Does Solution Focused Hypnotherapy Really Help to Reduce Alcohol Intake?
Claire Noyelle, takes a look at how solution focused hypnotherapy can support people looking to reduce their alcohol consumption, and she explains why this approach offers something different.
The month of October is nominated as many things.
We’ve got weeks marking arthritis, dyspraxia, braille, baking, recycling, adoption, chocolate, space and baby loss to name but a few.
Then there’s World Mental Heath day on the 10th, as well as ’apple day’, ‘world porridge day’ and ’black cat day!
Just for fun
While some of these … like ‘Cheese Toastie Day’, ‘Egg Day’, ‘Hug A Drummer Day’ and ‘Transfer Money To Your Daughter Day’ are just for fun, the aim of most of these ‘national awareness’ days is to promote understanding or encourage participation.
In this blog, I want to focus on the more serious topic of Go Sober for October and reducing alcohol consumption.
A Nation of Drinkers
Nationally across the UK, alcohol is our drug of choice, with around 77% of adults reporting regular consumption, and 49% of UK adults (counted for this purpose as 16+) drinking at least once a week and around 8% of men and 4% of women drinking daily.
Unsurprisingly, some of these people are considered to have a problem with alcohol.
It’s really hard to get accurate numbers as these kind of things are generally self-reported, but research by alcohol charities suggests that about 24% of drinkers exceed the recommended weekly number of units on a regular basis, and that of the estimated 603,000 alcohol dependent drinkers, 82% of those are not receiving any support or treatment.
While us Brits are almost proud to be seen as a nation of drinkers, the impact of health problems and the consequences of excess drinking is escalating.
Financially, the cost of treating people for excess drinking (in 2019) accounted for £3.5 billion of the NHS budget, and cost wider society £21.5 billion. An amount that is probably just going to increase.
Poor Health Outcomes
The adverse health consequences of excess alcohol are well known, with liver damage, increased risk of some cancers, high blood pressure, and a higher risk of mental health issues are all potential outcomes of prolonged heavy drinking, as well as higher risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and more rapid ageing.
That’s apart from the increased risk of personal violence, road traffic accidents and domestic issues. So, it’s definitely something that we as individuals and as society should probably get on top of.
The Solution Focused Approach
From a solution focused perspective, we can think about an excessive or inappropriate use of alcohol as being an attempt to deal with difficult feelings, to cope with overwhelm, stress or mental challenges. So, to get to a point here we can control our alcohol use, we have to be at a point where we are in control of those challenges, too.
But, perhaps counter intuitively, solution focused work doesn’t mean actually talking about the problems, digging into what has happened that started the drinking or even what happens when they do drink.
Sessions with a solution focused hypnotherapist don’t involve our clients going over past difficulties.
Instead, we spend time thinking about what the client wants their future to look like. What they would be doing, feeling, enjoying in that version of their life.
We work on creating a vision of the future that they feel good about, that they can really see themselves in. We work together to build a lovely, shiny, attractive picture of all that’s important to them, of all the things they want and then – slowly, steadily – we work on what it might be like to take baby steps toward creating that future, for real.
Alongside that, I teach my clients about some of the ways in which their brain works. I explain to them that while our brains are capable of amazing things, they can also drive us to do things that seem utterly irrational!
That’s because our brains evolved in a time when our options for survival were limited, so acting rapidly, intuitively, emotionally, and aggressively or defensively with whatever patterns of behaviour had kept us “safe” before was a good thing, because it ensured our survival.
Fine-Tuning The Brain
But in a more complicated, more nuanced and more modern world, where the challenges we face are just as likely to be psychological as physical, that strategy isn’t quite what’s needed.
In order to cope in today’s environment, we need to be able to react to stress in a more measured and constructive way, so I talk with my clients about ways that they can tap into the neuroscience of how our brains function and ‘fine-tune’ the wiring of our brains to get them to work FOR us, instead of against.
Fortunately for us, when our brains do find a better way of dealing with a situation, they are able to tweak that wiring, upgrade our patterns of behaviour and store the new, improved way of responding for future reference.
In time, when we find that the new, upgraded response is more beneficial, that it actually rewards our brain in a much more positive way, it sticks. It becomes our new way of responding.
Knowledge Is Power
Knowledge, especially in this context, really IS power.
Knowing, at a molecular level, that your brain is driving you to seek out a dopamine reward in order to feel better, and that there are healthier ways than alcohol to get that reward.
Knowing that your brain is, always, trying to do its best for you in order to keep you ‘safe’; but also understanding that life is about more than being safe – it’s about thriving, and growing.
Knowing that when your brain drives you to consider a drink in order to feel better, that you have the capacity to override it and choose another, healthier, option.
Knowing you can help your brain and body to make more positive choices on a daily basis that support you to feel at your best, and that, with practice, you can make those choices more consistently.
Knowing that each positive choice that you make encodes that response into your brain more deeply, until it becomes simply how you now behave.
Celebrating The Positives
Sessions with clients that want to reduce their dependence on alcohol are just as positive as any other session because we focus on the things that are going well in their world. We celebrate the little wins, the healthy dopamine rewards, the glimmers of happiness in their day and the progress they have made in making themselves and their health a priority.
Once they start to feel good about themselves and can recognise that they are feeling more in control of their actions, their thoughts and their feelings, then they are able to trust themselves more and more, to continue to make the choices that work toward being at their best and take them forwards. Closer and closer to that shiny future we created together.
A future that has them back in control of their alcohol consumption and able to cope with life’s curveballs in a solution focused and practical way.
Clients Know Best…
Some of my clients choose to give up alcohol altogether, while some strive for a level of consumption that is controlled and manageable. Here at Inspired To Change, we’re here for it all, as we understand that our clients know best what will work for them. We trust that our clients have the ability to decide on what they want, that they know, deep down, what they want their future to be.
This means that our job, as solution focused hypnotherapists is to equip them to deal with stress, overwhelm and life, generally, in a way that is sustainable and future-proof. So that whatever happens in life, they are able to deal with it in a calm, positive and healthy way.
It’s something I really enjoy doing, and something that has so many wonderful ripples in the wider world – as a result of our sessions together, people deal better with work, with relationships, with family life and with their own internal challenges.
If you suspect your relationship with alcohol isn’t a healthy one, get in touch with one of our Inspired To Change therapists. They will help you understand the neuroscience behind your struggles and get you feeling back in control, in just a few sessions.
About the Author: Claire Noyelle practices online and from her tranquil garden therapy room at her home in Bearsted, Maidstone East, in the heart of the garden county of Kent. Claire is a member of the Association for Solution-Focused Hypnotherapists, National Council for Hypnotherapy and the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council and a member of both the General Pharmaceutical Council and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
Inspired to Change Hypnotherapists are all recognised by the National Council for Hypnotherapy, the UK’s leading not-for-profit hypnotherapy professional association.
Find out how you can train as a solution focused hypnotherapist with CPHT.