What is it and how does it work?

There are many aversion therapy approaches for behavioral conditioning, but I will comment here on ones used in the hypnotherapeutic setting.

The purpose of aversion therapy is to stop or prevent an undesired habit or behavior. It can be applied to actions such as nail biting, smoking, over-eating, alcohol consumption, pornography use, gambling and more!

A basic rule of the mind is that every behavior serves a benefit to us, whether the results of that behavior appears to be beneficial or not. As we develop, we take on beliefs and patterns of behavior or habits that help us to cope. For example, a teen may start smoking to exert freedom of choice during a time when most other aspects of her life is controlled by others. Years later, those cigarettes are controlling her, but her subconscious mind is still operating under the assumption that the habit is giving her freedom.

Understanding that every behavior meets a need, whether it is outdated or not, helps us to also understand that changing behavior is not a matter of will power or rational thought since it is being driven by the emotional, creative part of our mind.

This is where aversion therapy can help. Since the subconscious, emotional thought process usually trumps over the conscious, rational thought process, change is created therein. By changing the way a person FEELS about a certain habit, actions can be redirected.

A common use of aversion therapy in hypnosis is to help a client break an obsession with a particular food. Perhaps she constantly craves sweets, cookies and cakes, for example. You might even say that she has become hypnotized to love these foods!

Trance state is created through hypnosis to open the imagination and, using the client's pre-suggested imagery, anchor images and feelings to the sweets that would repel her away from them. Because this is instilled while in trance, the subconscious accepts these ideas and serves them up at future times whenever the client's thoughts go to the sweets, whether they are just imagined or actually present.

Through this process, behavior is changed. It is important to point out that aversion therapy is a negative experience however and, in my opinion, requires full agreement and willing participation from the client. I make sure it is always balanced with a realistic program of creating positive and healthy imagery and goals.

I have experienced aversion therapy to be very helpful in "de-hypnotizing" clients from particular substances and find it to be a complementary adjunct to a well-rounded approach for habit resolution.