Active Aging, Specializations

Hypnotherapy in Later Life: Part 1

Marvelous Opportunity

Most clients seek hypnotherapy to correct behaviors that limit success. In later years, that motivation shrinks – we don’t have to stand up in front of an audience or look good in a bikini. So why would a senior client seek hypnotherapy?

Certain reasons still apply. Smoking cessation therapy comes up often. Hypnosis for medical recovery is also common. But while many other conditions become less pressing with age, benefits arise that are only available to those with the time to invest in themselves. These include life review, deepening spirituality, and cultivation of inner peace. These bring the elder a new kind of power – the power to guide others toward those same goals.

Sadly for the growing number of Americans pioneering life with cognitive decline, those opportunities gradually slip away. Recent studies indicate that better nutrition and sound sleep can slow that loss. Sleep is particularly important, and here hypnotherapy can help by reducing anxiety as the pioneer begins to lose control over their world. We understand language before we speak and interpret expressions and gestures even earlier. Those capacities remain until the end and can be used in hypnosis to encourage change even when the rational mind has succumbed to confusion.

In this series we’ll consider the benefits of hypnotherapy in each of the areas outlined above. In this first post, however, I’d like to emphasize how hypnotherapy changes when working with seniors.

As aging progresses, we become more vulnerable and thus more sensitive to unfamiliar settings. For this reason, elderly clients may prefer at-home sessions or sessions over Skype. Remaining in the comforts of home, their energies are also preserved for the important work done in the mind.

That work must include exercise of the mind’s capacities. The brain is designed to continually adapt to a changing world, and that includes clearing away unused circuitry. For this reason, deafness is followed by loss of speech comprehension. Conversely, reading of novels appears to help preserve long-term memory better than reading of magazines. Rather than simply moving from one experience to the next, then, activities should be planned to ensure that all sensory and thinking processes are exercised.

The crux of the matter, however, is that life does simplify with age. Retirement not only relieves us of challenge but also orphans the thinking patterns that were unique to the workplace community. Conserving those patterns requires rechanneling into new experiences, and such channeling is always done in dreams. Hypnotherapy can help to focus dream process. With elderly clients, dream therapy is therefore an emphasis.

Along with a shift in attention to these needs particular to elders, the hypnotic process often must be adjusted. Arm-raisings favored by 20th century pioneers may be uncomfortable to seniors. The usual fallback is visual focus, but declining eyesight may frustrate that as well. For elderly clients, then, the hypnotist will use conversational methods: confusion, pacing and leading, and imagery. When deafness or failing comprehension frustrates even that, still the language of expression and gesture remains – and that is sufficient for hypnosis.

Once the therapist enters trance with the client, of course, the magic of hypnosis is that new channels of communication open as trust is solidified. We’ll see that cropping up again and again as we consider in detail the unique benefits of hypnotherapy in later life.

Part 2