Call to open minds to hypnosis as stress therapy

Association wants to change people's perception that it is a form of mind control

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Ms Lim (seated) volunteering to be hypnotised by Ms Shah yesterday. Ms Lim said she was curious about hypnotherapy, and added that she felt she was in a drowsy state during the demonstration with Ms Shah.
Ms Lim (seated) volunteering to be hypnotised by Ms Shah yesterday. Ms Lim said she was curious about hypnotherapy, and added that she felt she was in a drowsy state during the demonstration with Ms Shah. PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

Think hypnosis, and ideas shaped mostly by movies - such as mind control and people who unwittingly reveal dark and hidden secrets - may come to mind.

But the Association of Hypnosis Professionals (Singapore) is trying to change that mindset so that hypnotists are seen as people to turn to for help with stress-linked problems. More than 100 curious members of the public decided to give the practice a chance yesterday at a free event held in conjunction with the 12th World Hypnotism Day, which was last Wednesday.

They were introduced to the world of hypnotherapy through talks and demonstrations at the event at the Visual Arts Centre in Dhoby Ghaut.

The association's founding president Fauziah Shah, who also runs a private practice, said: "Hypnosis is nothing mysterious; it is a normally occurring state of the mind, and all normal human beings go through it every day without realising it."

Right before we go to sleep and just before we get up, our minds go through a state similar to hypnosis, she said.

In hypnosis, a person is highly responsive to suggestions or directions, and the hypnotherapist guides the clients in finding solutions to their problems.

When it comes to hypnotherapy sessions, clients are in total control of their minds and can choose to come out of hypnosis if they want to, Ms Shah said.

Ms Marylin Lim, 50, a tutor, said she attended the event yesterday as she was curious about the therapy aspect of the practice. She volunteered for a hypnosis demonstration with Ms Shah.

"Nobody volunteered. I figured there are so many people here, nothing is going to happen to me," said Ms Lim, adding that she felt that she was in a drowsy state.

Ms Lim said that while she was aware of hypnotherapy, it was her first time finding out more about it.

Ms Shah said awareness of hypnotherapy has increased since 2004, when she set up a private practice.

She said that hypnotherapy has worked on people with issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, fears and phobias.

The number of clients she sees has grown by 80 per cent since then, with recent demand greater than it was five years ago.

Speaking at her office in Tanglin Shopping Centre last Friday, Ms Shah said knowledge of it has come a long way from when she used to conduct free talks. "During one of my talks, one woman got up and asked whether it has anything to do with the hip," she recalled.

The association was inaugurated in March last year with 30 members, and grew to 50 by the end of the year.

The majority of Ms Shah's clients are women aged between 30 and 40, although she has seen clients from the age of 10 to 70.

"There are many reasons why people come to us. Sometimes, they are profoundly affected but are unable to pinpoint why they are feeling this way," she said.

One such client is a 32-year-old facilities coordinator who wanted to be known only as Ms Noor.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, she said: "I would snap at those closest to me - my hubby and my mother - for the smallest of things and I was always angry.

"But in a short while, I would return to normal and sometimes I wouldn't even remember what made me angry."

She said she also had suicidal thoughts. Afraid that her anger would ruin her marriage, Ms Noor started looking for reasons behind her actions and possible solutions.

She decided to try hypnotherapy after finding Ms Shah's website, and has completed four sessions, each lasting one to two hours.

From that, Ms Noor discovered that while she thought she had coped with the loss of her father 10 years ago, she had not healed from the incident, she said.

She added that she is now able to acknowledge when she is angry and calm herself down.

Dr Ang Yong Guan, a psychiatrist with 30 years' experience, said there is a place for hypnotherapy.

He added that as a profession, it has gained more acceptance.

"It may benefit those who don't or can't talk about their problems and have consciously or unconsciously blocked negative memories for years," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 08, 2017, with the headline Call to open minds to hypnosis as stress therapy. Subscribe