1. How did you first become involved with hypnotherapy?
I actually graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, and my first job out of college was working with CNN. Within a couple years, I had my first opportunity to actually be on TV and anchor a sports segment. I decided to try a session of hypnosis to help with the anxiety I always felt in front of the camera, and needless to say, it went well!
Not only did it help me feel more relaxed and confident in front of the camera; it also helped my overall sense of confidence and well-being. I changed dramatically as a person during the next couple of years, so when I fell victim to CNN's layoffs shortly following the ill-fated AOL/Time Warner merger, I used it as an opportunity to study hypnotherapy full-time, and I became certified.
After getting hired by another department within Turner later that year, I built my hypnotherapy practice on the side until finally taking it full-time in 2007. It's funny, because since leaving my TV career, I've appeared on TV (and radio) numerous times as a hypnotist, and that initial experience with hypnosis is still helpful to me to this day.
2. What is the strangest fear you've helped someone overcome?
While I've worked on a wide range of odd and interesting fears and phobias (including the fear of vegetables!), my favorite story will always be the client who had a fear of cats. This was a 52 year-old woman who'd been afraid of cats since she was 19--so for more than 30 years. Her fear had been so intense that she wouldn't even enter a home if she knew a cat lived there. It dramatically affected her ability to go places and do things.
The best part of this story is that I met this woman in my hypnotherapy class. So when I worked with her, it wasn't for money; it was for class credit! I asked if she'd let me hypnotize her because at that time, I was the proud owner of two cats. My thinking was "If this works, we'll find out right away!"
When she arrived at my home for the session, she checked to make sure that I'd locked the cats in their cages, in a separate, locked room, before she would enter. Two hours later, she was holding my cats in her arms, sobbing. Happy tears! She couldn't believe what she was doing, or that such a dramatic change could happen so quickly.
After she left, I did an enthusiastic "fist-pump" because it was at that moment I knew that not only did hypnosis work, but I also knew that I could be successful with it as a therapist.
3. Why does hypnosis work so fast?
Hypnosis tends to work more quickly than other forms of therapy because it's used to communicate directly to the subconscious mind. Most other forms of therapy utilize solely the conscious mind (or "will power"), where participants find change to be a slow and painful process.
When communicating only with the conscious mind, you're avoiding the real problem, which is the internal conflict that exists within the mind. Most of my clients know what they should be doing (i.e. stop smoking, eat healthier, etc), but there's an internal conflict between the logical and emotional minds that causes distress and frustration.
Hypnotherapy actually slows things down during the session itself in a way that allows the subject to really hear, receive, and process information without external distractions, and thus much more efficiently. Hypnosis also produces a deep state of mental and physical relaxation which helps individuals to think more clearly and subsequently make better decisions.
But perhaps most importantly, by communicating with the subconscious (emotional) mind, hypnotherapy can end the internal conflict and produce an internal agreement that leads to immediate changes that feel natural and comfortable right away.
4. What's been your greatest success story in helping others with hypnosis?
Wow. It's very difficult to pick one specific story out of two thousand clients, but one story that comes to mind is a client (now friend) named Ann Russell. When she first contacted me, she did so by email because at that time, her anxiety made her incapable of making a phone call. She was also painfully shy and struggled to even make eye contact with people.
We met for an initial session, and while we discussed many topics (including performance anxiety), nothing particularly spectacular happened that day. But a week or so later when she came back for a second session, something spectacular did happen. It happened to be that rare week when Atlanta was hit with an ice storm, so when she arrived outside my then home office, her car got stuck on a steep incline and was slowly sliding backwards toward several parked cars.
I found this out when my phone rang. The woman who wasn't previously able to make a phone call was calling me for help! So I put on my best ice-walking shoes (!) and ran out to see if I could help her avoid disaster.
When I got to her car, I took some cardboard boxes out of her trunk and placed them underneath her rear tires; she got a bit of traction and was able to find some dry pavement.
When we sat down to do the session, Ann was most amazed with how she'd just been able to communicate with me, think on her feet, and follow instructions. She told me that previously, her performance anxiety would have "shut her down" and essentially paralyzed her in such situations.
We did a number of sessions that year over the course of 6-7 months, and the happy ending to this story took place nearly a year following our initial session, when she agreed to share her story in front of an audience of roughly 100 people at my annual World Hypnotism Day seminar. The same woman who had hidden in the back row and avoided eye contact with everyone the previous year was now standing in front of the room, holding a microphone, and talking about her experience with hypnosis.
It was the best endorsement I could possibly receive, and it still makes me smile just thinking about how much Ann has changed.
5. I see you are married with a beautiful little girl. How does your personal life impact your professional one?
Since my daughter Sienna is my undisputed #1 priority in life, I've actually structured my work schedule around spending as much time with her as possible. I see fewer clients than I could because there's no amount of money that can buy back the time I spend with her during these early years of her life.
But I'd have to say that the reverse of this question is something worth discussing even more. My professional life and experience as a hypnotherapist has had a tremendous impact on my personal life, especially as it relates to my daughter.
I've discovered through years of therapy that many of my clients' problems had roots in their childhood--specifically related to their experiences with their parents. Those who develop serious self-confidence or self-esteem issues often were ignored, abandoned, or abused by one or both of their parents.
It's become so clear to me that by the time Sienna was born, I already knew that I'd be sacrificing some financial success in order to be more present in her life. I'm comfortable with that, and grateful every day that I've made the choice to do so. I know from experience that with the right kind of attention and guidance, she's going to grow and develop into a confident, happy, and capable adult.