This is Part 2 of a review of the top 10 methods for reducing the fear of public speaking. In Part 1 I reviewed affirmations and visualization. In this post I explore the use of hypnosis and relaxation training.

3. Hypnosis

I have no personal experience of hypnosis, and as I began my research for this review I was reasonably sceptical. But I have now been enlightened. It’s clear that hypnotherapy is an effective treatment for many issues, including anxiety. The British Psychological Society published an authoritative report in 2001 entitled “The nature of hypnosis”. In relation to its use in therapy they concluded:

Enough studies have now accumulated to suggest that the inclusion of hypnotic procedures may be beneficial in the management and treatment of a wide range of conditions and problems encountered in the practice of medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy.

Many research studies also show that self-hypnosis can be effective.

What’s not so clear is how can you differentiate between the hundreds of different self-hypnosis tapes, CDs etc and their wild claims. I’ve spent many hours researching the effectiveness of self-hypnosis products and have found no independent sources to back-up their claims.

I did find this report on the effectiveness of different programmes of hypnosis, but was unable to find the original research:

Several investigators during the 1970’s and 1980’s provided clinical and experimental evidence about the effectiveness of hypnosis for smoking cessation, substance abuse, weight loss, phobias, depression, and anxiety. These results were summarized by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis as follows:
– Home study self-hypnosis: 2-5% success rate
– Group hypnosis session: 2-5% success rate
– Single individual session: 17-20% success rate
– Three individual sessions: 45-50% success rate
– Five individual sessions: 85-90% success rate

This data is old, but my overall impression is that a series of tailored one-on-one sessions from a professional hypnotherapist is a very different experience to listening to a CD you’ve bought on the internet. And likely to be much more effective.

4. Relaxation training

The fear that we feel about public speaking is the manifestation of the fight of flight response. The opposite of the fight or flight response is the relaxation response – first defined by Dr Herbert Benson.

So learning how to induce the relaxation response would seem to be a good antidote to the fear of public speaking. A review of 10 years of scientific studies of the effectiveness of relaxation techniques for the treatment of anxiety concluded:

The results show consistent and significant efficacy of relaxation training in reducing anxiety.

But here’s the thing. Suddenly trying out a relaxation exercise for the first time five minutes before your presentation is unlikely to work. You need to train your body to relax. The more you practice, the more easily you will be able to induce relaxation when you want to.

Here’s a list of sites where you can get information on relaxation training:

My next post in this series will be devoted to Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

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