True Story: I’m A Hypnotherapist

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, challenging, amazing things. This is the story of Carmen and her work as a hypnotherapist. I realize that some readers don’t believe in hypnotherapy. As always, polite, respectful disagreement and discussion is welcome. Rude or incendiary comments will be deleted.

Tell us a bit about yourself! 
I’m 39 and super excited because in a year I’ll be 40. I’ve been craving my forties for years now. The forties seem great for so many reasons: you’re clear on your political views, you know what’s flattering on your body, you waste less time on meaningless pursuits, and are quicker to release incompatible relationships, to name a few.But now that there are so many inspiring female role models over 50 claiming space in the public sphere, I’m already gunning for those golden years! I constantly have to remind myself that now is all there ever is, be present, be grateful for now. But I digress…

For those of us who don’t know, what is hypnotherapy?
Simply put, hypnosis is just a relaxed state of concentration; a trance state. Everybody can be hypnotized and we all go in and out of hypnosis every day. You know how sometimes you drive home after work on a familiar route and when you pull in the driveway, you don’t even really remember the drive? That’s a hypnotic state. When we fall asleep and as we awake in the morning, we pass through the same state.
Entering a trance state is not, in and of itself, necessarily therapeutic. It’s just an altered state of consciousness, similar to meditation. One thing practitioners don’t often mention: it feels amazing, like a spa for your mind! But it doesn’t automatically lead to healing. That’s where hypnotherapy comes in.
Hypnotherapy is when a trained therapist induces a hypnotic state to uncover the root cause of a problem or remove any subconscious belief that might impede a client’s happiness. It’s also used to compliment Western medicine. Hypnotherapy makes creative visualization and guided imagery more effective for healing when recovering from surgery or surviving cancer, for example.
I’m sure there are many misconceptions about hypnosis. What are some of the most common?
Most people worry they’ll have to give up control. They want reassurance that they won’t embarrass themselves, (as though I did all that training just to make someone quack like a duck).Know this: the primary function of your subconscious mind is to keep you safe. Your subconscious would never allow me make you do something against your will – it simply wouldn’t accept that suggestion. People who wind up on stage humping chairs at a show, at some level, want that hypnotist to take them on an adventure.

How do you feel about performance hypnotists – Anthony Cools, etc? 
To be honest, I didn’t know who that was. Now that I’ve Googled, I feel icky. That kind of performance hynosis is so passé. I don’t mean to be stuffy but I just don’t think it’s tasteful. I’m not into any kind of entertainment that shames or humiliates. Admittedly, I bristle more than most people would. I just think that type of show debases the practice.
You know who I adore though? Derren Brown. He’s a magician and mentalist from the UK. I watch marathons of his shows. He understands the subconscious mind like no other performer out there. He’s absolutely the modern master of the trance state.
What sort of schooling or education did you go through to become a hypnotherapist?
To become a Registered Clinical Hypnotherapist, I did over 200 hours of in-person study, plus practicum with clients. To specialize in Past Life Regression Therapy, I did another 40 hours plus practicum with two international leaders in the field.
What are some of the issues that you’ve helped patients with?
Because I’m also a professional intuitive, I tend to focus on the spiritual dimension of my client’s struggle. I’ve addressed everything from phobias to poltergeists. (Though poltergeists aren’t my favourite issue to work on. Tricky buggers.)
Most of my clients are high-performance women entrepreneurs who want their work to be in alignment with their soul. We may start out getting clarity around their soul purpose using shamanic-style visioning. We might work on dissolving self-limiting beliefs or feeling ”not enough”, and increasing self-worth and positive self-talk. Or we may begin addressing a personality conflict at work, and find ourselves clearing past life karma between them and an employee. You just never know where it’ll lead!
What are some things that hypnotherapy CAN’T cure?
There are plenty of things it can’t cure, but I can’t think of a single thing it couldn’t help.
How do the people in your life feel about your work? 
I think some people are uncomfortable but most are fascinated when they hear what I do. Those who know me know I’m a very critical and strategic thinker, and rigorous in my methodology. So they trust me with their soul work. Nobody’s ever asked me to do it as a party trick.
Have you ever received hypnotherapy yourself? What was your experience like?
All the time because it’s the best! I go to my teachers or trade with another practitioner for sessions. I go into state like that. (snaps fingers!)
Everyone experiences the trance state differently, but I’m at the floating-among-the-stars-at-one-with-everything end of the spectrum. It connects me with my higher self.
What’s one thing you’ve learned from your hypnosis work that any of us could use in our daily life?
Carl Jung said that there is, within each of us, a transcendent function that knows both the origin and resolution to every problem we have. That transcendent function is readily accessed through the subconscious mind. And if the conscious, thinking mind on its own was enough to solve your problem, you’d have licked it already.Thanks so much for sharing your story, Carmen! Have any of you guys ever been hypnotized? Do you have any (polite, respectful) questions for Carmen? 

P.S. Carmen actually created an mp3 just for Yes and Yes readers – Say Yes + Yes: Self-Hypnosis for Awesomeness. I’ve listened to it several times now – it’s sooooo relaxing!



This is really interesting, thanks Carmen! You clearly care a lot about your clients and your work.

Carmen Spagnola

Oh, it was my pleasure to share. I've been a big Sarah fan for so long. What a compliment to be asked to talk about my work. Hope you enjoy the meditation track 🙂

Kate @

A friend of mine was considering hypnosis to help her handle some depressive issues. I'm not anti-hypnotherapy, but I urged her to first see a psychologist to actually address those problems at their root. I see value in hypnosis but am curious about Carmen's thoughts on using hypnotherapy in *place* of traditional psychotherapy.

Carmen Spagnola

Great question, Kate. I do have a few thoughts on that. Most of us spend a lot of time analyzing and mentally looping around our problems. When we go to psychotherapy, we hope to process our way to new insights. The problem is, insight doesn't necessarily bring about change. Talking very rarely gets to the root of the problem. For instance, we might consciously understand that our phobia is irrational. We might even know how it developed. We may completely understand that it's "crazy" for us to overreact the way we do. But that insight doesn't change the panic attack that occurs whenever we try to leave the house.

The conscious mind is responsible for our willpower, our rational thought and our short term memory. Our subconscious mind is responsible for our creativity, our long term memory and our emotions. Fear, panic, self-esteem, etc, are emotional states of being. Our conscious mind creates post-hoc rationalizations (stories) to justify emotions that can sometimes seem to come from nowhere and sometimes be out of scale.

Psychotherapy deals with the stories we tell about our emotions, not the root cause of the emotions themselves. When you access the subconscious mind, you can uncover what the true cause is, not just what we think the cause is. Make sense?

And this isn't just my opinion. Dr. Alfred Barrios did a study in the late 1980's to compare the success rate of hypnotherapy to psychotherapy. According to the study, psychotherapy was 38% effective after 300 sessions (about 5-7 years). In comparison, hypnotherapy was 98% effective after 6 sessions. The study was published in American Health Magazine, which won two awards from the American Psychological Association for reporting. No, it's not a medical journal, but since psychotherapy is strongly associated with academia, chances are you won't see any studies published (or even funded) that might undermine its effectiveness.

I'm not in any way saying that psychotherapy isn't useful. Many people find it extremely beneficial. But I am saying that not only is hypnotherapy absolutely effective as a complementary therapy, it is very often even more effective than talk therapy alone at getting to root causes.

Let me know if you have any other questions, Kate. Depression is definitely an issue that can be helped through hypnotherapy.

Best of luck!

Carmen Spagnola

Last follow up, Kate!

As with any field, not all designations are created equal. There's a big difference between a "hypnotist", a "hypnotherapist", and a "clinical hypnotherapist". For depressive issues, definitely seek out a Registered Clinical Hypnotherapist.

In Canada, our education, credentialing and continuing education requirements are generally higher than in the US, so you may even want to consider online therapy if it means you find a practitioner that really resonates with you. (Yes! Many people feel a lot more comfortable going into trance at home, in their own bed or on the sofa. It's easy to do a session over Skype or the phone if you have headphones).

Brianna Soloski

This is so interesting. I saw a hypnotist perform when I was in college, but it was pretty much a joke. Carmen, you seem like the real deal. It's amazing what people have the power to do.

Carmen Spagnola

Thanks, Brianna. Yes, the human mind is amazing. My work is endlessly fascinating. The best is getting together with other hypnotherapists professionally and swapping "This one guy" stories.

As in,

"I've got this one guy – he's taking swimming lessons for the first time in his life. 50 years old. We're helping him manage his water phobia so he can play with his grandkids at the beach without freaking out."

Or, "I've got this one client – first time pregnancy and she's super excited to be a mom. But there are some minor complications that mean she'll have to have a C-section and she's scared of surgery. She's worried that her fear is stressful for the baby so we're helping her focus on staying relaxed and calm in the months leading up to the birth."

I could go on and on but the point is, I'm really inspired by my clients. When I move through the world, I'm very aware that people all around us are secretly overcoming adversity, day in day out, in big and little ways. I find that very moving.


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