So lets look at a simple potential contributor to hypnotisability today… That of age.
Are we more responsive as a result of how many years we have been on the planet? It would actually seem so according to a lot of literature.
That said, most of the research done investigating an individual’s age has looked at children and their levels of responsiveness at varying stages of their lives.
Most of the evidence I can find leans towards the notion that people respond to hypnosis in some form at around the age of five years old, though there is a major shift in responsiveness between the age of 7 and 9 as we become very responsive at that age indeed. It is mainly the work of Hilgard in the late 1970s that I would cite as support for this, however, other authors have explored this with similar results. Then in general terms, evidence indicates that hypnotic responsiveness declines in our early teens and then remains at a bit of a constant throughout adulthood.
I have sometimes thought that the elderly may have been less responsive if they had no previous experience at all, but cannot find any evidence to suggest this is in any way true. A friend of mine in fact states that after a longer life, he finds more mature clients in his hypnotherapy practice to be more susceptible. Both of us are merely quoting subjectively.
Throughout my own career, I have worked with children on odd occasions (I usually refer to specialists) and found them to be very receptive; having imaginations that seem to help enhance any imagery interventions used therapeutically. Many of my professional peers that work with lots of children also say how easy they grasp role play style interventions too. Though children may well respond well to hypnosis per sé, it is usually accepted that any therapeutic interventions need to be tailored for use with children. Children are less developed, with lesser vocabularies, limited life experience and so on. In a 2002 edition of the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, an article entitled Hypnotic responsivity from a developmental perspective by Vandenburg supported this notion.
One of the problems that sometimes inhibits a child’s responsiveness to hypnosis – or rather, a hypnotherapists ability to work with a child – may well be that children don’t like to sit still for lengthy periods of time. Whereas adults often become very insular and still as they focus, some even experiencing catalepsy of some kind, children are quite different. Children often fidget, scratch, shuffle and get distracted – I know I used to struggle to sit through school assembly without my teacher muttering “Eason… Sit still boy” let alone being asked to sit in a new room with a stranger and asked to focus accordingly. I was never able to sit like this…
The work of Olness and Kohen in 1996 Hypnosis and hypnotherapy with children however, suggests that despite having a fidget, children are still often engaged with what the hypnotherapist is saying. Even if they appear not to be so, they are still involved and following along in a lot of cases.
Now this is not a blog entry exploring how to work effectively with children… However, the notion of age in regards to hypnotisability is actually a small consideration. I’d say that age may well help influence the choice of approach and manner of the therapeutic intervention in some way, but does not really play an important part in hypnotisability… There are some important considerations though, and I am going to start exploring them tomorrow.