My First (formal) Hypnosis Experience

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—View from the far side of the recliner

My First (formal) Hypnosis Experience

My first formal hypnotic trance experience occurred June of 2007 in Sante Fe, NM at the Hypnotherapy Academy of America. I remember (always questionable) being one of the first students to get in the recliner in the front of the class. It was a revelation and mind opening experience.

It turns out that I and probably everyone with normal cognitive function has been in a hypnotic trance, many times, maybe most of the time. Every day dream, every time becoming entranced in TV, a movie, play, those times stopping the car at a familiar place and not remembering anything about driving there, pretty much anytime when our mind took us to some other reality when we were not actually asleep, is likely some form of trance. When someone states “I can’t be hypnotized” they are denying experiencing anything other than living in this exact moment in this exact setting. Kind of a sad! They actually mean that they have such a powerful mind/will power that no one can control their mind. Fortunately no one with those beliefs have shown up at my office. It would be an expensive few minutes for them and a complete waste of time for us both. When someone makes such a statement I don’t argue with them, after all they have such a powerful mind (is that the same as a strong opinion?). I do explain my understanding of what hypnosis and hypnotherapy is, almost more important, what they are not and the way I use them in my practice. People usually have a difficult time denying ever having a day dream or getting into some type of entertainment. Actually I have a free consultation by phone or in person so that never happens. What often happens is that a client or potential client states “I don’t know if I can be hypnotized” and that turns into a conversation instead of some talk show yelling match. I don’t yell so that never happens either. I’m pretty sure that by time we have the, “I don’t know if…” conversation they are ready to take a chance because they’ve tried everything else.

Alright back to my trance, because isn’t it really all about me, unless it’s all about you if you are the “me”? One of the amazing aspects about the experience is that I could clearly hear every sound in the room. I don’t know what I expected, but I remember being so surprised that I could hear every sound in the room. My classmates were trying to be quiet but I could hear pages turning, people shifting basically sounds that I would not have been conscious of if I was sitting in class doing anything else. It seemed like I would hear the voice of the hypnotist that just made sense. The fact that my hearing seemed enhanced was just amazing. That was my first WOW! so that what hypnosis is like learning experience.

I had many other learning experiences in those seven weeks. I had never seen a hypnosis entertainment performance so was floored, actually I didn’t hit the floor, to learn and experience that you could stand, walk, open your eyes and talk in a trance.  Also the experience of being in a trance so light that I seemed to be just relaxed and so deep that I could just barely hear and knew that I could move if I wanted to but just didn’t want to. There is so much more but I’ll save it for another time.

As always, experience is the best teacher. Although if it is a really bad experience it’s better if someone has the experience and you do the learning. I use the suggestion that “any sound you hear, even the sound of my voice, just helps you go even deeper into relaxation”. Many hypnotherapists use that suggestion as part of deepening the trance. My office is about 200 yards from a major railroad crossing and over a hundred trains a day go through Flagstaff. Incorporating extraneous sounds into deepening relaxation is both powerful and essential in my setting. Every time I give that suggestion I’m reminded of my first time in the recliner more than seven years ago.

So stay amazed and enjoy your trance!

Next time I’ll probably write about pain, so bring bandages, ice packs and aspirin. I am, most likely going to my 40th High School Reunion. That may be a different kind of pain, so maybe I’ll write about that.

Feel free to contact me with any comments and of course if you know someone who might be interested in these posts please send them on.
Don Berlyn


Odds and Ends

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View from the far side of the recliner

Odds and Ends

Well probably not that odd and definitely not the end.
Another Learning Experience
I got a call from a potential client’s wife which is usually a red flag. In this case the man had been referred by a physician I know to quit smoking. I didn’t feel I could turn that referral down. The gentleman had a number of serious medical conditions and was looking at another surgery. His doctor naturally wanted him not smoking, surgery is risky enough even for someone in good health. It turned out that the man smoked 5 to 7 cigars a day the way other people smoke cigarettes. He also wanted to work on dietary and exercise goals.
The problem was he still had cigars. I usually want my clients to have their last smoke and get rid of all smoking material before they come to see me. If they are not willing to do that they probably are not ready to quit smoking. There are some other techniques I can use to assist them to being ready but of course if it’s not really their goal I can’t help them with that goal.
We spent a long time going over his history and goals. Decided on the language for suggestions. Did a quick reality technique to check if he could really see himself as a nonsmoker. It was not easy for him to see himself a nonsmoker. Not encouraging. Because of the medical importance of this issue I decided to go ahead. I taught him some simple stress reduction techniques then went into what seemed like a good trance session. In the review at the end of the session he seemed to think he could give up the cigars. We scheduled another session in two days to keep working on the other issues.
Next session he had not quit and still had enough cigars to last him three days. He had decided that his goal was to quit smoking at 6:00 PM on the third day while tapering off. It didn’t seem like the best plan but he was sure it would work and he had spent a lot of time thinking about it and even had a number of precise suggestions. We reviewed the previous stress reduction techniques then proceeded with a session using his suggestions and very specific target for being a nonsmoker.
I called him about an hour after the target time to congratulate him on being tobacco free only to find that he felt terrible and couldn’t give up the cigars yet.
Although that result wasn’t totally unexpected at least the stress reduction techniques were reported to be helpful. I talked to the doctor about the outcome and he thought it worth a try anyway.
I will give this client a call now that it’s been a couple of weeks and see if he wants to work on anything else or do some deep work on his need for the cigars.

More Seizure Stuff
Last time I wrote about my experience of having seizures. Most of the time I can function just fine and no one else knows what’s happening in my head. At least twice that I remember, I was working with clients deep in trance going through suggestions when the auditory hallucinations came on strong, after a bit my ability to form words was getting compromised. Until the seizures passed it was a matter of extreme concentration and frequent pauses to keep going. At the end of those sessions I was exhausted but at least the clients were relaxed and had no idea of what had been going on the other side of the recliner.
Hypnotherapy Conference
Last week I attended the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners Conference in Pasadena. There were three days with 24 presentations and 16 workshops. I managed to get to six workshops and two presentations for a total of 17.5 hours. Almost everything I went to was excellent. It was great to hear directly from two authors of powerful books in the field and from one of the best known medical hypnotherapists in the world. The other speakers were very knowledgeable with excellent information. It was nice to be reminded of some of the things that I learned previously, techniques that I want to start using again and new insights and details on what was familiar. There were four areas in which I gained a lot of new information using metaphors in hypnotherapy, working with; insomnia, PTSD and children.
I am really looking forward to incorporating the new information into my existing practice and expanding into more working (kind of like play) with the little people and helping those folks dealing with PTSD.
I meet two of my classmates from the Hypnotherapy Academy of America (in Sante Fe, NM back then) class of Summer 2007. We agreed that we did get an excellent education. I meet a number of very nice and interesting people from all over the country. There were even a few from Arizona.

That’s it for now.

Feel free to contact me with any comments and of course if you know someone who might be interested in these posts please send them on.
Don Berlyn

It’s alright to get paid isn’t it? Another Learning Experiences

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View from the far side of the recliner

It’s alright to get paid isn’t it?

Strange concept. It makes sense that if you do some service for someone you should get paid. Nobody paints my house or fixes my car for free. So why do I and so many other people in the “helping” professions feel that there is something wrong for getting paid to help someone overcome a difficulty. Obviously a personality defect.

The owner of the Hypnotherapy Academy of America, wise fellow that he is, recognized this tendency. Attending the school was pretty expensive but a good value because of the very high quality of the education, excellent instructors and complete, clear and easy to use materials.  Tim, the owner and head of the school, made it clear that it was important both for us and our clients to charge a fair amount for our services. We spent some time on this subject, looking at our beliefs about money and discovering if they were helping or hindering us from being successful.  We needed to get reimbursed so we could continue doing what we do and to have a decent level of living which would also serve as model for our clients. The clients need to pay for what they receive, “an equal exchange” so that they would value the service. It turns out that when people have to pay even a small amount for a medication they are more likely to actually take it than if it is free. It appears that at least in some areas of life, free = no value.

I know that when I help someone achieve their goal of becoming tobacco free they will save hundreds of dollars a year. There are of course other benefits. So charging an amount equal to a few weeks’ worth of poison delivery devices seems like a great deal.  Although I know this on the intellectual/conscious level I still have to practice this in my professional life, in both Hypnotherapy and Physical Therapy. I could use another session on this myself.

There is such a thing as going too far the other way. There are hypnotherapists who are all about money with systems to identify all of these areas in which a client “needs” sessions. This can come to over a thousand dollars. Then there is all of the canned CDs or downloads you can recommend. I ended up spending a lot of money to one of these operations to improve my business and before becoming completely turned off, feeling both pressured and disgusted. I am aware that this attitude of trying to squeeze the most money possible from the people you are supposed to be serving also exists in some PTs, MDs, DCs, dentists and hospital administrators.

I really like to see a person for just a few, sometimes one session with the client having the tools to help themselves and hopefully so happy that they become my best referral source and advertisement. It’s a crazy business plan. Maybe it‘ll work.


I’ll be attending a hypnosis conference called HypnoThoughts Live in Las Vegas, July 18 – 20. This gathering is for entertainment hypnotists, hypnotherapists and anyone with an interest in hypnosis. Although I don’t do entertainment hypnosis it is fascinating and fun to watch when performed by master show people. There looks to be a great variety of interesting lectures and presentations. This may be blog material you’ll soon be seeing.

In the beginning;

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—View from the far side of the recliner

I have been a Physical Therapist since 1986 primarily focusing on orthopedic and sports rehabilitation. My main tools were (and are) manual therapy, exercise and patient education. Overall everything seemed to be going fine for most of my patients. The folks with muscle tension headaches, neck, back and isolated joint pain responded well to what I had to offer. Then there was a group of patients who didn’t seem to have lasting improvements. These people tended to have more chronic and diffuse pain symptoms. Typically they seemed to focus more on their pain and less on function or activity than the patients that I had more success with. I noticed that the people in the group that did not respond well to my version of PT tended to talk a lot about things in their lives that were frustrating, unhappy and limiting. They seemed trapped in a life that they couldn’t change.

Maybe it wasn’t just a physical problem. Of course I knew that but what to do to help these patients? About seven years ago I really started to think about this and did some research discovering that hypnosis has a long history in pain control (and also other things that I wasn’t thinking about at the time).

The next step was finding a good school. It turned out that there were two schools that looked very professional in states that neighbored Arizona. The one in the San Francisco area would require flying and staying. The one in S ante Fe, NM was drivable allowing me to get to Flagstaff on some weekends. It turns out that both schools were excellent but the style of the one I choose really was the best one for me. Strange how that works out. The Hypnotherapy Academy of America program was a very intensive seven weeks with the last two weeks being clinical, meaning working with pain and health issues. My experience at the hypnotherapy school was amazing, changing the way I looked at and thought about many things. I felt pretty good about being able to help my patients with their pain. More about hypnotherapy school some other time. Although I had learned about using hypnosis for many situations I was single mindedly focused on pain and medical issues.

So my first paying client had a debilitating fear of spiders, arachnophobia. Time to broaden that focus and use what I had learned to help people achieve their goals in all kinds of areas. As Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. would say,” and so it goes”.

Next appearing at a blog post near you; mistakes/failures/learning experiences. At least not to the level of catastrophes and disasters. It might seem strange to begin a blog series with things I’ve could have done better as a Hypnotherapist but that is the way I get smarter. It’s the old, “experience is the best teacher”. I’ve had a few experiences.  I’ve had some good teachers.