Forensic Hypnosis helping trauma and other problems at 1066 Therapy
covering East Sussex, Battle, Hastings, Bexhill, Rye, Heathfield, Hailsham, Eastbourne, Crowborough, Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Ashford and Kent.
‘Forensic Hypnosis’ or ‘Forensic and Investigative Hypnosis’ to give its full title is a specialised group of techniques, used the world over, to enhance the memory recall of the victims and witnesses of crime and trauma.
In the UK, due to Home Office guidelines governing the use of forensic hypnosis, a group of forensic memory enhancing techniques has been developed called ‘F.I.M.E.T – Forensic and Investigative Memory Enhancing Techniques. These (F.I.M.E.T) techniques are based upon the very latest research, conducted by the world’s leading experts in human memory.
a) Experienced some kind of traumatic incident(s) and is struggling to process (get over) and come to terms with it and who also may be suffering some problems as a result of the incident or experience e.g. may have symptoms of PTSD.
b) Experienced some kind of traumatic incident(s) and has poor memory recall (or possibly none at all) about the experience(s) or incident.
c) Experienced some kind of traumatic incident(s), has poor memory recall (or possibly none at all) about the experience(s) and where the information gathered about the experience(s) may be used in Civil or Criminal legal proceedings.
‘Traumatic incidents’ include incidents such as rape or sexual assault, physical assault, war, serious accidents, witnessing sudden death, being mugged and so on.
How have these methods been used in the past?
Traditionally the (hypno)therapist/interviewer would tend to lead the session in the direction he/she (quite possibly wrongly) felt was most beneficial to the investigation/therapy; there would very likely be some preconceived ideas on his/her part about what occurred, along with perhaps some inappropriate suggestions at times, and all of this may well impact upon the traumatised person’s recall of the event.
In addition, the view held by many that hypnosis itself, including forensic hypnosis, is somehow ‘magical’ and has special memory enhancing properties, may well have contributed to its use in a misguided and inappropriate manner.
Using traditional forensic hypnosis techniques has, in a significant number of cases, been unsuccessful or even detrimental. In the worst case scenario, these traditional techniques can produce highly distorted memories. Even in many cases where the material recalled is largely accurate, it is likely that some potentially important information will have been missed. In addition to this, a traditional forensic hypnosis session conducted in this manner is unlikely to really help a victim of (or witness to) a traumatic event, in getting over the experience and processing the emotional trauma in the most effective way.
The UK Home Office Guidelines regarding the use of hypnosis for investigative purposes state:
“Under section 78 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 the court has a discretion to exclude evidence if, having regard to all the circumstances, including the circumstances in which the evidence was obtained, it appears to the court that admitting the evidence would have such an adverse effect on the fairness of the proceedings that the court ought not to admit it.
As evidence obtained from a witness who had been hypnotised cannot properly be tested in cross-examination, there must be a serious risk that the courts would rule it inadmissible under section 78.
It would be prudent, therefore, to assume that any confession obtained by hypnosis will not be admissible in evidence and any potential witness who is hypnotised will not be permitted to testify.”
The Home Office guidelines are indeed only guidelines and do not completely prohibit the use of investigative hypnosis. The guidelines, however, do caution against its use and it seems probable that most post-hypnotic testimony will not be admitted in a Criminal Court of Law – which is why we don’t actually use hypnosis now, when we conduct forensic interviews (see F.I.M.E.T below). There are no regulations or guidelines regarding the admission of post-hypnotic testimony in a Civil Court.
It has been proven that the use of hypnosis per se does not contribute to either increases or decreases in quantity and accuracy of information recalled. Instead, it is factors such as the use of suggestion, direction or leading questions (from the therapist/interviewer), along with factors internal to the victim or witness, which impact upon a person’s recall.
Traumatic Memory Differs From Ordinary Memory
Traumatic and ordinary memories are stored differently. Ordinary memories of neutral, positive, and even some negative events are stored as ‘autobiographical events’ or ‘narrative memory’ – stories we can usually easily retrieve from our ‘memory banks’ and tell others about. Sometimes this type of memory can change over time, and the story is told slightly differently each time. Emotionally overwhelming or traumatic events are stored differently, at least until the events are properly processed. In some cases, highly emotional or traumatic experiences are remembered more clearly than neutral experiences: psychological stress tends to focus a person’s attention to an event, meaning that “encoding” (storage in the brain) takes place more effectively. However, the encoding tends to takes place in the emotional centres of the brain rather than the place where narrative memory is stored, and this can lead to later ‘flashbacks’ and unwelcome intrusions in the mind sometimes for months or years following the event. Traumatic events are often stored as fragments in the mind, and so remain ‘un-integrated’. Problems with retrieval of such fragmented information stored in the brain may be due to psychological defence mechanisms coming into play following a traumatic experience: this may be limiting or even completely preventing recall of that event.
Forensic Hypnosis / F.I.M.E.T (Forensic and Investigative Memory Enhancing Techniques)
The Forensic and Investigative Memory Enhancing Techniques (F.I.M.E.T) techniques may or may not include the use of light hypnosis depending on whether or not it is appropriate to do so. We do use light hypnosis on many occasions, as it is a very straightforward way of enabling a client to relax, feel safe and focus solely on reporting everything that comes to mind. On other occasions, however, we specifically don’t use hypnosis because of the negative view that British Criminal Courts have upon testimony revealed under the influence of hypnosis. Here we would use some relaxation techniques (which have the same benefits of allowing a client to feel calm, safe and focused) instead.
Prior to a Forensic Hypnosis session it would always be discussed with a client as to whether or not he/she may wish to use the resulting information in a Criminal Court. The techniques used are not in any way suggestive or directive or leading: they merely enable a client to recall an event by creating a safe and non-judgmental atmosphere, in conjunction with using proven memory enhancing and psychotherapeutic techniques. These memory enhancing techniques include several that are commonly used in the Cognitive Interview (CI) and Enhanced Cognitive Interview (ECI) processes. The CI and ECI are interviewing techniques designed to enhance memory in co-operative interviewees (usually witnesses and victims of crime but, in some cases, suspects) and to obtain as much accurate information as possible. This is mainly done using two distinct types of investigation:-
Critical Incident Debriefing (CID)
This was originally introduced to be used with those working in the Emergency Services or the Armed Forces. Its use aimed to limit or prevent the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Stress Related Illness in people exposed to critical incidents. A critical incident is any event that causes an unusually intense stress reaction, overwhelming a person’s normal coping mechanisms and their ability to adjust. These tend to be events that are outside “ordinary” human experiences.
CID is being used more and more now to help people overcome the effects of traumas such as road traffic accidents, sudden deaths, and violent and sexual crime. These people don’t need “therapy” per se but need to be able to process the experience and then move on.
Critical Incident Stress Debriefing aims to prevent people from bottling up their feelings and emotions. PTSD is a recognised psychological disorder and is most commonly associated with the Armed Forces during the wars. Three types of symptom identify PTSD –
Intrusive recollections of trauma (e.g. flashbacks);
Physiological (physical/bodily) arousal;
Numbing (emotional), withdrawal, avoidance.
The Cognitive Interview (CI)
The Cognitive Interview has slowly been replacing the familiar “interrogations” that the Police Forces have used for a hundred years or more. The CI is a friendly and structured interview where rapport and memory enhancing techniques are used in order to gain maximum useful information from the interviewee. These techniques are used to obtain information but at all times you are put at ease by the gentle way in which information is recalled.
In a “typical” session an initial discussion will take place to enable the interviewee to feel more comfortable with the process. The interviewee will have explained to them exactly what can be expected as this will usually be an unfamiliar situation that they have not faced previously. Any fears or worries will be answered before the process of focused retrieval commences. It’s quite alright to say “I don’t know” to any questions, or “I don’t understand”. At the end of the session there will be a summary where the account of what was experienced will be relayed back so that things can either be added or changed according to the Interviewee. The interview will then be closed.
Forensic Hypnosis / F.I.M.E.T Consultation
A F.I.M.E.T consultation aims to help clients to elicit as much information as possible surrounding an incident, especially when this information may be used in a police investigation and/or legal proceedings, without inadvertently creating memory distortions or inaccuracies. Perhaps even more importantly, a F.I.M.E.T session can provide the very best way for clients to process and move on from a traumatic incident(s).
The F.I.M.E.T that we use fully take into account the UK Home Office Guidelines as well as those issued by the Crown Prosecution Service. An audio recording of a forensic session is conducted from start to finish so that a complete record of the information recovered is secured.
If you have any questions at all or you wish to discuss having a F.I.M.E.T session please feel free to call me on 01424 772392 or 07722783490. I look forward to hearing from you.
1066 Therapy helping the people of East Sussex, Battle, Hastings, Bexhill, Rye, Heathfield, Hailsham, Eastbourne, Brighton, Crowborough, Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Ashford, Kent.