It wasn't until 2015 that researchers at Exeter University published a report called "Living without imagery", describing a condition affecting about 2% of the population - the inability to form mental imagery. Recently, a client presented to me with exactly this condition, which then presented me with something of a puzzler - how to deliver effective hypnotherapy , which traditionally relies upon the client's ability to visualise memories, events or future situations? By discussing the client's experience of aphantasia and undertaking some research on the subject, a framework was developed.
Firstly, I asked the client to tell me about how they do their thinking, if not in pictures? How do they prefer information to be presented to them? I needed to be mindful that although the client may describe things to me using visual metaphors, these were just a figure of speech and not their experience of any mental pictures. In the same way, I needed to avoid words such as 'see' or 'visualise' and use alternatives like 'imagine' instead. Aphantasia is a spectrum condition, so I asked the client how they managed with potentially visual experiences during the course of the session. I also took care to avoid some techniques that are commonly used in hypnotherapy which rely upon manipulation of visual imagery (such as the 'Rewind' technique). Finally, more use was made of suggestions for auditory, kinaesthetic or olfactory experiences.
Aphantasia is a fascinating topic and I wonder just how many of us are sitting, undiagnosed, on the spectrum, and how this may account for those times when clients report that 'just can't get a handle on your visual suggestions'?