NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Hypnosis and Creative Visualization for Stress Management

As long as we're alive we will experience stress. We cannot eliminate stress from our lives, nor would we want to. A healthy level of stress gets us through the day and helps us to achieve our goals. 

Hypnosis and Creative Visualization for Stress Management

What causes problems for people is not stress itself. Rather, it's our negative reactions to stress, our distress, that often cause emotional and physical problems. 

A combination of clinical hypnosis and creative visualization often help to allow us to relax and calm our minds and bodies. As part of my work with psychotherapy clients, I usually teach them to use creative visualization and self hypnosis to feel more relaxed and refreshed.

Hypnosis and Creative Visualization
As I've mentioned in a previous blog post, all hypnosis is really self hypnosis. 

When I say this I mean that, even when a hypnotherapist is guiding you through the hypnotic process, you're own body and mind are doing the hypnotic work--not the hypnotherapist. 

With regular practice, self hypnosis is a skill that most people can develop. Some people go into the hypnotic state more easily than others. But my experience has been that most people can enter the hypnotic state, once they learn how. 

Hypnosis is usually very relaxing and refreshing, There's nothing mysterious or magical about the hypnotic state. In fact, we all enter into various levels of the hypnotic state or trance everyday when we day dream.

Creative visualization is also a skill that most people can learn, even people who insist that they don't see anything when they close their eyes and try to visualize. 

Often, there are misunderstandings about what is meant by visualizing. Some people think that if they're not seeing strong images, they're not visualizing. So, once again, if you're able to have day dreams and night dreams, which most people do, more than likely, you'll be able to develop this skill with practice.

Creative visualization can be used not only to relax. It can be used to help improve your mood, to achieve a goal, to improve your health, and it has many other benefits. For instance, athletes use creative imagery all the time to improve their athletic skills.

An Example of Creative Visualization
As an example, if you've ever watched an Olympic diving competition, you might have noticed that divers usually stand on the edge of the diving board for a few seconds with their eyes closed before they do their dives. 

During that time, they're doing a mental rehearsal of their dives, visualizing and proactively experiencing in their bodies how they want to execute the dive before they actually do it. They've been trained by their coaches that this mental rehearsal substantially improves the possibility of executing a flawless dive. Other professional athletes, including tennis players, baseball players and others also know the value of using creative visualization as part of their training to improve their game.

Combination of Clinical Hypnosis and Creative Visualization Can Be Empowering
The combination of clinical hypnosis and creative visualization can be very empowering. When you're in a hypnotic state, you are engaing a deeper part of yourself, your unconscious mind. Therapeutic work which is done on the unconscious level tends to be more powerful as compared to work done strictly on the conscious or cognitive level where you're only working on the surface.

Visualizing a Relaxing Place
One of the exercises I usually teach clients is using self hypnosis and creative visualization to see and experience themselves in a relaxing place. Once they've learned self hypnosis, they choose a place, either a real place that they know or an imagined place, to experience in the hypnotic state, bringing in as many senses as they can. The sensory experience is key to helping to bring about relaxation. Sensory experiences include noticing what you see, hear, feel, sense, smell, and taste on this imaginary level.

Even if you don't think you don't know how to enter into a self hypnotic state, you can still benefit from taking a few minutes to imagine yourself in a relaxing place. Think of it as entering into a pleasant day dream or reverie and don't get hung up on whether you are or aren't in a hypnotic state. When you choose a relaxing place to day dream about, it should be a place that is unambiguously pleasant. 

So, for instance, if you're thinking about a beach that you love, but you had a big argument with your boyfriend or girlfriend there and that's the image and feeling that predominate for you, don't use that place because it's not going to be relaxing.

Choose a place to practice the relaxing place experience where you can have some quiet time to yourself. Also, make sure that you're in a place where it's safe to close your eyes and relax. So, you would never do this while driving, operating machinery or anywhere where you need to be alert to your surroundings.

When you've found the appropriate time, place to practice, and the image of a relaxing place that's right for you, close your eyes and imagine this place, making your senses as vivid as possible. 

For most people, visualization is their strongest sense. But for some people their imaginary sense of sound, smell, taste or sensation might be more dominant. 

As best as you can, start to notice how relaxing this place is. Often, after just a few minutes, you'll notice that your body starts to relax. This is because of the mind-body connection. Our minds affect our bodies and our bodies affect our minds. So, if you visualize a relaxing place, your mind sends a signal to your body to relax.

For most people who are interested in developing their abilities in self hypnosis and creative visualization, practice and patience are key to improving these skills. Just like any other skill that you develop, it takes time and some effort. But the benefit you derive for managing your reactions to stress can be very rewarding.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist. 

I provide psychotherapy services to individuals and couples, including dynamic talk therapy,clinical hypnosis, EMDR, and Somatic Experiencing. 

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.