More Learning Experiences; Goals are Important

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View from the far side of the recliner

Kids or whose goal is it?

Working with children can be great, they can so easily be in their imagination. If a child wants to come see me for something that is important for them we can both feel successful. Kids usually come with parents and that often includes parent goals which may not be kid goals. Sometimes a parent will be in the room talking about the kid’s “problem” which the kid doesn’t consider their “problem” if a problem at all. If a person doesn’t own an issue they are not likely to feel that they can change it. Once we get through our three way interview and goal setting part of the session I end up doing the best I can. Usually I teach visualization, stress reduction, focus and relaxation techniques that can be used for the specific issue as described by the parent or at least the child can hopefully use them for whatever they want.

I once had a session with a girl and her father with the issue being that the daughter was hypersensitive to the sound of people eating, especially it seems at home. It turned out that her sister had something similar going on. We had a very extended interview and discussion. The girl didn’t really seem too concerned about the situation. I’m not sure that we accomplished much in the session. Some days later her dad called and after a long conversation it seemed that the parents had very different ways of dealing with their daughter. My recommendation was family counseling. There are situations where the best thing I can do is not do. This seems especially true when there is more than one person involved and not everyone sees the same problem or even agrees that there is a problem. I like to feel successful.

Not Kids but whose goal is it?

I have been smart enough (just barely probably) not to fall for the “Can you make my (usually boyfriend or husband) quit (usually smoking or chewing)? My automatic answer is “No, I can’t make anyone do anything” (not even my kids) “but if (he) would like to (make some change that is pleasing to the significant other) then have (that person) get ahold of me and we’ll see what we can do”. Occasionally I’ll hear from the person with the habit that someone else wants to change but not as often as I would think. Could be a lovely Valentine’s or anniversary present. Think I’ll make it a gift certificate.

Learning Experience Choosing the wrong imagery

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View from the far side of the recliner

Learning Experiences Chapter 1

Choosing the wrong imagery for deepening relaxation;


Although I learned the technique of using the concept of an elevator to help the client go deeper into a trance it’s one that I don’t use. Many people if they aren’t flat out claustrophobic are at least uncomfortable in elevators. An elevator can be a socially awkward place, trying to avoid eye contact while your personal space is getting squeezed and memories from the many movies and TV shows that used the situation of people trapped in an elevator run through you head. Elevators can be funny, George Carlin talked about farting in one and sending it empty to another floor. (George Carlin had a lot of very funny things to say. His bit on gas is classic.) There are scenes with people in elevators used for humor but laughing even though very beneficial in many ways doesn’t help the person get to that deep place. It just isn’t worth it to me to use as a method to calm people. Stairs seem to work better for me. Maybe I like the exercise.

Other Imagery; Falling/Fire

I haven’t used the imagery of falling, off a building, a bridge, a mountain, a tree, into a hole, a well any type of falling other than “deeper into sleep”.

Fire, as in looking into can be very relaxing. Other aspects of fire could get you burned.


After asking about my client’s history to make sure there have been no negative experiences with water and determining that the client does find being in water in some setting is relaxing, water is my go to imagery.

The Learning Experience

I had a client and friend that had grown up near the ocean, went on at least annual river trips, basically water seemed like the perfect medium for relaxation. This person suffered from occasional incapacitating migraine headaches. Sometimes if you can catch them early enough it just might work to either stop it or at least take the edge off. This time the situation was doomed from the beginning. My friend already had the headache for a while, thinking that I could help her anyway (hey I was new at this) I went to her house. Then I made things worse by using the imagery of floating on the water with the gentle rocking of the waves helping you becoming even more relaxed. The feeling of rocking, gentle or not just made her feel nauseated. The only good things are that she is still my friend (I think) and her migraines have become infrequent. Maybe she just says that so I won’t offer to help.

In the beginning;

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—View from the far side of the recliner

I have been a Physical Therapist since 1986 primarily focusing on orthopedic and sports rehabilitation. My main tools were (and are) manual therapy, exercise and patient education. Overall everything seemed to be going fine for most of my patients. The folks with muscle tension headaches, neck, back and isolated joint pain responded well to what I had to offer. Then there was a group of patients who didn’t seem to have lasting improvements. These people tended to have more chronic and diffuse pain symptoms. Typically they seemed to focus more on their pain and less on function or activity than the patients that I had more success with. I noticed that the people in the group that did not respond well to my version of PT tended to talk a lot about things in their lives that were frustrating, unhappy and limiting. They seemed trapped in a life that they couldn’t change.

Maybe it wasn’t just a physical problem. Of course I knew that but what to do to help these patients? About seven years ago I really started to think about this and did some research discovering that hypnosis has a long history in pain control (and also other things that I wasn’t thinking about at the time).

The next step was finding a good school. It turned out that there were two schools that looked very professional in states that neighbored Arizona. The one in the San Francisco area would require flying and staying. The one in S ante Fe, NM was drivable allowing me to get to Flagstaff on some weekends. It turns out that both schools were excellent but the style of the one I choose really was the best one for me. Strange how that works out. The Hypnotherapy Academy of America program was a very intensive seven weeks with the last two weeks being clinical, meaning working with pain and health issues. My experience at the hypnotherapy school was amazing, changing the way I looked at and thought about many things. I felt pretty good about being able to help my patients with their pain. More about hypnotherapy school some other time. Although I had learned about using hypnosis for many situations I was single mindedly focused on pain and medical issues.

So my first paying client had a debilitating fear of spiders, arachnophobia. Time to broaden that focus and use what I had learned to help people achieve their goals in all kinds of areas. As Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. would say,” and so it goes”.

Next appearing at a blog post near you; mistakes/failures/learning experiences. At least not to the level of catastrophes and disasters. It might seem strange to begin a blog series with things I’ve could have done better as a Hypnotherapist but that is the way I get smarter. It’s the old, “experience is the best teacher”. I’ve had a few experiences.  I’ve had some good teachers.