Integrating Hypnosis into Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

January 29, 2018

Integrating Hypnosis into Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
By Ennio Ammendola
Vice President of NYSEPH

In Italy, where I come from, there is a well-known joke, “If you are coming from the right, then it is Dante Alighieri Street, but if you are coming from the left, then it is Alighieri Dante Street.”
I feel that at times a question of the same type is asked within the hypnosis community, specifically “Can I use hypnosis with Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (RE & CBT), or can I use RE & CBT with hypnosis?” It almost resembles the Dante Alighieri Street dilemma with its coming from the right or left. I feel that YES applies to both, but asking it is simple … what is hard is the understanding of how they can be used together.

Hypnosis is not a modality unto itself, but a technique that can be integrated into any therapeutic modality. Since hypnosis lends itself well to cognitive reframing, it is useful technique that can blend into RE and CBT.

I personally have been studying and have trained in RE & CBT for the last 15 years at the Albert Ellis Institute in New York, and later on in life, I decided to train in hypnosis. As a consequence, I think in terms of the integration of hypnosis within the framework of RE & CBT. The coexistence of these two approaches has given me the opportunity to indulge in creative clinical expressions to prove their fusion.

I approach my sessions mostly based on the principles of RE & CBT, which means that I try to identify the clients’ irrational beliefs (IBs) and their main cognitive distortions. Once I identify the clients’ main IBs, then I feel that my hypnosis fusion/creativity kicks in. At times, I invite the clients to close their eyes and contextualize their IBs in terms of where they were when they started thinking in these terms, how they made themselves feel the emotion that they were feeling and what they did (behavioral consequences) while they were thinking and feeling as they said. Once I have the clients able to reproduce this image, then I invite them to think in terms of cognitive alternatives (rational beliefs, or RBs) and emotional alternatives (healthy negative emotions, or HNEs) in order to help them solidify their newly acquired RBs and HNEs. I also invite them to rehearse the new scenario and feel comfortable while I am describing it. I feel that this is the most important integration in my clinical practice.

Hypnosis has been very helpful for me when working with clients in order to reinforce rational alternatives to their irrational thoughts. Hypnosis assists the clients not only to generate the RBs but also to become more familiar with them to the point that they start believing them. I feel that hypnosis can be very helpful in motivating clients to generate new RBs but mostly in rehearsing them in order to get familiar with their content. I feel that hypnosis has assisted me in reducing the resistance on behalf of the clients to acquire this new way of thinking and understand how it is going to be more helpful and functional for them.

Finally, I usually utilize hypnosis in the middle of the session or toward the end and rarely from the beginning, but this is just a matter of personal style.

“What can I say?”… I live on Dante Alighieri Street, and I tend to turn right.

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