The new neuroscanning device made for hypnotherapists

hypnophix

Written by APHP

June 5, 2024

My name is Simon and I am the inventor of the neuroscan device. The first affordable easy to use neuroscanning device made for hypnotherapists by a hypnotherapist.

 

 

I am also a qualified clinical hypnotherapist so I know exactly what it is like to go through the training process and then onwards into practice seeing clients.

 

Like others, I kind of stumbled into hypnotherapy having already had a separate career elsewhere outside of psychotherapy. My Daughter who at the time was 22 years old told me she was about to embark on a year-long training course to be a clinical hypnotherapist having studied psychology at University.

Oh, I said that sounds interesting. Having recently sold my business and pretending to have retired I asked if it would be OK if I did the course as well as it would be something we could do together.

 

As she was getting older and had moved away from home we did not spend as much time together as we used to so really it was just a way of spending time with her.

 

We both completed the course, got our shiny diplomas and set up our clinics. She dealt mainly with General anxiety disorders and I branched into couples therapy which I found very rewarding.

 

As my practice grew and I was seeing more and more couples, my day was full and busy with clients suddenly one day I did not feel great and spent the afternoon in bed struggling to breathe fully and feeling very dizzy. After a couple of days, I ended up in hospital and after lots of tests I was diagnosed with something called Dilated CardioMyopathy which put simply is heart failure. A life-limiting condition which in practical terms means 20 tablets a day and drowsiness that comes out of nowhere and is totally debilitating.

 

I realised that it would be impossible going forward to make arrangements to see clients anymore in person especially in that first year as the medication was taking its toll on me mentally and physically.

 

I knew though even though for the time being at least I could not see clients I was still drawn to hypnotherapy as a process for wellbeing.

 

I had seen with my own eyes couples who came in to see me full of resentment, hate, jealousy, mistrust or even just general boredom with each other, leaving the clinic even after the first session with hope for a future together and a renewed sense of love and respect for each other thought long forgotten. How the heck did I do that?I used to ponder to myself.

 

From the beginning of my journey into Hypnotherapy, I was drawn toward the science side of things. By that I mean I could see my clients change from session to session and I could reason with myself that in some part this collaborative empathetic process was having an effect on the client in a positive way but I kept wondering about the science of it all. Of course, I also, like you probably had clients who reported “nothing happened” during trance. As a therapist, this could be crushing, or at least it was until I understood better that whilst a large percentage of clients don’t go into some deep, somnambulism trance most experience a light trance state which in most cases is enough to bypass or at least lessen the influence of the critical mind.

 

 

Everybody in our industry is fully aware that a large swathe of the population sees hypnotherapy as some pseudo-science of smoke and mirrors and yet we know it as the oldest Western recognised form of psychotherapy, we know it as a form of therapy that works, a form of therapy that has helped thousands of clients in need. We know it because we see it working, day in and day out in our clinics. It was frustrating for me as a therapist to be constantly defending hypnosis as a real science to both clients and friends.

 

I wanted to bring the neuroscience I had read on paper to life.

 

In our training, we had a module on neuroscience so I had a grasp of the reason why hypnotherapy should be effective.

 

We all know this is down to neuroplasticity. The fact that the brain is capable of basically rewiring a new neural pathway,….. A change…. A  choice that can become a habit, but for neuroplasticity to occur the brain state has to be receptive to change. We know this ideal state to be when the brain patterns are somewhere between low Theta and mid-Alpha or put another way lower levels of focus with higher levels of calm. This is receptive.

 

So the idea was formed… Create a device for use in a session that is simple for a therapist to interpret and gives live feedback about the current brain state of the client further allowing the therapist to self-train as to which aspects of the session the client is most receptive to.

 

 

 

Trying to do this I came to realise is slightly more complex than I thought.

 

Even now we don’t fully understand how the brain works and even if we did then how do we separate the brain from the mind?  We use these words interchangeably every day The brain is a physical organ. We can touch it, we can dissect it, we can analyse it. The mind is ethereal and intangible and yet it controls our thoughts, our feelings and the way we behave about things.

 

Science tells us through neuroplasticity we can change the way we think about things. we know this to be true, How many times have we heard the simple statement “I’ve changed my mind” We don’t hear as often “I’ve changed my brain”

 

These two things, the mind and the brain although separate are connected and are to a large extent dependent on each other. The mind uses the brain and the brain responds to the mind, The mind is the Boss. People choose their actions by using their mind

Ok so.. so far so good. We know through neuroscience that the brain creates neural activity which since the beginning of use of the EEG machines in the 1920’s we have been able to measure in waveform.

We know having studied waveforms that depending on the current emotional state a human can be said to be in a certain dominant state of neural activity ranging from fast asleep at Delta brain patterns to super high focus Gamma waveforms

 

 

We are taught that mid-alpha to theta waveforms would evidence trance. This was based on lots of work in clinical settings with neurologists, so that’s what I, like you would aim to achieve in session, but how did I know if the client was reaching this receptive state or not? And indeed did it matter?

 

I figured that if I could develop a device that gave brain feedback in real time then it would be a great help to both students of hypnotherapy and practitioners and of course, therefore, be of benefit to clients.

 

Let me explain my thinking a bit more

 

I don’t know about you but when I was in training those first trance sessions were scary. I felt like an imposter, I mean I was reading the scripts doing the induction and deepener but even so, I had no real way of knowing if the person I was practising on was actually in the calm, relaxed state I hoped they would be. I wondered should my voice be more commanding and instructional, more soothing and inviting. I wondered if my fellow students were saying they were in a trance just to please my ego when really that was all they were doing.

I imagined even then, early on that perhaps I could create some evidence-based real-time system that would give me feedback as to if the words that were coming out of my mouth were actually making a difference.

 

When I started actually practising and was out on my own I was still becoming kind of obsessed with the science part. As we know people often visit hypnotherapists as some sort of last resort having tried other methods to create a different or better outcome to their lives, to get rid of phobias, to rid themselves of anxiety, to help overcome grief and many other things  As we now know the brain can change through neuroplasticity, in effect brain training and repetition, we believe that with the majority of clients the more sessions they have the more they feel comfortable and look forward to the trance part of the session the more they think of it as some sort of reward and the quicker each session they go into trance. I wanted to create something that would prove that.

What if I could shorten my deepener and go early into the body of the trance and spend more time there, surely that would be of more benefit to the client?

What if I could pace my suggestions based upon live neural feedback from the client?

What if I was doing a hypnotherapy phobia technique and I could see inside the client’s brain to see their fear progressing to tolerance and then calm? How good would that be?

 

Professor David Spiegel of Stamford University is a very senior and serious scientist who carried out a study of what happens to the brain during hypnotherapy, he came out with a very interesting point. Of the 545 participants he studied as part of a trial only 36 were found to be highly hypnotisable(able to achieve constant low theta in session) and 21 were on the extreme low end of not being hypnotisable at all which left 488 participants in the middle ground.

This is where I had my moment of pause. I needed to consider and make allowances for the fact that not everybody is capable of trance and some (in fact the majority) only enter a very light trance.

Was this a failure on the part of the therapist? Assuming we are good at our job and the answer to that is no, then we have to work with what the client presents with.

We can safely assume that if a person arrives in the clinic anxious and leaves in a calm relaxed state then something has happened within the session which has been of benefit to the client. We believe we know as therapists what has occurred and the reason behind it but I wanted to know what was going on in the brain, what is the mind telling the brain in session? how can this be measurable and beneficial to the therapist and client in practice?

If we can for the sake of argument define trance as a state when you are more absorbed in your thoughts and your imagination than the immediacy of your environment then this promotes certain neural activity which to a greater or lesser extent utilises all five brainwave forms but shows dominance in Theta and mid to low Alpha.

In other words, I needed to be able to interpret and display the relationship between focus and calm and cross the brain/mind bridge in terms of understanding the relationship between each other and being able to measure in simple terms if calm goes up and focus goes down during a session then the client could be said to be either in trance or heading toward trance or perhaps put another way a receptive state. That is after all what we are looking for as therapists, a client to be receptive to change for change to occur.

 

In the past, I had used GSR meters to assist me in my work but the limitations did not excite me. It utilises bio-feedback rather than neurofeedback It is simply a high or low arousal indicator, both positive and negative stimuli could result in a high arousal and it all felt a bit dated and almost as if we had stolen it from another industry and somehow made it fit within ours.

 

So.. I thought all this would be helpful so I would go and buy a neural scanning device as wearable technology was becoming accessible.

 

For some strange reason, I thought such a thing existed and I could just buy it off the shelf. You can of course do this but you need about £300,000 and a couple of years of training to be able to interpret the data so that was a non-starter.

 

Back to the drawing board.. My next step, and why not, was Silicon Valley the American start-ups out there were doing amazing things with wearable tech for private individuals in the wellness and mindfulness market place they were evidencing neuroplasticity and that was fascinating.

 

I spoke with many companies and signed lots of non-disclosure agreements only to find that nobody had created anything for use by therapists. Everything was aimed at mass market use by individuals at home to try and for want of a better word “fix” them

 

So now all I had to do was create some software that could communicate with a wearable that would give feedback that would help a therapist in their clinical practice with clients.

 

I thought that would be easy and soon learned that it wasn’t.

 

I managed to get hold of a company in the UK that had the hardware and they pointed me back to Silicon Valley for the software.

 

Trying to explain the markers I was looking for specifically as a hypnotherapist was in itself a challenge I sent them all the scientific papers that had been written about trance state and EEG so I knew what I wanted. I wanted a system that read alpha and theta brainwaves (or so I thought) so we built a test system and it was a disaster

It showed Alpha brainwaves and it showed Theta brainwaves. It had stripped out delta, beta, and gamma. I didn’t think they would be relevant. We went into the testing phase and it was an “oh dear” moment. The data meant nothing it was just data that still needed to be interpreted and there was a bigger problem and that was one of the relationships between the brainwaves. The balance and synchronization of these brainwaves play a crucial role in overall brain function. You can’t have a Theta brainwave without some Alpha brainwave you can’t have an Alpha brainwave without some Beta brainwave and so on so it just was all too chaotic and difficult to interpret and having removed the relationship between the brainwaves the picture that formed was not a genuine representation of what was going on and I thought the project was sunk.

 

I then got a call from a man almost by accident. He was put in touch with me via someone else who had heard about what I was trying to achieve.

 

He was a neural software developer who had developed software for the NHS and Hospitals in the USA and also developed brain training tools for use by schools in assisting pupils with their development via the gamification of very complex neural data. we chatted for about 2 hours on the phone to start with and he understood what I was looking for at its core and  he understood how to build the algorithms that would interpret the relationship between the brainwaves in such a way that we could actively seek out within the brain the relationship between focus and calm and from there identify the peak state of receptiveness. Unlike a GSR meter I wanted this device to go further. I wanted it not to be a simple higher or lower device it had two identify two different states being focus and calm and then form a relationship between these two states. We can be focused and calm say if you were playing chess, and focused and not at all calm( say in driving test) these are two very different states of mind.

To be receptive in trance your mind has to begin to wander, hence focus goes down  and your levels of calm need to be high to be relaxed enough to be able to be receptive.

He understood I was not looking for a brain training device. I explained that the device is not to be intended as some sort of therapy substitute or to replace therapists. From the start I wanted it to be a tool for use within our industry by practitioners of hypnotherapy in session.

After a further 12 months of development emptying my bank account and 18 revisions I finally had what I had hoped for at the beginning of this journey.

 

 

An affordable, wearable easy to interpret device designed specifically for the clinical hypnotherapist for use in the session  Scanning the brain at 512 times every second The neuroscan device gives real-time, evidence-based scientific feedback to the therapist as to the client’s brain state. 

Science is a complex subject and neuroscience seems to be even more complex but at its core, it is our very being, it is what makes us humans, our thoughts,feelings, hopes, dreams and indeed our fears are all created, forged and changeable by little tiny pulses of electricity in the brain called brainwaves.  The neuroscan device allows you to see those brainwaves and using algorithms reinterprets them letting you truly see into the mind of your client.

To purchase the Neuroscan device just visit https://www.hypnophix.co.uk/neuroscan

 

Published : Jun 5, 2024