Making sense of the world we inhabit
Joyce Youhanna, a native of Lebanon, began her journey as a hypnotherapist after a family tragedy struck her at the age of 22 in 2001. However, she took the setback in her stride, as she was driven by a desire to heal herself and others. Soon, she turned to hypnotherapy, which became a viable career option.
Joyce, who has been living in Dubai for the past 21 years, explains her initial inner struggles. “On a quest to heal my inner self and traumas, I stumbled upon hypnotherapy. It was the breakthrough I had that was unparalleled to any other inner work I had personally tried. I was already a practising life coach and cognitive behavioural therapist. However, the more I dove into hypnotherapy, the more I became convinced in its efficacy,” she says. “People always talk about being passionate about your career, but to me, it’s more than a passion — it’s a calling. When I experienced inner healing with a certain modality, it almost felt like there was a duty to create awareness and help others achieve what I had achieved. It was at this point then I realised that clinical hypnotherapy is the chosen path for me.”
She primarily moved to the emirate seeking travel and better career opportunities. In retrospect, she says, “Dubai has offered me more than what I bargained for, not only have I worked at one of the world’s most prestigious airlines, which allowed me to fulfil one of my dreams of ‘traveling the world’, but I also met my life partner just a few months after I landed here. My children were born here. Dubai is our home,” she says.
She explains the primary differences between Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) exercises, inner child healing, and clinical hypnotherapy, which is often lost on a lay person. “CBT targets the conscious mind. It uses the Socratic way of questioning and breaking down certain negative ideas or patterns that a person may have adapted. The aim is to reach a logical explanation after a series of exercises and practices with the therapist to convince a subject on a conscious level that this negative emotion does not serve their life.”
Conversely, NLP, inner child healing and clinical hypnotherapy all happen at a subconscious level. “The aim is to work on a deeper level to access traumas, memories, and root causes of current issues in a client’s life to process them, understand them and look at them from a different perspective. NLP helps the individual understand certain negative patterns of behaviour with a view to changing them. This is achieved by training oneself to get rid of old habits, therefore altering existing neural pathways or building new ones to create new desired habits.”
Joyce says clinical hypnotherapy, combined with CBT, is an extremely effective in addressing both the subconscious and the conscious mind.
Hypnotherapist is a challenging job, she says. “People willing to try clinical hypnotherapy are in a brave-yet-vulnerable position. It is not easy to confide in a therapist, let alone open at a subconscious level. There is a certain level of trust that needs to develop between a client and their therapist. A hypnotherapist must have strong ethics towards their profession and their clients, as well as confidentiality and the ability to handle client’s issues with an open mind without any judgment. A clinical hypnotherapist is not required to be compassionate as much as being objective, to be able to help the clients reach the desired state,” she says.
The UAE and the wider region have been grappling with mental health challenges like the rest of the world. “I believe mental health has come a long way in the UAE and the world, in general. Yet to many, the topic might still be taboo and not really spoken about openly. Some people still believe that it is tainted with shame and seeking therapy is a sign of weakness. Mental health issues have increased dramatically in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we are extremely lucky that the number of mental health practitioners has also risen noticeably in the region. The challenge that remains is creating awareness of the resources now available and encouraging people not to suffer in silence,” she explains.
Joyce points out, though, the level of awareness about mental health “is on the rise, so are the disorders”. According to her, “social media is a double-edged sword but might also be one of the fastest ways to raise awareness”. “Despite the negative contribution of social media towards mental health disorders, including the exposure to many unrealistic and fake aspects of life, there has been an increase in ‘body positivity’ influencers demonstrating the many tricks employed by their favourite influencers to achieve their seemingly perfect appearance. This countertrend has had a profoundly positive impact on mental health.”
She says the first step to overcome mental health disorders is to acknowledge and accept that there is a problem. People must assess what material they’re exposed to on social media and follow people who inspire them and add value to their life. “Simultaneously, it is important to also disconnect from toxic people or situations and work on finding inner strength with a suitable therapist to start addressing issues from the core such as triggers, past unresolved traumas, and negative emotional baggage. This clears the individual of their negative past residues and puts them in a better place to face daily life challenges.”
Aparna Piramal Raje on