Hypnotherapy for Children – Is Hypnosis Suitable?

Illustration of children playing with hypnotic effect

Children tend to have immediate success with hypnosis and hypnotherapy. They often respond far quicker than adults do. This is primarily because children have highly active imaginations and the imagination is one of the keys to success with hypnotherapy. Children are also more suggestible due to the fact that they have had fewer life experiences. Therefore suggestions are more readily accepted because we are unlikely to be infringing upon or going against any of the child’s core beliefs.

Are our self-hypnosis recordings suitable for children?

This is a question we are often asked and our answer is always… “it depends.” The most obvious reasons “it depends” is the child’s age and emotional maturity. Another important consideration is the issue or issues that may need to be addressed.

It is important to understand that our self-hypnosis CDs and MP3 downloads are primarily for adults. They are usually not intended to be used by children. However, this does not mean that all our sessions are unsuitable. If your child is at an age where they are mature enough to listen and can understand the words and the concepts involved, then some of our self-hypnosis sessions may be suitable with parental supervision. There is no definitive answer, so if you are unsure, then please contact us to discuss your situation.

The remainder of this article shall mainly focus on how a therapist might use hypnotherapy with children in a clinical (i.e. in person) setting. Most of the issues children would see a hypnotherapist about are similar to those of adults. For example, they might have behavioural problems, strong negative feelings that get in the way of living their life, or some trauma they experienced in the past that may need to be overcome for example, a fear of dogs as a result of being jumped on by one. Hypnotherapy can also help children with issues such as stuttering and bed wetting, although as with various issues, a medical referral may be required.

Hypnotherapy with children is often far less formal

I cannot vouch for other hypnotherapists, but I prefer to stay away from using a more formal hypnotic induction when working with children. I might just ask them to take a few deep breaths to relax, with or without closing their eyes, then engage their imagination and use their naturally wonderful creative element. Adults have this ability to engage their imagination also, but children are able to access it far more quickly and effortlessly. Since children are naturally suggestible, they can quickly imagine they are somewhere they like or doing something they enjoy, like doing a sport or playing with their favourite toy.

Children are likely to move about more, fidget and are generally more responsive than adults. Many children tend to think of hypnotherapy as great fun. It is a game for them. They use their imagination all the time, so it is no big leap for them to take part in metaphors and storytelling. A therapist can set up an imaginary scenario prompted by the child’s own fantasies and games. As they get talking about the child’s favourite games and asking questions about it, the child will very often naturally drift into a workable hypnotic state, so that the therapist can bring about positive, lasting change.

Games can be played with children in a hypnotherapy session. Of course it depends on the age of the child, but in the past I have  used playing cards, puppets, even felt-tip pens and crayons for drawing. Role playing, which taps into a child’s imagination can also be a suitable tool. The possibilities are endless — just like a child’s imagination. We can use whatever helps them relax.

When a child is in this relaxed suggestible state they can enter a state of hypnosis much more easily. Children also tend to connect with any negative feelings much more easily than adults. There is no doubt that children generally make ideal clients – it is just not necessarily achieved through the formal induction process.

What is an appropriate age when using hypnotherapy with a child?

This would be similar to my earlier answer regarding self-hypnosis recordings… “it depends.” However, any child that is able to communicate his or her feelings with the hypnotherapist can benefit from hypnotherapy. I worked with a young girl just recently who was only six years old and she responded wonderfully. She was able to draw pictures and express herself very well indeed. Of course, the parents are always involved and in the room with the children when I work with them. It is best for the child’s experience and comfort level, as well as for the parent’s and their understanding.

It is always a good idea if a parent or guardian has prepared a child before they visit a hypnotherapist. It is not necessary to go into detail. Depending on the age of your child, explain that the hypnotherapist (use their first name) will chat to them and ask them questions. They do not have to answer any question they do not want to answer. The idea is for them to feel that together they will solve the problem just like the dentist helps them care for their teeth, the doctor cares for their body’s health and their teacher cares for their education, this person cares for their feelings.

It is best if they can, for the child to explain the problem to the hypnotherapist, so it is the child’s own words and experiences that will be used during a hypnotherapy session. Also, it is very easy as a loving parent to assume you understand the problem. This could be because you experienced something similar as a child.  Allow your child to use his or her own words and pictures. Many children feel more able to draw pictures about what is troubling them because their verbal skills are limited and because the whole situation and the problem itself may be too stressful to express in words. A good hypnotherapist, used to working with children, will understand and facilitate this.

Finding a suitable hypnotherapist

It is always important to do your research before visiting a hypnotherapist. For obvious reasons, it is even more important when children are involved. Personal recommendations are always good starting points, but do your research and ensure all the possible safeguards are in place. Make sure you choose a well-qualified hypnotherapist who has plenty of experience working with children. Be prepared to travel to find the most suitable hypnotherapist. Moreover, be sure to take advantage of any “free initial consultation” offer that most hypnotherapists provide. Then proceed from there. It is vital that good rapport is established and that both you and your child are completely comfortable with your choice of hypnotherapist. If not, continue your search.