Dealing with your Demons
Sometimes we need to delve beneath the surface to get to the root of what is troubling us. That’s where the skills of an experienced hypnotherapist can be invaluable. Cairo East Magazine spoke with Salima Barakat to learn what is involved.
CEM: What is your background, and how did you become a hypnotherapist?
SB: I graduated from the AUC with a bachelor degree in psychology, and went to work at the Behman Hospital, under Dr. Nasser Loza. After that I spent a while teaching at the Misr Language School in the American section, before returning to the Behman to work in the addiction clinic for one year. I then left the clinical world for a while, and went to Dubai, where I took a course in clinical hypnosis before returning to Cairo and opening a wellness studio, Tawazon. Hypnosis is one of the therapies we provide there.
How would you describe your approach to hypnotherapy?
My background means that my sessions tend to be a blend between hypnosis and more traditional clinical psychology. I personally believe that human beings are far too complex to uniformly follow one route of treatment; it depends totally on the individual.
I felt drawn to hypnotherapy as opposed to conventional psychological counselling because of its less formalized approach; a big part of me feels that complementary therapy is more flexible and involves a different kind of energy between the practitioner and the client. When you are putting someone into a relaxed state you are more relaxed as well. At the same time there is a lot of psychology within hypnotherapy, and I always wanted my approach to have a scientific base.
There is so much misconception about hypnosis, and I usually spend the first session just talking with the patient, taking a detailed history, and explaining exactly what the therapy is and what it isn’t.
The subconscious makes up about ninety percent of the mind’s capacity, and it is active all the time; we constantly have thoughts we are not even aware of. When I have put someone into a relaxed state they are able to receive suggestions more easily, but I cannot manipulate them by giving them suggestions that go against their own belief system. This would be completely unethical, and probably wouldn’t work. If the client doesn’t want to make a shift they can’t, no matter how many suggestions I make. In general resistance to suggestion will happen when the client has been sent for a session by someone else who means well and wants to help them. But if they don’t have the desire to change, I can’t make them.
What are the kinds of problems you mainly see?
Before I started I was told to expect lots of clients wanting to give up smoking or lose weight. But in fact, perhaps due to the timing (I opened my clinic shortly prior to the 2011 revolution) I found a lot of people coming to me with psychological issues such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Compulsive habits are relatively easy to deal with, but fears and phobias require a different approach. On an immediate level I can suggest to someone under hypnosis that they no longer fear that thing; ask them to imagine the stimulus and then help them to picture it as bigger or smaller; begin to control it and take back their own power in the situation. When I feel that the person would benefit from psychoanalysis I will refer them to a psychologist and then work in conjunction with the therapy.
Both fears and addictions have an emotional base, and you need to go in and find the root cause. In most cases people present with a particular fear or issue, but it almost always hides something deeper. The therapy might involve age regression; taking the client back to childhood or an earlier time in their life when the behaviour was triggered by an emotional situation. This is particularly true of eating disorders and other addictions. The problem is that unless you deal with the root issue, they will replace one addiction with another – cigarettes with food, for example. That’s why so many people put on weight when they give up smoking.
How many sessions would you give, on average?
Of course it depends on the individual case. After the initial session I will make a tailored treatment plan. For emotional and psychological issues I have clients I’ve been seeing for years, others come for just two or three months. But in reality I can only give back to the client as much as they have given me; they must be prepared to work through their issues and ready to make the changes.
With phobias people often come because of an immediate situation that’s arisen in which they are about to be exposed to the stimulus, for example they are due to travel somewhere and they have a fear of flying. But they can feel the difference in their response in as little as two sessions.
Can you tell us more about Tawazon?
It’s a wellness centre where we offer activities such as yoga, Reiki and dance meditation, as well as complementary therapies. We often have visiting instructors and courses, as well as regular classes. We are currently relocating from Downtown, and operating out of Horizon in Zamalek.
The Final Puff
Hypnotherapy and Giving up Smoking
By Francesca Sullivan
Are you a smoker but dying to kick the habit? Compulsive eater and don’t know how to stop? Hypnotherapist Mohamed Hazem has fast been building a reputation in Cairo for treating addiction under hypnosis, and his success rate is remarkable. Cairo East Magazine went to find out more.
CEM: How did you first become involved with hypnotherapy?
MH: I have always been drawn towards alternative ways of looking at health and lifestyle. I studied Feng Shui in China and also have a certificate in Reiki, and I am currently studying for a bachelor degree in alternative medicine. On a trip to Thailand I was introduced to hypnotherapy and trained there. I used to be a smoker myself, but it was on that trip that I gave it up. When working with people who have cigarette or food addiction, I want them to understand that they themselves have the power within to free themselves from the behaviour. Whether our problems are physical or psychological, too often we give away that power, to doctors or drugs. But the mind itself has the key.
What should people expect when they come for a session?
When I put someone into a trance, the filter between their conscious and unconscious mind is cleared and they become open to suggestions and visualizations. To help them arrive at this half-awake state I use relaxation techniques, asking them to concentrate on the sound of my voice and encouraging them to relax their body muscle by muscle. When the body is relaxed the mind also slows down and becomes more receptive to imagination. The immediate environment is very important when promoting relaxation, and in my office I use décor, lighting and colours that aid calmness; sometimes music too.
Cigarette addiction is in the subconscious, and by suggesting to your subconscious that you are no longer addicted, and reinforcing this message each session, you will begin to change your behaviour. For example once you are in a state of deep relaxation I might take you on a visualization exercise to your favourite socializing venue where you go with friends, and everyone is smoking. I ask you to visualize being offered a cigarette (it is important to make the imaginary situation as vivid and real as possible) and to refuse it, feeling proud of yourself and telling your subconscious that you no longer smoke, and don’t need cigarettes. I am effectively tricking your mind into thinking you hate smoking.
It is actually an extremely simple process. No drugs are needed to re-programme your brain. You can even self- hypnotize, something which I encourage my clients to do before they go to sleep at night. Once you are in a state of extreme relaxation you can begin visualizing the changes you want to make in your life, as if they are already happening.
How many sessions does it normally take?
It varies from one person to another. Usually a minimum of two sessions and a maximum of twelve – but around four to six is the most common. It is very important that the patient comes to each appointment regularly; by skipping a session you can be put back to square one and the effect will be cancelled. You will have to start the process again.
The first session is always the hardest, as the stage is set for you and your own conscious brain to fight each other. You may leave feeling relaxed, but later at the first temptation it gets much harder. Usually after the second session there will be a shift.
Are there any concerns regarding accessing the unconscious mind?
Many people are worried by the idea of hypnosis and think that once they are in a trance they will be under my control and not aware of what is happening. This is a complete misconception. During ‘clinical’ hypnosis you are in a relaxed state but aware of everything around you, aware enough to get up and leave if I suggest something you don’t like! It is true that some people are far more easily hypnotized than others. If you are the kind of person that tends to only focus on one thing at a time, you are more easily put into a trance. If on the other hand you are good at doing several things at once and are easily distracted, you may be more resistant to hypnosis.
How do you rate your success?
Of all the people I have treated for cigarette addiction, none have come back to me! One of my recent clients had given up for fifteen years and started again, but hopefully this time he’ll have quit for good.