Does Stage Hypnosis Keep Hypnotherapy Alive?

My journey into becoming a stage hypnotist might be a little different. I don’t come from a magic or comedy background and I never had a career before I became a hypnotist. My reason for becoming a hypnotist was to help people. During my first session something miraculous happened to me; I was able to let go of a lifelong depression. From that moment, it became my mission to go out and help as many people as possible with this incredible tool called hypnotherapy.

Not really knowing anything about stage hypnosis, I had the belief that they embarrassed people and it was a form of entertainment that never really appealed to me. A year into my hypnotherapy career I saw a stage hypnotist hypnotize a women doing unspeakable things to a beer bottle at a local bar in my area. This solidified my belief that “comedy” stage hypnotists make us all look bad. I wanted nothing to do with it! It wasn’t until a few years later at a National Guild of Hypnotists conference in Nashua New Hampshire I saw some stage performances. During this conference I kept hearing my peers say, “kid you need to get up on stage and hypnotize people.” I felt resistant at first but then someone said the words that resonated most, “You can use stage hypnosis as a platform for the therapy” and a light bulb went off in my head! I went home and immediately told my mom that I was going to be a stage hypnotist. Being the dreamer I am, I announced that when I was 26 years old I would be hypnotizing people on cruise ships! Of course in her thick accent she said, “Nadeen, you are a dreamer!” And here we are! 

Stage hypnotism has certainly played a role in popularizing hypnosis and keeping it in the public eye. It’s like shining a spotlight on the power of the mind, allowing people to witness the incredible things the human brain can do under the right circumstances. But let’s not get it twisted; stage hypnotism and hypnotherapy are quite different animals. Stage hypnotism is all about entertainment, making people laugh and dance like nobody’s watching, (while everyone is watching). It’s a spectacle!

Hypnotherapy, on the other hand, is a therapeutic tool, helping people with issues like smoking cessation, weight loss, anxiety, and so much more. So, while stage hypnotism has certainly brought attention to the idea of hypnosis, it’s the power of hypnotherapy and its potential to transform lives that keeps it alive and well, offering hope and healing to so many. Stage hypnotism may have opened the door, but it’s the profound benefits of hypnotherapy that have truly kept the art of hypnosis alive and well, allowing individuals to tap into their inner power and make positive changes in their lives.

What role has stage hypnosis played in bringing awareness to going to see a local hypnotist?

2006 was the year I got offered my first ship contract. (I was 26 years old!) At the time the cruise ship passengers were predominately silver haired North Americans. It was right before the invention of the mega-ship and the cusp of the industry exploding. It was an interesting experience to say goodbye to the smaller ships and watch cruise ships become real destinations at sea, making it the perfect family vacation. 

During my main stage show, about two thirds of the way through, I would perform the famous forgetting your name and number routine. This is one way I use comedy stage hypnosis as a platform for therapy. During this demonstration I would comment that this is similar to how people can lose weight or eliminate habits with hypnotherapy. Immediately after that statement I would invite everyone in the theatre to attend my weight loss and pain management seminars where they can experience free live hypnotherapy sessions. The healing suggestions at the end of the show also help to solidify my invitation, often having an affect on some audience members. Boom, now I’ve packed the theatre again but this time it’s applying the same tool for a totally different reason. Many of the people who attended my seminars would comment that they are going to see someone in their area and recommend this wonderful therapy to their loved ones at home.

Comedy stage hypnotists, especially county fair hypnotists, have indeed played a significant role in raising awareness about hypnotism and going to see a local hypnotist. The reach of a great county fair hypnotist is undeniable. I would bet these events alone create a surge in inquiries about hypnotherapy during fair season. Seeing people responding to suggestions, doing things they might not normally do, and having a good time in the process. It’s a real eye-opener piquing their curiosity as to how this can help them at home. That curiosity can often lead them to seek out local hypnotists. They go hand in hand.

So, stage hypnosis serves as a kind of gateway or introduction to the world of hypnosis. It shows people that the mind is a powerful tool and that working with a hypnotist can help them. In this way, stage hypnosis has acted as a beacon, drawing attention to the potential benefits of seeing a local hypnotist and fostering awareness about the possibilities of harnessing the mind’s incredible abilities through hypnotherapy.

The push back! How do hypnotherapists feel about stage hypnotists? 

The impact of stage hypnotists on the overall hypnotherapy industry is a subject of debate and can vary depending on individual perspectives. It’s not accurate to make a blanket statement that stage hypnotists make the entire industry look bad, nor can it be said that they exclusively bring awareness to the field of hypnotherapy. The reality is more nuanced.

Positive Impact:

  • Awareness and Reduced Stigma: Stage hypnotists can indeed bring awareness to the power of the mind and reduce the stigma associated with hypnosis. Their shows demonstrate that hypnosis is a real phenomenon and can be an entertaining and positive experience.
  • Introduction to Hypnosis: Stage hypnosis shows can introduce the concept of hypnosis to a broader audience, leading people to become interested in exploring hypnotherapy to achieve specific goals. This exposure being a starting point for seeking hypnotherapy. 
  • Respect for the Craft: Some hypnotherapists may have a deep respect for the skills of stage hypnotists. They understand that inducing hypnosis in a public setting is no small feat and requires a strong understanding of the mind and human behavior. The International Association of Stage Hypnotists is dedicated to making sure all of our members have a deep understanding of the mechanics of everything happening on stage.
  • They understand that stage hypnotists have a distinct role in the world of entertainment and don’t confuse their work with hypnotherapy.

  Challenges and Concerns:

  • Misconceptions: On the flip side, there is a risk of perpetuating misconceptions about hypnosis. Some people may believe that they can be controlled or made to do things against their will based on what they’ve seen in stage shows. They worry that it could lead people to believe that hypnosis is primarily about making individuals act in humorous or embarrassing ways, rather than a tool for personal growth and self-improvement.
  • Serious vs. Entertainment: The theatrical and comedic nature of stage hypnosis is significantly different from the therapeutic and holistic approach of hypnotherapy. There is concern that some stage hypnotists may not appreciate the distinctions between these practices. They might feel that the theatrical nature of stage hypnosis doesn’t represent the seriousness and professionalism of clinical hypnotherapy.
  • There could be concerns about individuals who might approach hypnotherapy with unrealistic expectations based on what they’ve seen in stage shows.
  • If the stage hypnotist doesn’t add a little explanation or education into their show, most people will walk away thinking hypnosis is fake and discredit it completely.

It’s important to recognize that many hypnotherapists and stage hypnotists coexist in the field of hypnosis. Both have their unique roles and purposes, and they often respect each other’s work. Ultimately, the perception of stage hypnotists among hypnotherapists can vary from person to person, and it depends on their individual experiences, beliefs, and professional outlook.

Final Thoughts

I believe laughter is therapy! When people are engaged, happy and laughing they aren’t thinking about their current problems or being critical. They are experiencing a vibration of joy. I believe comedy hypnosis is special because when people see their friends and family doing funny things it not only can create the biggest laughs I’ve ever heard, it creates happy memories. 

I think most people after watching a comedy hypnosis show think to themselves, “well the hypnotist could get my spouse to do that, surely hypnosis can get them to stop smoking or lose weight.”

The intention of The International Stage Hypnotists Association (ISHA) is to bridge the gap within our profession and unify us. ISHA’s foundation is being built on creating the gold standard for stage hypnotists everywhere. A code of ethics all stage hypnotists and hypnotherapists can appreciate. If we can accomplish this, we can keep our art alive while gaining the respect of our counter parts. Stage hypnosis deserves the same recognition as any other form of live entertainment. The better we do on stage, the better off we all are as hypnotists.

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