Monday, 30 July 2012

Michael Cohen's 'The Power of Accepting Yourself'

The Power of Accepting Yourself by Michael    Cohen

 The Power of Accepting Yourself – Michael Cohen, published Bookline and Thinker

Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) considers that one of the problems with the human condition is our sense of unworthiness.  We overcome this by achievements, raising our self-esteem with good grades, good style, beautiful houses, and working to please others.  In The Power of Accepting Yourself Cohen distinguishes between this rated self-esteem; and self worth, where we feel good about ourselves simply for who we are, not for what we have achieved.

Self worth is all about being able to make mistakes, to not look great all the time, to not do our best in every moment and still feel comfortable with ourselves.  Isn’t this rather de-motivating though?  Not when you consider that low self worth leads to common conditions like anxiety and depression, two of the most de-motivating of human conditions.

Oprah Winfrey said ‘Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. Quite, but in my experience, it’s often us telling ourselves our friends won’t want to be with us on the bus, whereas really they would be happy to.  In other words, we don’t want to be on the bus with ourselves.

Cohen’s book talks about Unconditional Self Acceptance and how we can recognize that we all (yes all) have shortcomings and that nobody is perfect.  Case studies help to illustrate how we can be way too hard on ourselves and set ourselves unreachable goals and standards that we cannot meet.  Following REBT closely, Cohen helps us to understand how we do this through holding irrational beliefs ‘ I must give a perfect speech, if I don’t it will be awful and I couldn’t stand it’.  He teaches us how we can become aware of these beliefs, how to test their realism and how to decide whether to hold on to them or not.

In his work as a hypnotherapist, Cohen has clearly worked with clients who present with the types of issues that you or I might have, and a cross section of case studies are outlined in the book.  Attending the school reunion; the break up of a relationship; giving a speech; taking a driving test; worrying about our ability to take a University course.  The case studies neatly illustrate an underlying common feeling that we are not good enough, or that somehow everyone else could cope better than us.

These underlying common feelings are often, Cohen points out, irrational beliefs that aren’t doing us any favours.  The more perfect we think we must be, the more we are likely to fail.  It’s common, he says, to have irrational beliefs.  When we learn to notice them and challenge them, we usually feel a whole lot better, and when we feel better, we interact better with the world around us. 

What I like about this book is that it held my attention easily.  As a book, it is accepting of the human condition.  Self-help doesn’t need loads of theory and hundreds of exercises.  The book accepts itself for what it is, keeping things simple.  The range of advice and exercises Cohen provides is both plenty and not too much.  There is variety here that allows you to practice and develop tools for relaxation, for self-awareness, for new ways of thinking and for new routines.  The exercises all complement each other, and they all stand-alone too.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that the simplicity of this book rests on a simple theory.  REBT has, since the 1950’s, played a major part in the development of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is now commonly used as a short-term therapy.  This book is a good introduction to what therapy really is about.  Modern therapy is not about ‘being analysed’, but about training us in self-analysis. Once we know what we are doing, we can change it.  A contradiction?  Not if what we need to change is our belief that we need to change.

A super little book that demystifies modern therapy and presents an easy programme of change for the reader.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

What IS hypnotherapy?

We can mistakenly believe that all hypnotherapy is the same.  It isn't.

When you are looking for a hypnotherapist, it is helpful to know a little about the different styles and techniques, so I am listing the main ones below for you.

Firstly, let's be clear on what hypnotherapy is not.

Hypnotherapy is not EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique).
Hypnotherapy is not TFT (Thought Field Therapy)
Hypnotherapy is not NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming)
Hypnotherapy is not Past Life Regression
Hypnotherapy is not Time Line Therapy

I make this distinction as many alternative health practitioners may offer different types of techniques along with hypnotherapy.  But don't confuse them.  In the main, the techniques used in hypnotherapy have a long history of providing valuable tools for change, and most of the techniques used have a firm and respected evidence base that they are suitable for many different conditions.

Different labels that are given to the general title of hypnotherapy are as follows:

Cognitive Hypnotherapy - a style of therapy that uses the evidence based techniques of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy alongside hypnosis.  Behaviour techniques such as systematic desensitisation have a long history of effectiveness. Therapy is usually short term, concentrates on the here and now and puts a firm treatment plan for an identified presenting issue.

Hypno-psychotherapy - a style of therapy where the therapist has training in psychotherapy as well as hypnosis.  The hypnosis will incorporate different models such as psychodynamic, cognitive and behavioural.

Analytical Hypnotherapy - a style that uses a Psychodynamic approach and a model of the mind that recognises the unconscious.  It examines aspects of your past (not necessarily using regression), but will place importance on past experiences as a way of looking at what is happening for you in the present.

Regression Hypnotherapy - different from past life regression, this style of therapy concentrates on your memories, hidden or not hidden, of earlier events in your life and how these may be influencing your present thoughts and feelings.

Curative Hypnotherapy (Lesserian Hypnotherapy) - a style of therapy used by those trained by  David Lesser, incorporating a number techniques that are commonly used.

Clinical Hypnotherapy - an interesting one this, using a range of techniques, but I was always taught that the definition of Clinical is someone who works in a clinic.  A clinical psychologist, for example, has trained usually within a hospital environment.  The term Clinical Hypnotherapist is however, not recognised by the NHS and I have never met a hypnotherapist who was trained in a hospital - although several psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and doctors are trained to use hypnosis.

Hypnosis may also be used for specific issues, such as Stopping Smoking.  It is usual then to use different styles of suggestion tailored towards that issue.

Of course, even if several hypnotherapists have trained in the same style, they will find, throughout their practice, that they adopt their own style.  Rapport is an important factor for any therapy, and research related to psychotherapy generally shows that psychotherapy is helpful, regardless of style.  Good rapport means that you feel comfortable working with your therapist, you feel understood, listened to, and supported by your therapist in your quest for change.  A good therapist will establish good rapport with you, and if he or she does not feel that their therapy is for you, then they will let you know that before you proceed.