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The death in January of Philip Seymour Hoffman was tragic. Like so many people who face addictions of alcohol, drugs or cigarettes, his death was largely preventable. Whether it happens to a world famous film star, or a homeless person on the street, it is a great leveller that can affect people from any class of society, be it upper, middle or lower class.

It was reported that PSH had been clean for 23 years before checking himself into rehab in 2013. To normal folk, that sounds like a real achievement – to stay sober for nearly a quarter of a century. However, PSH still ended up overdosing on a mix of heroin and fentanyl. For addicts, the addictive urge doesn’t leave you just because you have stopped using drugs, smoking, drinking, gambling or eating – even if it is for 23 years.

It is all about the mood. Addicts know the substance they are hooked on, whatever it is, will help change their mood. By injecting, eating or drinking, they are stimulating chemicals in their brain that “reward” them. An addiction is rooted in repetitive behaviours and environmental triggers, and the payoff comes in some form of gratification or catharsis. The ‘normal’ population get their fixes and rewards with a glass of wine, or a bar of chocolate, or treating themselves to some ‘retail therapy’ on an occasional basis. However, the addict needs to fix their mood again and again, that same mood that came with that same hit of a drug, a smoke or a gamble.

In order for hypnotherapy to serve a meaningful role in overcoming addiction, it is essential that the person receiving treatment be sober/clean. Deep concentration is the cornerstone of hypnotism and the toxins and dulling effects of alcohol and drugs limit the effectiveness of a hypnotic trance. My trainer told us a story about someone who came to him in the 1970s, ready for therapy. He proudly said he had taken his LSD and was ready for whatever the hypnotherapist was going to do – needless to say, that session never got started!

After a person who has been struggling with an addiction to alcohol/drugs overcomes the initial hurdle of becoming sober, a new set of challenges emerge. At this point, staying sober and clean is the objective and doing so requires goal setting, plenty of focus and a healthy dose of optimism.This is where hypnosis as a treatment for addiction really becomes effective. It allows the patient to get involved in the treatment process, letting them explore their own triggers for relapse and giving them tools to deconstruct a craving should one arise.

The hypnotic trance is a deeply relaxed state, and it’s marked by changes in metabolism, breathing and even brain patterns. In other words, it’s both a mental and physical state of being. During this relaxed state, the person being hypnotized is more open to exploring the mechanics of their addiction to alcohol. This allows them to explore the ebb and flow of their own cravings – with the goal of putting together strategies to overcome them – without any stress or feelings of guilt getting in the way.

It’s important to understand that hypnosis is not a cure-all for addiction but it can definitely serve a role in a comprehensive course of treatment. Hypnosis is a tool that the mind can use to address thoughts and behaviours that are related to addiction. When applied in this way under the careful supervision of an addiction counsellor or a trained hypnotherapist, hypnotherapy can be an effective addition to a comprehensive suite of treatments.

If you can relate to any of the behaviours discussed, or you know someone who is affected by addiction, or if you want to contribute to this discussion, do not hesitate to contact Feel Good Hypnotherapy.

Lewis Tullett is Founder and Therapist at Feel Good Hypnotherapy.

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