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Where a mind goes, a body follows

Sabine Price works to unlock the mysteries of hypnotism.

Erase the popular notion of hypotism, formed by Hollywood images of a pocket-watch swinging while an off-camera voice insinuates, “You are getting ver rry sleeeepy...”

The connotations of a dubious power (male) exerted over a passive subject (female) is far from the truth of clinical hypnotherapy, an art elevated with new brain research to the status of science.

“What hypnosis is, it’s a state of increased relaxation,” says island hypnotherapist Sabine Price, “and very narrow focus on just one aspect.”

All hypnosis is really self-hypnosis, Price says, because “nothing can happen without client participation. I can jump through flaming hoops, (but) if you don’t want to participate, there’s nothing I can do.”

Everyone slips into a hypnotic – or “trans” – state several times in the course of any single day, Price says. Common examples are letting the mind wander while driving, or becoming so engrossed in a book that one doesn’t hear a ringing telephone.

“What people in this business have known for a long time and now science is a little bit slow in catching up:the brain and the body can not distinguish between what is imagined and what is real,” Price said.

She demonstrates for new subjects the power of the mind by making subjects’ mouths water at the prospect of a bite of lemon, with an incantation describing the cutting of the fruit.

That inability to tell fact from fantasy is handy for creating new synaptic pathways through the brain for desirable behavior, by leading subjects through a scenario with something like a guided meditation.

“What the mind envisions, the body will follow,” Price said. “And that’s what we use in hypnotherapy. So we make imagery, we try to make it vivid and we try to make it what works for the client.”

Sessions typically last for an hour, with hypnosis reserved for the last half.

Price’s specialties are chronic conditions, and she works with sufferers of post traumatic stress syndrome, but her subjects’ problems are located along a continuum that includes everything from psychological issues to a desire to alter behaviors such as smoking and eating habits.

It’s the subject who sets the parameters in the first half of an hour long session, Price says.

“I listen very carefully to what they tell me and also how they tell me,” Price said. “If someone sits here white-knuckling saying, ‘Oh, I really like my job, it’s really wonderful,’ it really gives me some clues. I really listen for the incongruencies. When I’ve heard enough, well, then I ask the client ‘Now I know where you are, where do you want to go?’”

After identfying what needs addressing, she talks with a client, helping them understand how certain triggers may tripwire a condition or a behavior, and then how to avoid the trigger by creating different options. The options then become “body knowledge” as Price helps the client lay down new synaptic pathways through the brain with the hypnotherapy that wraps the session.

How a hypnotist takes clients there depends upon how they experience the world. If someone is visually oriented, the therapist will make the setting as vivid as she can. If a client is more kinesthetically aligned, she may emphasize touch.

But in any case, hypnotherapy is a process that can take multiple sessions.

“Clients still sometimes see (hypnotherapy) as a magic bullet,” she said. “It’s not ‘push the button and get it done.’”

If the approach isn’t right for the particular client, Price will refer him or her elsewhere.

Hypnotherapy is an unregulated profession, Price points out, but she attended the one U.S. college that offers an academic degree, American Pacific University in Irvine, Calif. and started her own practice in 1997, going full-time in 2002.

Now she will be training others as hypnotherapists.

But her interest in the field can be traced to a chance encounter with a neighbor, she says.

“He mentioned one day that he had been going through a divorce that was very difficult,” she said, “but he had been going to a hypnotherapist and that was so beneficial.”

Price, who was born into a family of physicians and pharmacists in Germany, and had attended pharmacy school herself in her native Germany, was immediately intrigued – and she remembered an incident that had occurred years earlier when she was 17 and volunteering in a German nursing home.

“There was a lady and she had cancer,” Price said, “and she was on such high doses of morphine to even survive the pain... she was suffering so much and it was awful... that was the time I said to myself, I really want to do something to alleviate suffering.”

She took a 120-hour training in hypnotherapy, but that didn’t begin to give her the tools she knew she needed, so she enrolled at APU.

Five years later, she had earned a doctorate in hypnotherapy.

Now, Price will begin to share with students some of the training she herself received – as they fit her schedule of clients, sometimes referred by conventional doctors as far away as London.

“What I’m doing now allows me to assist others on a deeper level than, ‘Oh, take a Tylenol and your headaches will go away,’” Price said. “I really like it. To me, it’s very fulfilling. But it’s not what I do. It’s truly what the client brings to the table.”

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