Dame Kelly Holmes endorses hypnotherapy as an effective treatment for her phobia

on Mon 2 Mar

(This article has not been personally endorsed by Dame Kelly Holmes nor officially by the NCH; this article is a review of her experience with hypnotherapy on a recent BBC radio 4 programme.)

Hypnotherapy is an extremely effective therapeutic technique.  Now couple this with an experienced and qualified practitioner who is driven to work for the best of the client and you get an extremely effective intervention aimed at giving people freedom in their lives.  So, the question is, “why do people seek hypnotherapy when all other forms of treatment have failed and what is the process?”  It’s my, and other hypnotherapists, observation that clients seek hypnosis only when they have “tried everything else…” for the own personal reasons, eg. cost. Yet the answer we get is that “they hadn’t thought of hypnotherapy…not sure what to expect…do not want to be clucking like a chicken…

In the BBC Radio 4 programme, ‘I’ve Never Seen Star Wars’ Marcus Brigstock persuades his guests to try new experiences: things that they really ought to have done by now.  As the guide states, “some experiences are loved, some are loathed, the show is all about embracing the new.” Dame Kelly Holmes appeared on the programme (Season 6, episode 6) where she makes a chocolate cake and works to overcome her fear of drowning using hypnosis.

Dame Kelly Holmes DBE, MBE is a retired British athlete who specialised in the 800 metres and 1500 metres events and won a gold medal for both distances at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.  Inspired by a number of successful British middle distance runners in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Holmes began competing in middle distance events in her youth. She joined the British Army, but continued to compete at the organisation's athletics events. She turned to the professional athletics circuit in the early 1990s and in 1994 she won the 1500 m at the Commonwealth Games and took silver at the European Championships. She won a silver and a bronze medal at the 1995 Gothenburg World Championships, but suffered from various injuries over the following two years, failing to gain a medal at her first Olympics in Atlanta 1996. She won silver in the 1500 m at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and bronze in the 800 m at the 2000 Sydney Olympics; her first Olympic medal.

Holmes won the 1500 m at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and the 800 m bronze at the Munich European Championships that year. The 2003 track season saw her take silver in the 1500 m at the World Indoor Championships and the 800 m silver medals at the World Championships and first World Athletics Final.

She took part in her final major championship in 2004 — she turned in a double gold medal-winning performance at the Athens Olympics, finishing as the 800 m and 1500 m Olympic Champion. For her achievements she won numerous awards and was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2005. She retired from athletics in 2005.


Since her retirement she established “Kelly Holmes Education” which is a Sport Education and Training Provider, “Essentially, we deliver bespoke Education and Mentoring programmes for talented sports people and coaches…”


She also created the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust as she wanted to:

“…create a legacy from her athletics career that would benefit young people, believing every child needs a hero – someone to look up to and be inspired by. Sometimes, through no fault of their own, young people don’t have a role model, or the help they really need to be the best they can be. Kelly can recall her PE teacher at school, who told her she was good at running. She believes it can take just one person to change the course of a young person’s life.”




Presenting Issue and Background.

Dame Kelly Holmes begins by telling Marcus in the audience about her fear of drowning. This fear has given her nightmares since she was a young child and in these nightmares she falls off a mountain and hurtles towards the water.  She always woke just in time just before she hits the water. These recurring nightmares are very traumatic because the emotions she and you have within the dream, to the mind, a very real indeed.  She goes on to say that she never learnt to swim.  Yet, at the age of 18 years old she needed to swim a 25 m pool before she could pass out from Army basic training. As you would expect from such an inspiring person, she went on and jumped in the pool and somehow, she doesn’t know how, she made it to the other side successfully and went on to pass out of training.  A few years later, as a sergeant in the Army, she found herself as an instructor, terrified in a canoe turned upside down by fast flowing water and pushing away from the canoe she just hoped to get to safety of the water’s edge.

Both her experiences with water were traumatic, in the 1stexample not only was she scared of the water to begin with, but jumping in a pool and not knowing how to swim, her mind blocking out what was happening and hence the reason for not knowing how she got to the other side. It is a common hypothesis, that when you are extremely fearful or in a life-threatening situation a number of things happen:

  • The memory of what is happening goes on to be stored for processing at a later stage freeing conscious resources.
  • All the mind’s processing abilities are focused on the one event.
  • The fight or flight response kicks in.  Adrenaline, the hormone secreted by the adrenal glands increases the rate of blood circulation, increases the breathing rate and carbohydrate metabolism and prepares muscles for exertion.

The show asked Dame Kelly Holmes to undergo a course of hypnotherapy for her fear.  She stated, like many clients, that she was a bit sceptical at first and thought of the therapist as someone who would wear a long black cloak, and would be wearing a top hat and be instantly hypnotising her on-sight by using energy coming from the pointed finger tips.  As she, and other clients discover, hypnotherapy is nothing of this stage show vision.  There is no audience, there are no people walking around barking like dogs or doing silly things.  A professional and qualified hypnotherapist has a large number of techniques to facilitate behavioural change, these range from direct and indirect suggestion, various NLP techniques, therapeutic reduction of the fear factor or reduction of the traumatic memories for example bespoke to an individual.

As with most clients, her fear was said to be extreme and the session took 2 hours.  Afterwards, Dame Kelly Holmes actually went swimming because she “…felt she needed to try…” and successfully learnt how to front crawl and did a number of lengths after diving in after that initial length.  When asked to rate hypnotherapy she stated “… 10 out of 10, definitely!

I can think of no better endorsement than that.  Although, Dame Kelly Holmes is an outstanding inspiration with her athletics, we often forget that these incredible sportsmen and women, celebrities and other well-known people have genuine hidden fears like the rest of the population.  Her story gives a professional therapeutic practitioner a real endorsement and shows that hypnotherapy is nothing like a stage show and acts in a safe environment of confidentiality and trust for the benefit of the client.

A word of caution, however, a professional hypnotherapist will never give a guarantee of success because whilst hypnotherapy is very effective for the majority it may not be as effective for just a small number of people.  Some clients will experience effective complete behavioural change after one session whilst others may need longer.  

What next?

If there is something limiting your enjoyment of everyday life, and you would wish to know more about hypnotherapy, see my website www.thoughtlounge.co.uk or contact me atinfo@thoughtlounge.co.uk

Best Wishes,




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