The power of suggestion
Take a deep breath...deeper, deeper, deeper. You will soon feel yourself relax...relax...relax...
Imagine yourself going down a flight of stairs. With each step you go down, you will become more and more relaxed.
Now, concentrate on the words in this story. When you are done reading, you will know all about hypnotherapy. You will understand everything it is - and everything it is not. At the end, your fears about the unique method of therapy will be assuaged.
Take a deep breath. Relax. And read...
You may have seen it at a company Christmas party or a birthday party. A few brave souls up in front of the room barking like dogs, or leaping around thinking they're James Bond. Sure, it's fun and entertaining, and everyone has a good laugh. But that's not all that hypnosis is. It's also an effective tool to help people change their lives.
"There is a world of difference between stage hypnosis and hypnotherapy," explained Randy Buker, a certified hypnotherapist in Alexandria.
But he admits that hypnosis of the stage variety is what entranced him in the first place.
"I wanted to be hypnotized. It had this big air of mystery," he said. "It was absolutely fascinating."
At a stage show he attended, Buker raced to be a volunteer. The experience prompted him to want to learn to be a hypnotist. Extensive research resulted in him taking a course in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
It was here that he learned hypnosis could be used for more than entertainment - it could help people.
Buker received his hypnotherapist certification from the Naitonal Guild of Hypnotists. He received his clinical hypnotherapist certification from the Academy for Professional Hypnotism. The intense training involved 100 hours of in-class study and 150 hours of study on his own, reviewed by an instructor.
"Therapy might be a bad term. We don't do counseling at all," Buker explained. "We can't treat or diagnose any medial or psychological issues. We can help in the treatment with a doctor's written referral."
There is a wide spectrum of issues that Buker helps clients with through hypnotherapy, including smoking cessation, losing weight, stress and pain management, changing negative habits or behaviors, sleep management, removing mental blocks to success, and overcoming unreasonable fears.
He explained that hypnosis works by getting the client's subconscious mind to accept suggestions.
"Unreasonable fears live [in the subconscious mind]," he said. "We can realize they are irrational, but they're there.
"We get the person to focus and relax," he continued. "You can get those suggestions under the critical mind into the subconscious. We ask [clients] to accept suggestions as their own. Those suggestions become part of them. We use techniques that help people focus and accept suggestions."
He also emphasized that he doesn't "cure" anything.
"I'm not the one doing it," he added. "All I'm doing is guiding a person to where they need to be to help themselves."
While almost anyone can be hypnotized, there are three required elements to ensure success. The person has to be of average intelligence, they can't be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and most importantly, they have to want to be hypnotized.
"As long as you want to be, you can be hypnotized enough to work on issues through hypnosis," Buker said.
A person must also truly want to achieve the goal for which they are seeking help.
"You have to want what's going to happen," Buker said, adding that conversely, a person under hypnosis cannot be enticed to do anything they wouldn't normally want to do.
"If I tell a client to rob a bank, it's not going to happen," he said. "You have to be hypnotized for what you came for. You absolutely can't be made to do anything you don't want to do."
Buker also assures that contrary to myth, a person can't get "stuck" in a state of hypnosis, nor can they lose control or consciousness.
"You will be completely aware but you will be very relaxed," he said. "You will hear and remember everything that happens during your session."
Since February, Buker has hypnotized nearly 100 people, and has had a high success rate. Typically, results are achieved with three 45- to 60-minute sessions.
Every weight loss client he has had to date has lost weight. And his smoking cessation success rate, which is more difficult because a physical addiction is involved, is around 60 percent. He has also helped several people overcome lifelong irrational fears.
"It's so rewarding. I love it," he concluded. "But I don't want to take the credit. I feel like I'm a really effective tool. I'm just guiding them. If they didn't want to change, there's nothing I could do."