Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy conjoined with Hypnotherapy to treat Anxiety in Adolescents
by James A Barbour, MS, LPC, LCAS, CCS, CHt
There is no question that our kids today are under tremendous stress. Performance pressures in school, pressures to perform in activities such as sports, social pressures to fit in and burdens of meeting parents’ expectations within the home all have potential to lead to feelings of anxiety. When we experience overwhelming feelings of stress or anxiety, our rational thinking is compromised and our bodies go into survival mode. The sympathetic nervous system becomes active wherein blood circulation moves into the extremities so we can “fight, flight, freeze or fawn.” The adrenal medulla releases a cascade of hormones. As the hormones are released, including those produced by the adrenal gland, blood pressure increases, blood sugar escalates and the immune system is suppressed. Behaviorally, we often respond as we did when we were a small child such as by acting out impulsively, acting out aggressively, or freezing up and retreating to our mind cave. In some cases youth resort to self-destructive activities such as substance use or cutting behaviors.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, known as CBT, gives us the structure to practice forming our thoughts and beliefs in empowering and productive ways. CBT is heavily researched and is evidence-based for treatment of many maladaptive thought, behavior or emotional patterns including the treatment of anxiety disorders and substance use disorders. It is foundational to most of the transformation I ultimately see with clients. With the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, we have the opportunity to look closely at our beliefs and to determine if those beliefs continue to serve us. If not, CBT offers us the tools to adapt and respond and problem-solve more effectively to stressful situations.
A challenge with this is that many of our beliefs that drive behavior are below the conscious level of awareness. This is one of the reasons there is such value in mindfulness-based practices and hypnotherapy. Clinical Hypnosis conducted by someone trained and credentialed and licensed, such as a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Clinical Hypnotist is recommended, especially in the treatment of significant anxiety disorders. Clinical use of hypnosis allows us to relax and focus our minds and bodies enabling us to identify causal factors. These causal factors are often a result or manifestation of unmet needs or unresolved issues.
Hypnosis allows us to achieve several goals when treating anxiety. One, when managing symptoms of anxiety, anything healthy we can do to calm our nervous system is generally a good idea. Hypnosis trains people how to calm their nervous systems on command and is a skill that can be used to benefit multiple life domains. A second reason hypnosis is helpful is that it allows us to identify the source of the problem (unresolved internal conflict and unmet needs). Lastly, when combined with another modality such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Redecision Therapy it is an excellent adjunct to aid in the treatment and resolution of one’s symptoms.
I have had success in helping adolescent clients improve test scores, improve self-talk and self-esteem, enhance sports performance, increase confidence, improve behaviors in the home, reduce substance use, decrease symptoms of pain and discomfort, and overcome traumatic experiences. If you have any questions regarding therapeutic applications for the use of hypnosis, please visit the website for the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis at www.asch.net or call James A. Barbour with Aspire Counseling and Coaching, PLLC at (252) 414-0534.
James A. Barbour practices professional Counseling, Coaching, Speaking and Training in Greenville, North Carolina and graduated from East Carolina University with a Master’s degree in Substance Abuse and Clinical Counseling and a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. He moved here from Guilford County for graduate school and decided to stay after he fell in love with his life partner and the people of Eastern North Carolina. James is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist, a Certified Clinical Supervisor, a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist and an Independent Certified Coah, Teacher, Speaker and Consultant with the John Maxwell team. He is a member of the John Maxwell Team, Licensed Professional Counselors Association of North Carolina (LPCANC), American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH), North Carolina Society of Clinical Hypnosis (NCSCH), and United States of America Transactional Analysis Association (USATAA). He enjoys kayaking the Tar River near the ECU campus and supporting local business.