Is your emotional baggage holding you back from reaching your full potential? Local hypnotherapist Dr. Judy Pearson claims to hold the keys to let you walk through the gates of possibility. Pearson recently spoke with Patch about her practice, and the results that come from neuro-linguistic programming and hypnotherapy.
Pearson employs various methods, including hypnotic language patterns, desensitization techniques and guided imagery, which elicit reliably trance-inducing responses from her clients. She treats people suffering from weight problems, phobias, stress, anxiety, addictions, mental blocks and poor self confidence.
Major Depressive Disorder is one of the main causes of disability in the U.S., affecting nearly 14.8 million adults, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. But not everyone is depressed. Anxiety disorders also affect 40 million people in America age 18 and older.
Pearson has a degree in social work from the Kansas State College of Pittsburg, a master's degree in counseling from East Carolina University and a Ph.D in counseling from Catholic University. She's been inducing people into trance states from her Springfield office since 1987, and is the author of the recently released book "Why Do I Keep Doing This!!? End Bad Habits, Negativity and Stress with Self-Hypnosis and NLP." She is a certified master practitioner and trainer in neurolinguistic programming and a certified master clinical hypnotherapist.
Patch: How did you fall into this line of therapy?
Pearson: When I got my doctoral degree I knew I wanted a private practice, and I looked in the Yellow Pages and looked under psychologists, social workers and marriage and mental health counselors, and the competition was huge. So, I carved out a special niche for myself that no one else was offering, and I hit upon hypnotherapy.
Hypnotherapy is a particular form of counseling that works with both the conscious and unconscious mind. And it's much more than a conversation. I'm fascinated at how the mind is influenced, and that is the basis of behavioral change.
I think the human mind is our greatest frontier. We've explored all the regions of the earth and have gone to the moon, but the last frontier is really the human mind. We still don't know a lot about it and it's one of our most underutilized resources. And most people are held back in their lives from accomplishing their full potential and are held back by their fears, phobias, anxieties and bad habits and that gets in the way of people becoming all that they can possibly be and making meaningful contributions. So, I think I'm doing some really important work.
Patch: What differentiates the results of hypnotherapy from traditional mental health therapy?
Pearson: All therapy has a common denominator and that is to listen and to give people the ability to talk things over, and to have an empathetic listener. But where you take people with hypnotherapy is unique, and I think solution-oriented therapies are the most effective and efficient, because they get people to utilize their own resources, to make decisions on what they want, and find in themselves the strategies and strengths to go forward.
Patch: What is a trance state?
Pierson: I like to demystify hypnosis and trance. There's no hocus-pocus to it. Trance is the state of being hypnotized, and it is different for most people. Studies have shown that a trance state is usually a state of intense inward focus, a state of relaxation and a state of concentration.
When you think about it, these are the mental states that contribute to accelerated learning. When people are relaxed and concentrating, that's when they learn the most. Hypnosis teaches people how to do that.
Patch: To what depth can a person reach a trance state under hypnosis? Are you opening a window into the subconscious?
Pearson: Trance is an altered state, but not the same state you'll get with LSD or a mind-altering drug. But it is a state of suggestibility. One of the most famous hypnotherapists in the world, the late Dave Elman, said that 'Hypnosis bypasses the critical factor of the mind'. He never used the words conscious or unconscious. There is a part of the mind, the frontal lobe, that inspects everything that we are told. Hypnotic language bypasses that factor.
Patch: How do you achieve a trance state?
Pearson: The first thing I do is establish trust through a conversation… And then I have clients relax on a big recliner, turn down the lights, sometimes I put-on soft music in the background and I use a very soft soothing, nurturing tone of voice. I speak slowly and I try to match my cadences to their breathing so that they feel the rhythm of hypnosis. Rythmic speaking guides them into a more elated state. I imply cause-effect, and I'll say something like: 'I'm going to count down from five, and with each number you're going to become even more and more relaxed.'
When I see them relax more and more, I ask them to take a deep breath, and tell them that when they slowly exhale they're going to let go of all the cares and concerns of the day. And when they take another breath, I ask them to find themselves relaxing more completely, more completely, more completely… And people are compliant with my suggestions.
Patch: Tell me about fear and its influence on people.
Pearson: The reason people come to me with their fear is because they are afraid of what could go wrong. For example, with flying, that the plane will crash. With public speaking, they're afraid of making a fool of themselves on stage in front of their peers.
Fear is a limiting influence and it can be paralyzing. So many people, when they focus on their fears, do not focus on a solution. They become trapped within the problem. They want to talk about how bad the problem is, and I listen and empathize and when they are just about tapped out, I say to them: 'Look over here. The future is uncharted. What do you want?'
Patch: Don't people also see you because they know their fears to be irrational?
Pearson: Definitely, but we never want people to be totally fearless. Some spiders and snakes are poisonous, and you should use caution instead of being phobic and fearful.
Patch: How do you turn bad habits into good ones?
Pearson: I steer people's thinking in a different direction. People come to me positively convinced that they can't stop a habit, and they don't know how they're going to do it. Neurolinguistic programming is teaching people new thought patterns, new strategies and new things to say to themselves and pay attention to. For instance, instead of identifying yourself as a smoker who always has to resist cravings, now you'll identify yourself as a smoker who thinks that smoking is pretty gross.
Patch: Well, I smoke.
Pearson: I know.
Patch: How can you tell? My voice? The smell?
Pearson: The smell.
Patch: Sorry about that. Still, many people have a love/hate relationship with their vices. How do you get rid of the love?
Pearson: You have to want to stop more than you don't want to stop. If you look down the road, you may think: 'How can I be a non-smoker five years from now and I can't even quit for two hours?' Now, do you think it will be harder for you to quit smoking now or five years from now? The longer you go without it the better you feel, and the more you hate the thought of ever smoking again. So, it gets easier as time goes on.
Patch: What's the smoking program look like?
Pearson: My smoking program is four sessions. The first session is an interview. The second is hypnosis to get them to stop smoking and have a positive expectation that they can remain smoke-free. They're agreement with me is that they throw away all of their cigarettes on the day of their second session - freedom day. Another agreement is for them to have no alcohol for 30 days, because alcohol may cause a relapse.
If they're still smoking after that, it's usually due to stress and then we do a stress management session and I may make them come into a fourth session. Ninety-five percent of people have quit by that third session.
Patch: What about other issues people have, like with weight and sex?
Pearson: Scientific studies show that 60 percent of all women who are obese were mistreated as children - molested, sexually abused, traumatized in some way. Many people are unconsciously using weight as a protective mechanism, because then people will not approach them. And people don't consciously realize that they are doing that, and it's something that I want to clarify in an initial interview when I talk with a client.
…Some people also come to hypnosis for sexual difficulties. Working with them can be different for every person and I don't have a standard template on how I'm going to deal with their problem.
Patch: Sexual difficulties?
Pearson: Yes. Impotence, premature ejaculation, loss of libido, fetishes - things like that. I don't advertise that I'm a sex therapist, but sex is part of life, and it creates habitual worry for people. So, the more anxious they get the more the problem grows.
Patch: Is hypnotherapy mind control?
Pearson: No. Sometimes people wonder if I'm going to be controlling their minds, or people are afraid they are going to lose control. I'll say, 'Look, if you could control your problem you wouldn't be seeing me. The reason you're here is you can't control it. And hypnosis is a way to teach you to control your own mind.'
Patch: How do you get rid of phobias?
Pearson: It's a desensitization technique, and it uses dissociation. So, it's not so much imagining a spider, but imagining that you are watching a movie of yourself with a spider. You see yourself as being afraid in the movie, but you feel safe here sitting with me. And you watch yourself go into the movie, step out of it, and play the movie forward and backward. By the time we do that for a solid hour most people will say, 'I don't ever want to be afraid of a spider again.'
Patch: What about a fear of flying?
Pearson: I do a full hour of hypnosis of them going through all the steps of a flight. I have them imagining that they're driving to the airport, getting their ticket, going through security and to their gate, waiting in line, getting on the plane and finding their seat. They recline their seat and take a full, deep breath and they feel completely comfortable and relaxed. We go through the full flight, all the way until they're at their destination and back on the ground and off the plane feeling wonderful. And that works for people.
Patch: How has the recession impacted your clients?
Pearson: I did have one client who had to be hospitalized because he was having a nervous breakdown, because he lost so much money. But Northern Virginia has not been affected like the rest of the country. Our unemployment rate is at 6 percent, lower than the rest of the country. We tend to look at the dark side of things. We tend to be pessimistic. Bad things do happen in real life, but the probabilities are against them happening, and part of the human condition is that we have to risk against the probabilities if we want to get anything done.
But I don't get a lot of people talking to me about money concerns. If they had money concerns they wouldn't see me, because for many people I'm a luxury. People can function if they're overweight, they're impotent, they smoke or can't get on a flight.
Patch: What about depression?
Pearson: I think some people have a tendency toward depression. There may even be a genetic component involved. But depression feeds on itself through rumination - going over problems again and again. And that feeds certain neurochemicals into the body, which build up cortisol, which makes depressed people more prone to diseases, lowers immunity, primes people for cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. It ages the body prematurely.
Patch: What about recollection? Do people remember what they talk about with you?
Pearson: Some people hear every word I say, and some have a hypnotic phenomenon called spontaneous amnesia. They go so deep into trance that their conscious awareness is bypassed and they don't remember a thing. Another thing is time distortion. I can keep someone in a trance for 40 minutes and they may come out and say, 'What happened? I thought that was just five minutes.'
Patch: Do you take health insurance?
Pearson: No. My fees range from $150 per hour to $165 per hour.
Patch: Last question - Who's that picture of on your wall?
Pearson: That's the god Hypnos. The Greeks are given credit for developing the foundations of hypnosis, because they used to have healing temples for people to visit when they were stressed out. It was a quiet place, usually with a fountain somewhere. They would just lay down on a bed and relax, and they believed that when they went to sleep that the god Hypnos whispered in their ears and gave them solutions to their problems and healed them.