For a wide variety of mental health struggles, hypnotherapy can be a valuable treatment.

“Hypnotherapy is beneficial for so many issues such as stress relief, pain management, smoking cessation, weight problems, anxiety, depression — and the list goes on,” said Helen Kolodziej, a licensed clinical social worker and hypnotherapist.

Kolodziej owns Core Counseling & Consulting, a wellness center in St. John, where she helps clients with problems ranging from anger management to coping. The licensed hypnotherapist received her certificate from The Wellness Institute in 2016.

Forget the fictional perceptions of hypnosis — the cartoon character with swirly eyes or a person being induced to act in ways they otherwise wouldn't.

“Unlike stage hypnosis, in hypnotherapy, we cannot make you cluck like a chicken or do anything that is not your will,” she says. “In hypnotherapy, the client is always in control of their own mind.”

At its base, Kolodziej says, hypnotherapy is a trance state.

“People go into a trance state regularly,” she says. “Have you ever zoned out while driving or day dreamed? These are trance states that you naturally enter in and out of.”

According to the International Society of Hypnosis, the human brain is biologically wired for this natural, narrowed focus of attention and hypnotic responding.

“Hypnotic responding is a neurobiologically rooted, genetically inherited ability of the human brain," Kolodziej says. "It is an intentional, motivated mode of information processing that allows most humans to alter, to varying degrees, their experience of body, self, actions, and world.”

The subconscious human brain has lightning-fast ability to recognize and respond to stimuli that the conscious brain does not have time to interpret. By harnessing this ability and getting the conscious mind out of the way, so to speak, a clinical hypnotherapist can make connections that the mind can use later to promote healing.

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It is important, however, to use hypnotherapy in conjunction with other treatments for mental health issues, Kolodziej said.

“Hypnotherapy does not replace the importance of talk therapy as a continuation of care,” she said. “It is complementary to talk therapy. It gives us a good starting point when the client is stuck.”

Kolodziej said hypnotherapy also can get to an issue faster. 

“In talk therapy, because we are working with the conscious mind, it might sometimes take a long time to get to the root cause of a client’s issue. In hypnotherapy, when dealing with the subconscious mind, we are able to make determinations and offer solutions sooner.“

In Kolodziej’s practice, the first session is an “induction session.”

“I have the client reveal why they are here,” she said. “I provide a very relaxing atmosphere, with relaxing music.”

Inductions usually take 10 to 15 minutes. From there, the hypnotherapy varies depending on the client’s issue.

For example, “for smoking cessation, the client has to think of the grossest thing they can imagine,” Kolodziej explained. “Then later they will associate smoking with that gross thing.”

Hypnotherapy can give extraordinary results, she said, but she emphasizes that it is not a magic cure-all.

“You have to be ready,” she said. “If you’re not ready, I can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do.”