Published March, 2003 by Carolyn March
What exactly happens to a person when she is in a hypnotic trance? Does she relinquish free will and obey suggestions with zombie-like compliance? Is she open to any manner of humiliation, such as behaving like an animal or revealing intimate secrets? In recent decades, hypnosis has been given a bad rap due largely to its depiction in movies. It functions as a truth serum in K-Pax, while the amnesiac in Dead Again undergoes hypnosis to learn her identity and ends up regressing to a past life in her love affair that turned deadly. Nor have hypnotists fared well on the big screen. At best, they have been portrayed as well intentioned but untrained, at worst, as nefarious villains who prey on unfortunate victims. Think Voltan, the quintessential evil hypnotist parodied by Woody Allen in The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.
In actuality, hypnosis has been used as a healing art for nearly 3000 years. In a hypnotic trance, a person achieves a level of physical and mental relaxation akin to that experienced during meditation. The hypnotist guides her through an exercise that enables the nerves and muscles of her body to relax and gives her mind a reprieve from active thought. Although the client remains aware of noise and movement around her, they do not disturb her tranquil state. She does not fall asleep or lose consciousness; however, she may feel if she is watching herself sleep in her mind’s eye. She experiences the trance as enjoyable, and her mind and body feel revitalized afterward.
Unlike psychotherapy, hypnotherapy bypasses communication with a person’s conscious mind to access the subconscious mind. Hypnotherapy strives to help people alter lifelong thought patterns that sometimes lead to unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors. After putting a client into a trance, the hypnotherapist can offer positive suggestions that refute and replaceÑin the moment or over timeÑthe negative thoughts and feelings the client has during waking consciousness that impede her from acting in healthier ways. For individuals who have previously tried methods that focus only on changing behavior and are frustrated by limited success or repeated failure, hypnotherapy may very well be the answer.
Hypnotherapy has gained popularity,and respect,in recent years as reports of success stories of weight loss and smoking cessation have been on the rise. In 2003, it received positive media attention from a Dateline NBC series that put six popular weight-loss methods under the microscope. While clients most often try hypnotherapy to lose weight or quit smoking, it can also help ease stress and grief, alleviate anxiety and depression, bolster self-esteem, and clear blocks to creativity. In addition, hypnotherapy is being used more widely in conjunction with medical treatment of cancer patients.
When you turn into the driveway of Jean Conway’s home in a quiet, residential part of Greenfield, any internal flutters, or even a strong urge to put your car in reverse and zoom back down the old farm road to the rotary and civilization, are instantly put to rest. What you notice are gentle trees, delicate flowers surrounding the front steps, and a home that looks well ordered and inviting. Adjacent to the house is a separate entrance a separate world, you might later think. You politely ring the bell before trudging up the newly constructed pine staircase and entering an intimate waiting room whose dŽcor is French Country. Welcome to Blue Moon Hypnotherapy.
You settle into a wicker chair and consider getting a drink from the cooler of spring water or perusing the latest issue of Holistic Health. But you don’t have to wait long. The door opens, and Jean is on the other side. Her blue eyes fix on you as she shakes your hand and offers a warm smile. The foggy image you had conjured up of a gypsy woman wearing jewel tones, dark lipstick, and big earrings disappears. Jean’s strawberry blonde hair has been styled by a professional, and her blue dress is made of a natural fabric. Her makeup and jewelry have been thoughtfully chosen to complement her appearance. But what is most striking about Jean is her voice: soft, melodic, assured. It is a voice that sets you at ease, a voice that you will want to listen to over and over again.
Jean’s office reminds you of a spa. The blue walls and carpeting are balanced by warm woodwork. Moon trinkets accent the room in uncluttered abundance. Over-sized chairs have footrests for maximum comfort. Thankfully absent are incense, lit candles, crystal balls. You scan the room’s surfaces for the notorious pocket watch she will dangle in front of you to induce a trance. When you don’t see one, you heave a mental sigh of relief. You are reassured by the professionalism of Jean and her office.
Jean Conway’s interest in hypnotherapy began over five years ago when a therapist used it to help ease her grief over the loss of a loved one. At the time, Jean was deeply rooted in the public sector, having spent 15 years as the Assistant Administrator for the Franklin Regional Transit Authority. But the healing powers of hypnotherapy impressed her, and she suspected that she could derive greater fulfillment from emotionally engaging work that would allow her to draw on personal experience. In 1999, she became certified by the National Guild of Hypnosis and began practicing hypnotherapy part time.
The next big leap came in 2001, when Jean decided to practice full time, launching Blue Moon Hypnotherapy in an office space adjacent to her Greenfield home. She has since taken courses in advanced hypnotherapy sponsored by the Banyan Hypnosis Center in Minnesota and is a member of the International Association of Counselors and Therapists.
Jean practices what is called “heart-centered hypnosis,” in which she gently helps clients rewrite negative thoughts and change the ways in which they perceive these thoughts. “Hypnosis is an altered state of mind that we all go into daily. We go into highway hypnosis and miss our exits. We all practice negative self-hypnosis, creating states of fear and negativity through the tapes we play in our heads,” she says. “Hypnotherapy is a way of liberating our minds, of seeing the opportunities in our everyday life experiences and acting on them.”
In addition, Jean volunteers for Grief-Net, an Internet-based group for bereaved parents whose children have died as a result of substance abuse. She is also a Hospice volunteer assisting terminally ill patients and their families through the Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield.
Jean admits that hypnotherapy doesn’t work for everybody and should not be regarded as a quick fix. “There’s no magic bullet to help a person stop smoking or lose weight,” she explains. “Because I cant make you do anything you don’t want to, you have to possess a strong internal desire for change.”
Nor does she believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to hypnotherapy. After a prospective client initiates contact, Jean mails a well-presented information packet containing a personalized note, a brochure detailing her services and mission statement, and testimonials from successful, satisfied clients. The client fills out a comprehensive intake form that Jean reviews and refers to during a lengthy in-person consultation conducted before the first hypnotherapy session. This vital information enables her to learn about the client’s specific thought patterns, emotional triggers, and behavior roadblocks. She then performs hypnotherapy for about forty-five minutes, tailoring the session to the client’s needs and taping herself during the process. The client receives the tape for the purpose of reinforcement. For the most part the client is a passive listener while Jean talks about their particular problem, such as the emotional triggers to smoking or binge eating. Yet Jean has also been trained in the 5-Path and 7-Path methods created by Calvin Banyan of the Banyan Hypnosis Center in Minnesota. Designed for people who want to address their problems at a deeper level, Path work consists of two to five longer sessions during which the client and hypnotherapist engage in interactive dialogue. The 5-Path method helps clients unlock painful memories, change their perceptions of these memories, and move toward forgiveness of self and others. A holistic and almost universal approach for clients who need help with addictive behaviors, compulsions, lack of motivation, mood problems, self-esteem, fears and phobias. The 7-Path method is a self-hypnosis program that allows you to first remove the old programming that blocks success, before making positive changes.
Jean’s competence in hypnotherapy translates into her business practice as well. The client pays for each session after it has taken place and for the most part decides how many sessions she would like. Since Blue Moon is not part of a franchise, groups of people do not listen to the same pre-recorded tape, all of her sessions are live. For these reasons Jean views herself as “a personal trainer for the subconscious mind.”
You don’t leave Jean’s office empty-handed. She has given you a tape to take home, articles to motivate you, and the sense that you can call or e-mail her with questions. Most important, you feel that she has taken you seriously, that she takes her work seriously, and that she genuinely wants her clients to feel better about themselves and their lives. As you drive back down the old farm road toward the hub of gas stations, fast-food restaurants, and big-box stores, you’re a little wistful. But there’s no need to fret. You can always return to Blue Moon for another visit. Jean Conway can be reached at 413 774-7171 and you can get more information at www.bluemoonhealingcenter.com.