Hypnotherapy For Children & Youth

By Randi Farkas, MA, MFT, © Copyright 2008.

Hypnotherapy Has Helped Kids With

  • The most common challenge is some kind of anxiety or fear. These situations include performance anxiety (test-taking, public speaking, sports); medical or dental visits, and also ongoing medical interventions for chronic illness; school phobia; and such common but often terrifying fears as fear of the dark.
  • Hypnotherapy helps with anything that involves letting go of problematic memories.
  • Hypnotherapy helps with pediatric asthma and a wide range of medical problems.
  • Hypnotherapy helps with nightmares.

Hypnotherapy Can Help In The Following Areas

Spirit: It can help with post-traumatic stress; creativity; boundary issues; adoption issues.

Body: It can help stuttering; sports; bleeding and pain including menstrual cramps; asthma; skin problems; enuresis; headaches; pre and post-surgery; comfort during terminal illness.

Mind: It can help issues like, “I hate arithmetic” and other beliefs about oneself which block learning, growth and healthy self-esteem.

Emotions: It can help with difficulty accepting a new sibling, or a divorce; death of a pet, friend or family member; trauma of a car accident, fire or assault; fears and phobias, which are numerous in some children.

Social: It can help with friendship skills; setting healthy boundaries with bullies and with friends.

Brief Description Of Hypnotherapy

  • Hypnotherapy is a method for accessing and changing buried memories, fears or habits that interfere with the full expression of the child’s true nature. The bonus of using Hypnotherapy, as compared to other equally effective modalities like play therapy, art or drama therapy, is that with Hypnotherapy, many issues can be resolved in a handful of sessions. Often one meeting is all it takes to resolve a child’s problem.
  • Hypnotherapy is a naturally-occurring state, easily observed in children when they stop playing and stare off into space. Teens and adults experience Hypnotherapy while watching a movie, listening to music, daydreaming, or driving “on automatic pilot” while thinking about something else. The feeling is generally of relaxation coupled with intent focus and receptiveness.
  • “We might compare it to a teeter-totter. In the waking state the conscious mind is at the high end of the teeter-totter and the subconscious mind at the low end. Under Hypnotherapy they reverse and the subconscious is at the high end, and the conscious mind at the low end, but it is still present. Thoughts rise from the inner mind into consciousness.” Leslie M. LeCron
  • Hypnotherapy uses this natural state to bring about positive change by engaging the child with a game, story or some other focus of interest.
  • Next comes the healing work: suggestions are given that help the child believe and act in new ways. These suggestions may be quite concrete and matter-of-fact (“Would it be alright for the pain to move to the tip of your little finger?”). Or, they may be presented in images and metaphors. For example, a story about a sad little dog being adopted by a loving family might help a child connect to her adoptive family. Or the image of a rain cloud letting go of its drops of water at exactly the right time for the farmers’ fields could help with persistent bed-wetting. A professional hypnotist always asks the child’s subconscious mind for permission to deal with a topic.
  • How the hypnotist decides to work depends on both her/his style and what they’ve observed about the child. Often, children like the idea of creating a “control room” in their minds where they can view their problem on a screen, making it smaller or different to bring about the desired results. Or the healing work may consist of a story constructed to echo the child’s situation but with a twist that brings about positive change. The idea here is to allow the child to tap into their imagination in order to free themselves from the problem.

Success With Hypnotherapy

  • Tracy, a thirteen year old girl, had refused dental work for years. She developed gum disease and was at risk of losing teeth. In one session she figured out a way to control the situation with her subconscious mind. She decided she’d like to distract herself with a favorite TV show. She laughed as she imagined it. I asked if there were some words to describe how she was feeling, and she giggled, “This is outrageously funny!”. We practiced letting those words take her into a delightful state, free of fear or pain.

I talked with her dental assistant, who agreed to say the phrase “This is outrageously funny!” when Tracy was ready for her procedure. With the cue, Tracy was able to enter and maintain her private fantasy of watching an absorbing, comical show in her imagination while she was sitting in the dental chair.

In more traditional therapy, we would have looked for and talked about the origins of Tracy’s dental phobia. These different approaches don’t need to be seen as opposite; rather, they are along a continuum and sometimes blend together.

  • A boy I’ll call Kenny was the one who convinced me years ago that I was on the right track offering Hypnotherapy to children suffering from post-traumatic stress.

With a few figures and blocks as props, he acted out a horrible car accident that had taken place near his house. Showing all the signs of being in a light trance, he re-enacted the scene several times. Each time the damage was milder. By the end, the figure representing Kenny was able to say, “Whew, I’m glad that’s over. It’s not as bad as I was afraid it was.”

  • The following is a story from Sister Xavier McPhee, a wonderful local Hypnotherapy practitioner and teacher who died recently: “James, a 6-year old boy, had dreadful asthma, used a nebulizer, and was on medication. He was often rushed to the hospital.

I asked him what he did with things he didn’t want anymore. He said he threw them in the trash. In trance, I asked him to put the asthma and the memory of it in the garbage. He had no further asthma attacks after that.”

  • We work on the memories that created the ongoing anxiety or fear. For instance, “an 8-year old girl was petrified of loud noises and would start crying uncontrollably whenever she heard them. From her mother I learned the girl had been born in a very noisy hospital environment. In three hypnosis sessions the child was able to recall and release the effects of the birth memories freeing her from her fear of loud noises.”

Hypnotherapy Is Appropriate For Ages

  • All ages beyond two

Children & Youth’s Reactions to Hypnotherapy

  • They love it because it uses their own power.
  • It’s mysterious and magical.
  • Learning how to go into a trance is, for most children, a skill like bike riding which they enjoy mastering and which, once learned, they never forget.
  • Children respond to Hypnotherapy with enjoyment, pride and sometimes a shrug of “no big deal”.
  • One boy gleefully commented, “This is weird, weirder than weird.”
  • Sometimes a child will not want to talk about the experience, which should be respected.
  • Teens report enjoying Hypnotherapy for the opportunity to take a break from stress: they like the relaxation, the vivid imagery, and the sense of control.

Contraindications: When Hypnotherapy Should Be Avoided

  • If the child or youth is very seriously emotionally disturbed or dissociated, cannot follow directions, or is too frightened to relax.
  • A child or youth with epilepsy may need special strategies for entering trance.


  • Strongly-accented singing, clapping, repetitious dancing, rhythmic language (including poetry), marching, and certain visual patterns are entries to this state which have been used throughout humanity’s history.
  • Hypnotherapy was enthusiastically researched from the 1700’s on.
  • It fell out of popularity during the early 20th century. However it regained favor after World War II with successful treatment of battlefield injuries and “shellshock”.
  • The last twenty years have seen Hypnotherapy reach its peak of acceptance by the medical community and the general public.
  • Most medical benefits include coverage for hypnotherapy as a form of psychotherapy.

Basic Concepts And Components Of Hypnotherapy

  • Hypnotherapy is an altered state of consciousness, which people may go into when they concentrate on something, meditate, relax and let their minds drift, or when they are faced with a mind-altering stressor.
  • Working with a hypnotist is a way of using this state intentionally for positive benefits.
  • Hypnotherapy works with the part of the mind that dreams and imagines. Sometimes we refer to it as the subconscious mind, or inner mind.
  • The child has the control. The hypnosis therapist follows the nonverbal and spoken cues of the child to bring about healing.
  • Because the subconscious mind can access new ways of looking at things and solving problems as it bypasses a child’s everyday way of thinking, Hypnotherapy can help children with many challenges both mild and severe. For example, a rash can be seen as a burning desire to express oneself, and appropriate ways to do that will just “pop” into one’s mind.
  • While in trance, hand signals may be used by the patient to indicate “yes” or “no”.
  • We work on the memories that created the ongoing anxiety or fear.
  • Hypnosis is almost always successful, if the person is able to relax.
  • What happens in the first session is a good indicator of whether or not Hypnotherapy is going to be successful with a particular child and topic.
  • Hypnotherapy is not long-term therapy.
  • No one ever “stays in trance” or does things they don’t want to do.

Description Of A Typical Session

  • A history is taken from parents before the child or youth comes in. It’s important to find out what the family has already tried in order to resolve the issue for which they are seeking help.
  • Children are made comfortable by choosing their own chair or sitting on the rug. If a child wants her/his parent present, that’s fine.
  • To an onlooker, the therapy may resemble storytelling or an art activity.
  • There may be silences. The child may have their eyes open, or closed.
  • Some children move about while in trance; this doesn’t interfere with the work.
  • If the child is wary I sometimes ask him/her to help me hypnotize his parent, or me.
  • I respect the child’s subconscious mind. They must be told very directly what is going to be done.
  • Imagery, repetition and humor are common features of hypnotherapy.
  • Suggestions are always positive and in the present tense. For example, “It feels so good to sleep all through the night” rather than “I’m not going to lie awake at night anymore.”
  • I often give children a special object like a rock or a shell to take with them. The object can help the child re-enter the trance or simply become “peaceful” on their own.

Fees/Costs In 2007 - Northern California

  • In the Bay Area, fees range from $70 to $125 per session.
  • Some practitioners offer sliding scale fees, and health insurance may apply, depending on your provider.
  • Often, follow-ups are briefer and thus have a lower fee.

Average Time Per Session

  • Sessions are usually an hour.
  • The length of sessions depends on the age and distractibility of the child.
  • With a young child, it’s common to do shorter sessions.

Recommended Length Of Time Between Sessions

  • One week
  • If in crisis, 2 or 3 days (a rare occurrence)

Estimated Length Of Time Before Improvements Can Be Expected

  • Improvement is often achieved in one trance session.
  • There is rarely a child who does not resolve challenges within a few sessions.

Suggestions To Make Hypnotherapy More Effective

  • Parents can sit in on sessions - out of the child’s view. In this way, parents can provide safety for the child and can see the changes.
  • Parents can show approval for Hypnotherapy and for any changes in attitude and behavior. But again, sometimes it’s better not to talk about the changes. Ask your practitioner for their opinion.
  • A parent can also be hypnotized so the child can see that it is safe.

Other Methods That Are Similar To Hypnotherapy

  • Meditation
  • Contemplation
  • Dream Reentry (Therapeutic Imaging)

Other Methods That Complement Hypnotherapy

  • Games, stories, play, and mystery activate the imaginative mind.

Special Training Needed To Work With Children & Youth

  • Nationwide, professional associations and individual practitioners such as child psychologists and medical doctors offer trainings focused on child and adolescent issues for hypnotherapists.
  • Sadly, not many hypnotherapists are trained in working with children. People who like children and have experience such as teaching or child-care are usually the ones who specialize in working with them.

Certification/Licenses Held By Practitioners

  • While some people hold that Hypnotherapy practitioners should also be licensed to practice medicine or psychotherapy, I don’t agree with this. I have received training from highly professional, expert hypnotherapists who do not hold clinical licenses.
  • The reason that hypnotherapy is not regulated by the state of California is that it is not held to be a dangerous or high-risk practice.
  • As with any health-care provider, a parent should ask for and check out references and use their own common sense when interviewing a potential hypnotist.
  • Most practitioners in Sonoma County have at minimum 100-150 hours of basic training. This is the minimum coursework for “certification” which, again, is not required in California. Anyone who is a serious, ethical professional follows up with continuing education and consults with his peers on a regular basis.
  • The American Society of Clinical Hypnotherapy requires that a trainee must be licensed as a practitioner of another healing art (psychology, medicine, counseling, nursing, dentistry).

Professional Associations To Contact For Names Of Local Practitioners

  • The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis; 140 N. Bloomingdale Rd. Bloomingdale, IL 60108; Ph: 630-980-4740; Fax 630-351-8490; Website: www.asch.net; Email:info@asch.net
  • The Milton H. Erickson Foundation; 3606 North 24th Street; Phoenix, AZ 85016; Ph: 602-956-6196; Fax 602-956-0519; Website: www.erickson-foundation.org; Email: office@erickson-foundation.org
  • RECAMFT (Redwood Empire Chapter of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists), has a referral service and can provide names of licensed MFTs (Marriage and Family Therapists) who specialize in hypnotherapy in Sonoma County. RECAMFT; P. O. Box 2443; Sebastopol, CA 95473; Telephone/Fax: 707-575-0596; Website: www.recamft.org; Email: therapy@RECAMFT.org
  • The California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) maintains a database of licensed California professional therapists. Website: www.camft.org; then click on therapistfinder.com

What To Look For When Choosing The Best Practitioner

  • Ask for references from people you know such as pediatricians, principals and school counselors. I receive many referrals from school counselors.
  • Look for experience and maturity, and someone who has a good attitude toward children: trusting, loving and caring with the ability to build rapport.
  • Follow the guidelines for choosing any healthcare provider: look for clear communication; upfront discussion of fees; respect for you and your child; and a willingness to collaborate with other professionals who may be involved with your child.
  • If the presenting problem is a physiological one, be sure the child has had a recent medical evaluation and be willing to provide a release for the hypnotist to speak with your child’s doctor.
  • Caveat: If a practitioner is taught by someone who is not licensed as a healthcare provider, they may not learn reliable information regarding psychological issues, particularly those concerning children.

Famous Practitioners/Famous Centers


  • Olness et al: (1998) Wart Regression in Children, in The American Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy.
  • Ames, R., Madrid, A., Skolek, S., and Brown, G. “Does Maternal-Infant Bonding Therapy Improve Breathing in Asthmatic Children?” The Journal of the Association of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health 15, no. 2 (2000): 99-117.
  • The journal that has great articles about Hypnotherapy in general is the American Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy. When you access ASCH’s website (see above), you can find short versions of articles.
  • Haley, Jay. Uncommon Therapy: The Psychiatric Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. New York: W.W. Norton, 1993.
  • Olness, Karen and Daniel Kohen. Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy with Children: Third Edition. New York: The Guilford Press, 1996.
  • Temes, Roberta: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Hypnosis, 2nd Edition. New York: Alpha Books, 2004.
  • Mills, Joyce and Richard Crowley. Therapeutic Metaphors for Children and the Child Within. Philadelphia: Brunner/Mazel, 1986.
  • Duke, Robert. Hypnotherapy for Troubled Children. East Rutherford, NJ: New Horizon Press, 1985.

Biography of Randi Farkas, MA, MFT, Author

  • Randi has twenty-three years of experience working with children & youth.
  • Randi has a private practice as a Marriage and Family Therapist. Hypnotherapy is not the only modality she uses, but it her my favorite. Adolescents make up half of her practice. She sees younger children only for hypnotherapy or as part of a family.
  • Degrees: She earned an MS in Education; MA in Counseling; Special Education Certification; CA Marriage and Family Therapist license; EMDR Level II training; holds certificates in specialized areas of Hypnotherapy.

Randi Farkas’ Personal Statement

One of my special interests is working with the mother and/or father of a child who’s dealing with physical or emotional issues.

I have been strongly influenced by Tony Madrid’s work with the parent-child bond. This powerful connection, which has a strong impact on a child’s (and family’s) well-being, is quite amenable to positive change using Hypnotherapy with the parent(s). Also, teaching self-Hypnotherapy to both adults and children is one of my loves, and I incorporate that into much of my work.

To Contact Randi Farkas, Who Contributed This Chapter

Randi Farkas; 555 W. College Ave.; Santa Rosa, CA 95401; Ph: 707-578-5321; Fax: 707-578-5321

Marie Mulligan’s Comment About Hypnotherapy: In my experience, Hypnotherapy has been useful in helping children & youth with headaches and reducing anxiety. I recommend seeking care from a hypnotherapist who is licensed in another healing modality, such as psychotherapist, psychologist, nurse, etc.

Rick Geggie’s Comment About Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy works very well with most children suffering from most emotionally based problems. I have seen children and adults experience quite amazing changes of negative belief, attitude and performance after they have had hypnotherapy sessions. Experienced, trained, licensed psychotherapists who use hypnotherapy and who like working with children can help in profound and positive ways in a short period of time. I look forward to the day when it is used routinely to increase learning and performance levels.

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