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Natural Awakenings

Hypnotherapy: Subconscious Beliefs Rule

Mar 01, 2009 03:00AM ● By Brigit Ingram

The 1984 Olympic Games made Mary Lou Retton’s name a household word, as the first American woman to ever win a gold medal in gymnastics. Afterwards, the diminutive champion surprised many Time readers by sharing one of her secrets in a magazine interview. During the nights leading up to her win, she lay in bed, mentally rehearsing her routine hundreds of times, visualizing a perfect performance down to every minute detail. In effect, she was practicing self-hypnosis.

The gold medalist believed in the process of mental conditioning and affirmation. “Since the mind doesn’t know the difference between fantasy and reality, Retton’s self-hypnosis helped her to do more effectively what she was already good at,” says Master Hypnotist George Bien, a nationally recognized professional hypnotherapist, with a doctorate in educational psychology and communications. “Often the best candidates for hypnosis are highly motivated and intelligent people like Retton, because of their ability to focus and concentrate.”

Since the introduction of hypnosis in the 18th century, outdated images of a hypnotic trance-like state, induced by swinging watches and spiraling devices, have been replaced with the concept of concentrated focus and visualization techniques. The belief that the unconscious mind was creative and solution-generating led Milton H. Erickson (1901-1980), an American psychiatrist and author, to elevate the use of hypnosis in his practice; he became known as the father of modern hypnotherapy.

By 1958, the American Medical Association approved and endorsed the use of hypnosis in tandem with medicine, with the American Psychological Association following suit in 1960. Since 1995, the National Institutes of Health have recommended hypnotherapy as a treatment for chronic pain. Many dentists also use it to reduce the fear and anxiety that accompany uncomfortable procedures.Today, this natural state of heightened awareness, in which an individual easily relaxes, accepts suggestions and listens to the profound guidance of their own inner wisdom, is used as a powerful tool by practitioners of healing arts.

Vivian Smith, owner of the Agape Healing Center in Bonita Springs, is one of them. After 19 years as a board-certified master hypnotherapist, Smith has noticed an attitude shift in her clients.

“In recent years, they are less skeptical,” she says. “Many of my clients have already tried traditional methods for dealing with health challenges, such as managing stress and anxiety or eliminating habits like smoking and overeating. Most have read about the benefits of hypnotherapy and consider it as a serious alternative.”

Bill McLaughlin, a certified clinical hypnotherapist, agrees, noting that he has successfully used hypnotherapy with clients committed to smoking cessation. Recently, local public television affiliate WGCU-TV taped a live session in his Naples office for their program, Connect: a Study of Alternative Health.

“The client, previously addicted to smoking, had not smoked for three weeks after his first session,” comments McLaughlin. “I also work successfully with clients who suffer from obesity, poor self-esteem and low self-confidence in the areas of dating and other social settings.” 

“The longest journey we take is inward,” advises Lynn Thomas, a registered nurse, nationally certified hypnotherapist and energy healing practitioner in Naples. “In adulthood, the mind’s ability to create detours and obstacles along life’s journey is so powerful that many of my clients use hypnosis to rid themselves of old childhood beliefs that impede their happiness and success.” She concludes, “Regardless of what we think, rationalize and will ourselves to do with the conscious mind, it is what we believe subconsciously that determines the course of our lives.”

Practitioners explain that hypnotherapy can help an individual access their belief system anchored in the subconscious, a storehouse of memories, habitual self-talk and negative messages. Then, guided by professional counsel, the person is able to create new behavior patterns that help them reach their fullest potential.

Hypnosis cannot negate a person’s principles or moral convictions, the experts assure us, nor does it put an individual to sleep. Rather, it creates a deep state of relaxation, allowing the subconscious mind to accomplish permanent change.

“Willpower is only good for the short term,” Thomas observes. “Old habit programming always wins out, unless it is replaced with a new suggestion to the subconscious.”

Accessing the power of this subconscious core can certainly create positive outcomes. Just ask a certain 1984 gold medalist.

For more information or to find a local hypnotherapist, visit the National Guild of Hypnotists, Inc. at

Connect with George Bien at

Contact Vivian Smith of the Agape Healing Center, at 239-947-4802.

Contact Bill McLaughlin at 239-287-3458 or visit Naples Hypnosis at

Contact Lynn D. Thomas, a registered nurse, at 239-597-1328 or email
[email protected]. Visit Concerned Health Alternatives at

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