How can I use hypnotic therapy to help my Obsessive Compulsive patient?

I have read your article regarding treating obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) with hypnotherapy. I have an OCD patient with whom medications and special therapy have been used, but the patient is not able to overcome his obsessive tendency. I have learnt hypnosis and would like to use it on the patient. Please guide me as to how to help the patient overcome the problem.

This question was submitted by 'Sofia'

mark tyrrell

Mark says...

Hello Sofia and thank you for writing in.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can be crippling, but hypnotic intervention can be a useful way of disrupting the pattern of the obsessive mindset and compulsive behaviour. This is, in part, because obsessive focus is a type of hypnotic trance in itself.

Part of the definition of trance is a narrowed focus in which external reality drops away or recedes into insignificance. This certainly happens in the mind of an OCD patient when they are obsessing or acting compulsively. Another common feature of hypnotic trance is time distortion - time may seem to fly by or to slow down. I have worked with compulsive hand washers who would be both totally narrowly focussed on their hand washing and find that hours would pass without them noticing as they repeatedly washed or cleaned. Eventually, something would 'awaken' them from this tormenting but compulsive trance state.

For those prone to it, OCD, like many difficulties, can both be a result of not meeting basic needs and, in turn, prevent their completion, making the 'escape' of the OCD even more compelling. So, we need to help people stay out of hypnosis - or at least the wrong kind of hypnosis.

OCD is maintained by anxiety. If you examine what the client is anxious about, it will generally be around the thought of not being able to carry out their compulsion. They might feel (even if they don't cognitively believe) that the compulsive activity somehow prevents some misfortune. Some use it to punish themselves in some way.

You can use hypnosis to help people relax with the idea of not carrying out the compulsion. In this way, you can help them feel strong enough to break the pattern. If you know the Rewind Technique, then you can use that to de-condition any anxiety around the thought of not carrying out a compulsive ritual. If you don't know how to use Rewind, you can use hypnotic rehearsal to help your client practice being free of OCD so that neuronal pathways pertaining to healthy OCD-free living can be forged and strengthened.

You might also find this short article useful: '4 great therapy techniques for treating OCD'.

All my very best,


watch icon Published by Mark Tyrrell - August 30th, 2014 in

Have you got any other ideas for our questioner? Let them know in comments below: