Not just for entertainment, hypnotherapy is a serious medical tool, writes Josh Jennings.
Hypnotherapist Julia Lorent encounters various misconceptions about what her work actually entails.
One of the common curiosities her clients have is whether she can make them behave like celebrity hypnotists do their guinea pigs. But Lorent doesn't use hypnosis to make people act like ducks; her primary motivation is to fix health issues.
Her first priority when she sees clients is to assure them they're in good hands. She then follows a relatively straightforward (somewhat scripted) process to induce them. This involves having them sit in a recliner and closing their eyes, using her voice to relax them, to switch off their minds.
Lorent says she needed about five minutes to induce her last client. She used "virtual gastric banding" (gastric band hypnotherapy) to help him with weight loss. The idea is that clients undergo hypnosis to acquire a psychic gastric band.
"It's just a matter of me doing the suggestions for them," she says. "This person is very suggestible and can feel suggestions as they've been given to him. If I tell him his stomach feels a little tight, you can see his body contorting."
Lorent is a certified clinical hypnotherapist and the owner of the Melbourne Quit Smoking Clinic and the Melbourne Clinic of Hypnotherapy. She says the primary aim of her role is to help clients overcome habits, anxieties and other stressors.
"A lot of the stories I hear are very sad stories. Sometimes they're from people who have experienced terrible tragedies, such as losing children in accidents. Last year ... I had about nine female patients who had had amputations because of smoking."
The entry requirements to start a hypnotherapy business in Australia are minimal, but a variety of member organisations regulate standards and advance the professionalism of the industry.
Lorent is a member of Australia's peak hypnotherapy registration body, the Australian Hypnotherapists Association, and the Australian National Hypnotherapists Register. She attained her highest qualification - a diploma of clinical hypnosis - at the Australian Academy of Hypnosis in 2008.
"If you're a certified clinical hypnotherapist, you have to complete ongoing training to keep up, because things are changing all the time."
Lorent says one of the most satisfying aspects of her work is the feedback she receives from clients.
"I received an email the other day from a client I saw seven years ago who is in London now. It was very out of the blue, but he said he was getting in contact to say he's still not smoking and life's great, and to thank me.
"I love the fact you can help people make sustainable changes to their lives."
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