It seems ridiculously basic, yet, it is important to remember that a child's problems are as important as an adult's. Children need to be treated with as much respect as we treat adults. They do not need to be “talked down to.” Children may not have as many years; yet, just as with adults, imprints are planted in their minds from the time they begin life by whatever they have seen and learned from parents, relatives, teachers and peers. Whatever a child has experienced,it has been as strongly received as any complicated thing that has happened in an adult's life. The difference is that children are still bound to whatever their parents wish for them and for themselves.
An effective session deals with the parent's concerns for the child, while honouring the child's desires and needs. The therapist gathers information in order to determine how best to approach the child's problem. A sensitive hypnotherapist will have discerned possible questions before they are asked, in order to clarify how sessions will be conducted and to clear up any misconceptions about hypnotic processes. Good rapport is developed with both parent and child. Convincers, or hypnotic tests, are used prior to and/or during a hypnotic session. The guide uses methods of induction and prescription appropriate to the child's age and problem. To keep rapport, the therapists meets back with the parent(s) with any recommendations, including possible “homework” or other support.
Building Rapport with the Parent
What makes working with the child unique is not so much their problems, or even the techniques or tools you are able to use, but having the parents as a contributing factor. From the time you first meet a child, you are dealing with that parent, as well. Establishing rapport with them is as important as establishing rapport with the child. In one way or another, a parent can support or ruin the work you do. They can be supportive or detrimental to the child. The child's problem may well be brought about by parents or, at the very least, exacerbated by them. Keeping the parent feeling that they are part of the process, without revealing the confidence the child has given you, is important. Explaining some of this to the parent, at the beginning, and speaking to the parent after a session, goes a long way in keeping the communication open, and in justifying the parent's confidence in you.
Building Rapport with the Child
Although not required, other additions that help create a successful atmosphere and process may include such things as a game that can be played by two, talking to the child about their life and school, etc., or taking home some kind of little gift or reminder of the visit together. (I keep little boxes of various kinds filled with interesting items. The child, when introduced to the room, can go through them to decide on something to take home, while I have a brief conversation with the parent.) Some therapists find that letting a child touch things in the counseling room helps them to feel comfortable. A smaller child might like to choose a stuffed animal or a doll to hold while talking with you. Many therapists learn a simple magic trick, which serves the dual purpose of “breaking the ice” and showing the wonders awaiting them, in terms of solving their problem.
Use of Intakes with Parent and Child
It is helpful to create some kind of intake to use for the initial visit with child and parent. Doing an intake can help a great deal in building rapport, as well as gathering important information that will assure successful visits. An intake with the parent should include questions that elicit basic data on who is in the family, the child's medical history, clarification of the child's problem and some background as to what led to it. The intake with the child assists the expression of what their experience is of the problem, and how it matches the concerns of the parents. It should elicit some of their favorite things that might help you build a story, should you decide to create one during the hypnotic process.
Use of Imaginative Scripts
A child does not always have to have traditional inductions used in order to be hypnotized. Besides the traditional positive suggestion approach, there is a wide variety of possibilities for effectively inducting a child and providing a proper “prescription” for healing or changing habits. Most children are in a sort of trance-like state already, or, at the very least, fuzzy about the line between the real and unreal. This makes it possible to create a trancelike state in some very simple ways. Some of these can include telling stories or creating a metaphors, using the child's favorite television program to spin a tale, creating an adventure a child can go on that leads to a solution to their problem, looking at a gyroscope or into a kaleidoscope, focusing on a dot on the guide's finger, coloring an optical illusion while the therapist talks to them, making use of a pendulum, hypnotizing a puppet in order to show a child how very simple it is, going on an amazing trip such as a rocket to Mars, or locating a magical kingdom where wonderful things can happen that change your life.
The Star/Tree/Garden script in GREAT ESCAPES, Volume I, is a good example of placing the child in a visual and safe setting. Blowing up balloons, receiving gifts from the sea, burning a ship of problems, changing labels and others provide settings that allow the child to be active in their changing. Another value of such methods is that they can be used for just about any age group. Being animals, meeting a magician who helps you change, greeting people on the other side of the rainbow, or going into a tough area with your favorite hero are fun for a child and make use of their wonderful imagination.
Locating the Source
When a child is brought in for any serious issue, it should be assumed that there may be some deeper problem, for which this is just a symptom. In such cases, the problem-solution finding process script, in this volume, can be very helpful, especially for younger ages, or less articulate children. Regression is possible in a later session, if such a script or process has not been fully effective.
Value of Homework
Homework can be a helpful addition in supporting the work done in the office. It can serve as reinforcement for the child and gives the parent some way to participate. Homework for the child also can serve as a sort of post-hypnotic suggestion, thus strengthening the session. Homework for a parent could range from creating a log or chart for a child's improvement, to using particular affirmations with the child, before bedtime.
What Is Required?
A child, just like an adult, has to want to change and be willing to work with the therapist. A hypnotherapist who works with children must, obviously, like them. They need to be able to establish trust with both parents and child. They must treat a child's case with as much confidentiality as an adult's. A 15-minute session may be all that you need, at times, to do just the right thing for a child. It is their belief at work, just as it is with adults.
Source: CHILDREN AND HYPNOSIS by Del Hunter Morrill, M.S., C.C.H.
Antonia Stuart-James is an English Hypnotherapist in Belgium helping people make positive change.