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3 smart steps to help depressed clients see a brighter future

By Mark Tyrrell

If depressed clients are able to think about the future at all, the prospect can be bleak, even terrifying. At the heart of depression lies hopelessness - a sense that things will inevitably

  • stay as bad as they are, or
  • get much worse.

Our depressed clients can feel so overwhelmed by their present difficulties that they don't even have a sense of a future - which, of course, makes living feel pretty pointless.

Hypnosis is a wonderful tool to help clients relax and take a proper rest from the stress they find themselves under. But it can do more than this - it can help them 'time travel', so that they can sample better, more motivating, more satisfying futures.

Such hypnotic future orientation, or age progression, needs to feel

  • congruent
  • realistic and
  • attainable.

Depressed clients need to stop using their imaginations to paint their futures as unremittingly bleak and reclaim a constructive use of fantasy as a force for generating hope.

So how do we go about this?

1) Find out what's missing

Depression happens when people ceaselessly introspect, worry and ruminate about the difficulties they find themselves in when their primal needs are not being met.

We all need:

  • a sense of security and safety (which elevated stress levels will deny us)
  • to give and receive quality attention
  • to feel valued by and connected to a wider circle of people and part of a community
  • a sense of shared intimacy that allows us feel accepted and loved by someone for who we really are
  • a sense of status that allows us to feel we have a valued role and are useful to others - the basis for self esteem and a sense of competency
  • enough stimulation to avoid stagnation and boredom
  • a sense of control and choice over our own lives
  • friendship, fun, love, and intimacy with significant people
  • goals we can realistically work towards.

All these needs matter to all of us, though to varying degrees.

When these needs are not met, and we have no hope that they will be met in the future,we get depressed.

Many of your needs might currently be unmet but if you have some expectation that they will be met again in the future, and you have some influence over that, then you are unlikely to fall prey to depression. It's the negative expectation that is key to generating depression, rather than just tough present conditions.

Depression is caused when needs are not adequately met. But once in place it also stops people meeting their needs.

The source of your client's woes and frustrations lies in the incomplete satisfaction of one or more of the needs listed above. Identify which specific unmet needs lie behind their current distress, and link your age progression work to future completion of those needs.

2) Appoint your client as the active agent for change

Psychotherapy for depression needs to build specific positive expectations of the future, as well as help engender a more general sense that all will be well.So rather than mouthing platitudes like "Everything is going to be awesome!" or wittering on about "manifesting abundance" we need to get them to focus on how things will be when specific needs start being met.

We need to encourage the client to assume responsibility as an active agent in making these changes happen for them. Depression can make people passive and (unrealistically) helpless. They need to be encouraged to see how they themselves can make a difference.

So you might say something like:

And as you drift deeper into hypnosis I'd just like you to notice watching yourself now, over the coming days, taking showers in the morning as a way of starting to look after yourself again...

or

And notice yourself now... drifting into the future... doing all the things you need to do... to apply for that university course...

But we can go even further than this.

3) Build a ladder to the positive future - rung by rung

If you are my depressed client and I ask you:

What other sign in the future is going to let you know you are starting to feel better now?

and you reply:

I'll start seeing my friend X again for coffee and generally have more social contacts!

I could leave it there. Or I might get you to hypnotically experience having coffee with your friend and having a good time.

But the coffee and the meeting won't just happen by themselves. You need to make them happen. If your friend suggests meeting for coffee, you still have to agree, and turn up. This would still be you making it happen.

Even more proactively, you could set it up yourself. This requires you to take several steps:

  • set aside your worry that your friend doesn't want to see you (we can rehearse overcoming that feeling as a step in itself)
  • call, text or email your friend
  • arrange a mutually agreeable time and date and venue
  • get to the destination
  • find a table and order the coffee
  • have a chat and a laugh with your friend
  • and so on.

If I hypnotically run you through these specific steps, one after the other, that's rather different from me just telling you:

Imagine yourself being more sociable in the future!

And we can even hypnotically age progress our clients to feeling like socializing again.

The point is, the more active steps you get them to hypnotically experience, the more compelling and realistic this beneficial future experience becomes for them.

So we need to find out what sense of a future, if any, our depressed clients have and what needs remain unfulfilled. We need to build a positive future including them as an active agent in bringing about that future. We need to break down this better future into achievable steps and get them to hypnotically rehearse carrying out those steps so they feel compelling and realistic.

Next time I will suggest some hypnotic approaches to help your client enter the world of their future.

You can learn How to Stop Anyone Smoking with Mark Tyrrell on our Smoking Cessation Training Course (online).

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Mark Tyrrell
Creative Director