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 Case History - PTSD
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Posted - 01/13/2009 :  3:29:06 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Part case history, part article:

Deeper and Deeper

A couple of years ago a professional acquaintance referred their adult niece for stress management. This puts a little pressure on me…. I have a growing business and referral partners are important to take care of - especially a member of their family. In hindsight, I’m glad I did not know what was really in store.

When the young lady, whom I will call “Jill”, arrives for her appointment, she looks a little stressed - maybe a little on-edge. I go through my pre-talk and we begin to review her intake form. Most notably:

Issue(s) you are here for: Panic attacks, anxiety, loss of loved ones (Grief), depression, agoraphobia, PTSD

What is your goal through the use of hypnosis? To reduce anxiety and panic attacks – maybe stress.

Previous efforts to address issue? Counseling, psychiatrist, psychologist, medication

Are you currently being treated for the presented issue(s)? Being treated for bipolar disorder by family doctor. Recently prescribed the drug Lamictal

OK….I’d only been NGH certified for a couple years….this sounds a little deep for someone who still feels pretty new to hypnosis. I ask Jill if she would consider seeking further treatment from a psychiatrist and re-starting counseling. She says “No.” She has been medicated and under treatment, of one kind or another, for most of her life. She says it hasn’t helped her and she won’t go any more. She’ll try the new drug her MD put her on and she’ll try hypnosis. During this time, from Jill’s words and body language, I see a drastic sense of intelligent desperation from her. She is scared and needs some hope, and, I’m honestly afraid of what she might do if I turn her away. I feel a little more pressure. I’m thinking to myself “maybe reducing her stress with hypnosis will make her more comfortable about getting back into counseling.”

I explain to Jill that I cannot work on diagnosed issues until after the ‘Release of Information’ and ‘Doctor Referral’ forms are filled-out and returned. But, we can sure work on her stress management until then. She happily explains to me that the agoraphobia is not diagnosed; she just has fear that turns into panic attacks when in any public places and figure that is what this reaction is called. She tells me she would really like to be able to go grocery shopping by her apartment for longer than five minutes at a time. I say “OK” we’ll see what we can do for her fear.

In her highly stressed emotional state, we easily breezed through an Elman type of induction, some brief deepening, and achieve muscle catalepsy via an eye-lock, and suggested amnesia via fading numbers. I ask her to imagine the bit of fear she has described when shopping. She understandably has some reluctance and hesitation to this. I explain to her that many people with uncomfortable emotional reactions like this, learn ways to control it, and contain it, but in here, for just a short time, we would like to experience the bit of fear that comes up so we can take care of it and fix it. Letting yourself feel this fear feeling does not give it any more power than it normally has, it is just you letting yourself look at it with the intent of understanding it.

Using an affect bridge age regression she finds herself remembering a moment in time when eight years old. Her grandfather telling her that her mother has shot and killed herself. This is pretty big, but what did this have to do with a fear of being in public places?

After briefly exploring this memory, we find the eight year old girl felt guilt and shame. She also believed her grandfather could see her guilt and knew this little girl was at fault for her mother’s death.

We age regress this guilt/shame feeling and she describes being five years old with her mom and dad fighting. The little girl is standing between them - “trying to get them to stop fighting, and I COULDN”T”. Her parents got divorced. She lived with her mom, and mom would talk about how tight money was and how difficult it was to be a single mom. To Jill’s eight year mind she failed at stopping her parents fighting and this failure results in divorce. And then, this little girl is such a burden on her mom that mom kills herself. Perception really is everything.

Jill and I quickly work through these issues. Forgiveness, gestalt and reframing are key components in addressing the incorrect emotional associations Jill has had attached to these memories.

We take a break – we both needed it at this point.

That is just the beginning of Jill’s story. After what we ‘uncovered’ in this first session, Jill fills-in some of the blanks for me. Dad does not want to care for an eight year old girl so Jill is passed from family member to family member. Several years later Jill ends up with an aunt, her mom’s sister, whom she becomes very close with. She has anxiety and trouble keeping a job. Then, three years prior to Jill’s first visit with me, her aunt kills herself with a gun. Now, Jill’s own daughter is eight years old. I get the sense of a little more pressure.

This first session was good, insightful, and productive. Jill says she feels a little better, like maybe a weight has been lifted. At the same time, she says she feels a little apprehensive about it. She has been through all kinds of talk therapy which has sometimes given her short-term relief, sort of like she currently feels. Now I understand this as the typical “wait-and-see” thoughts a first time hypnosis client has. What I do not tell her then is that I was holding my breath with these same thoughts.

We schedule the next session for the next weekday, a Monday. I ask Jill to contact me over the weekend if ANYTHING comes up or she gets ANY concerns.

When Jill comes in on Monday she has a smile. This is good. I take a breath. We settle in to talk and I ask her how things went? “Did you notice any differences?” She says “Yes! I went to the store after our session Friday and I was OK! I was in the store over 10 minutes and nothing happened. I kept looking for the signs of a panic attack and they didn’t come.” I say “That’s very good, anything else notable?” After a moment she quietly says “Yes. I didn’t feel like killing myself. I THOUGHT about it, like I always do, but I didn’t FEEL like it, you know?” I say, “OK, that’s good too.”

Jill gives me the completed Release of Information and the Doctor Referral form signed by her MD, and we get to work.

I worked with Jill over several sessions. Not every appointment was as ‘smooth’ as the first one, but, she continued her progress. When we finished, I didn’t hear anything from Jill for 18 months or so. Then, she calls to say “Hi”. To tell me she had moved to another state and had a job. She sounded happy.

Working with Jill gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities. More importantly it gave me confidence in the capabilities of the techniques I had been taught. Since seeing Jill, I have worked with a good number of clients with these “deeper” problems. It has turned into my favorite type of ‘presented issue’. I might even get a little bit of a smile when I see “anxiety and PTSD” on the intake form.

Patrick Glancy, CI, BCH
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