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Integrative Hypnosis: The Structure of Change
An interview with Melissa Tiers, DCH, DAH
by Linda Otto of the International Association of Counselors and Therapists (IACT).
Editor's Note from Seth-Deborah Roth: Melissa is extremely skilled in her use of language patterns and thought patterns. An author to be on the lookout for!
IACT: Hello Melissa. Thank you for granting this interview. Perhaps we could begin by asking what Integrative Hypnosis means to you.
Melissa Tiers: Thanks for the invite. I suppose I should start by saying that Integrative Hypnosis, to me, means that I have the freedom to do whatever works. It's an umbrella, under which I combine ideas and processes from Classical and Ericksonian hypnosis, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Cognitive Behavioral and Energy Psychology and whatever else comes to me in the moment with a client. I think it's also about an integration of all aspects of the body/mind. I consider an integrated change to include neurological patterns, an awareness of the biochemical interplay of emotions and the energetic system. I think the physical change is almost a natural progression of that. This way we can help people shift the whole gestalt and allow for a more generative change.
Wow.That's quite a mouthful. But you asked.
IACT: The history of results using Integrative Hypnosis is quite compelling. Nearly every professional has an ‘aha’ moment when they know this is the kind of work they want to focus on. What experience brought you to this point in your career.
Melissa: I think for me it was a series of aha moments that brought me to this work. I would have to say I was always fascinated by altered states of consciousness. From spinning and hyperventilating when I was five to psychedelics in my teens. Once I got a glimpse of the malleability of mind and perception, I never stopped searching for the boundaries of what was possible. I'm smiling as I remember all the aha moments sprinkled throughout this time. I used to go to the science of consciousness conventions looking for answers and what I got was even better... more questions. I started exploring bizarre altered states at The Monroe Institute and the aha's got bigger. Hypnosis was just another way to explore.
I was a rock-and-roll musician for most of my life and hypnosis was a hobby. I would be hypnotizing people in the dressing room of CBGB's and was able to experiment with all kinds of hypnotic phenomena. I would read Erickson's work and play with anyone who would let me. It was so interesting that I started doing it part-time. I mean let's face it, being a musician in NYC hardly paid the rent. It was fun, but hypnosis was better.
I started to see more and more people and was constantly amazed and humbled by what people were capable of changing. I went to a weekend hypnosis training and got hooked. I went to another and another and well, I never stopped. Even now, 15 years later, I still go to at least four trainings a year. I think the most exciting thing about this mind field is that it keeps expanding. With every new research study, every shift in neuroscience and mind/body medicine, we get to create new innerventions. I think we are so lucky to be at the cutting edge of consciousness. I actively seek aha moments every day. And I'm happy to say, I usually find them.
IACT: Do you have a preferred technique you like to use and can you give us an example?
Melissa: I have so many techniques I love to share with my clients but none that I would say is the preferred technique. I'm a firm believer in utilization so that I never know what I'm going to do until the client is in front of me. This way I go by the language used, the gestures and metaphors, the clients inner strategy for doing the problem, the beliefs that hold it together and all the other resources the client brings in.
If the client makes a circular motion when describing the anxiety, I know to focus there, turn it upside down, spin it backwards and then see what happens. If as the client describes a lump in their throat, I might have them drop their awareness there and explore changing shape, color or listening to what that lump has to communicate. If we are talking and the client has an overwhelming emotion, we might tap it, drop through it to see what's underneath or use it as an affect bridge back to where we need to go, in order to change.
I think there is a basic structure to change. A four step pattern underneath just about every change process. So as long as I keep that in mind and know which step the client is in, any ritual or process can be the preferred, in the moment, technique.
IACT: Can you expound on the basic structure to change and the four step pattern?
Melissa: Sure can. If you imagine that when your client is in their problem, awash with the negative emotions of it, it's like they're wearing a particular pair of glasses that colors everything they can think of. If they are depressed then everything they think of from their past and future is depressing because the brain sorts by emotional/biochemical states. So they say things like, "nothing ever goes right" or "everything in my life is a mess" or "nobody loves me."
They use these universal language patterns because, when trapped in a negative emotional state, it's all they can see. Before we can help them to come to a solution, heal or make any positive changes, we have to help them out of that state. That's step two of the meta pattern which I'm referring to as the four step process to change. The first was accessing the problem state so we can see what that looks like as well as find the trigger that makes the thing go automatic.
Now we have an infinite amount of ways to do step two, the dissociation. Think of it like having them take off the crappy colored glasses they were wearing. Whether we use a relaxed state like trance to dissociate, have them watch a movie of the problem scene or have them pull out the kinesthetic (like taking the spin out of the body), we are inviting them to step out of the problem state. Dissociation is like removing the emotion from the memory. That's just a few examples of how we get to step two.
Step three is to have them access a resource state. To help them into how they want to feel in that situation. If you tried to do this without the dissociation of step two they would have a much harder time coming up with a resource or a solution because they would still be stuck in the negative emotional state, so every solution would be clouded by that.
We all do this pattern in many different ways. If you think of a typical hypnosis session we get them into trance (a neutral dissociated state) and give positive suggestions or visualizations to get them into a wonderful state. Or if you were regressing to cause, it's when you bring in the resources to comfort, forgive or even just inform the younger you. In the backward spin we put in laughter, EFT we tap it out. So step three is to put on a very different pair of glasses with which the client can see other options, opportunities and solutions.
Then in step four we bring the resource to the trigger and collapse it. So, from a state of strength, confidence, forgiveness or any other more positive state, we have them look at the problem. Then we condition it in by looping it around many times till the very thing that caused the problem, now becomes the automatic trigger for the resource state. Then we future pace to a bunch of other examples of where, in the past, they might have had a problem, but now can feel the better state come up. This allows the change to spread and go generative.
I'll be teaching different ways of doing this pattern in Daytona. One of my favorite teachers, John Overdurf, taught me a purely conversationally way of doing this. It's changed what I do with clients in more ways than I can think of. Consciously.
IACT: Many practitioners have a collection of inspirational success stories to share from their years of practice. Is there a case history that has impacted the way you work? If so, perhaps you’d be willing to share the story.
Melissa: Wow, that's a hard one. I think almost every case impacts the way I work. I would have to say, learning how to let go of my chronic migraines was pivotal in how I work with emotional and physical pain. I had them for 25 years. The protocol I designed around what I did for myself has helped me to help many people let go of chronic pain syndromes and continues to inform how I work.
As I'm typing, all these different clients are going through my head and trying to pick one is like asking me my favorite desert. I see my one client's swollen hand going down before our eyes, hives disappearing as if by magic, panic attacks turning into giggling, breech babies turning around, women delivering babies with a smile, asthma clearing with a direct command, allergies gone in a session and my daughter when she was four taking her pre-k teacher's migraine away with EFT.
Aren't we blessed to be able to do what we do? Thanks for the question. You are allowing me to start my morning off with an amazing wave of gratitude.
I should also mention the fact that some of my most powerful learning has come from the clients that I didn't help as I would have liked. They inspired me to keep trying new approaches, expanding my tool kit and sometimes changing my whole view of certain conditions. I think these sessions taught me how to dance in ways I never knew I could.
IACT: In closing, what final thoughts would you like to leave us with regarding Integrative Hypnosis and it’s impact on the clients we assist.
Melissa: I think it's important to remember that there are many ways to change and that ultimately we do what the client believes they need in order to heal. Not what we believe they need. If we shift beliefs congruently then the inner healing process gets activated. Research on the placebo effect gives us a glimpse into what's possible when we believe.
So having many different approaches gives us that flexibility. I have played the witchdoctor when my client was convinced he was hexed and I've given children magic spells to get rid of the ghosts under their beds.
I'm willing to think outside the box because I ditched the box years ago. Being an Integrative Hypnotist is an ambiguous enough title where nobody knows exactly what to expect. And neither do I.
IACT: Once again, thank you for this interview. It's been a real pleasure exploring the unlimited possibilities of Integrative Hypnosis with you.
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About the Author
Melissa Tiers, DCH, DAH, is the founder of The Center for Integrative Hypnosis with a private practice in New York City. She teaches classes in Integrative Hypnosis, In-Depth NLP, Energy Psychology and Mental Health Coaching. Melissa is a published author and an adjunct faculty member of The Open Center, The Tri-State College of Acupuncture and The Nursing Continuum at Beth Israel School of Nursing. Melissa is the recipient of the 2011 IMDHA Pen and Quill Award for her book, Integrative Hypnosis: A Comprehensive Course in Change. Learn more about Melissa at www.melissatiers.com.