Working with couples using hypnotherapy

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Author: Amanda Ferguson
Date: Spring 2012
Publisher: Australian Society of Clinical Hypnotherapists
Document Type: Article
Length: 5,286 words
Lexile Measure: 1230L

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Introduction

By the time a couple reaches out for therapy the problems are usually highly complex and entrenched. Typical issues include role-playing difficulties in communication, understanding, Empathising and resolving conflicts. As part of comprehensive therapy, hypnotic techniques can be powerful and fast ways of breaking through these difficulties. Couples therapy is unlike individual therapy, in that it is not possible to fully empathise with two people simultaneously, especially if they are warring. Couples therapy presents additional challenges for the therapist, power struggles and managing the complexity of two people's emotions, information and realities at once. Counter transference issues include the triggering of the therapist's emotion, confusion, and blind spots from their own relationship or childhood parenting. A couple presenting in therapy is typically ready to work unconsciously, but conscious issues can hinder the process. Hypnosis, by keeping knowledge out of consciousness, allows the unconscious mind to work unimpeded.

Theories and techniques from the literature as well as from the writer's experience are discussed in wording with many of the common problems that couples and therapists deal with. Case studies are used to illustrate the points. Future directions for research and therapy are discussed.

It is now well accepted in the literature that couples must be proactive in continuing to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to sustain and enhance their relationships if they want their relationships to survive in the long term. Gone are the days of a traditional contract and the assumption of a marriage for life (Arnert, 2000; Larson, Wilson, Bradford, Furstenberg, & Verma, 2002; Goldberg, 2003). We are now, as therapists, called upon to provide more techniques and strategies that will give people the necessary insights and understandings of themselves and of each other. Therefore it is critical that we draw on all of the modalities that we have at hand in our work with couples, including the modality of hypnosis.

Healthcare is beginning to embrace hypnosis in a revolutionary way, as seen by the inclusion of Oakley's article in the prestigious American Psychologist in 2004. A quiet revolution of the use of hypnosis in couples therapy may also be underway. Murphy's revolutionary work, first published in 1963, describes trance work with couples. Family therapist David Calof is one of the leaders of modern hypnotherapy and its use in couple therapy since 1996. Luquet (1996) also employs trance work with couples and their images of love. The recent volumes of journals for family and relationship therapy are littered with articles proclaiming new versions of hypnosis for couples, such as facilitated imagery, the New Hypnosis, and Dynamic Energetic Healing (Ross, 1988; Godoy & Araoz, 2000; Hammond-Newman & Brockman, 2003; Araoz, Burte, & Goldin, 2001; Fourie, 1991; Ross, 1988; Araoz & NegleyParker, 1988; Cooper, 1985). Hence, hypnosis is being used quite widely in couple's therapy.

Couples therapy is unlike individual therapy, in that it is not possible to fully empathise with two people simultaneously, especially if they are warring. Countertransference issues include the triggering of the therapist's emotion, confusion,...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A333448754