When it comes to integrative healing in psychotherapy, Dr. Carolyn Daitch is leading the field forward by leaps and bounds. After reading her award-winning book Affect Regulation Toolbox: Practical and Effective Hypnotic Interventions for the Over-reactive Client, I was thrilled to attend her training and learn with this master clinician. She is able to expertly weave clinical hypnosis and mindfulness into a trauma-informed therapeutic approach that truly uplifts and inspires. I had the recent opportunity to chat with Carolyn about her love for and practice of working with the unconscious in psychotherapy. What follows is a highlight of our interview.
The Birth of A New Perspective
I asked Carolyn about how she was first drawn to the subject of clinical hypnosis. Interestingly, her initial venture into this area coincided with a time of personal new birth — literally! She had just given birth to her son, and was a new mother looking to engage in some professional networking. One Sunday afternoon, she dropped into a training being held by Dr. Charles Stern, a student of Dr. Milton Erickson. This training inspired Carolyn to read and learn everything she could about clinical hypnosis in psychotherapy.
She delved into the research and practices of Ericksonian therapy and hypnosis, and it was not long before Carolyn found the opportunity to personally apply what she had learned in her own life. At 4 months following the birth of her baby, she developed a gastrointestinal bleed and required a g-tube procedure. Although anesthetic is now regularly provided before this procedure, it was not commonplace back then. Carolyn used self-hypnosis as the g-tube was extended down her throat and into her stomach. She continued chatting away with the nurses who expressed their shock with Carolyn’s calm demeanour throughout the procedure. This experience marked Carolyn’s first up close and personal relationship with the benefits of hypnosis.
A Powerful Adjunct
As she experienced then and still finds today, hypnotic trance is “such a powerful adjunct tool that can potentiate any treatment modality.” In terms of our work as psychotherapy professionals, Carolyn’s advising is that hypnosis can improve outcome across the spectrum of evidence-based therapeutic work we’re doing, including with CBT and EMDR.
I found it most interesting to talk with Carolyn about the way she integrates hypnosis with EMDR. For example, she will bring hypnosis in at the end of EMDR when the work is focused on amplifying and accessing resources. Hypnosis and the use of future visualization can help with practicing cognitive shifts and the internalization of cognitive statements such as “It’s over and I handled it.”
I wondered aloud about the range of benefits for clients at various phases of trauma-informed therapy. Carolyn had a lot to say about this, highlighting the importance of teaching our clients how to use self-hypnosis for everything from shifting automatic avoidance responses to accessing overlooked inner resources. “People who master self-hypnosis learn how to become more resilient” she said. Isn’t that, ultimately, the goal of all psychotherapy? How wonderful that we have this amazing tool to bring to our clients so that they can really and truly learn self-mastery in trauma recovery.
People who master self-hypnosis learn how to become more resilient. Isn’t that, ultimately, the goal of all psychotherapy?
Dr. Daitch uses hypnosis to help her clients become skilled at recognizing and intercepting the initial reactivity-charged feeling or thought pattern (eg: “I’m feeling abandoned”). She has developed so many wonderful hypnotic interventions that work beautifully with CBT, mindfulness and other modalities. For example, she created a technique called “STOP” that teaches clients to firstly Scan for somatic, cognitive and emotional cues/precursors of affect dysregulation/anxiety. Next, clients move to a “Time-out” for self-soothing (this helps catch the flooding early, and builds habit of tension defusion); Clients are then instructed to Overcome the initial surge of flooding through hypnotic techniques such as the eye-roll.
As people become more practiced with these first three steps of STOP, they can then move onto the 4th phase: Putting tools into practice — these tools include mindful awareness and visualizations for dialling down anxiety. The use of hypnotic interventions such as age progression and ego state work can help to solidify the client commitment to using their new tools for handling stress. Carolyn coaches her clients that “practice makes perfect.” Thus, a daily home practice is essential — it assists the client in developing self-hypnosis skills for self-soothing, re-framing, and pattern interruption.
When I asked Carolyn what her best piece of advice would be for new clinicians when it comes to practicing hypnosis, she quite emphatically insisted: “Don’t wait until you feel like you’re a master, get started!”
Oh, Carolyn…I couldn’t agree more 😀
If you’d like to dive deeper into learning with Dr. Daitch, she will be a lead faculty trainer at Daybreak’s upcoming Conference on Mind-Body-Spirit Connections in Psychotherapy. She’ll be joined by other leaders and pioneers in the field of holistic psychotherapy, as we delve into the art and science of integrating MindBody and Spirit medicine with evidence-based interventions in clinical counselling.