I’ve had to wait a long time to say this, but it suddenly struck me recently that all the comic-book technological fantasies we had when I was young are finally becoming reality.
Remember imagining how one day we might have big flat TVs you could hang on the wall? Well, I’ve got one now. A mini-computer you can keep in your pocket? Got that too. Little screens you can carry round that contain an entire library? Got a couple of them.
All those fantasies that seemed like something out of Dan Dare have now, finally, come to pass. Technological advances seem to be coming thick and fast.
Years ago, I had a quote displayed on my wall: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” It was attributed to Charles H Duell, who was the boss of the US Patent Office in 1899. Knowing what we now know, it was clearly laughable – as well as a powerful reminder that we must always keep looking forwards.
It now turns out that the unfortunate Mr Duell was misquoted, which is a shame as I really wanted that quote to be true. Even so, one wonders what Mr Duell would have thought about how aeroplanes, trains and cars have developed in the last 112 years, how scientific and medical discoveries have benefited mankind, and how technology has transformed our world (at least some of it for the better).
I was thinking of Mr Duell the other day. And I was thinking too of Franz Mesmer, James Braid (“founder of hypnotherapy”) and other greats of the past such as Sigmund Freud, who also dabbled in hypnotherapy.
I was wondering what they would have made of the hypnotherapy session I had just concluded, using technology that could open up so many possibilities for the future. I had been using Skype on my iPad as part of an experiment I’ve been conducting with friends, and friends of friends.
My question was: is it realistic to use this technology for clients?
Of course, there’s nothing new about video links, and Skype is just a way of phoning. Even Charles H Duell was familiar with the phone. But the portability of the iPad seems to me to take long-distance therapeutic possibilities to another level.
When an old friend who lives in the south of France told me about an issue he had, I realised that this was my chance. So we set up an appointment and I called him on Skype. He could see me, I could see him… we had a chat, he described his problem, and half an hour later, that problem had been transformed into something that, in his mind, looked much less like the problem that had been affecting his life since he was a small child.
Would I mind helping his wife? Of course not… another Skype appointment on my iPad, another session, and she has since told me she feels so much better.
OK, so these were friends. The next question in my mind was: could I make this work with someone I had never met? Luckily, a former colleague living 180 miles away knew just the person: his wife. Another Skype appointment followed, beginning with a chat in which I discovered that a fear of spiders – a very common phobia, as we know – was affecting her life in a significant way. Half an hour later, the fear she felt had reduced from a 10, on a scale of 1 to 10, down to about a 3. Her subsequent thank-you message suggested that she was another satisfied customer.
Now I’m wondering how far I can go with this. I’m hoping to set up a long-distance session with someone with a more complicated issue so I can try a more complex intervention, and I think I know just the person.
So I’m already seeing the pros, but are there any cons? Somebody asked what would happen if the connection got cut off in mid-session. Well, I’m not the sort of hypnotherapist who believes that someone in “trance” is going to be stuck in some weird place for ever. The worst that could happen is that the client would eventually open his or her eyes and wonder why my nice soothing voice came to an abrupt end.
What about building rapport with my client? Good question, but my ex-colleague’s wife proved to me that a video screen is no barrier. I intend to explore this further.
I’m excited by the possibilities. If this works, it means my potential for helping people has gone global – it’s no longer limited by clients’ physical constraints in getting to my south east London therapy room. It could mean too that my iPad will have been a more than worthwhile investment (even if it has got my wife addicted to Angry Birds). And it means that I will now have to start to open my mind even more to the possibilities of using new technologies for therapeutic purposes.
Maybe soon I will be able to look for paying clients who would be happy to work with me from the comfort of their own homes. For some, this could be reassuring: having access to therapy without the nervousness that sometimes goes hand in hand with visiting an unknown therapist in a strange place.
I don’t know what Mesmer or Braid would make of this, but I suspect that Charles H Duell would be delighted to see that new inventions are still being patented – and that they are being used to help people to feel better and happier in the modern world.
Nick Jenkins BA MFHT HPD DipCHyp NLP Pract MNCH (Lic) Hypnotherapist – Penge, South East