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Case Study: Hypnotherapy for Psoriasis

by Sally Stubbs(more info)

listed in skincare, originally published in issue 180 - March 2011

Stella, an elegant, neatly dressed, quiet, gentle woman, in her early fifties came to Work with me to resolve her symptoms of psoriasis. She had endured this skin condition on and off from her teens. However, for the past ten years, since her husband had suffered a severe stroke, from which medically it had been thought he would not recover his ability to walk and his use of language, the psoriasis had been continuous and had worsened over the years.


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At our first session of hypnotherapy Stella, hesitantly took off her rather formal grey blouse and grey tailored trousers, she shyly said she wanted me to see the extent to which her body, back, legs, chest and arms, was covered, around 80%, with red, flaky sore skin.

My heart is always totally with anyone who I am privileged to work with, and assist to a place of full aliveness, and positive health, but my heart went out to Stella at the sight of her pain showing itself on her body. Although in her every day life the psoriasis was hidden - there was none on her face, neck or hands - Stella told me that she felt increasingly embarrassed, frustrated and helpless.

Whenever I work with anyone, whatever difficulty the person presents is referred to as a symptom. I consider that the symptom has the solution; the symptom is a sign-post to the problem. 

In hypnotherapy work, we are working with the language of the unconscious; we create a safe space to enable the symptom to tell 'its' story in the way it wants, and needs to lead to the right resolutions for my client. Hypnotherapy work can therefore seem paradoxical, or contradictory to how we have learnt to think, in that mostly we put effort into getting rid of symptoms. Hypnotherapy is respectful of the symptom, enabling the symptom to tell its story which will then provide the information for change, solutions, resolution and inner healing.

I will give a very brief and simple, almost obvious example of what I mean.

Angela, age thirty six came to work with me, she told me that she had suffered with insomnia, and could not get a good night's sleep, for the past seven years. I asked the question: And when you cannot get a good night's sleep how do you know you cannot get a good nights sleep? Angela said that she was frightened of falling asleep.

Her fear contained her story. She was in a relationship with a man who was verbally abusive. She could not see a way out of it. To her friends and family this man was utterly charming; everyone loved him, and Angela lost belief in her perceptions and lost belief in herself. She tossed and turned at night because if she stayed with him she was damned to a painful tormented life, if she left she felt damned to everyone who she respected and cared about, thinking she was crazy.

Her tossing and turning through the night, instead of sleeping, was representing a stuck place for her; she had nowhere to go. So Angela's fear was not of sleep, but of being stuck. Together we restored her self belief, her inner certainty and her own direction in her life. She left him. She now sleeps well.

Although this appears to be a very simple example, we could say, the solution was obvious: Angela needed to get out of the painful relationship, but what had to happen first was to restore her self belief. Restoring self belief is a profound step; it has massively positive impact in every area of life.

Medically the exact causes of psoriasis are not known. It is considered to be a disruption of the auto immune system. Sudden stressful events or continuous daily stress can trigger psoriasis flares. Stella had been prescribed topical Steroids (creams), which damp down activity of immunes cells, through immunosuppressive properties. She wasn't getting any results, and as she did not like the idea of the cream, she stopped using it after a few weeks.

In a normally functioning immune system, white blood cells will produce antibodies to foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. But with psoriasis white blood cells called T cells become overactive. These T cells 'attack' the skin which sets off a series of events that make the skin cells multiply so fast that they stack up on the surface of the skin.

I always have in the back of mind that symptoms which manifest physically are trying to tell us something about the problem. I never impose this on my client, but keep as a consideration in my mind. So, for example symptoms such as psoriasis and hay fever, because the immune system has been compromised, are maybe letting us know that the person suffering with these has experienced some kind of emotional, psychological or 'spiritual' attack.

Alopecia, as another example, is maybe letting us know that the sufferer has experienced some kind of emotional 'loss'.

The hypnotherapy language that I use is called Clean Language, which is a series of 'clean' questions. Clean Language is the work of my late, great teacher and mentor David Grove and his partner Cei Davies; it never imports information into a person's unconscious 'landscape', such as analysis or interpretation, suggestions or resources, from the therapist. David Grove taught that a therapist is only as good as their next question. 

Clean Language

  • Is the means by which epistemological metaphors are developed. A metaphor is a container of information, and epistemology is how an individual uniquely knows, internally, an experience.  (Client one: And, when you're depressed how do you know you're depressed? I feel heavy in my heart. Client two: And when you're depressed how do you know you're depressed? It's like I'm in a very dark place....... Simplistically the: heavy in the heart, and the: dark place will contain the information to lead us towards solutions and then to resolutions and healing.);
  • It accesses primary processing language such as metaphors, symbols, sounds such as sighing, groaning and movements such as trembling;
  • It is the language of the intelligence of the original meaning of an experience.

When Stella first came to work with me she told me that she felt almost utterly helpless. In answer to my first question, what do you want to achieve? Stella did not say she wanted healthy skin, she said that she wanted to feel strong.

I asked: And when you don't feel strong and you feel almost utterly helpless, how do you know you don't feel strong? Stella went on to say that she felt this as a heavy feeling in the whole of her chest.

Question: And when you feel it in the whole of your chest, and it's heavy, what else is there about it in the whole of your chest when it's heavy?

Stella's story developed from this feeling. The whole of her chest felt like it was dark. I continued with clean language questions to develop the experience of heavy and dark in the whole of her chest. She said heavy and dark was shaped like a cube, a cage, made of solid black bars of iron.

To my next questions and what else could there be about a solid dark cage made of black bars of iron Stella answered:  "There is a bee trapped in the cage... The bee is floundering." "I am trapped in the cage. I can see a glimpse of some lovely hills in the distance......."

The younger part of Stella 'trapped in a 'cage' was aged thirteen. The summer of her thirteenth year Stella and her mother had gone together to a local tennis match, a favourite sport of theirs to watch. Her mother had been a semi invalid for as long as Stella could remember, and she made her way around in an electrically operated wheel chair.

Stella had been thoroughly absorbed in the close run tennis match; she cheered along with the small crowd and gasped as the scores were rivetingly close, when suddenly her mother slumped sideways. There was a massive flurry of activity as an ambulance was called for, but tragically Stella's mother had died.

A neighbour took Stella home, and very soon her father arrived to find Stella crying.  He told his young daughter that she must stop crying, and that everything was going to be OK.

The death of her mother was tragic, but the split, the trauma for Stella occurred when her father had told her to stop crying and that everything was going to be OK.

At this moment of realization in our work together, Stella wanted to pause and consider. She said that ever since she had been thirteen, any difficulty she'd had, from exam nerves at school to even being scared of snakes, to her having seen a therapist a number of years ago for her lack of self confidence had been blamed, by herself and others, on her mother's death.

Stella paused; she had a 'light bulb' or Epiphanic experience. Although of course her mother's death was tragic, Stella was prepared for it.  Her father's restricting injunction had trapped her, stuck in that moment in time of everything is going to be OK. So nothing ever reached a place, a state of: Everything is OK, Ok was always going to be in the future, Stella had been helpless, never able to know and feel OK.

OK could never be in the present.
Interpretations of events can persuade both clients and therapists away from the true focus of traumatic experiences.

To illustrate how important it is to keep on asking the clean language questions Stella needed to know that the bee was there, I will go into this reason in a moment; Stella also needed to know that she could:"....see a glimpse of some lovely hills in the distance." In terms of the: "...lovely hills in the distance..." basically, when we are in a place were we can bring about an intervention, that is a 'movement' towards something different, and out of the 'stuck' state, we need to know where we are going to, or we may not move, as we can fear that 'freedom' from the prison we've been in could be even worse than the 'prison' we've got to know and have learnt to adapt to its confines. And where we are going to, must always be the client's solution, not the therapists.

Stella arrived early for our third session; she wasn't quite as neat and elegant as when we first met!
I asked her: "How are you doing?" She answered she was: "Doing better. Stronger" I asked: "And, how do you know you're doing better and stronger?" Stella replied that she felt some freedom. "And what kind of freedom is that freedom, that's some freedom?"

Stella said: "The doors to the cage have opened, it's brighter and lighter and I want to move......"
This is an important moment of intervention, the question needs to be: And when it's brighter and lighter you want to move, can you move?" Stella answered "no, something needs to happen first." I asked: "And when something needs to happen first, what kind of something could that something be?" Stella took some time, and then answered: "The bee needs to show me the way." The bee could and did show her the way to move. And the way was to the hills.

The journey and the movement to the hills took another hour, time to address and compound all elements needed to form new knowledge, and information and to know it is OK to be OK.

Stella skin cleared completely within a few weeks and two year later there has been no recurrence of flares. Her clothes have movement and colour!

I am so happy to say that her husband did recover his use of  language and his ability to walk.

Further Information

Sally Stubbs' 40 day courses of half an hour a day are on CD; download on Solutions to Stress - Think Differently, Feel Differently and others. For further information enquiries to Sally Stubbs on Tel: 0330 555 1818;


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About Sally Stubbs

Sally Stubbs MNCP (Snr Accred) FACH DACH is a licensed Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist with advance training in cutting edge strategies with nearly 30 years solid therapeutic experience. Since 1990 she has been specifically writing and compiling her Therapeutic Courses, in the style of and based on the amazing and successful work of Dr Milton Erickson. Erickson is globally considered to be the 'Grand Father' of Hypnotherapeutic work, and she has been fortunate to study under his prodigy, Dr Ernest Rossi.

Her practice in the Lake District offers therapeutic courses on ailments such as stress, confidence, weight, smoking, phobias and Sally has treated well-known media figures including the columnist Liz Jones, and Brookside actor Steven Pinder as well as others. She has recently written a book called If Life Gives You Lemons - A Short Guide to Happiness and has launched a series of easy to follow CDs on these common ailments that enable you to achieve your goals by changing your mind patterns. Sally may be contacted on Tel: 017687 71377;

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