Harry the Hypno-potamus

Metaphorical Tales for the Treatment of Children

By: Linda Thomson


Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 193mm x 267mm
Pages : 176
ISBN : 9781845907266
Format: Paperback
Published: August 2004

When is a hippopotamus not a hippopotamus?

When it’s a hypno-potamus!

This book is written for mental health professionals working with children who have an understanding of child development as well as previous training in hypnotherapy. Harry the Hypno-potamus is a collection of metaphorical stories that deal with a variety of physical and behavioural problems faced by children. Embedded in each story is a metaphor as well as hypnotherapeutic techniques that can be used as part of a comprehensive approach to the diagnosis and treatment of a host of disorders both physical and emotional. Reading the title story, ‘Harry the Hypno-potamus’ to a child is a wonderful way to introduce him or her to the idea of hypnosis as well as understanding the power of the child’s imagination. The stories in the rest of the book (thirty-two in all) are all about different animals that live in the Ashland Zoo. Each animal is faced with a physical or emotional problem and learns specific hypnotherapeutic techniques and self-regulatory strategies to help master the problem.

For most children an altered state of consciousness is familiar, comfortable and quite easy to achieve. An integral part of child’s play is imagining and pretending. Children not only explore but experience their surroundings. They want to engage with others and their environment, and are relentlessly curious about the how and why of objects, people, situations and themselves. Fantasy may be employed to change or avoid an unpleasant situation, gratify unmet needs, remember the past or invent the future.

Children want to be happy, healthy, comfortable and successful. When physical, mental or environmental conditions exist that interfere with the pursuit of these goals, maladaptive behaviours may develop consciously or unconsciously. When a therapeutic alliance develops with a clinician who is invested in helping the child experience success, comfort and health, hypnotherapy can be a very powerful tool. The hypnotherapeutic work enhances and strengthens the child’s natural strivings toward exploration, social relationships, fantasy and creativity.

A clinician may wish to read one of the stories with a child or the hypnotherapist may find it more suitable to adapt the techniques to his own unique style. Some of the therapeutic interventions are very problem specific while others are more general and can be used for a variety of conditions. Because each child develops differently, not only the chronological age, but the developmental age of the child must be taken into account when using these stories. The clinician should consider the cognitive and perceptual skills of the child and adapt the induction, language and hypnotic techniques to the child’s developmental level.

Click here to view the related paperback title Harry the Hypno-potamus Volume 2, £29.50.

Click here to view the related card set title, Harry the Hypno-potamus Imagination Cards, £19.99.

Picture for author Linda Thomson

Linda Thomson

Linda Thomson is a pediatric nurse practitioner. Certified as an approved consultant in clinical hypnosis by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis she incorporates hypnosis into her practice to help children help themselves with a variety of physical and emotional problems.


  1. Harry the Hypno-potamus deserves all the praise it can get as the most imaginative and inspiring of works designed to provide an abundance of material for the hypnotherapist who helps children with a myriad of difficulties.

    This work constitutes a truly uplifting and stimulating read which can be of benefit not only to practitioners but also to parents who will never again be stumped for beautifully illustrated bedtime reading.

    Linda Thomson, as a highly experienced and dedicated paediatric nurse, takes the reader on an enlightening journey of tales for children which introduces endearing characters, such as Marlene Worry Warthog who jettisons her generalized anxiety, Molly Macaw who overcomes her unwanted feather-pulling habit and Shy Sheryll Turtle who emerges triumphant from her shell.

    A most comprehensive array of presenting symptoms typical of children are addressed under the umbrella of anxiety, the mind-body connection, irrational phobias, habit disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, pain management, health problems and family difficulties. This is, therefore, a veritable repertoire of goodies for the script-hungry hypnotherapy practitioner who wishes to help the younger client.

    Harry the Hypno-potamus also provides an in-depth introduction to the topic of disorders which commonly afflict infants, children and adolescents and the way in which such maladies may be treated via paediatric hypnosis. The power of the metaphor, furthermore, is explained in order to leave the reader in no doubt whatsoever about the efficacy of this therapeutic approach for treating anxiety, habit disorders and physiological symptomology. The subtlety of the metaphor as a positive-benefit therapeutic technique is adumbrated as having great value in terms of symbolic language and a non-threatening approach which can overcome the client's skepticism and unconscious resistance.

    I shall certainly be singing the praises of this book in my teaching and recommending it to my trainees.
  2. A colourful, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable publication designed to open communication with children and introduce them to hypnosis and its many benefits when related to their specific problem.

    It is stated within the book that pictures are worth a thousand words and that metaphors are worth a million. This is indeed true and is proven when you read through. I can not begin to ascribe a value to this book as it is indeed a priceless collection of metaphorical tales for children.

    In the opening sentence I stated that this publication is both colourful and entertaining " and it is. The illustrations themselves are eye catching and go a great way to contributing to the impact of the stories.

    The book is split into two sections with the first being for the use of the clinical practitioner describing how the metaphorical tales should be used. In this section good advice can be found, specifically in relation to the success of any hypnotherapeutic interventions. An acronym of "AH CREAM' is introduced and an explanation given.

    Thomson then offers a good description of why and how metaphorical approaches work and although a large majority of practitioners will already have a full understanding, it is still worth reading.

    The guide to using the tales gives a brief synopsis of each metaphorical tale, breaking them down into specific problem areas and indicating to the practitioner what other approaches to treatment are included. For example the story of Shy Sheryll Turtle includes within it two extra metaphors along with an Ericksonian double bind: Success now or success later.

    The "References' pages are extremely helpful and point to a wide variety of different books, videos and journal articles. A resource which is of great benefit to any practitioner within this field.

    Finally within section one there is a helpful two page handout for parents. This should serve to address any misconceptions and fears that a parent would perhaps have about hypnotherapy.

    The second section is extremely colourful and contains 32 different metaphors for specific problems. Thomson uses fictitious Ashland Zoo as the base for the metaphors, with all the tales relating to problems experienced by different animals within the zoo. The way the book is written enables the problems to be addressed in a gentle, indirect manner with active participation from the child. Interestingly, all the animals have names of inspirational people within the field of hypnosis, including Milton (Milton Erickson) and Dr Kay (Kay Thompson).

    The tales themselves are well written and beautifully illustrated and something that most children under a certain intellectual age would enjoy and benefit from. That said, however, I have used the tales on older children and adapted them accordingly and achieved positive results.

    In summary, this is a very exciting book that any therapist working with children should consider adding to their library. It empowers children in a way that can not be underestimated and contributes to the resolution of their problems.

    A book that I wholeheartedly recommend.
  3. Having just read a book on bibliotherapy for bereaved children this clearly presented and delightfully illustrated book on the use of hypnotherapy to treat children seemed a natural progression, leaving me excited by both.

    It is stressed in section one, the clinical section of the book, that the stories in section two be used only by clinicians with appropriate training, and although the basic paradigm of harnessing the power of a child's imagination is not new I would strongly reinforce this suggestion.

    There is a helpful page for parents to read giving information about hypnosis, which I believe would serve to allay any fears most parents may have about this type of treatment. It explains that "when a properly trained and credentialed healthcare professional uses hypnosis as part of treatment, it is called hypnotherapy'. The hypnotherapist acts as a coach or facilitator, guiding the child's daydreams using stories, guided imagery and suggestions to build self-control over physical and emotional problems. This section stresses that although hypnosis makes it easier for people to experience therapeutic suggestions, it does not force them to have these experiences.

    In section two of this book there are 32 stories about animals in the fictitious Ashland Zoo, which can be used to help treat a variety of childhood problems ranging from general anxiety and insomnia to very specific problems such as fear of the dark and enclosed spaces, phobias, habits, physical pain, obsessive-compulsive disorder and death. As some of the therapeutic interventions are problem specific, the author suggests the clinician either reads one of the stories with the child or adapts the techniques outlined in the story to their own style and needs of the child.

    Marlene Worry Warthog is a story aimed to help children suffering from general anxiety to gain some control over their thoughts. Her imagination is compared to an elevator that can take her up to wonderful places, or down to a place she would rather not be. She also learns to create a trash receptacle for all her "what-if' worries.

    Although not stated I believe that these stories are aimed at 3 to 12 year old children, depending upon the particular child's developmental stage and intellectual abilities. The stories vary in length and some children with poor attention span may struggle to concentrate for the length of time needed. This is obviously one occasion when the trained clinician would adapt to the child's needs.

    Having read and enjoyed this book it seems a pity that there are not more trained clinicians trained to use the hypnotherapy techniques outlined, as I know from personal experience that many children suffer problems that are not taken seriously by their parents and certainly not treated appropriately!
  4. HERE is a collection of metaphorical stories that rely on hypnosis and other relaxation techniques to deal with a wide variety of physical and behavioural problems faced by children of all ages. The 32 illustrated stories feature animals in the Ashland Zoo that rely on the guidance and support of Dr Dan, the zoo's vet, to master such problems as phobias and anxiety attacks, sleep disorders, habits, pain management, asthma and other serious medical disorders, and death and dying.
  5. This book will appeal not only to those therapists who work with young children but to young children in general as its format is that of a colourful storybook, all about the Ashland Zoo and its inhabitants, both human and animal. Linda Thomson has very cleverly incorporated the names of many professionals within the therapy field into the stories. For instance, the Zoo's dentist is called Dr. Kay, after Kay Thompson, while Milton Erickson lends his name to the Cheetah in one of the stories. D. Corydon Hammond, editor of "the big red book", Handbook of Hypnotic Suggestions and Metaphors, with which many of you will be familiar turns up as a thumb-sucking chimpanzee called Cory. Each story deals with a different childhood problem and is designed to gently reprogram the child's subconscious, without letting them know they're actually receiving therapy.

    As I wasn't quite sure what age-group the stories would appeal to, I left the book lying around for my grandsons to investigate as I know their curiosity wouldn't allow them to ignore a new book for long. The seven-year-old began to read it as soon as he saw it and was still reading a couple of hours later making no reference to the fact that hypnosis was mentioned in every story! I casually asked him what he thought of the book and he just said "It's good". When I offered it to the older boy aged twelve he rejected it as too babyish but I did mention to him one or two of the techniques in it, which he found very interesting.

    I'm sure that many of these clever stories could, with slight changes be used with adult clients, particularly when they have regressed to childhood. All in all, I believe this book would prove to be as useful a resource for working with children as "the big red book" has been for working with adults all these years.
  6. This is one of the most unusual and yet exciting books that I have had the pleasure of reviewing.

    It is a collection of short metaphorical stories written specifically for children. Each story relies on hypnosis and other general relaxation techniques such as belly breathing, to deal with an amazingly wide spectrum of both physical and emotional problems that children may present.

    This amazing and very attractively produced book covers such items as

    Phobias and anxiety attacks
    Sleep disorders
    Pain Management
    Asthma and other medical disorders
    Death and Dying

    The stories themselves are a delight to read and are very well received by children of all ages. I have found that children are only too pleased and willing to discuss the contents of the stories and feel that they can be really helpful to them

    In addition to the stories there are excellent sections which provide clear guidance to the Hypnotherapist on how best to use the material. Also there is a very useful section " Information about Hypnosis for Parents". This is carefully and confidently written and I feel no parent would have any worries about their child receiving help through this medium

    I am an ex teacher with something like 20 years of education service under my belt. I do feel that, excellent as these stories are, they need careful handling by someone used to being with children and happy to be working with them. The rapport between patient and clinician must be right for the impact of the story to be at its fullest.

    The success of this approach depends on AH CREAM as the writer suggests. This is something which brings about a feeling of real trust and security between the child and therapist:

    A Accurate assessment
    H History
    C Confidence, Competence, Credentialsbr>R Rapport
    E Expectation
    A Active Participation
    M Motivation, The child's motivation to change is key to the success of this type of intervention

    All of the stories in this remarkable book are both positive and empowering for the child. The stories are amusing and warm in contact and children are well able to relate to the characters - all animals in the Ashland Zoo. The characters are truly appealing and their message comes over to the reader in a compassionate and positive way that children readily take on board.

    I feel sure that children will love the stories as well as benefit and learn from them. I have no doubt too that many adults will enjoy them too and may themselves gain help from the sheer simplicity of the material.

    This is an excellent book and I feel is going to make a major impact on the effective use of Hypnotherapy with children of all ages.
  7. This is an interesting book and definitely useful for anyone who treats children. The first part of the book is really a clinical guide for the user which is quite useful although most of the information in it is probably known to practitioners already.

    The second part of the book is full of metaphorical stories that can be used as is, or adapted to suit the needs of the practitioner and the child being treated. They are written in language that children can easily understand and so they can use the embedded commands and suggestions for their own benefit.

    I think that anyone who treats children in their practice would find this book very useful.
  8. This is an excellent resource for therapists working with young children and for children to read by themselves, in order to help with many childhood problems and unwanted habits.

    I do not think over 8's would go for it but certainly the younger ones would find it fascinating and very helpful.
  9. Harry the Hypno-Potamus is a comprehensive yet playful journey into hypnotic language and metaphor. Linda Thomson has created a tremendous resource for both clinical hypnotherapists and parents with stories that are positive and empowering. With its entertaining characters and useful glossary, this book is valuable to anyone wishing to better understand and utilize metaphor. I will be reading these stories to adults as well as children.

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