“I’m a compassionate person. I thought ‘We really needed to get that guy out right now, this is not funny, people. He’s stuck in there,’” Bogert says, laughing. She enjoys being put into a trance for laughs, but she also appreciates hypnosis as a form of alternative medicine that has been effective in treating her chronic migraine attacks.
“I’ve used it on myself for pain management. It’s incredibly successful as a technique for pain management. It’s also helped friends with things like stopping smoking,” Bogert says. “Basically, achieving the hypnotic or meditative state and eliminating those symptoms so I can be more functional and get things done when I need to, because migraines can be ridiculously terrible.”
Bogert is among the growing number of hypnosis enthusiasts in Grand Forks, as Skylar Williams, chief hypnotherapist at Midwest Hypnosis, can attest. Out of the estimated 500 patients Williams treats per year, he treats 10 patients from Grand Forks each month. According to Williams, most of his patients from Grand Forks want to quit smoking, change bad habits and lose weight.
“People have problems. You get a higher population and you have more,” Williams says.
Working around skepticism
Despite Hollywood myths surrounding the process of hypnosis, Williams describes the practice as simply being in an “altered or relaxed state where someone is more suggestible.” As such, Williams’ techniques for inducing a hypnotic state vary depending on the patient and his or her needs.
“Some might use music with their inductions, some might not ... some use imagery,” Williams says. “We customize the approach towards what they need.”
“A lot of people think you need to have the flashing lights, swirling patterns, that kind of thing, but the most common way of doing it is just progressive relaxation or visualization,” Bogert says.
Many of Williams’ patients turned to hypnosis as a source of alternative illness treatment because traditional treatment wasn’t effective for them. Despite the popular belief that hypnosis doesn’t work, Williams has successfully treated the majority of his smoking cessation and weight loss patients.
“Weight loss and smoking are 80 percent [successful],” he says. “Very high, but not perfect.”
Because of her own experiments with hypnosis, Bogert believes a successful hypnotic induction, be it in a clinical or recreational setting, has a lot to do with the willingness of the subject.
“A lot of people expect ‘oh, I’m going to go to a hypnotherapist, I’m going to spend an hour on the couch, and then I’m just never going to smoke again.’ And that’s not actually how it works, because you are dealing with something that is both a physical addiction and a psychological addiction,” Bogert says.
“Usually, you’re going into sessions, they say four to seven is minimum. Usually, you’ll see even more sessions than that, because you’re going in and constantly re-reinforcing that suggestion and whatever mechanism you’re putting in place to get rid of the cravings and to cope with whatever you associate with smoking … it’s not something where you can just quit smoking in two hours, basically. Everybody would do it.”
Common myths about hypnosis that may prevent more people from exploring it as an alternative treatment option might be unwarranted because hypnosis people experience hypnosis on a daily basis.
“There is a big misconception that you have to be weak-minded or suggestible to be hypnotized, and that’s not the case,” Bogert says. “If you’ve had, say, a road trip, that commute you do all the time, or that drive where maybe you’re a little bit tired, and you get somewhere and you realize, ‘Oh, I don’t even remember half of that trip; I don’t remember half of that drive,’ that’s a phenomenon known as road hypnosis, and it’s a natural phenomenon, but it is a form of hypnosis. You see it also in work flow; you’ll see artists, carpenters, people who do work with their hands, will especially say ‘Oh, I started at 9 o’clock this morning, next thing I know, its 3 p.m. and I’m starving.’ You know, you just lose track of time because you’re so in the task.”
Advancing an alternative
Williams has practiced hypnotherapy with Midwest Hypnosis since the clinic’s opening in 1973, and finds modern applications of hypnosis are evolving alongside trance-inducing techniques and changes in modern technology.
Williams also works with patients who want to improve their athletic performance or deal with various phobias. Recent changes in patient needs have been an ongoing challenge for Williams and other hypnotherapists, but they’ve been able to adapt.
“People are a lot smarter than they used to be,” Williams says. “”I think hypnosis has been around since day one. It’s just been streamlined within the past 300 years.”
Bogert has never seen a clinical hypnotherapist, but she has been able to learn about hypnosis and experiment with it on her own, at little financial cost. Hypnosis provides her relief from physical pain and daily stress without expensive medication or the inevitable side effects caused by medication.
“It’s been therapeutic in terms of using it for meditation, stress relief,” Bogert says. “It has a lot of benefits, actually.”