With an increasing spotlight on mental health issues and people seeking alternative cures, Arpita Dutt, Partner at specialist employment law firm BDBF interviewed former City financial services professional and now Harley Street Clinical Hypnotherapist, Neesha Sonii, about the effectiveness of hypnotherapy as a permanent remedy and self-help tool.
What is hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is therapy whilst the client is in a deep state of relaxation i.e. in a hypnotic state. Hypnotherapy as a practice has been around for many years and its practice can be traced back to many ancient cultures from India, the Far East, and South America.
Hypnotherapy can have strange connotations. How do you overcome this?
The term hypnotherapy can seem weird or even intimidating to some people, and perhaps Hollywood has given it a bad image, and conjured up images of swinging pendulums where the therapist has some sort of control over the patient, but this is most certainly not true. The client is in control at all times. Think of me as the GPS guide and the client is the driver in the driving seat.
What is a Clinical Hypnotherapist?
I am not a clinical doctor. I hold a Diploma in Advanced Hypnotherapy.
I focus on using Clinical Hypnotherapy within my therapy techniques. I do this because I have come to see it is highly effective and works – it offers a real solution to people, not just a sticking plaster. My unique technique also helps to teach clients self-hypnosis (how to get themselves into a relaxed almost meditative state) when they are feeling anxious. This anxiety can be caused by professional situations such as giving presentations or chairing an important meeting, to flying on an aeroplane. It’s a very self-empowering tool.
What common conditions can hypnotherapy help with?
I see clients for a range of issues:
Anxiety, Stress, insomnia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (because this has its roots in stress), phobias and fears, low self esteem, low confidence, social anxiety, pain management, relationship issues, difficult life events, emotional eating, public speaking, and many more besides.
What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a state of mind that we all experience on a daily basis. It is like day is to night. Think about those ten seconds just before you nod off to sleep at night, or being totally engrossed in a good book or movie – that’s what hypnosis is. We experience it every day, most people just don’t know it. Hypnosis is just a feeling of deep relaxation and when you are in this beautifully relaxed state it is possible to access the powerful part of the brain known as the subconscious.
What is the subconscious mind?
The subconscious roughly accounts for approximately 90% of the brain’s capacity, with the conscious mind making up the remaining 10%. The subconscious brain is where all our emotions are stored and therefore is responsible for our reactions, interpretations and general behaviour. The most important role that the subconscious plays is an automatic function that controls our breathing, the circulation of blood around our bodies and the repair of damaged tissue i.e. the healing process. Think of hypnotherapy as the password to the subconscious mind, which is the computer, where all our memories and emotions are hidden away behind locked doors in a ‘memory folder’.
This includes everything we might have experienced from when we were in the womb to around age seven. This is called ‘learned behaviour’, and these memories come back to haunt us as adults when we are faced with unwanted or complicated situations.
Often the first question I am asked is, “is this all confidential”. Yes, nothing that is discussed in my clinic leaves that room. I treat clients with the utmost respect and confidentiality at all times. I am a member of the GHR (General Hypnotherapy Register) and I adhere to the professional rules of my professional body.
I see many clients from professional backgrounds who don’t feel comfortable raising how they feel with their employer despite employee assistance services being available through work. They choose not to take them.
How many sessions do clients need?
Most clients have about 6 sessions, about a week apart. It’s not set in stone and I work around the client’s diary, including late evenings and weekends. Many choose to continue sessions thereafter on a less regular basis. Some people need therapy for longer, some for less. I don’t take any advance payments from clients nor do I do block bookings. I keep things open and flexible for the client. It’s very important the client feels comfortable, safe, and that we build a genuine rapport and trust. It’s also important to understand this is a process and the client must commit to going through a course of hypnotherapy over weeks or a few months to see results take effect. It’s not a quick fix.
What kind of cases do you see and how do you help City professionals?
I see a wide range of clients from professional backgrounds in the City including finance, law, medicine and business people. I see individuals going through a divorce or difficult legal case. My clientele is also quite international. I deal with men and women, young and old, from all over the world from different cultural backgrounds: Middle Eastern, Asian, and European. As someone with a background in the pressured finance industry, I understand their world and the pressures they experience.
“The absolute relaxation that I was able to get into in just our first session was the first time since I could remember that I felt so light. I have struggled with anxiety for a long time and I had gone to various counsellors before I came across Neesha. I finally was able to overcome it after working with her for 6 weeks. It was wonderful to know at that stage the potential relaxation I could reach all by myself thanks to learning self-hypnosis from the get-go, but also that I felt safe and trusted Neesha to get to a totally relaxed state. Before I was almost afraid of letting go and Neesha really helped me feel comfortable here. She knows what she is doing and her experience is evident.”Investment Banker
What experiences drove you towards this career?
My decade-plus career working in financial services firms has shown me a lot about stress and the real effects of it on our health. I have also seen how depression and anxiety have affected members of my own family, and how cultural attitudes can cause stigma. The long term affect of depression can be profound, affecting life choices, socialisation and your career. Understanding this is one of the main reasons that I embarked on this journey.
I struggled with anxiety early on in my own career and experienced burnout from long hours, frequent travel, and studying for professional exams – all at the same time. I knew that the way I was feeling was different because I always had a strong work ethic and had never shied away from hard work. Stress is not always down to long hours or work, it can be about how we perceive ourselves as doing well, or not being good enough, or how we feel we are being judged in competitive environments. The roots to how we feel about these issues run deep. This can be a theme amongst the high flying professionals or the business people I see. When they are working on tough projects or long hours, or something goes wrong in their personal life, they feel every speed bump on the road. Imposter syndrome and fear of failure are common, as is feeling unworthy or never good enough. Often, such high achievers have perfectionist traits and fear of failure features heavily on their mind.
In terms of stress in the City, some of it is part and parcel of London life; we live in a fast-paced City. There are stressors all around us. Some of it also arises from a macho corporate culture and not being able to talk about “weakness” openly.
Helping others to live a more fulfilling and internally peaceful life is my passion. I am an intuitive, supportive and sympathetic therapist who is understanding, honest and sensitive towards client’s fears & insecurities.
I immerse myself into the process of change with each client in order to best help them achieve the desired change they seek. I am always available to speak to clients in between their sessions, if I am busy in clinic I will let them know as soon as I am available to speak to them.
Where are you located?
My clients see me at my practice, Neesha Therapy Clinicson 10 Harley Street in my wonderfully comfortable therapy rooms in Marylebone, tucked away behind Oxford Street’s shopping area. I can also do appointments remotely via FaceTime and Skype if people are busy travelling for work, which is not uncommon.