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Targeting Learned Non-Use

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After an acquired brain injury, prolonged avoidance of challenging cognitive tasks can lead to learned non-use and cogniphobia. These sustained maladaptive behaviours worsen perceived disabilities over time. Hypnosis can help reverse this downward spiral by reframing self-concepts and fostering realistic self-efficacy.

Learned non-use develops when patients instinctively withdraw from demanding cognitive work to avoid frustration, confusion, failure, and escalating mental fatigue. This avoidance becomes habitual over weeks and months. Cognitive capacity decays further without regular exercise, and self-limiting beliefs solidify.

Cogniphobia describes excessive fear regarding everyday cognitive challenges necessary for daily and vocational functioning. Patients catastrophise the consequences of standard mental exertion. This motivates retreating from rehabilitative exercises and productive roles.

Both phenomena stem partially from periods of fundamental cognitive changes immediately post-injury when rest is advised. However, this inertia can persist even after recovery; avoidance becomes overgeneralised.

This cycle harms the welfare of patients, carers, and society via lost economic productivity. Sticking to simple routine activities feels deceptively safe, however, this prevents regaining higher levels of cognitive proficiency. Clinical gains plateau early.

Breaking learned non-use requires a recalibration of self-perception and fearless engagement. Hypnosis can target these domains effectively. Suggestions facilitate envisioning an identity no longer defined by limitations, and imagery fosters a larger sense of latent capacity.

Reframing thinking as an automatic process primarily handled unconsciously also takes the pressure off conscious monitoring and control attempts. Metaphors help reconceptualise cognition itself as less effortful. Redirecting attention towards positive potential rather than perceived disabilities further instils motivation. 

Age regression aids this reconceptualisation by allowing a temporary, vivid re-experiencing of a pre-injury self with intact cognitive skills and confidence. Though not perfectly accurate recollections, these autobiographical memories provide an embodied template and compass for positive change.

With enhanced self-efficacy and reduced cogniphobia, patients can incrementally approach more demanding functional tasks. Suggestions encourage embracing small challenges and setbacks as learning opportunities rather than dangers. Mental skills strengthen naturally again through gradual exposure rather than stagnation.

Dr. Terry McIvor is the founder of the International  Guild of Hypnotherapy, NLP and 3 Principles Practitioners and Trainers. (IGH3P)

IGH3P  is a professional development body which develops the skills of coaches, Hypnotherapist and NLPers.

He is an educationalist of over 20 years experience and has been accredited as a STEM and Science expert at level 6 and 7 by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (OFQUAL) in the U.K.

Dr. Terry is also an NLP trainer, Master Hypnotist, a qualified Hypnotherapist  and 3 Principles Coach.

He is trainer for most of the leading hypnosis professional bodies in the U.S including IACT, ICBCH,IMDHA, and the Elman Institute,

Dr. Terry has set up his own accredited STEM school in the U.K. called AISR, it is through his academy he conducts his teaching and research.

Learn more at You can email him at

Connect with him through the social media:

Twitter/X – @IGH3P_

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