Hypnotherapy Opens Mind to Healthy Changes

A journalist tries hypnosis and three BG practitioners talk about the many health benefits of hypnotherapy

Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 12:00 am

By Kelly Moyer, Staff Reporter The Reflector



Granted, it’s only been about 18 hours, but I think the hypnosis is working.

You see, most mornings, I wake up begging my two husky pups for a 20-minute reprieve before they jump on my head and start licking my face. This morning, however, I woke up feeling refreshed, let the dogs out and found myself in the kitchen, making a gigantic salad for lunch.

That in itself isn’t too stunning, but then, a few hours later, I was at work, reaching for my coffee, when I realized: Oh, my goodness. I forgot to stop for coffee this morning! This doesn’t happen. I have a routine. I drop the kid at school, swing around the block, get a cup of Stump town’s finest (and usually a scone for good measure), and then head for the highway. But this morning I dropped the kid and hopped on I-205 north. No coffee! No scone! I did, however, have a banana and two tiny tangelos with me. And I don’t remember bringing fruit out of the house. See? The hypnosis, designed to help me make healthier food choices, is working.

It all started with a story idea. I had always been interested in hypnotherapy – had known people who lost weight or quit smoking or had pain-free births through hypnosis – and I wondered if hypnosis could help me conquer some unhealthy eating habits. I had even listened to some pre-recorded hypnotic videos on YouTube, but I had never actually visited an actual hypnotherapist.

Over the past few months, however, I began to notice that Battle Ground seems to have a good number of hypnotherapists: There are three different therapists located on Main Street alone. I knew that we had a health-focused section coming up in The Reflector, and thought now was the perfect time to experience hypnosis and write an article about it’s various health benefits. I pitched the idea to my editor and made a few calls. Before I knew it, I was reclining on a cozy leather chair in hypnotherapist David Hill’s Battle Ground office, getting ready for my first session.

“I’m going to bore your conscious mind,” Hill told me before I relaxed into the chair. “We want to get your conscious filter out of the way.”

Hill’s voice was melodic, the chair was super comfortable and my mind, normally spinning at full speed with deadlines and story ideas and parenting stuff and plans for the upcoming weekend, finally started to calm down. I remember concentrating on my breathing and that there was a staircase and a garden with a stream running through it, but I think I must have fallen asleep during our session. When I came out of the hypnotic trance, I felt like I’d been in the chair for maybe 15 or 20 minutes, but Hill said it was more like 45 minutes.

“You went into deep alpha,” Hill told me. “That’s very good.”

Going into deep alpha basically means that I had a bit of a nap. My conscious mind went away for 45 minutes, giving Hill access to my subconscious mind. The subconscious is where the magic happens, where Hill’s suggestions – eat smaller portions, reach for nutrient-rich foods like veggies, nuts and seeds, drink more water and get more exercise – could find a foothold.

I only had one session, and it wasn’t as long as Hill’s regular hypnosis sessions, which often last 90 minutes to two hours, but I still feel like the hypnosis affected my subconscious thoughts. At least for one day.

Hill, a certified counselor and hypnotherapist who has been practicing since the 1980s, says most clients tend to need more than one session.

“Some do have a successful outcome with one session, but it all depends on the individual,” Hill says. “Most need more than one session. Some need five or six, or more. It really just depends on the situation.”

Will I go back? Probably. I’ve been trying to make healthier decisions most of my life, but there’s always been something holding me back – that “devil on my shoulder” that tells me to reach for the doughnuts before broccoli, and convinces me that watching a movie on the couch is way more fun than going to yoga class. I think hypnotherapy might be the “thing” that finally conquers that shoulder devil.

So what is hypnosis, exactly?

Here’s how the Mayo Clinic describes it: “Hypnotherapy is a trance-like state in which you have heightened focus and concentration. Hypnosis is usually done with the help of a therapist using verbal repetition and mental images. Hypnosis can be used to help you gain control over undesired behaviors or to help you cope better with anxiety or pain.”

Many people associate hypnosis with magic shows, carnival acts or old Vincent Price movies, but hypnosis has been accepted as a legitimate health therapy for decades. In fact, the National Institutes of Health studied the therapy and found that hypnosis may be useful for treating chronic pain, reducing fear and anxiety, improving the quality of life for cancer patients and controlling bleeding during surgical and dental procedures.

The three Battle Ground hypnotherapists that contributed to this article – Hill, along with Debbie DeFreece and Connie Osborne – all say that hypnotherapy tends to be “a last resort” for many of their clients.

“Typically, people don’t go to see a hypnotherapist until they’ve tried everything else,” says DeFreece, of Absolutra Hypnotherapy in Old Town Battle Ground. “There have been misconceptions about hypnosis, mainly, I believe, because people think about the stage hypnosis … but hypnotherapy can help with so many things. I’ve seen that it’s effective for weight loss, anxiety, depression, nail biting, sports enhancement, test taking … really; it helps with anything that you want to change. Hypnosis gets to the root of why that change hasn’t been happening for someone.”

Hill knows exactly what it’s like to find hypnotherapy as “a last resort.” As a young man, Hill had crashed his car and suffered from intense neck pain. He tried everything short of surgery for the better part of a decade before finding a hypnotherapist in Philadelphia, PA, who worked with clients seeking pain relief.

“I tried everything,” Hill says. “I went to neurosurgeons, chiropractors … I even tried Rolfing.”

After his sessions with a hypnotherapist left him pain free for the first time in 10 years, Hill knew he had found his calling. He became a certified counselor and hypnotherapist and has been practicing in Washington State since the late 1980s. He’s been practicing out of his Battle Ground Hypnotherapy office for the past seven years. In that time, he’s treated clients for a range of issues, including weight management, stress relief, smoking cessation and addiction problems, but the majority of his clients are seeking pain relief.

“I’m a last resort for most people,” Hill says. “Most of my clients have chronic pain, they’ve been to multiple doctors, have had surgeries and are on pain medications. Most of them come to me after they’ve tried everything else.”

Hill says many of his clients are shocked by how much better they feel after just one hypnosis session. Although it typically takes five or more sessions to become pain free, Hill says many clients feel vast improvements after the first session.

Other hypnotherapists report similarly effective results with their clients.

Connie Osborne, a certified hypnotherapist and mental health counselor, who works out of her  aNewYouHypnosis business in Old Town Battle Ground, says she finds hypnosis to be extremely effective for helping clients improve their overall health through weight management and stress relief.

“I worked with a hypnotherapist on my weight issues and lost about 40 pounds,” Osborne says. “I’ve been able to keep it off through hypnosis. Now I do a 12-week weight management program for my clients and it’s been very successful. My clients even took weight off during the holidays.”

Osborne says she came to hypnosis through her training as a mental health counselor.

“I had worked as a school counselor and was working with at-risk college students who were low income and maybe had a disability or were first-generation college students,” Osborne says. “I would use every tool in my toolbox to help these students, but there were some who just couldn’t seem to get over the hump. … Hypnosis was the one tool I had that could help them.”

DeFreece, who runs the Absolutra Hypnotherapy & NLP Center in downtown Battle Ground, discovered hypnosis about 15 years ago. At that time, DeFreece worked a high-stress job, running a marketing company that helped big-name clients like Hewlett Packard.

“I was under pretty high stress. My husband encouraged me to see a hypnotherapist, to work through the stress and figure out why I wasn’t sleeping well at night,” DeFreece recalls. “So I found a hypnotherapist … and it was life changing for me. I loved it. And I decided that I wanted to do something new for my life.”

Switching from the high-stress world of marketing to healing wasn’t easy, but DeFreece says she loves helping clients find their way through major life changes.

“Hypnosis helps people change their perception about things,” DeFreece says. “And some people are nervous. They don’t want to look at things that have caused them pain in the past, to bring up those painful emotions, but I tell that that it doesn’t have to be painful. In hypnotherapy we can look at a situation and re frame it in a way that feels good. You can move on, move away from the painful feelings and make the change you want to make.”

Ancient Egypt the Roots of Hypnosis

By David Reeves

imhotep imageWhen we look back into ancient history, we find that the trance like state that we call Hypnosis has been used for thousands of years. In fact, from the study of primitive peoples’ religious and healing ceremonies there exists the elements essential to place people into a hypnotic state. By rhythmic chanting, monotonous drum beats, together with strained fixations of the eyes, the village shaman or priest is able to induce catalepsy of the body. This helps to give the shaman the appearance of having magical and mystical powers given to them by the gods. Today we call it suggestion therapy.

Sleep Temple or Dream Temple Therapy

The use of suggestion therapy goes back much further than Mesmer. If Mesmer were to be called the Father of Hypnosis, then the great, great —- grandfather of Hypnosis could be the ancient Egyptian priest, Imhotep. (I-em-hotep, he comes in peace) Hypnosis, suggestion therapy can be traced back over 4000 years to ancient Egypt.

The Egyptians used healing sanctuaries to heal people with all sorts of problems, both physical and mental, most of which today would be classified as psychological problems. These healing sanctuaries were called “Sleep or Dream Temples.” In these temples, the sick person was put into a trance like sleep; priests and priestesses then interpreted the person’s dreams to gain knowledge about the illnesses and to find a cure for the illnesses.

The tradition of temple sleep dates back to the time of Imhotep. The ancient Egyptians worshiped the priest Imhotep and dedicated Sleep Temples to him; he is the earliest known physician. He was the physician vizier, architect and priest, to the pharaoh Zoser (2650 – 2590 B.C.). Imhotep built the step pyramid, which is the first pyramid. In recent times Imhotep has become a Hollywood star; the name of Imhotep was used for the priest who became the Mummy in the latest film “The Mummy”.                                                                                                          Egyptian-bed-8

Temple sleep was used as a psycho-therapeutic tool; the temples of Imhotep were well attended by people looking for psychological help. Under the influence of incantation and the performance of religious rituals, sick people were prepared psychologically for suggestion therapy; they were put in a “hypnotic state.” Before falling asleep they were influenced by suggestions, in the hope of provoking dreams sent by the gods. Today in some parts of the Middle East and Africa you can still encounter shrine sleep. Sleep Temples were and are used for the mentally ill, as a place where priests interpret the sick person’s dreams. Thus, by the use of suggestion, (and the help of the god) the priests appear to cast out bad spirits from the mind and body of the sick.

In Greece, Sleep Temples were renowned as places of great healing and were dedicated to the healing god Æsclepius. Æsculapius took over the role of Imhotep. Sleep therapy survived in the temples of Æsculapius, which were constructed by the Greeks in the 5th and 4th centuries BC.

Æsclepius (also spelt: Asclepios, Æsclepius, Æsculapius, Æsclepius) was a healer, his mythical roots going back in to the second millennium BC, he became a demi-god. Over time he evolved into a temple god in his own right. The temples in his honor were temples of healing dreams. His daughters were Hygea and Panacea. A Klínè was a sacred place or a sacred skin set out around the temple, where the sick person reclined to enter the dream state. From these names we have derived the words, Panacea, Hygiene and Clinic. At the height of the cult’s power, there were 420 temples, spread across the ancient Greek empire.

Healing would take place while the person being cured was in a deep trance like sleep. The god Æsculapius could perform miraculous cures in the dreams. This sleep would come about by the power of the priests, who used chanting and magical spells to put the patient into a trance. This trance state was known as incubation; incubation is derived from the Latin, in (on) cubare (to lie down). A person could be kept in this state for up to three days, during which time the priests using suggestions would help the person, through their dreams, to make contact with the god, thus helping them to obtain a cure for their illness. The temples were a place of spirits, and mysterious powers, a place to find mental and physical healing.                                                                                              ancient egyptian temple bodua_picture024

People looking for a cure or an insight to their problems were called Seekers. A Seeker had something on their mind, an ailment, an issue, and an inner quest to discover themselves. They came to seek an insight into their problems, to contact the healing god, to get a new vision that would heal, guide, or provide comfort. The path to the Temple was lined with huge the steles made of marble, on which were carved inscriptions, describing all the miracle cures, and the miraculous healing that had taken place in the Temple.

It was claimed that people were cured of incurable diseases; the lame were able to walk again, people who were blind could see again. They were cured by the sole supernatural healing power of the divine dream.

This was a power that the priests knew from ancient times. The priests, who used secret rituals, incantations and traditions for therapeutic purposes, preserved this power; they were part priest, part physician, and part shaman. They were skilled in the interpretation of dreams; they were also skilled in the use of medicinal herbs. There were also attendants/caretakers of the temples, who had their own sacrifices and ritual activities to perform. They would council new seekers, also see to it that they were cleansed and purified. They were skilled practitioners and offered advice on how to seek interpretations of dreams.

The Seeker did not just go in to the temple; they had to wait for the right time to come. Before being allowed to enter the temple, and before the healing dreams could occur, they first had to learn the rituals and perform the rites of purification; they had to cleanse the body, mind and soul. They would meditate, fast, take hot baths, and make a sacrifice to the god. They looked for signs in their dreams. When the signs and omens looked right and they had cleansed the body, mind and soul, only then were they allowed to enter the main part of the temple. The main part of the temple had a large open floor area, with sacred alcoves to the sides, where the seekers could unroll their sacred skin, their Klínè; they would then sleep and dream of god Æsclepius healing them.

A good dream would be one in which the god would cure the wound by touching it. Once the person woke from their sleep, the attendant would spend time with them, reviewing any visitations from god, helping to explore the dream and secure the insights appropriate to that seeker at their stage of development. The dreams of the seeker contained the seeds of their own healing. The attendant’s job was simply to elicit the vision of the god and aid the seeker in making sense of their personal dream story. Through incubation, the seeker was to awaken to his real self and in so doing regenerate himself physically, mentally and spiritually. Today we recognize a lot of what went on in the Temples as suggestion therapy.

Over time the priests developed a greater understanding of herbs and their use. They started to move away from the sole use of dream interpretation and suggestion therapy, using their growing knowledge of herbs; they started to develop unguents, tinctures and medicines. While dreams in their early forms involved a direct visit from the god, over time the dreams became more metaphoric, the dream became symbolic of the person’s problems. The attendants became dream interpreters, from these interpretations the priests would make up prescriptions for medicines. Over the past 4000 years, the Sleep Temple, the Priest and Dream Sleep, have slowly evolved in to what has become modern Doctors, hospitals and medicine.

The ancient Hebrews used meditation with chanting, breathing exercises and fixation on the Hebrew letters of the alphabet that spelled their name for God, to induce an ecstasy state called Kavanah. (These ritualistic practices are very similar to Auto-hypnosis). In the Talmud, Kavanah implies relaxation, concentration, correct attention (motivation). People such as fire-walkers, and priests who used the religious practice of laying on of hands to make people faint onto the floor, are using Auto-hypnosis to bring about an altered state of consciousness by the use of suggestion and expectation.

The Romans also adopted the use of healing sleep/Incubation Temples throughout their Empire. The Romans dedicated their Sleep Temples to the god Apollo – Æsclepius. Sleep Temples even got as far as Britain. Even now in the UK, you can visit a Roman archaeological site at Lydney Park, Lydney, Gloucestershire, where you can see the remains of a Sleep Temple. Sir Mortimer Wheeler excavated the Lydney Temple complex in 1928. One of Sir Mortimer’s assistants was the young Professor J.R.R.Tolkein, who went on to write “Lord of the Rings”; it has been suggested that he based Middle Earth on the landscape surrounding the Temple.

Post-Script: Maybe today’s Hypnotherapists consulting rooms can be viewed as the modern equivalent of the Sleep Temples, the couch a Klínè? But remember, “leave the healing god stuff, to a higher being.”

David Reeves, works as a Hypnoanalyst and Stress Management consultant in Swindon and Harley Street London, and the USA. He has trained in Battle Field Stress Disorders, and is a member of the International Stress Management Association (UK), The International Association of Hypnoanalysts (UK), The National Register of Advanced Hypnotherapists (UK), The International Society for Professional Hypnosis (USA, Incorporated under the laws of State of New York), The National Guild of Hypnotists, (USA) The European Therapy Studies Institute, and The Hypnothink Foundation.

Debunking the Myths Around Hypnosis

hypnosis clientThe technique, when used correctly, can help people overcome a host of life challenges

By Rob O’Flanagan

GUELPH — You are getting very, very … no, not sleepy. In fact, just the opposite: More awake, more aware of the inner impulses that drive you. The stereotype/myth of the hypnotist as a kind of magician that puts a person, or groups of people in a trance and makes them do what they wouldn’t normally do, continues to taint the practice of hypnosis. But that’s not really what hypnosis is all about.

The therapeutic technique, which has been around for several hundred years, has grown in popularity, and respect, in recent times, while its applications have broadened. “An area where hypnosis has had all its myths come about is in stage hypnosis,” said Jacques Gouws, a clinical psychologist based in Hamilton, and past-president of the Canadian Society of Clinical Hypnosis. “This is the stuff where someone gets on a stage and calls people up and makes them look silly.” Playing around with hypnosis is actually dangerous, Gouws said. Someone with a particular mental health problem, an emotional sensitivity, or a specific trauma can have a psychological door opened through hypnosis that can cause a serious mental crisis.

But there are many ways in which hypnosis can be used as a tool to try to change habits, eliminate phobias, foster a sense of inner peace, and overcome a host of life challenges. Habits are deeply rooted in the subconscious mind, and accessing that part of the mind is where hypnosis has its power.

Phil Naylor runs the Glen Tara Centre for Hypnosis and Wellness in Guelph, a growing hypnosis practice that aims to help clients with anxiety, panic, phobias, pain management, and overall wellness, among other things. His business offers counselling, psychotherapy and hypnotherapy. Hypnosis is not mind control, he said, but there is a general misconception that it is. Those under hypnosis are fully conscious and aware during the process. For the most part, hypnosis is very safe.

“There are not many people that do hypnosis in Guelph,” Naylor said. “Part of the issue with hypnosis is that people don’t understand it. There needs to an education process because people don’t think about hypnosis for the things they might be dealing with. It is certainly not part of the mainstream vocabulary of health or mental health.” People seek hypnosis at his office for depression and anxiety, pain management, and anger management. If you grind your teeth at night or have an unusual phobia, a practitioner like Naylor may be able to help.

Say you want to be a more confident person, someone who feels more capable of succeeding at what you put your mind to. Perhaps something within your subconscious, a fear or a negative belief, is acting as an impediment to self-assurance. Hypnosis can help get to the bottom of it, according to certified hypnotist Angela McClenahan.

McClenahan recently moved her hypnosis practice from her home in Burlington to a modern office building at 848 Gordon St. Her Guelph Hypnosis Works specializes in serving people working to achieve smoking cessation, weight loss, stress management and greater confidence. It can also help enhance academic and sports performance, and manage pain, she said.

“We help people break habits, break patterns and find new ways to cope,” she said. “It’s amazing how the unconscious mind works, and it (hypnosis) can work very, very quickly. People can be stuck in patterns that they’ve been doing for years, and we can help them get out of it within minutes. It’s amazing to watch people make all these changes and to be able to help them do that.”

McClenahan said if you want to quit smoking, change eating habits, gain control over negative impulses and attitudes, hypnosis can help by essentially giving you better access to the subconscious processes that influence your behavior. We may not always know why we do what we do, she said. Hypnosis can help access the underlying motives behind our behavior.

McClenahan demonstrated one method of instilling a kind of a mental anchor that helps reorient the mind. In this example, she was helping instill an anchor for self-confidence. Close your eyes and picture a circle on the floor in front of you, she instructed. The circle could be a hula hoop, a rope, a painted line, or a series of stones.

Then, think of someone who embodies the qualities you want to instill in yourself, she said. Identify those good qualities in your mind. Once you have them identified, place those characteristics in the circle and step inside.

Now, envision absorbing those characteristics up through your feet to the top of your head until they are fully embodied in you, at least on the level of thought. Then step back out of the circle and make a fist. The making of a fist will be your trigger in situations where you want those admirable, self-assured qualities to come to the fore. During a test to determine if a subject was susceptible to hypnosis, Naylor asked the subject to hold a pendulum over a piece of paper that had a circle on it. The circle had a vertical line and a horizon line across it.

He instructed the subject to relax, to watch the pendulum and imagine it going back and forth in one direction. The pendulum moved in that direction, apparently without any movement in the fingers of the subject. When asked to imagine it stopping, it stopped. A succession of suggestions made the pendulum go up and down, and in both clockwise and counter-clockwise directions, with stops between each new direction. The subject was clearly susceptible.

Naylor said subjects who respond well to hypnosis are not gullible. Instead, they tend to be people with a good imagination, who can fully visualize things suggested to them. A good rapport between the hypnotist and the subject is also important.

The key to the success of any hypnosis is the client’s openness to it, their willingness to be helped by it, and a solid commitment to change, McClenahan said. “You can-not hypnotize anyone who does not want to be hypnotized,” she said. “It’s a choice.”

Hypnosis has long had a presence in the world of entertainment, the kind of stage hypnosis that has been popular at different times. In some ways it has given hypnosis a bad name. It has provided an impression it’s a form of mind control or mesmerism that alters the state of mind and puts people in a trance that renders them vulnerable to suggestion and control. “Even in stage hypnosis they can’t make anyone do anything that they don’t want to do,” McClenahan said. “You are still aware of what is going on.”

The state of hypnosis, she explained, is similar to the state we find ourselves in just before falling asleep or in those few moments after waking. It is a very relaxed state of mind in which we are still aware of our surroundings but not really thinking about them. It is not uncommon to enter such a state while doing ordinary things. One can move into a kind of hypnotic state while driving, finding they have travelled some distance without fully remembering the details of the route or without noting the amount of time that has passed.

“We experience hypnosis-like states all the time,” McClenahan said. “It’s a natural phenomenon. What we do here at Guelph Hypnosis Works is we use that relaxed state of mind to help work with your unconscious mind to make the changes that you’re looking to make.”

Individual human beings are made up of various parts, go through numerous stages of life, and perform many roles, Gouws said. Things happen in different parts and at different times of our lives that we may not understand or be aware of, but which affect us over the long term.

“Some of the stuff that happened to us may be so threatening that we can’t really face it, in the same way that I am not going to have a root canal while I am wide-awake, without freezing,” Gouws said. “Hypnosis is a tool that allows the therapist access to deal with those particular things that happen in the subconscious mind.”

McClenahan said many of her clients are taught the techniques of self-hypnosis. With smoking cessation, those techniques are relatively straightforward and don’t take long to learn. But things such as stress management or weight loss are a longer process, the root of the problems running deeper. Single hypnotic sessions are not offered at Guelph Hypnosis Works, but, rather, programs are offered involving varying numbers of sessions, at various costs. The nitty-gritty details, or the deeper secrets of a problem, needn’t be revealed to a hypnotist, McClenahan said.

“We just help you access states of mind that will help you get beyond your issue,” she said. “We need to get them to level with themselves, to realize on a conscious level that they are doing this. And then you can help them change those patterns.”

Challenges such as weight gain are symptomatic of deeper, often subconscious fears, anxieties or traumas. The weight gain is a symptom of an emotional/psychological issue that must be accessed to get to the root of the problem.

McClenahan referred to the work of family therapy pioneer Virginia Satir, who identified a number of “coping stances” that influence our behavior and can get in the way of healthy relationships and lifestyles.

Some of us are placaters who are always trying to please others — always focused on others as opposed to themselves. There are blamers who always blame someone or something else for their problems, distractors who constantly distract themselves from their problems and thinkers who overanalyze.

“Sometimes people get stuck in these stances, and we help them get out of them,” McClenahan said. “They are coping mechanisms that we all use at some time or another. When you get stuck in any of them, we help you get out of that rut and level — to actually be able to see what you do, recognize it and change it.” Being in a hypnotic trance allows one to see in much the same way as dreaming while asleep, Gouws said. “The hypnotic trance allows one to work with those issues in a way that they can-not in a wide-awake state.”

Unless the trance experience is particularly threatening, or if there is a posthypnotic suggestion not to remember the experience, a patient will remember everything that happened while under hypnosis. Some people are much more susceptible to hypnosis than others, and are able to go very deeply into their past experiences and see them as though they are watching a movie, Gouws said. Many are able to regress back to infancy. But regressing back to times of abuse and trauma, he reiterated, is potentially risky.