AfSFH Blog

Welcome to the AfSFH blog page!

Our blogs are designed to further the aims of the AfSFH, which are to increase public awareness about Solution Focused Hypnotherapy and its benefits, and to support our therapists and their clients.

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  • 03 May 2017 5:14 PM | Helen Green (Administrator)

    Written by Elizabeth Newton

    So many times, we are told that sleep is SO important for us, and those old mantras ‘It’ll be alright in the morning’ or ‘Sleep on it!’ are all too familiar. But what IS actually going on during this mysterious phase of our day, which requires us to place so much emphasis on a ‘good nights’ sleep?’

    As a Hypnotherapist, an important part of my role in helping clients get a handle on their lives or achieve their goals is normalising their sleep patterns. In therapy, for many people, this is often the first place I start. If I can get you back to sleeping properly: falling asleep relatively quickly, staying asleep throughout the night, and enabling you to get up at the desired time the next day, then one of my most important tasks is done. But why? Why is it so important that we sleep well from a mental wellbeing perspective?

    We know more about the brain than ever before and advances in Neuroscience and brain scanning devices have enabled us to open up the black box of sleep and decipher what is actually happening. Sleep, as we know, is a circadian rhythm, part of our internal body clock. It is controlled by the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus in a region of our ‘primitive’ brain called the Hypothalamus. Changes in light levels and environmental cues stimulate the release of certain brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters which facilitate sleepiness.

    But like our waking physiological state, sleep has rhythms and cycles too. Over the course of a night, our brain fluctuates from periods of relative inactivity to working with almost a ‘turbo charged energy’. But what is going on in the ‘turbo phase’? Let’s first understand the stages of sleep before we understand the importance of this one, highly crucial stage for mental health:

    The brain cycles through four distinct phases during sleep: stages 1, 2, 3, (non-rapid eye movement), and 4, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep makes up about 25% of your sleep cycle and first occurs about 70 to 90 minutes after you fall asleep. Because your sleep cycle repeats, you enter REM sleep several times during the night. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep has been called ‘Paradoxical Sleep’ by some because the body is virtually paralysed, but the brain is incredibly active. During this stage, the brain is operating at almost a ‘wakeful’ state of arousal suggesting this phase of sleep has a specific function. This is especially likely, given that REM is essentially ‘rationed’, limited to only around 20% of our total nightly sleep.

    It is thought that each REM cycle becomes progressively longer, up to 90-120 minutes. It is for this reason that we need long, uninterrupted periods of sleep.

    But what do we think is happening during REM? Brain waves become rapid and it is now widely understood that we replay and process the mental ‘baggage’ from the day in either a clear or a metaphorical way, giving rise, of course, to dreams. Essentially it is thought that we move stressful memories from our limbic system (Amygdala, Hippocampus, Hypothalamus) into the intellectual mainframe of our brain. In effect, extracting memories, rationalising, and resolving decisions. This allows us to wake the next day with a sense of resolution to that ‘troublesome’ issue the day before. If we have insufficient sleep, therefore, we have limited capacity for REM and reduced ability to resolve and rectify any stresses and strains from the previous day, or come up with creative new solutions to move forward. In the short term, severe sleep deprivation can result in hallucination and paranoia. Over a sustained period, sleep deprivation has been linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, risk-taking behaviour, and suicide.

    Additionally, we understand that sleep deprivation leads to reduction in decision making ability, learning, memory, problem solving, and emotional control. It’s no surprise then that children spend a much greater proportion of their time in REM sleep with babies, interestingly, spending up to 50% in REM – suggesting brain growth and learning with new neuronal connections being formed. This is evidenced again by research demonstrating we spend more time in REM after days learning new skills.

    Hypnosis has been referred to as the creation of an artificially induced REM state allowing new patterns of thought to be rehearsed without the interruption from the Conscious Critical Faculty. Perhaps it is no surprise then that many of my clients come round from trance reporting they feel much brighter, clearer, and able to think straight.

    If you’re wanting to understand how you can improve your own sleep without Hypnotherapy you may find the following links useful:


    Some References:

    ·        Griffin and Tyrell


    ·        National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2007). How much sleep do we need? In Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. Retrieved May 29, 2012 from [top]

    ·        National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2009). At-a-glance: Healthy sleep. Retrieved May 30, 2012, from (PDF – 1.81 MB) [top]

    ·        Talbot, L. S., McGlinchey, E. L. , Kaplan, K. A., Dahl, R. E., &  Harvey, A. G. (2010). Sleep deprivation in adolescents and adults: Changes in affect. Emotion, 10, 831-841. [top]

    ·        Taheri, S., Lin, L., Austin, D., Young, T., & Mignot, E. (2004). Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS Medicine, 1(3), 210-217. [top]

    ·        Gangwisch, J. E., Malaspina, D., Boden-Albala, B., & Heymsfield, S. B. (2005). Inadequate sleep as a risk factor for obesity: Analyses of the NHANES I. Sleep, 28, 1289-1296. [top]

    ·        Spiegel, K., Knutson, K., Leproult, R., Tasali, E., & Van Cauter, E. (2005). Sleep loss: A novel risk factor for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Journal of Applied Physiology, 99, 2008-2019. [top]

    ·        Williamson, A. M., & Feyer, A. M. (2000). Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 57(10), 649-655. [top]

    ·        Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013, March 4). Insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic. Retrieved March 21, 2013, from [top]


    Elizabeth Newton – Clinical Hypnotherapist
    HPD, DSFH, AfSFH (Reg)
    Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex CM24 8AA
    twitter @freshleafhypno

  • 10 Apr 2017 5:16 PM | Helen Green (Administrator)

    Written by Trevor Eddolls

    Anxiety can be defined as feelings of unease, worry, and fear that can be mild or severe. Anxiety refers to both the emotions and the physical sensations a person might experience when they are worried or nervous about something.

    The first thing to understand is that anxiety is created in two different parts of the brain. There’s the amygdala type of anxiety, where you’re staying alert and jumping at any dark shadow. And there’s the prefrontal cortex type of anxiety, where you start to worry about whether you left the hob on, or you left the cat in/out, or whether you locked the back door before you left by the front door.

    Distressing thoughts are more likely to come from the left hemisphere because logical reasoning occurs in the left hemisphere. Rumination or brooding is where a person repetitively mulls over an idea. Rather than coming up with an answer to the problem, this continued dwelling on a problem strengthens the circuitry leading to anxiety (neurons that fire together, wire together – Donald Hebb.) The right hemisphere creates anxiety based on imagination and visualization. The amygdala can become highly activated when the right hemisphere creates frightening images. Vigilance – a general state of alertness – is also based in the right hemisphere. Your cortex may see something – an event – like ambulances dashing down the road. It will then interpret that event, eg someone at my house has been taken ill – and this will lead to the emotion of anxiety in the amygdala. It’s the cortex’s ability to predict future events that gives us this ability to feel anxious.

    The left prefrontal cortex is where a person plans and executes actions. We can anticipate events positively or negatively. The left prefrontal cortex is where anxious apprehension comes from. If a person finds themselves picturing frightening scenarios, those scenarios are being produced by the right prefrontal cortex.

    Your amygdala is stimulated to be anxious when messages arrive from the thalamus indicating that there may be some danger. It will then kick off the HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) axis – taking the body into fight or flight mode. And if it can’t do that, it may use the vagus nerve to produce the more primitive freeze response. Usually, the same messages reach the cortex, which then decides that the threat is no more than a plastic bag (or some other non-threatening item). It then tells to amygdala to stand down.

    The amygdala is also stimulated by the anxiety messages coming from the cortex. These anxiety messages have been created by the cortex. The amygdala will then also initiate the HPA axis and a person will find themselves feeling very anxious without there being a definite cause, and nothing to fight against or runaway from.
    A stress response looks like:

    ·        Pounding heart

    ·        Rapid breathing/hyperventilation

    ·        Stomach distress/nausea

    ·        Diarrhoea

    ·        Muscle tension

    ·        Wanting to run away

    ·        Perspiration/sweating

    ·        Difficulty focusing

    ·        Immobilization

    ·        Trembling/shaking

    ·        Chills or hot flushes.

    There are ways to overcome feelings of panic. If it’s coming from the amygdala: try deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and exercise. If it’s coming from the cortex: remember it’s only a feeling, don’t focus on the panic attack, try to distract yourself, and don’t worry what other people think.

    Being relaxed can reduce feelings of anxiety. Good ways to relax include:

    ·        Slow deep breathing – inhale slowly, deeply, and exhale fully.

    ·        Diaphragmatic breathing (abdominal breathing) – this is thought to massage the internal organs. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Take a deep breath. Your stomach should expand.

    ·        Progressive muscle relaxation – this involves tensing and then relaxing one muscle group after another. Start with your hands then up your arms. Next tense and relax your feet, and work your way up your legs. Finally, start at the top of your head and work down your face, into your neck, your shoulders, and stomach.

    ·        Visualizations – we probably know quite a few of these.

    ·        Meditation – you simply concentrate on your breathing. Every time your thoughts move away from your breathing, you bring your focus back to your breath.

    ·        Exercise – this affects the levels of noradrenalin and serotonin levels of the amygdala, making the receptors less active. It also stimulates the left pre-frontal cortex more than the right. This has been associated with a more positive mood (and that helps to reduce anxiety).

    ·        Sleep – getting the right amount of sleep helps people to concentrate and helps them remember things. It also makes the amygdala less reactive.

    ·        Avoid catastrophizing (thinking that everything is currently awful or everything is going to be awful).

    ·        Cognitive defusion – this technique originated with Steven Hayes. Basically a person acknowledges a thought exists without accepting it, eg saying: “ah, once again I’m having a thought about failing my driving test”. It’s a dissociative technique and allows a person to observe their cortex working.

    ·        Cognitive restructuring – this technique gives you a way to change your cortex. The key is to be sceptical of anxious thoughts and challenge them with evidence, ignore them, or replace them with new coping thoughts.

    ·        Plan rather than worry – if you’re anticipating something bad happening, don’t worry about the event happening, plan some solutions. So, if the event does occur, you can execute your plan.

    ·        Engage the left hemisphere – events such as watching comedy programmes, reading articles, playing games, or exercise reduce the dominance of the right hemisphere.

    ·        Engage the right hemisphere – listening to music or singing engages the right hemisphere, so it can’t be negative.

    ·        Mindfulness – this results in the cortex responding to anxiety in a different way. It activates the ventral medial pre-frontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex, which are the parts that have a direct connection to the amygdala.

    Other useful information about anxiety includes:

    ·        A trigger is any stimulus (sensation, object, or event) that becomes associated with an emotional memory of a negative event. Whenever something triggers a response, the amygdala produces a fear reaction and a learned behaviour is initiated. This gets stronger the more times the trigger occurs. The lateral amygdala doesn’t look for cause and effect, only association between two events.

    ·        Cognitive fusion is where we assume that what we think is real actually is real. A common example is believing that a situation is dangerous because of a feeling that it’s dangerous rather than there being any evidence that there’s a threat.

    ·        New learning in the amygdala occurs in the lateral nucleus. This is where you can train your amygdala to respond differently.

    ·        Optimism is more associated with left pre-frontal cortex activation and pessimism is associated with right pre-frontal cortex activation.

    ·        The right hemisphere has a tendency to focus on negative visual or auditory information.

    ·        The more activity there is in the nucleus accumbens (found in the frontal lobes) – an area associated with hope, optimism, and anticipation of rewards and where dopamine is released – the more dopamine that gets released and the more optimistic a person is. Optimistic people are less anxious.

    ·        Worry arises in the orbitofrontal cortex. This is an area of the brain that allows us to make plans and exhibit self-control. If we focus mainly on negative outcomes, this becomes worry.

    ·        The anterior cingulate cortex can get stuck on certain ideas or images, and this contributes to worry.


    Catherine M Pittman and Elizabeth M Karle. Rewire your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic and Worry. New Harbinger, ISBN-13: 978-1626251137

    Trevor Eddolls
    iTech-Ed Hypnotherapy
    Wilts SN14 0TL
    01249 443256

  • 24 Mar 2017 5:17 PM | Helen Green (Administrator)

    Written by Trevor Eddolls

    IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a common, long-term problem. Different people show different symptoms and some people are affected more severely than others. The symptoms may last for a few days or for a few months and may be associated with eating certain foods or periods of stress. Estimates suggest that one in five people may experience IBS, which usually develops when people are in their twenties. Estimates suggest that twice as many women are affected as men.

    There is no cure for IBS. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends hypnotherapy as a treatment.

    NICE recommend that people living with IBS who do not respond to pharmacological treatments after 12 months, consider a referral for psychological interventions, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), hypnotherapy, and/or psychological therapy.

    The most common symptoms of IBS (according to are:

    ·        abdominal (stomach) pain and cramping, which may be relieved going to the toilet

    ·        a change in your bowel habits – such as diarrhoea, constipation, or sometimes both

    ·        bloating and swelling of your stomach

    ·        excessive wind (flatulence)

    ·        occasionally experiencing an urgent need to go to the toilet

    ·        a feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet

    ·        passing mucus from your bottom.

    Some IBS sufferers also experience:

    ·        lethargy

    ·        feeling sick

    ·        backache

    ·        bladder problems (such as needing to wake up to urinate at night, experiencing an urgent need to urinate, and difficulty fully emptying the bladder)

    ·        pain during sex (dyspareunia)

    ·        incontinence.

    Because of the impact IBS has on a person, they may also have feelings of depression and anxiety.

    The cause of IBS is unknown, although there are suggestions that it’s related to problems with digestion and increased sensitivity of the gut. There are suggestions that food passes through the GI tract too quickly, causing diarrhoea. Or it passes through too slowly, causing constipation. Or that it doesn’t pass through at all. Or it may be that the brain becomes oversensitive to messages from the gut, so mild indigestion feels like severe abdominal pain. And often a period of IBS can start after a stressful event. Other triggers for IBS include: alcohol, fizzy drinks, chocolate, caffeine-containing drinks, processed snacks (crisps and biscuits), and fatty or fried food

    Diagnosing IBS is difficult because there is no specific test. Often their doctor will exclude other causes first such as IBDs (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, which leave inflammatory markers in their blood tests.

    Cochrane looked at the research evidence and found that the studies provide some evidence that suggest that hypnotherapy might be effective in treating IBS symptoms including abdominal pain. However the results of these studies should be interpreted with caution due to poor study quality and small size.

    As well as hypnotherapy, people with IBS may try keeping a food diary to identify any foods that seem to trigger an episode. People with diarrhoea may try cutting down on the insoluble fibre (wholegrain bread, bran, cereals, and nuts and seeds). If they have constipation, they might try increasing the amount of soluble fibre they eat and the amount of water they drink. If a person has persistent or frequent bloating, they might try a low FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyol) diet. FODMAP carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables, animal milk, wheat products, and beans) aren’t easily broken down and absorbed by the gut. As a result, they start to ferment in the gut relatively quickly, and the gases released can lead to bloating. Many people say that exercise helps to relieve their symptoms of IBS. The exercise needs to be strenuous enough to increase a person’s heart and breathing rates. Some IBS sufferers take anti-spasmodic drugs, some are on laxatives, others are prescribed antimotility medicines (for diarrhoea), and others may be using peppermint oil. Some people find taking probiotics regularly helps to relieve their symptoms of IBS. And some people will be taking antidepressants.

    One of the main benefits of hypnotherapy for IBS is that it can help a client to relax, which, in turn, can help them to manage stress – to empty their stress bucket. It can also be used to help the client to visualize themselves coping and decreasing their sensitivity to messages from their gut. Hypnosis can also improve a client’s general mental well-being, and provide psychological coping strategies for dealing with distressing symptoms, as well as help suppress thoughts and behaviours that increase the symptoms of IBS.


    Trevor Eddolls
    iTech-Ed Hypnotherapy
    Wilts SN14 0TL
    01249 443256

  • 05 Jan 2017 5:19 PM | Helen Green (Administrator)

    Written by David Newton

    I am often asked the question ‘What is Solution Focused Hypnotherapy?’

    Well, Solution Focused Hypnotherapy (SFH) is a model of excellence that uses interventions that are effective. It will use the very best procedures that science and research prescribe. In reality though its core philosophy is very much based on the work of Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg and the basic tenets of SFBT.

    Hypnotherapy, and SFH is no exception, has a history of being associated with many forms of therapeutic practice. Often, but not always, this can be a force for good. What follows could be described as the foundation philosophies on which SFH is built. Dr James Braid (1795-1860), who could be thought of as the inventor of modern hypnotism, successfully created a blueprint that could be described as the original hypnotherapy model.

    “He was best known in the medical world from his theory and practice of hypnotism, as distinguished from Mesmerism, a system of treatment he applied in certain diseases with great effect.” (Obituary. The Lancet 1860)

    Braid’s influence and success was very much a result of his empirical and scientific approach. In effect he said that the clinical progress should be verified by research and related to the latest understanding of psychology. He attributed the success of trance to ordinary psychological or physiological factors such as focused attention, expectation, motivation and endeavour. SFH is very much based on Braid’s basic premise that mental focus on imagery and language mediates the physical and psychological effects of dominant ideas.

    It would have appeared sensible to consolidate the work done by Braid and to capitalise on what worked. This was not to be the case. In late Victorian and post Victorian times ‘wackiness’ once more sabotaged the credible scientific clinical practice. Even worse, in the late 19th and most of the 20th Century the pseudo-scientific ‘hi-jacked’ hypnotherapy and kept it in a state, often a delusional state of stagnation.

    Fortunately, as Robertson says in the ‘Complete Writings of James Braid “The Father of Hypnotherapy in the 21st Century”, “Braid’s ‘Common Sense’ and empirical orientation have become fashionable once again”‘.

    Hypnotherapy was partially rescued from post-Victorian ‘quackery’ and later from Freudian ‘analytical’ theory by psychiatrist, Milton H Erickson. He practised as a hypnotherapist from the 1940’s until his death in the early 1980’s. Erickson’s ideas reached far beyond hypnotic technique. He posed radical ideas regarding the role of therapist and the competency of clients. Milton Erickson was convinced that everyone has a reservoir of wisdom and competency and emphasised the importance of accessing client’s resources and strengths. Major interest in his work gathered momentum in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Erickson’s success and creativity spawned a variety of approaches. There was in particular great interest in one of his primary approaches entailing first learning the problem pattern and then prescribing a small change in the pattern.

    Steve de Shazer’s first contact with psychotherapy happened when he read ‘Strategies of Psychotherapy’, the ideas and work of Erickson by Jay Haley. It has been said that this book coupled with the work of the Mental Research Institute (MRI) in Paolo Alto, formed the foundations for what would later be called Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT).

    The basic tenets of SFBT are well known and are different in many ways from traditional forms of treatment. It is a competency based model and the focus is on the clients’ desired future rather than on past problems or current conflicts. It assumes that no problems happen all the time, there are exceptions and that small changes can lead to large increments of change. The setting of specific, concrete and realistic goals is an important component. In SFBT it is the client that sets the goals. Once formulated the therapist will use a number of specific responding and questioning techniques to assist the client construct the steps that may be required to reach the ‘preferred future’. Solution Focused Hypnotherapists note Steve de Shazer’s often repeated assertion that solution work is “the same whatever problem the client brings”.

    In the 1990’s modern technology led to what some have referred to as a sequel of the Copernican revolution. MRI, PET and CAT scans can photograph the brain. Electronic microscopes, the nuclear tagging of living human molecules and other biochemical investigative techniques, enable scientists to have an ever increasing understanding of how the brain works. With at least 500 therapeutic methods, all proffering special theories, techniques and philosophies, psychotherapy could be described as bordering on dysfunctional. The neuroscientific revolution beginning in the 1990’s and progressing with ever increasing vigour into the 21st Century has begun to give the field uncharacteristic coherence. Certainly the days when therapists could make things up have gone.

    “For future generations of therapists training will certainly change” says Mary Sykes Wylie and Richard Simon, (Discoveries from Black Box 2002), “Curricula will have to face the accumulation of knowledge coming from neuroscientists… having an understanding of such clinical relevant areas of knowledge as neural networks and brain structures”.

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