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The value of talking to yourself - chair work, dialogical cognitive hypnotherapy & embodiment

Updated: May 11, 2021

I have an interest in dialogical cognitive hypnotherapy, specifically chair work, and role-playing ‘self-to-self’ interactions. What a mouthful! What does this all mean? It’s actually fairly simple. Dialogical means dialogue-based, and dialogical interactions within therapy and healthcare are usually about being heard, validated and communicated with.

Here though, I am considering dialogue with the self - voice dialogue. Self-to-self interactions are just letting the parts of your self ‘talk’ to each other. For me, dialogical cognitive hypnotherapy is about helping a client let their 'parts' feel heard, validated and communicated with.

These ideas are rooted in neuroscience – far from being ‘airy-fairy’ or ‘woo-woo’ concepts, they simply allow therapists to work with clients by metaphorically putting a part of the client in a chair. So you may be wondering – is dialogical cognitive hypnotherapy just talking to yourself? Yes, in a sense, it is! A therapist helps you work out what parts of you are driving your cognitions, beliefs and behaviours, and helps the ‘adult’ part of you that’s here for therapy ‘talk’ to another part. (Dr. Mathew Pugh is an expert on the subject of chair work, which originated a century ago, and details it in this article for The Psychologist, if you'd like further reading).

That 'part' of you may be sad, angry or ‘stuck’ on a particular problem or issue – it may be an inner critic, telling the ‘adult you’ that you’re no good at something. You may recognise the inner critic as embodying a critical parent, or former boss. Maybe that tightness in your stomach can be embodied in your imagination as a rope, or static electricity – could you talk to it, and imagine what it looks like? Chairwork is a really fun and transformative process! The hypnotherapy part of the equation can help us embed new thoughts, beliefs and behaviours.

If you'd like some more info on dialogical cognitive concepts, check out Michelle Chalfant's 'Adult Chair' website. Dr. Scott Kellogg writes about chair work in this article, and says: 'Chair work is an exciting and creative approach to change and healing'. Also, Dr Mathew Pugh's study: 'A little less talk, a little more action: a dialogical approach to cognitive therapy', has a wealth of information on chair work in cognitive therapies.

Kathy Carter

If you’d like more info, please email me on to discuss your queries.


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