hypnotherapist’s qualifications – where and how did they train; their professional membership – are they a member of a professional body such as the General Hypnotherapy Standards Council or the British Hypnotherapy Association?; do they have insurance?; do they abide by a code of ethics?  You should also ask about their prices and services, and whether they’ve helped people in similar situations to yours.  No reputable hypnotherapist will mind you asking these questions.


Perhaps most importantly, you need to feel comfortable talking to them.  Trust your instincts on this one.  Sometimes we just don't click with people, and that's no reflection on anyone, therapist or client.  If that's the case it's better to spend your money and time elsewhere. 


More interviews coming soon