Dream Job: Hypnotist

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Pendulum People

The watch is swaying back and forth as you are getting sleepy, very sleepy. Well, not exactly.

In a real hypnosis session, you would be more likely to focus on a spot on the wall, or an object in the room, than a pendulum. And the hypnotist would use different words. But you would be deeply relaxed. Then, the power of suggestion would take over.

Jean Fain, a hypnotist and clinical social worker in private practice, uses techniques pioneered in ancient Greek healing temples to cure patients of smoking habits, overeating, phobias, pain, even warts. Hypnosis can also be used to enhance careers, improve academic performance, cure addictions, build self-esteem, stimulate weight loss, even reduce sexual inhibitions. Fain was "absolutely shocked" when she took her first hypnosis seminar and discovered that it really worked. A nagging pain from a canker sore disappeared when she tried out the technique on herself.

Just Be Sure to Wake Yourself Up

Self-hypnosis? You actually can try this at home, and there are websites that walk through the steps. You have to make sure to practice your suggestions ahead of time, and draw the line at the end of each session so you fully wake up or fall asleep or whatever you mean to do next.

Fain teaches her clients who want to quit smoking to hypnotize themselves to deal with the inevitable cravings they experience after quitting. "Self-hypnosis enables patients to draw on their higher motivations, rather than the weaknesses that lead them to reach for a cigarette," Fain said.

You Will Always Remember Your First Smoke

Hypnosis enhances four important abilities: access to memories, feelings, thoughts, and problem-solving skills. So, for example, smokers undergoing hypnosis can actually re-experience how awful they felt after their very first cigarette. The hypnotist can then plant a suggestion that every time the smoker smokes, he will be reminded of that first experience and become aware of the damage being done to his body.

Where am I? Who am I?

The drawback is that when you remember some things more vividly, you can forget others. Fain discovered this herself after that first miraculous cure at the seminar.

"After a successful trance to decrease the pain of mouth sores from eating Mexican food, I was about to get on my bicycle to ride back to my hotel, but I couldn't remember the combination," she said. "I had never forgotten it before. I tried and tried, but couldn't recall it, and eventually I had to have the lock cut off my bicycle with a bolt cutter."

The next day the instructor explained that hypnosis randomizes thoughts and disturbs mental chronological order. He told her she should have hypnotized herself again to remember the forgotten combination.

You are Getting Very Wealthy

A session lasts 50 minutes, and Fain can treat most problems in fewer than 10 sessions – a bargain compared to years of analysis. "People will pay for hypnosis out-of-pocket without blinking an eye," she said. That's a major plus for a health practitioner in these days of managed care.

Fees range considerably, but a hypnosis session typically costs $100, higher than psychotherapy from a licensed social worker but lower than a session with a psychiatrist or psychologist. Qualified hypnotherapists earn between $50 and $150 an hour, and can supplement their income by $350 to $500 a week by taking on just a few clients. A full-time professional, licensed hypnotherapist can earn $75,000 a year.

Over time, hypnotists can work toward certification from the American Board of Hypnotherapy or the International Association of Counselors and Therapists, although these certifications are not required by law. Fain has taken many workshops and meets regularly with a hypnosis mentor/supervisor. Seminars in clinical hypnotherapy cost between $400 and $500.

So if you were fascinated by ouija boards and ESP games as a child, or are absorbed by the mysteries of the subconscious, hypnosis may be your dream job. So, dream on! (Just remember your combination when you wake up.)

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