Traditional Marriage and Family Therapy trains counselors to always see the couple together, never individually. The reason for this is to prevent the counselor from "taking sides" with one or the other. The problem, however, is that often in marital therapy, the individuals do not tell the real truth in the presence of their partner. The next and even deeper flaw in this traditional method is that it involves only engaging the conscious mind (10%) of each individual.
With hypnotherapy, we engage the full 100% of the mind, in order to bring to conscious awareness the deeper source of the difficulty in the relationship. This is best understood by offering an example. In hypnotherapy we begin by speaking individually with each person to gain their trust and hear their truth. While this takes place, the other is filling out a relationship inventory. Then we switch so that the other gets their individual time with the therapist.
We then meet with the couple together and discuss the benefits of hypnotherapy and the plan for treatment. We suggest that they each come in for 3 to 5 individual hypnotherapy sessions. These individual sessions allow the clients and hypnotherapist to build rapport, but more importantly, to get down to the core of the relationship difficulties. It allows the clients as well as the therapist to have all the facts and an overall perspective, rather than just two narrow personal viewpoints.
Many people are in adult bodies and look like adults, but when they get "emotionally triggered" they automatically regress to a child state of mind. For example, a man comes home from work and finds his wife not at home to fix his dinner. He panics and then immediately turns that fear into anger. Or a wife is fixing dinner and her husband doesn't arrive home at the agreed upon time. For each, this may be what we call, "a triggering situation," meaning that they have a strong physiological reaction in their body to the event. They may feel breathing increase, indicating anxiety, fear and panic. Their heart may begin to pound and then the mind races through all the fearful scenarios. "He/she is having an affair" or "He/she was in an accident, may be in a hospital.”
The woman may begin to cry and start making frantic phone calls. The man, having been trained by our culture not to cry, may become rage-filled. His racing mind certainly increases his angry reactions, judgments and conclusions.
In hypnotherapy, we acknowledge the physiological responses and then use this information new information to do an age regression back to what memory has been triggered to cause the intense physiological response. The woman in our example, when regressed in hypnotherapy to the source of her fearful reaction, may go back to age six, when perhaps her father had been drinking and didn't return home for dinner or perhaps for the whole night! She feels her mother's distress and feels helpless to comfort her mother. So here we have an adult, the woman who came into our office for marital therapy, regressing to a six-year-old time in her life, who was abandoned by an alcoholic father. Conversely, the husband's regression on his reaction when his wife is not home may immediately take him to his childhood when his mother may have been having affairs, perhaps drinking or otherwise not available for the children.
This is why hypnotherapy is truly a mind and body therapy, since all the reactions, emotional and physical, are used to determine what this strong reaction that is out of proportion to the situation may be about. This is especially important if similar scenarios have played repeatedly in the relationship. Hypnotherapy helps us to see that we humans have a huge memory bank stored in the unconscious parts of our mind, and allows us to take a current situation in our lives and to use it in a memory search to discover how old the child part of us is that continually reacts to triggering events.
Very often during a marital conflict, both parties literally regress back to an emotional state indicative of a younger part of themselves. If we discover that our clients (or we ourselves) are regressing back to a similar experience, it indicates that the childhood conflict was never resolved. Or that the child's emotional needs never were addressed.
During that younger time we made conclusions and decisions that have remained stored in our unconscious minds, just like the memory chips of our computers! An example may be for the woman, "I am unlovable. It's my fault that daddy left." And the behavior pattern that developed from this self-belief may be “I am responsible to keep everyone safe. I have to know where everyone is at all times.” This unconscious programming pops up whenever a situation occurs that is similar enough to the original traumatic prototype experience.
The good news is that with hypnotherapy, we can use the emotional reaction of the husband or wife to do an internal search and discover why this couple seems to replay these scenes over and over in their marriage. And why couples often go from therapist to therapist searching for answers but nothing seems to permanently change the relationship or the intense reactions.
The major false belief that traditional relationship therapists have perpetuated is that consciously understanding the problem will change it. This is as false as believing that you can call an electrician to fix your car or your computer. The electrician does not have the tools or the skills to fix your car. And likewise, the conscious mind does not have the knowledge or ability to change the unconscious mind.
In several individual sessions with each partner, the certified hypnotherapist can easily discover the ages of the “children” who are fighting with each other. We can then change the deep underlying self-beliefs and grow these immature parts up to match the adult bodies in which they reside.
We can then bring this couple back into our office as adults so that they can de-role their partner from being whoever it was in their childhood who did not provide the healthy nurturing they needed. In other words, each partner can recognize they have been reacting to someone from their past, not the actual person in their life today. It is immensely healing to say, and to hear, “I know you are not my drunken father who didn’t come home. You are my husband.” Likewise “I know you are not my mother who was not available for us children. You are my wife.”
Once the preliminary hypnotherapy is completed, we can use the advanced hypnotherapy technique of regressing the couple together so that they develop a more profound awareness of the pain or fear that lies underneath their spouse’s reactions, and find compassion and tolerance for each other. When the physiological reactions are reduced and they can each remain in their adult state of mind, even if their partner is late without calling, the marital therapy is successfully completed.