What is ADHD?
ADHD, Attention Deficit & Hyperactivity Disorder, is a condition whereby a person has difficulty with focus, impulsiveness, organisation, emotional regulation, and in some cases hyperactivity. ADHD is more common in males, and until relatively recently few women with ADHD were noticed or diagnosed. Also, ADHD has historically been considered a disorder of childhood, although we know today that in fact about 70% of children with ADHD do not outgrow it by adulthood.
Do you help with conditions other than ADHD?
Many people diagnosed with ADHD also commonly suffer from “comorbid” conditions like anixety, low self-esteem, depression, seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), anger, emotional lability (emotional dysregulation), dyslexia, dyspraxia, and Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Whilst such conditions may need their own separate diagnosis by a qualified medical professional, Solution Focused Hypnotherapy and coaching can help lower stress and anxiety and thereby may help to cope with other conditions that may be present alongside, or related to, ADHD.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can also be helpful for many other problems including: bed-wetting, temper tantrums, behavioural problems (including ODD), sleep problems, trauma (PTSD), phobias, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Please note that Clinical Hypnotherapists work differently from psychiatrists and doctors, although we do work in alliance with the medical profession. For example, we may sometimes ask your GP or psychiatrist’s advice, confirmation or permission, when necessary.
But the difference is that the mainstream medical professional (which is known as allopathic medicine) tends to work in more of a reductionist manner, whereas I work in a more holistic and integrated manner. For example, if clients come to me and tell me a long lists of diagnoses and symptoms, I alleviate the overwhelm that may come with such a long list and help them understand that in Hypnotherapy we do not treat symptoms but look at the overall health and well-being of the person.
When that is focused on, the symptoms and conditions are seen primarily as various indicators of being “out of balance.” We don’t need to be overwhelmed with the idea that we have multiple problems that need to be understood and tackled “one by one”, but simply to balance our life in an individual, holistic way.
By doing so, we will find our general stress goes down as we balance our life, and symptoms are alleviated regardless of what labels or condition (such as ADHD or dyslexia) we may choose to ascribe to them.
What kind of problems can hypnotherapy help with?
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help you improve focus, concentration, become more organised, improve time-keeping, become calmer (reduce hyperactivity), improve communication skills.
In addition, you should note that whereas medication can certainly help you with many of the core symptoms of ADHD, such as focus, organisation, and impulsiveness, it nonetheless is less effective at helping us process what I call “emotional baggage”.
For example, you could receive a diagnosis for ADHD, take medication and see improvements in many areas, but still experience depression, self-esteem issues or anger. This is where Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is really helpful, because it can help us resolve psychologically and emotionally how we feel about our diagnosis or let go of unresolved traumatic experiences we may have had in relation to ADHD.
Many clients, for example, may not discover they have ADHD until old-age, by which time even if they took medication, many of their problems might remain (due to life-long habitual responses), their self esteem may be damaged, and they may have regrets about their “loss of life prospects” etc.
Medication can help us finally focus, but it cannot help us process our suffering. The same issues may be found in younger people too, and some form of psychotherapy is useful here. I provide Solution Focused Hypnotherapy & Psychotherapy for such issues.
What should I do if I suspect that I, or my child, has ADHD?
If you suspect that you or your child has ADHD, a formal diagnosis should be sought rather than self-labelling. Whilst having a diagnosis can certainly help (after all, knowing is better than not knowing) we also need to be careful here, as it is a bit of a double-edged sword.
The key is to weigh up the pros and cons and make the appropriate decision. Whilst a diagnosis can be potentially damaging in some respects, especially in young children, nonetheless a lack of diagnosis, misdiagnosis, or finding out later in life, can be even more damaging.
Certainly self-diagnosis should be avoided. It should only be established by a trained medical health professional who can rule out other possibilities for your symptoms, or even put your mind at rest by demonstrating that there is no reason to suspect clinical levels of ADHD.
Many people may suffer from the same or similar symptoms, but not qualify for a diagnosis, and would be better off seeking the assistance of a complementary practitioner like myself.
Here is a short questionnaire that you can complete to get an idea of how highly you may score on a scale of ADHD. Please note however that a simple questionnaire is not diagnostic, and even a high score may not necessarily indicate ADHD. There could be another cause, which is why a formal diagnosis by a suitably trained professional is necessary to avoid incorrect self diagnosis, or worse still diagnosis of another.
What treatments are available for ADHD?
Unfortunately, whilst best practise and research indicates that medication with some kind of coaching and/or therapy, is superior to medication alone, the vast majority of adults only ever take medication. Whilst children are afforded a higher prospect of treatment, with about 50% receiving medication plus therapy, nonetheless the the quality of care certainly needs improving.
The good news is that medication appears successful for many people, and many could not operate without it. However, without wanting to appear too idealistic, the best possible case scenario is certainly medication with therapy. And it is generally agreed amongst individual and expert bodies, that medication is an important ingredient in a comprehensive treatment program – but not intended to be the end of the matter.
Dr. Rusell Barkley, for example, points out that ADHD responds better to physical exercise than any other mental health disorder, and thus exercise shoud constitute an integral part of everyone’s recovery program. Another key proponent of exercise is Dr. Jon Ratey.
Another such proponent is psychologist Dr. Roger Walsh MD PhD, who wrote a seminal paper “Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes & Mental Health” for the American Psychologist in 2011, in which he presented the growing evidence for the therapeutic power of exercise, nutrition, sunlight, healthy relationships including connection with the natural world, meditation/mindfulness, and spiritual practise.
In addition to what Dr. Walsh calls Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, there is also growing evidence for the efficacy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Cognitive Hypnotherapy, and Coaching, for ADHD.
Can you be hypnotised if you have ADHD?
Some people believe that hypnotherapy will not work if someone has ADHD. In reality, I have not found that to be true. And here’s why.
Some people with ADHD say that hypnosis didn’t “work” for them, whilst others say tha it did. When I have looked into this in more depth, I discovered that those for whom it didn’t work often reported “waking up halfway through”, and this was normally during long sessions of hypnosis of 30 minutes or so.
In reality, practitioners that are suitably confident in their abilities can hypnotise pretty much anyone (if that person wants to be hypnotised) and that includes those with ADHD. But sometimes some necessary adjustments need to be made.
For example, in a study comparing hypnotisability between those with ADHD and a control (those without) both groups were found to respond to hypnosis. The only difference between the two groups was that those with ADHD had less stamina, i.e. they would lose focus during longer sessions.
However, that should not be seen as a limitation. Let me explain. Whilst there is research showing that when people with ADHD are on stimulant medication, they can respond favourably to hypnotherapy, there is more to the picture than that.
We also know that people with ADHD tend to daydream or space out a lot (which is a spontaneous natural form of self-hypnosis or trance) and that they tend towards being creative, have strong imaginations, and sensitive.
So, stamina aside, people with ADHD have many of the traits that we would find useful during hypnosis. You may have heard of research looking at the effect of creativity and sensitivity, and how people with these traits are more prone to anxiety because when they go into a negative state they can easily create anxiety, fear or phobia, by the use of their imagination.
In the case of ADHD, it’s about turning that tendency towards negative imagination (which we may be very adept at) into constructive, positive imagination. And because we are sensitive, this use of imagination can leave a strong “groove” in the subconscious.
It’s just a case of taking control of the mind’s tendency toward negativity and turning it toward positivity. Our curse could be turned into a blessing.
As for stamina, the answer is simple. Most human beings cannot concentrate at full capacity for more than 20 minutes at a time (ADHD or not). This is more pronounced in ADHD, according to various factors such as age and motivation level.
I have found that people with ADHD (if suitably motivated) find normal sessions up to 30 minutes in length no problem, but having shorter sessions of 20 mins in length are easily achievable for most clients. Children are fine with sessions of about 10 minutes. Another adjustment we can make is to have multiple short hypnosis sessions (of, say, 10 minutes at a time) during one session.
“Where there’s a will there is a way.” When it comes to ADHD, I like to remind you that you are more of a sprinter than a marathon runner!
Do I need to be on medication, or take medication, to benefit from hypnotherapy or coaching?
Whilst there is some research to indicate that taking stimulant (or non-stimulant) medication may help to focus better during hypnotherapy/coaching and get better results from it, nonetheless being prescribed medication is not essential.
If you are being prescribed medication and take it on an “as and when” necessary basis, then try having coaching/therapy both with and without your medication to see if there is a substantial difference. If you feel that your medication significantly helps you get more out of your sessions, then remember to take your medication.
If your practitioner recommends taking medication daily, then continue to do so and take your medication during coaching/therapy. Changes to medication dose or frequency should be in consultation with your medically trained health professional.
Finally, if you cannot or chose not to take medication (maybe because of side effects, not yet diagnosed, not on medication, or just personal choice) it is still possible to get good results from coaching/hypnotherapy.
Getting good results from your sessions (with or without medication) depends upon a number of factors, including motivation, enjoyment of the process, and also the surprising finding that many people with ADHD (despite concentration problems) make good hypnotic subjects. For further information about this please read: “Can you be Hypnotised if you have ADHD?” below.
What is hypnosis and how is it different from hypnotherapy?
Hypnosis is a natural day-dream like state that we all go into spontaneously.
For example, there are two basic forms of hypnotic trance that we all experience on a daily basis: positive trance and negative trance.
In a positive trance we are optimistic and use positive self-talk, and imagine positive and specific outcomes. In negative trance we do the opposite: we can hypnotise ourselves into anxiety, fear and panic, even when what we worry about is just our imagination.
Hypnotherapy, on the other hand, is just the use of this natural ability to daydream positively or negatively. Of course, in hypnotherapy, we make sure that your daydreaming is positive, focused, and goal orientated. In other words, it is not spontaneous and random, but constructive and efficient application of daydreaming
There is growing evidence for the effectiveness of hypnotherapy, and it can help where many other approaches have failed, or not helped so much.
“Research has shown that there is more scientific evidence for hypnotherapy than any other Complimentary Therapy … by using hypnosis people can perform prodigious feats of will power and self healing” ~The Health Education Authority
What is Solution Focused Hypnotherapy?
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy (a form of cognitive hypnosis) was created by David Newton of the Clifton Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy Training (CPHT) in Bristol, UK.
As the names suggests, SFH is “Solutions Focused”; that means it focuses on helping you find solutions to your challenges. It is a positive, logical, and cognitive form of hypnotherapy, which tends to produce improvements within brief periods of time, much like its cousin “Solution Focused Brief Therapy” (SFBT).
SFH is not only influenced by SFBT, but also by Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), modern neuroscience, the concept of neuroplasticity (the surprising ability of the brain to transform itself with the right stimuli), and the “God-Father”of modern hypnotherapy Milton Erickson. In that sense, SFBT owes some of its wisdom to “Ericksonian Hypnosis”.
What does a typical session of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy involve?
1). We ask you what good things have been happening in your life? This forces the front of your brain (Left prefrontal Cortex, LPFC or Logical Brain to be activated, the same part of the brain to do with organisation that is said to be lagging behind when you have ADHD. Everything that we do in SFH is, in fact, designed to elicit such a response from your Logical Brain.
We ask you where you are on a scale of 1-10 in terms of, say, happiness or organisation? This activates your logical brain even more and during repeat seessions you tend to notice the numbers increasing as you make progress.
When then ask you “If a miracle happened tomorrow, what would be different in our life?” This is a possibility question that causes you to think creatively and also encourages you to set goals and organise your process of development across time.
Once step 3 is complete you sit or lay down, close your eyes, and experience a guided hypnotic relaxation, where your own suggestions may be repeated back to you.
A typical session involves asking you to focus on the good things happening in your life, and to find solutions for the problems (challenges) in your life.
You receive an education regarding the workings of the human brain and mind, and ADHD specific, and ADHD friendly guidance, in understanding your unique brain and how to tackle your symptoms.
During sessions you will also experience a guided hypnotic relaxation (either in silence or to music) session after describing the positive change you would like to experience in your life. In other words, you consciously describe the change you wish to experience, and then forget about your intention and allow your subconscious mind to do it’s part in the process.
Alternatively you may also experience a guided session which is based more in Mindfulness or a mixture of hypnosis and mindfulness guidance. Some clients, if open and interested, may also learn meditation, mindfulness, and self-hypnosis skills that they can practise outside of the session.
Every session follows a simple, repeated structure. This is because, to quote the creator of SFH: “If you change the structure every time by doing something new, it’s like wrecking the joint.”
It’s even more important not to “wreck the joint” with ADHD clients, because children and adults with ADHD need more structure than normal. This is very good for the part of the brain in ADHD that is said to be “lagging behind” – the Left Prefrontal Cortex (LPFC) or Boss brain. Much like the Inner CEO or Organiser, the LPFC controls Executive Function, to do with organisation.
The structure of our sessions therefore does a good job of creating some consistency and structure within the brain. It also activates the “Anterior Cingulate” (AC) part of your brain which is like a Secretary, into knowing what to expect each session.
This means that when you leave your session and go out into the world, the secretary of your brain more easily remembers the structure and can apply it to real life. Repetition makes it easier to remember, and speeds up the time it takes for the key learning’s to be remembered by your brain.
This is one of the reasons why Solution Focused Hypnotherapy tends to be a “brief therapy” where you experience results from the beginning of treatment rather than waiting lengthy periods of time for progress.
I have tried hypnotherapy before but it didn’t work for me. Why would this time by different?
Over the years of hypnotising hundreds of people since 2006, there have been many people who say that they don’t think they can be hypnotised, or been told that they are “unhypnotisable” by a hypnotherapist.
When this happens, I explain:
“Everyone can be hypnotised, and everyone is hypnotisable. If you weren’t then you also wouldn’t daydream or dream at night, but everyone does, whether they remember their dreams or not. Natural trance is a normal, everyday phenomenon, and is part of the functioning of a normal, healthy brain. It’s universal.
“However, everyone goes into formal trance – hypnosis – in their own unique way. First you have to want to do it, and secondly, the hypnotherapist needs to be experienced and confident enough to help facilitate you getting there.
“So, if a hypnotherapist tells you that you are ‘unhypnotisable’, in my book that is due to lack of confidence and poor ethic. They are effectively blaming you for not going into hypnosis!
“So today I’m going to show you, because you are just as intelligent and capable as any other person I’ve hypnotised, how to get yourself into trance. I’m going to dehypnotise you from the lie that you are unhypnotisable, and give you back the opportunity to experience hypnosis so that you can reap the benefits.”
I have yet to find any person for whom this “dehypnosis” didn’t work, and yet I’m sure in stating this there will always be one or two who will say “My mind is too strong. I cannot be hypnotised.”
Fighting hypnosis is not a sign of strength or intelligence. My response would be “Why are you here then?” Of course, in reality, no-one sees me unless they want to be hypnotised in the first place, and that’s one of the reasons why it works, even when previous hypnotherapists have told them the lie of “unhypnotisability.”
How many sessions of hypnotherapy for ADHD do most clients have?
This really does depend upon the individual. Most clients see me for between 8-12 sessions of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy, give or take.
How long treatment lasts is up to the client. You decide when you’ve achieved as much as you can in therapy (for now).
Some clients will take longer than others. We all go at our own pace. Still other clients will see me once per week for a few months and then progress on to every other week, and eventually every now and then, as they improve. Furthermore, some clients will finish a block of sessions, but come to see me every now and then for a “catch up” – as little as once or twice per year – depending on what is going on in their life.
Some clients feel that they have made good progress, but then life becomes more stressful or challenging, and so some more guidance is helpful.
Every one is different in that respect, but our aim in working together is to make as much initial progress as possible, and to give you the tools you need to go away and make progress in your life independently.