As we all settle into this new strange time and the global lockdown continues, I wanted to address a couple of questions that I know are on a lot of people’s minds. The headline of this blog says it all, really: can people have a safe, effective hypnotherapy session over Skype (or a WhatsApp video chat, Zoom etc)?
It’s a valid question and the short answer is yes to both questions.
Many people have an understandably incorrect idea of how hypnotherapy works, which I’ve written about previously. The idea – for some – is that some sort of physical contact (or, at the very least, a deep “look into my eyes” moment) takes place during a hypnotherapy session is completely different to the reality.
When people visit my hypnotherapy practice in London, everything that happens in my treatment room can and is replicated entirely over a live video link. This is because hypnotherapy is a process that happens in your unconscious mind but you don’t have to be unconscious for hypnotherapy to work. As an example that we’re all processing unconsciously all of the time, you’re not having to consciously read this sentence, are you? You’re just reading it automatically.
In every session – in person or online – there are spoken and visual techniques that are tailored to each individual, and, as many people who have successfully enjoyed a Skype or Zoom hypnotherapy session with Fix My Mind say, these are equally effective when done online.
These are the plain facts.
Fix My Mind is as open for business as ever, and remains committed to helping people overcome whatever problem is causing them to be unhappy – whether they want to stop smoking, they are troubled by anxiety, they have PTSD or are trying to overcome a specific phobia.
For a long time now, I have been conducting Skype & Zoom hypnotherapy sessions with clients who either preferred to do it that way or were unavailable to come to my practice.
For the foreseeable future, because of Covid-19, most of my sessions will be conducted online.
A world of online therapy
I thought it might be a good idea to explore the evidence that’s out there which helps to illustrate how online therapies can be effective.
The most recent study to find that Skype sessions for hypnotherapy were of value was undertaken by The University of Manchester, whose 2019 study looked into whether it had been an effective way to treat people with IBS.
Their admittedly small study of 20 people found that 65 per cent of participants had severe IBS before starting their online sessions, and that 35 per cent had moderate IBS.
After 12 Skype sessions with a hypnotherapist, 25 per cent were classified as having severe IBS, 40 per cent were rated ‘moderate’ and 35 had mild IBS. All patients enjoyed “significant improvement” in their symptoms.
The figures were then compared to the outcome of 1,000 patients who had received face-to-face hypnotherapy treatment. The verdict – which I quote verbatim – was that “the online treatment was only slightly less effective.”
Professor Peter Whorwell, who conducted the study, concluded that: “Though some patients may need the occasional ‘top up’ from time to time, there is no reason to believe that the benefits of hypnotherapy delivered by Skype should not be sustained.”
Earlier studies to consider
Not quite the same, but certainly related, was a report in 2010 by scientists at the University of Washington School of Medicine who looked into virtual reality hypnotherapy as a potential treatment option.
Pain-reduction tests on patients with burn injuries proved promising, and the researchers concluded that the studies “show the potential for virtual reality hypnosis and indicate further study is warranted.”
They also referred to a number of earlier studies – dating back decades – which had found that audiotapes had some use as a hypnotherapy tool, but were generally not as effective as direct contact with a hypnotherapist.
I think it’s fair to say that the world has moved on from audio tapes and let’s face it, Paul McKenna has sold millions of books that have CD’s and downloads and he gets great results.
Virtual reality as a tool to help people has recently been given a shot in the arm thanks to the latest-generation tech available – a company named Oxford VR is using the medium to help people to overcome their fear of heights. Success is often reported within two hours, as opposed to the six-to-eight hours that is normally needed to treat people with the phobia [via the likes of cognitive behavioural therapy].
In terms of online hypnotherapy, another successful outcome – not a study as such – is recorded in this article in The Atlantic. Writer Katie Heaney describes how she had a Skype session with a hypnotherapist for her general anxiety and, she says, “it actually worked.”
A move towards digital
If hypnotherapy is steadily embracing the digital revolution, the same can certainly also be said of the wider medical profession.
My best friend is a GP at a typical practice. Since the Corona outbreak, he has conducted all of his appointments via a special digital portal. Basically the NHS’ version of Skype.
On January 7, 2019, the NHS published its Long Term Plan. As with most other developed countries, the need for digitising services – and making sure they were connected – was identified a central part of it. Websites and apps that make care and advice easy to access wherever patients and doctors are is part of the goal.
One aspect of this involves transforming general practice. Or, as the NHS puts it: “Working to free GPs from time-consuming admin and offer patients better self-care through online services, rather than having to visit their GP.”
It’s been a long time coming; back in 2016 the Nuffield Trust wrote a paper on “the digital patient” and looked at how medicine within the NHS would be transformed with wearables and monitoring technology, online triage tools, remote consultations and more.
Trial data to lean back on
In a randomized controlled trial of app-based therapy programme, Kaia Health, the digital therapeutics company found that patients using their downloadable back for app pain reported lower levels of pain compared to a control group who were treated with physiotherapy.
Back in the realm of mental wellbeing, the Global Wellness Summit recently reported on the 2020 Trend of ‘rethinking the relationship’ when it comes to consultations. In an article entitled ‘The Virtual Therapist Will See You Now’, they pointed out that the behavioural health software market is set to reach $2.3bn by 2022, and spoke of the appeal of Rethink My Therapy, for example, a website which offers unlimited access to psychiatrists/therapists from $60 a month.
As long ago as 2015, one study found that more than two-thirds of adults would be willing to use their smartphone to help manage their health.
Virtual therapies already thrive online
Virtual treatments and therapies now all around us – not least because they can often be far more efficient (and often more affordable) than a face-to-face experience.
Many aren’t tailored to the individual at all, and require no personal interaction with a therapist – look at the success of Headspace and Calm, both of which have proven to be a life-changer for literally millions of people.
Here are just four areas in which exciting possibilities are being fully explored:
Radio 4 recently covered the hike in popularity of online Yoga classes; Peloton, the hi-tech, connected spinning bike that allows users to take part in live online classes, doubled its subscriber numbers last year.
Zwift, which allows cyclists to race along on virtual roads from the comfort of their spare room, has more than a million users.
In order to try and keep their businesses afloat during the coronavirus crisis, countless gyms and fitness brands/studios are offering online classes. Alongside these are numerous options that already existed online: keep an eye open for Daily Burn, Fit Body, ClassPass, Barry’s Bootcamp and more.
The buzz-word is ‘telemedicine’. For GPs, it means an appointment with a patient online, and there now multiple options, including TheGPService, Push Doctor, Livi and more.
A year ago, the BBC was reporting the rise in popularity of these services – stating that investors were pouring billions into them and that the number of consultations would rise in the US alone to more than 100 million a year by 2022.
Tele-consultations are certain to dramatically increase in popularity during the coronavirus crisis as there are multiple advantages – no hanging around in a potentially highly-infectious waiting room; no travel to the surgery; plus easier access, in some cases, to doctors specialising in your ailment. Most services can also offer online prescriptions.
Medical apps are helping people in a variety of ways: Medisafe reminds them when to take medications, while Nujjer is a wristband tracker that links to an app and helps people to change their habits to prevent diabetes.
An area where apps and online tools have really come into their own – not least, perhaps, because it can be so difficult to get affordable, face-to-face help.
Mindfulness courses include Be Mindful and SilverCloud, while Big White Wall is an online community that links stressed and anxious people up with professionals. For teenagers, there’s the MeeTwo app: post a message, it passes a moderator and then you receive replies from other users and trained experts.
Then there’s Ginger.io, which proposes mental health support from a real, live person within 60 seconds of logging in. There are even AI-based mental health chatbots such as Youper that some people find helpful.
Virtual classes have proliferated for everything from health & safety at work to cookery to language learning. More than 300 million people use the language learning app, Duolingo.
For lectures from college professors, there’s an app named The Great Courses and also the online Coursera platform, which has more than 10 million students; for doubling your learning speed by using flashcards there’s Brainscape.
And tens of millions of people have learned to play guitar online – our favourite tutor is the amiable Justin Sandercoe at JustinGuitar.com. He has more than 1,000 free lessons and more than a million YouTube subscribers.
Here’s a few other apps/tools to try:
Stop, Breathe, Think
A great little app created by a non-profit that was designed with the mental health of not just adults but teens and kids in mind.
A superb site that draws together dozens of (often free) online courses from some of the world’s leading universities. There’s an excellent, free Mindfulness course on there run by Monash University in Australia. See also: Udemy and Coursera.
Created by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, this thoughtfully-made app helps with self-assessment for PTSD and has a number of tools that can help people to manage the disorder.
A free app that uses CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) techniques to help people cope with depression, anxiety, anger, stress and more.
There are a lot of self-help tools out there, and some of them have been of enormous benefit to countless people in times of difficulty. The NHS has a comprehensive list of apps here: https://www.nhs.uk/apps-library/category/mental-health/
The power of books
Further proof that you don’t need to be standing next to your ‘expert’ comes from the multitude of self-help books that have been published.
There are more than 50,000 results for ‘Mindfulness’ when you search the available books on Amazon; ‘self-help’ yields more than 90,000 different publications.
Among the best-sellers are Norman Vincent Peale’s ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’, the basic message of which often crosses over with key elements of clinical hypnotherapy. It has sold more than five million copies.
Stephen R. Covey’s ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ is an excellent book that helps people to reassess the way they live – 25 million people have bought it.
Yes, you can be treated from afar
In summary, there is ample evidence that treatment – in various guises – can work from afar, and in conversations with Skype & Zoom clients of my own, I have found this to be the case.
Their comments and testimonies demonstrate, I think, that there is every reason why hypnotherapy treatment – if it is important to you – could be something you want to explore, now, and in the comfort of your own home.
It is always important to keep our minds in optimal health – and never more so than when we’re going through a period of uncertainty, one which will unfortunately be a highly stressful one for many.
Hypnotherapy sessions by Skype & Zoom mean you don’t have to find time to travel, you don’t have any potential anxiety about walking into unfamiliar surroundings, and you can rest assured that the techniques, preparation (there’s always a little prep) and evaluation are exactly the same whether I see a client in person or online.
A clinical hypnotherapist will adhere to the same strict code of conduct when conducting an online session as an in-person one, with safety of paramount importance in every case.
There are no reports of increased risks (and I’ve looked) when it comes to online sessions; in fact hypnotherapy is considered to be a low-risk treatment in general. I’ll be doing a follow-up blog in
The Mayo Clinic says that, “Hypnosis conducted by a trained therapist or health care professional is considered a safe, complementary and alternative medical treatment.”
It is important to note, however, that hypnotherapy is not suitable for every individual – suitability is ascertained before every Fix My Mind session.
So, hopefully you can feel comfortable with the idea of doing hypnotherapy via the likes of Zoom and Skype works just as effectively as the likes of doing it face to face. The outcome is exactly the same.
I understand if you have more questions or would like more information about what to expect during a session. I’m happy to discuss any thoughts or queries you may have – please contact me.