Depression is one of the most common reasons that people come to psychotherapy, so I thought I’d focus this blog post on how I use hypnotherapy to treat depression.
One of the most significant ways I treat depression with hypnosis is with inner resourcing work. If you've been reading my blog, you've heard me talk about resourcing before. Resources are the things that give us the feeling we can handle difficulties, that we've "got what it takes", and that we can be successful.
Resources can be internal or external. External resources are things like good friends, regular meals, enough sleep, stability, a healthy daily routine, good quality exercise. Internal resources are things like a voice inside that encourages us to not give up, and try difficult things that we know are good for us, or a felt sense of being loved, or a felt sense that supportive friends and family are available even if they're in another state or country, or even if they're deceased.
Pretty much everything in modern life goes better if we have resources, both internal and external. And if you're depressed, reading this list might be making you even more depressed because you might be thinking, "but I don't have those!" or "I have those but I can't *feel* them!" And that's kind of the point: depression is a state where resources are not readily available, whether externally or internally. And one way of working with depression is to make them more available.
Primarily we do this by reconnecting to resources that are already there. Externally this means connecting with people, getting good food, getting enough sleep, finding more stability, etc. It could also mean committing to an exercise routine or a non-self-harm plan. This could also mean taking medication to help with stuff like sleep or appetite, or in order to feel okay enough that reconnecting to supportive resources feels possible.
Internally, reconnecting to resources means finding and revisiting times when you felt successful or had support. In hypnosis, you can go revisit the past vividly. This is called an age regression and I talked primarily about it in my blog entry on traumawork. But, as I've noted before, you can also revisit good experiences, not just traumatic ones.
You can also "revisit" good times that haven't happened yet: One of my favorite depression-related hypnotic inner resourcing exercises is something called a future progression." In it, you visit the future the same way you visit the past. The future is (hopefully) where things get better and stuff turns out okay. And even just having the idea that things will turn out okay is resourcing.
Critics might note: "but it's imaginery!" and I must concede that yes, it is. But so much happens in our minds and the feelings that result. When it comes to our internal world, depression is so much about our perspective. The difference between depression and feeling fine is the difference between a difficult time that feels like it will never end and a difficult time that feels temporary and purposeful.
There are of course layers to this like there are with everything in mental health work. Sometimes resources aren't sufficient, or sometimes there's a deeper reason for depression, such as a past trauma that's getting triggered, interpersonal or family dynamics, or some way that the depression is (unconsciously) beneficial or protective. There is much more I could say about all this, but I think this is a good place to stop for now.
Next, having talked about all the wonderful stuff hypnosis can do for different issues, I'm going to talk about the negatives -- the "warning labels" for hypnosis you should know about before doing it.