Stage hypnosis and hypnotherapy share techniques but vary in purpose, delivery, theatrics
May 15, 2016
Steamboat Springs — The word “hypnosis often conjures images of a stage performer putting audience members into a sleep-like trance and instructing them to carry out silly tasks meant to entertain.
But there are also a variety of health and wellness benefits associated with another type of hypnosis known as clinical hypnotherapy, according to those who practice it.
During a private session of hypnotherapy, a person does not lose control or fall asleep, but instead, enters a state of deep relaxation, allowing the body and mind to focus and concentrate, according to Jenn Zuccone, a Steamboat Springs clinical hypnotherapist who has been in practice for nearly five years.
"This altered state of consciousness lies between being awake and asleep," said Zuccone, who works out of the Minds in Motion office in downtown Steamboat. "The hypnotic state can be self-induced, such as when you meditate, lose yourself in a good book or get into the 'flow,' as an artist (or) musician. One can also be guided into hypnosis through relaxation technique, hyper-concentration, suggestion and expectation."
Zuccone said seeing hypnotism performances might be detrimental for a person who could potentially benefit from clinical hypnotherapy due to the differences between the two practices.
"Contrary to depictions of hypnosis in Hollywood, people do not lose control of themselves or their behavior," Zuccone said. "With this misunderstanding and skewed observation, people can become afraid of it and not be open to it as a therapeutic tool to help them in their lives."
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Hypnotherapy treatments can help a person quit particular habits or overcome fears, assisting with weight issues, pain management, smoking cessation, stress management, anxiety and insomnia, among other issues, Zuccone said.
While Zuccone thinks misperceptions about hypnotherapy may exist due to stage hypnosis, the two practices of are not unrelated, according to professionals in both crafts, including Linda Bennett, a hypnotherapy instructor at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts in Tempe, Arizona, where hypnotherapists, including Zuccone, earn their certifications.
Bennett, who has been certified in hypnotherapy for nearly 25 years, spent four years as a stage hypnotist in the late 1990s, an experience she said was "a lot of fun."
Bennett said hypnosis can take place on stage, in a therapeutic, clinical setting and in a person’s regular life.
"Have you ever gotten in your car and driven somewhere and been so lost in your thoughts, you miss your exit or question whether you stopped at the last stop sign? … During these times, you are in an altered state of consciousness, also known as hypnosis," Bennett said.
Durango-based stage hypnotist Rick Harman also has a background in clinical hypnotherapy and said the two crafts have many similarities.
"A clinician and a stage hypnotist use the same tools and exploit the same brain waves, but a stage hypnotist is obviously putting on a show," Harman said. "It's not as magical as it is perceived because of the showmanship involved in both the clinic and on the stage. It is very powerful though."
Harman said he once also thought stage performances hindered the clinical industry.
"If you take a closer, look the story changes," he said.
Harman said that, historically, stage shows always preceded a country's decision to allow clinical hypnotherapy, suggesting stage performances have actually paved the way for the therapeutic practices Zuccone and Bennett now employ.
"You won't find clinics in a place without there being stage hypnotists first to create awareness," Harman said.
He also said that, not unlike clinical hypnotherapists, stage hypnotists should abide by a set of best practices; they can also be certified, carry insurance and have varying levels of training.
He suggested someone hiring a stage hypnotist should research the performer and his or her credentials before moving forward.
Having a better understanding of stage hypnosis and hypnotherapy, as well as their different purposes, could help people understand how hypnotherapy might benefit them, Zuccone said.
"As a hypnotherapist, I am passionate about using hypnosis with integrity to help guide people into helping themselves," she said.