By Terrilyn Kunopaski
Will Lam was in a rut and needed to turn his life around. His marks were down and he couldn’t quit smoking. So, two years ago, the part-time accounting student decided to try hypnotherapy.
“I was sick of not getting a lot out of life, mediocre results,” Lam said. “At that point in time, I was willing to try everything and anything. I just decided to give it a chance.”
And the results were outstanding. Lam gave up cigarettes and all of his marks improved by at least one full grade per class.
“With respect to change, it’s sort of like replacing a broken record and getting a new one that works,” he said.
Hypnotherapy can help people lost weight, reduce pain and overcome phobias, but it can also help some become better students – especially if they have treatment now while they’re still young.
Luke Chao, founder of the Morpheus Clinic, where Lam was treated, said about five per cent of his clients have been students, from high school to university age.
“Anyone who is college age is more likely to be suggestible than someone older,” Chao said.
About 400 people have gone to the clinic since it opened two and a half years ago.
Hypnotherapy accesses information in the patient’s subconscious mind. This is how the therapist discovers what has been causing the problem the patient is trying to overcome.
The relationship between the conscious and the unconscious mind is like a horse and a rider, Chao said. The horse is the unconscious mind and the rider is conscious mind.
“[The conscious mind] might be riding the horse and pulling the reins, but its success depends on if the horse is going to follow. If a person feels like they’re riding a horse they can’t control, that’s where hypnotherapy can help.”
Chao said he next takes the two parts of a person – the part that has an issue and the part that wants to get rid of it – and aligns them by resolving their conflict.
The patient, with the guidance of the therapist, then comes up with suggestions and strategies to ensure results after the session.
“It’s all about changing a person’s state of mind, their perspective,” said Didi Vergados, a certified hypnotherapist at Morpheus.
Chao said one-third of the clinic’s clients had their issue resolved after only one session.
“We can do the work here but we can’t change the outside world,” he said, adding there are external issues that could render hypnotherapy useless.
Chao said he knows most clients turn to hypnotherapy as a last resort, and wishes it were different.
Chao explained it’s hard for people to take hypnotherapists seriously because they’ll also offer palm readings and Tarot card predictions.
“A lot of hypnotherapists are not very professional,” he said. “For hypnotherapy to become mainstream, hypnotherapists must do good work, stay professional and not give outrageous claims.”
A contributing factor is that hypnotherapists aren’t certified through the government. They receive their designation through private organizations.
Dr. Dan Merkur, a psychoanalyst in private practice who is also affiliated with the University of Toronto, said hypnotherapy is hit and miss, but worth trying.
“It works for some, but not all. See how it works for you,” he said. “If you have a negative reaction then don’t repeat. It’s pretty benign. With some part of the student population, hypnotherapy might be effective. I don’t think it would be effective for a large part of the population because they have other reasons for not studying or not studying well…You’ve got to address the deeper issues.”
Ryerson’s Counseling Services does not prescribe or administer hypnotherapy to any patients. The average cost for one session at Morpheus is $140, but they do offer multi-session packages that work out between $110 and $120. Most clinics in the city offer similar rates.
For Lam, it was well worth the money. “I would say for students who want that extra edge or who are at a part in your life where you want to take your life to the next level, yes, hypnosis,” he said.
But for Merkur, hypnotherapy isn’t a guarantee. He said you need to do research and know who you’re seeing.
“A gifted hypnotherapist may have some success. All varieties of therapy are like art – some people should be in galleries and others shouldn’t show it to their best friends.”