vol. 1, num. 1, 2003

Dissociative Phenomena. Questions and Answers.

Editors: Mario Di Fiorino and Maria Luisa Figueira

Integration of hypnotic techniques in the treatment of patients with a history of trauma, dissociation, and/or impulse dyscontrol problems

Summary. In this chapter we describe the possibilities and limitations of integrating hypnotic techniques in the therapeutic work with trauma patients with severe dissociative symptoms. The rationale for using hypnosis is to provide an alternative coping behaviour for the impulse dyscontrol symptoms, especially in those situations in which the patient is risking to loose control and dissociate. Hence hypnosis can be introduced as a way to provide some security and relaxation. Hypnosis can also be used to alter the negative images, messages and suggestions commonly present in patients with a history of child-hood trauma. We often remark that these patients seem to be stuck in a state of self-hypnosis, focusing on negative thoughts and feelings. As soon as the patient has regained some self-control over her symptoms and other impulse-like reactions, hypnosis can be employed to explore the underlying dynamics of dissociative symptoms. In the following part an overview of the different hypnotherapeutic techniques will be given, each time illustrated with case examples. Although the therapeu-tic process has to be shaped according to each individual’s personal needs, treatment usually passes through different phases or stages, each of them with more or less specific strategies and interventions. First we describe the various hypnothera-peutic techniques that can be integrated in the beginning phase of the treatment, where self-control issues are the main therapeutic goal. Next, a description is given of how hypnosis can be used to explore and manage the presence of traumatic experiences and/or dissociative phenomena.

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