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No two people are alike, and not all hypnosis is alike either. "I gather information from people to understand what they need, because I don't use a boilerplate approach," says Blum. He uses a client-centered method known as Ericksonian hypnosis, which is more permissive than the old-school "authoritarian" style. So rather than giving commands such as "You are feeling sleepy" or "Your eyes are getting heavier," he makes suggestions. "I might say, 'I wonder if you can imagine yourself now as a nonsmoker in the future.' It's about giving the person a chance to make choices." Blum notes that most people only need two or three sessions to effect change. "This is short-term, solution-oriented work. You're addressing what you want and how you can change to get that."
Waking Up from Trauma
Some mental health practitioners add hypnosis to their toolbox because it can help people go deep quickly and get to the source of their core issues. Stephanie Kristal, a certified hypnotherapist and counselor based in Kingston and High Falls, combines hypnosis with mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy as a way to instigate change at the root level. "Hypnosis is a deep state, but there's nothing scary about it," she says. "It's similar to spacing out while watching a movie or becoming absorbed in a really good book. You drop below the level of the constantly chattering mind to a place in the subconscious that's more open to suggestion." Hypnotherapy takes hypnosis one step further by working with the mind-body connection and utilizing the modality of hypnosis for change, growth, and healing.
People see Kristal for a variety of reasons, including common motivators like smoking cessation, overeating, and phobias, but her primary practice is with trauma. "When we have a trauma, we take on certain beliefs about ourselves, and we have associated thoughts and feelings because of it. It forms a neural loop that we keep repeating, which keeps us locked into being unhappy and limited in our lives," she explains. "Hypnotherapy can be a process that begins to dissolve those old neural loops that are no longer serving us and are keeping us from reaching our desired states, and replaces them with healthier ways of thinking, feeling, believing, and being in our life." It's a way of flipping the switch on those neural pathways, so we're not stuck in past traumas but can move forward with empowered awareness.
When Luis Mojica of West Saugerties first came to Kristal, he was dealing with emotional fallout from complex trauma related to childhood sexual abuse. "I was having extreme anxiety, trouble sleeping, and issues in my relationship," he says. "When Stephanie explained hypnotherapy, the idea of it really worked for me. I liked how you bypassed the brain to get to the body, and I felt like I could heal faster than I would with a decade of therapy." Mojica had two counseling sessions with Kristal that helped her get to know him before embarking on a single yet powerful hypnotherapy experience. During the session, he lay back in a chair that made him feel like he was floating. Kristal held an eagle feather and told him to look at the feather while she counted backwards from 10. "By the time she hit 'one,' I was in a different state," he says. "Her voice was like a narrative force in a waking dream." People involved in the trauma entered the dream, but he felt safe and wasn't triggered. He could walk through the trauma and reclaim it, calling upon his adult self to comfort the little boy that he once was.
What felt like a very vivid 10-minute dream was a two-and-a-half-hour session. "You're in an altered state, but it's one that you are navigating; it's very much in your control," he says. "When I came out, my body felt so clear and at peace. It was like I was finally awake. The trauma had me sleepwalking for so many years. I felt like I was someone I wasn't." After the session, his anxiety vanished and his relationship with his wife deepened. He says the trauma is still there but much more manageable; he is no longer forgetting, rediscovering, and reliving it. A holistic therapist himself, as well as a musician, Mojica now recommends Kristal to his clients for everything from trouble sleeping and recurring nightmares to unresolved heartbreak or grief.
Good Trances and Bad Trances