This week we talked with Andrea Squibb, a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, Certified CBT-I Clinician and an Executive Hypnosis Coach. In this interview we talked about her interest in hypnosis, more details about the process and what are the most frequent issues that her clients bring to be solved. Check out the interview!
When did you discover your interest in hypnosis?
About 20 years ago I had a good experience with hypnosis, after which everything seemed to slow down to a perfect pace, as if I was almost floating through the rest of the day. I felt like I was seeing everything more clearly and vividly, which was a nice feeling. I felt calmer and more present in the moment than I had ever experienced before.
So, I thought Wow, hypnosis could be helpful for so many things, such as helping people overcome stage fright, or fear of public speaking or helping people enjoy more of their lives.
I didn’t commit to learning the techniques right away but kept running into people who were using it for many things, like a nurse who used it to calm her patients’ nerves in the hospital before an injection, a dental hygienist who assisted fearful dental patients and a person who used hypnosis to interview crime eyewitnesses and help them remember details more clearly. It felt like the Universe was trying to tell me something, so I decided to begin my studies to become a Hypnotherapist.
What is subconscious programming?
Once we are born, we begin to fill in our subconscious mind with different things we learn and different associations we make. We are constantly identifying things, creating associations with things we identify and having an emotional and physical response which is then stored in the subconscious mind. As children from 0 to 9 years old, we are like sponges, absorbing everything we hear or intuit from people around us. These associations, thought patterns and beliefs are “downloaded” and stored in our subconscious mind.
Around 9 years old, a critical filter function forms in our brain which is useful otherwise we’d be too overwhelmed with all the information coming at us at any given time. That critical filter mechanism begins to filter things out making it harder for new information to become solidified in the subconscious mind. Our conscious mind now forms, which includes our will power, our own voice, logic and opinions.
That’s the beginning of our subconscious programming. Unfortunately, we don’t have much control over it until we get older. Some of those things that are already in our subconscious programming come from our parents, kids on the playground, caregivers, magazines, TV, culture or religion.
Subconscious programming is then reinforced because we have a natural draw towards that which we are already familiar with, already “know” or believe. It continues to get reinforced through our entire lives unless we really look at it and do some work on it and question those early thought patterns and beliefs.
Some parents, for instance, might say to their children “Children should be seen and not heard”, or “Never talk to strangers”. With this early subconscious programming, a child might feel he or she could never speak out or speak up or never talk to someone they didn’t know even as an adult. If a person never reviewed that subconscious programming, they might lead a very lonely life.
The subconscious mind does not really know the difference between what you really want nor what is good for you, it only knows what you focus on most or what it is most familiar with.
So, hypnosis reaches that subconscious mind and helps reworking those patterns?
Yes, that’s a big part of the possible benefits of hypnosis. Getting more clarity on those solidified beliefs and thought patterns is possible in a hypnotic state as is getting awareness of their origins. Through hypnosis you can begin to shift the subconscious mind toward healthier thought patterns that are more in line with what you want.
For example, imagine a child who has been rewarded with candy when they were good or for all celebrations. As that person gets older this will likely continue and be reinforced in the subconscious mind- sweets equal love and celebration. At some point they might realize it is not helpful for their health and that they are too strongly connected to candy as a reward mechanism. They might have to look at this for health reasons and reprogram their subconscious to reach for a healthier alternative to sweets.
That could be achieved through hypnosis, by visualizing new, healthier behaviors and giving the subconscious mind a new “road map” to follow. We call this future positive pacing or visualizing. If done in enough detail, the subconscious mind will store it as an actual memory and will begin to give the alternative choices equal weighting to some of those older events of self-reward involving sugar. Therefore, we start to tip the scales towards the preferred or healthier thought pattern.
Let’s say you are 35 years old. You then have 35 years of subconscious programming, and the subconscious mind doesn’t really like change! It views the unfamiliar as painful, even dangerous. So, change needs to be slow, incremental change, which is the change that is going to last and not going to cause the subconscious to rebel. You might get two steps forward and one step back, and that’s okay because over time you will continue moving forward.
What do your clients often want to change?
I just worked with two clients who suffered from fear of flying. I’ve worked with people who have a fear of birds, dogs, public speaking, test-taking, people who want to maintain a healthier lifestyle, people with insomnia. My favorite things to work with are anxiety, fears and phobias, insomnia and self-esteem, but I do get people who come to me for other reasons.
I use a lot of desensitization and positive future pacing: getting the person to a calm, relaxed state and getting their subconscious mind to get familiar with that for longer periods of time. Then, beginning to have them imagine feeling that calm state related to things that normally cause anxiety.
Do fears and phobias always create roots during a person’s childhood?
No, it could be at any time. I’m thinking about a woman I saw with dog phobia. We were able to uncover a very early childhood memory that was distressing and probably started it all, but another client of mine with severe fear of flying got it later in life. It started for him during a very stressful time in his life. Prior to that he had been able to fly successfully without problem.
So, stressful times in life can exacerbate fears. Additionally, People who have anxiety in certain areas of life can have that “spill over”, so to speak, into other parts of their lives. Unfortunately, if it’s untreated, it can become debilitating. For example, someone with mild anxiety in large crowds could become agoraphobic.
Besides hypnotherapy, what are some good practices and daily habits to help cope with anxiety?
I think learning to check-in with yourself throughout the day is helpful, even if it’s just up to 5 minutes every couple of hours. Some people set a timer to remind themselves, which I recommend. Take a moment to close your eyes, if your environment allows it, and check-in with your body and mood state. Notice what adjustment your body might need. Are you hungry, thirsty, irritable?
Research has shown that we shouldn’t work more than 45 minutes without a 10-minute break. After that, our ability to focus and all our functions diminish. That’s another good thing to remind yourself. Changing position or walking around could be helpful if you have been working for a while.
Taking three nice, slow deep breaths also can be very helpful and it does not take a long time. It really brings you into the present moment because we must control our breath to alter it and to have control, we must be present. If we do them properly, we can tell the part of our brain that needs to know there’s no imminent danger in the moment and that it is alright to return to a calm state.
Please tell us about the sleep recovery course.
I love to help people with sleep because it’s so important and so many people struggle with it, especially as they get older. I’ve taken what I’ve learned from hypnosis and put it into the course along with Mindfulness Techniques and CBT-I.
Briefly, I’ll say that the hypnotic state is the closest you can be to sleep without sleeping. We hypnotize ourselves to sleep every night and pass through that hypnoidal state. It acts like a bridge to sleep.
Using hypnotic techniques, I can teach my clients to find that state and therefore, have a much better chance of getting to sleep. I also bring mindfulness into it, so that the client learns to relax through the day, not just at bedtime.
Lastly, I teach cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), changing thoughts and behaviors related to sleep, including how to have positive sleep thoughts. I provide information about the sleep drives, circadian rhythms, and the reasons behind insomnia.