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Hypnosis: Programming Healthy Habits
By Jan Lee, CH, RN

Thanks to Hollywood, many people think of hypnosis as a kind of mysterious mind control to make unsuspecting victims do things they normally wouldn’t do. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

According to local hypnotist and psychiatric nurse Jan Lee, CH, RN, hypnosis is simply a way to reprogram the mind.

“Through hypnosis, we can bypass the conscious mind and access the subconscious mind where healthy changes can take place,” she explains.  “If you look at the mind as a computer, everyone has programs running that control our thoughts and actions.  Hypnosis is a means to replace the programs causing us to do unhealthy things with healthy programs.”

Hypnosis can help clients overcome smoking and other addictions, food issues, self-esteem and confidence issues, anger management, fears and phobias, sports performance, grief, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and being bullied, among others. Jan also has had quite a bit of success with pain management, helping clients find relief from chronic pain.

Jan’s interest in hypnosis began 25 years ago when, as a psychiatric nurse working at a local hospital, she attended a seminar on hypnosis. The subject intrigued her and she promised herself that she would look into it one day. In 2010, she underwent hypnosis training and achieved her certification through the National Guild of Hypnotists, the leading national training and certification organization for professional hypnotists. Since launching her hypnosis practice in New Kensington, she has had great success in helping clients overcome a host of other unhealthy behaviors.

What is Hypnosis?
Jan explains that we are in and out of hypnotic states every day. “When you think about driving the same route from point A to point B for years, sometimes you get to that destination and you really don’t recall how you got there. You were most likely in a hypnotic state or ‘in the zone’ where you don’t have to think about the act of driving. During a hypnosis session, the hypnotist simply guides you into a hypnotic state to engage your subconscious,” she says.

What does it feel like to be hypnotized? “You are in a kind of trance - not a zombie trance - but in an altered state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep,” Jan says. “Clients report feeling very relaxed or feeling like they are floating away.”

Jan does some "testing" using a pendulum or visualization to see how receptive her client is. Then she asks the client to gaze at a candle flame or stare at a spot on the wall. This causes a heaviness and closure of the eyes. She coaxes them to relax and breathe deeply. She has them count backward slowly until the numbers fade and are forgotten. This signifies a "letting go" of the conscious mind.

“Some people go into trance more easily. Some need more help to let go. It's all unique to that client and I will adjust to what they need," Jan explains.

Misconceptions about Hypnosis
There are many misconceptions about hypnosis. “People think its voodoo or a religious process. It’s not mind control and you can‘t get stuck in it. You are not going to tell me things you don’t want to,” Jan says.

“There are a few people who have a real fear of being hypnotized,” Jan says. “Almost anyone can be hypnotized, but if you have a lot of misconceptions, or if you do not want to be hypnotized for whatever reason, then  it’s not going to happen. If hypnosis is explained to you correctly, you shouldn’t be afraid of it.”

People with severe cognitive impairment, those with psychosis and any who are unable to follow basic directions may not be hypnotizable, according to Jan.

“The key is do you want to accept what you are hearing?” Jan explains. “Your mind has its belief system and if it does not want to accept a suggestion, it will not do that.”

“When someone asks me whether hypnosis is dangerous, I like to ask them, ‘Is daydreaming dangerous?’ or ‘Is using your imagination dangerous?’ Normally, hypnosis is very safe with no side effects,” she says.

Do people remember what happens when they are hypnotized? According to Jan, that varies. “I have clients who will recall something of what was said. Your conscious mind may not remember, but your subconscious mind will, because that what was engaged during the session.”

Hypnosis is not just for adults. “Kids are the best subjects. I just worked with an 11-year-old with anxiety issues,” says Jan. “Children between 8 and 10 are very receptive to hypnosis. Teenagers, too, are open to hypnosis.  By the time we are adults, though, we have become a bit jaded, maybe cynical and less believing in the ‘magic’ of our own powerful minds to make changes. We can retrieve this by simply watching children let go when they play. We all have done that and it is part of us.”

Success with Smoking Cessation
One of the most common conditions that people use hypnosis for is smoking cessation.

“You already know in your conscious mind that smoking is bad for you,” says Jan. “The difference with hypnosis is receiving those suggestions when you are in trance. I have them imagine that, as soon as you touch that cigarette, you have the worst taste in your mouth. You begin to make an association that this smoking is associated with something you don’t like or, on the other hand, quitting is associated with amazing things like adding years to your life that smoking would have taken away; breathing easier and having more energy; having fresh smelling clothes, hair, and breath; and having extra money that was spent on your smoking habit.

How effective is hypnosis for something like smoking cessation? Jan says that “If I did a group of smokers who wanted to quit, six or seven out of ten would quit. It depends on the hypnotist and the client.

Is Hypnosis for You?
If you feel that hypnosis might help you, Jan recommends talking to the hypnotist and asking questions. “Get to know the hypnotist. I like to do an interview with prospective clients. Ask questions. Get rid of your misconceptions about hypnosis. Make sure you are comfortable. Just be prepared to let go and use your imagination.”

The Future of Hypnosis
What’s the future for hypnosis? Jan believes “The sky is the limit. This isn’t a fad. Mind-body medicine is here to stay and it needs to take its place right alongside traditional medicine. If people become healthier because they learn to do something that is not about medications or procedures, but something they can tap into with their own energy, their own mind to heal themselves, then let’s make it an additional intervention,” Jan says.

For more information about hypnosis, contact Jan at 724-351-1242, janleehypnosis@gmail.com, or visit her website at www.janleehypnosis.com.

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