McAfee SECURE sites help keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, spyware, spam, viruses and online scams

Evaluate the role that behaviour therapy theories have to play in clinical hypnosis

The quest to understand human behaviour, emotion and thinking has led to the emergence of behavioural psychology as a discipline. Interest in behaviour stemmed up during the early part of the twentieth century where it was believed that new behaviour was learned by observation and from the environment (Gross, 2005; Sardar et al, 2002). These behavioural theories have since been implemented by psychotherapists and researchers and have formed the foundation for new methods in clinical hypnosis. The main objective of this article is to critically evaluate the relevance and impact of different behavioural theories such as classical and operant conditioning, extinction, desensitisation, reciprocal inhibition, learning theory on hypnotherapeutic methods such as hypnodesensitisation, flooding, mass practice, aversion therapy and assertiveness training and to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the different hypnotherapy methods.

The selection of different hypnotherapy methods depends on the requirement and the choice is usually made by the therapist who customises the approach for each unique situation (Kaplan & Sadock, 1997; Rogers, 2004). Systematic hypnodesensitisation is a method which is extensively used by hypnotherapists to treat phobias (Jemmer, 2005). The method is based on classical conditioning theory proposed initially by Ivan Pavlov and then subsequently modified by Wolpe and also operant conditioning. The difference between systematic desensitisation and classical conditioning lies in the fact that the stimulus is gradually increased in intensity until it reaches a maximum where it is maintained until the phobia is gone and the process requires that the patient practices relaxation techniques. This method is considered less directive, superior and more ethical compared to other hypnotherapy methods like flooding and implosion therapy because it allows the patient to control the progression from one step to another only after reaching adequate relaxation at a particular level. There is, however, much debate among practitioners who suggest that relaxation is less important than the hierarchy of increase in the stimulus which is the biggest contributing factor for the favourable response. The downside of this method is that patients experience extreme discomfort and trauma during the treatment process (McGlynn et al, 2004). This problem is addressed by therapists by suggesting to their patients to imagine the stimulus which reduces the discomfort to some extent. The systematic desensitization method combined with hypnosis is called hypnodesensitisation which is very safe and helps the patient to achieve their goals faster. However, this method is time consuming, does not have a hundred percent success rate in all cases because of residual disability left in patients, involves relapses and requires that the patient does not terminate facing his/her anxiety.

Assertiveness training is a relatively new procedure used by hypnotherapists, which uses the counter conditioning behavioural theory (Clarke & Jackson, 1983). This method is helpful to the patients because it allows them to display contrasting assertive emotions in the face of an unwanted stimulus. This reduces the impact of the original unwanted stimulus thereby curing the patient. Many hypnotherapists follow this method because it has a number of advantages (Benson, 1999). The strengths of this procedure are that it helps the patient to handle their fear in the mature and adult way; makes them more confident, responsive and expressive; and promotes self esteem through positive suggestions. There are very few weaknesses for this method; the only major problem is that this method is ineffective in situations where the patient has problems with communication. A modification of this method called the cognitive behavioural therapy has been shown to have the best effect in treating a majority of psychological problems.

In most classical behavioural approaches, the patient is exposed physically to their phobia or addiction, which may cause more harm than benefit. In contrast to this, the hypnobehavioural approach lets the patient imagine the fear in vitro in a comfortable and safe therapeutic setting (Ashton, 1997; Flammer & Bongartz, 2003). Hypnobehavioural approach is safe for all types of phobias and is very cost effective. Many of the hypnobehavioural methods are effective especially hypnodesensitization. During this process, the patients, in their effort to maintain the score corresponding to their anxiety, realise that the fear is absurd and there is no rationale for it. This aids in treatment rather than exposing them to the actual fear. Hypnotherapy is also very useful in breaking up bad, unwanted and dangerous habits without injuring the patients. In the overall sense hypnobehavioural therapy is far superior compared to classical behavioural methods because the level of stimulus can be changed more easily by the therapist who can control the imagination and emotions of the subject. This advantage along with cost effectiveness, relaxation techniques, and safety makes hypnobehavioural approach a far better choice compared to classical behavioural methods.

Related Links
To Top