Hypnotherapy Opens Mind to Healthy Changes

Kelly Moyer , Staff Reporter The Reflector

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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 its 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.

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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 them that it doesn’t have to be painful. In hypnotherapy we can look at a situation and reframe 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.”

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