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Smokeout - Is Hypnosis the Answer?

Author: Josh Nichols, Free Press Staff Writer

Date Published:
Publisher: Free Press Volume 3, Number 74

How Hypnosis is helping ace reporter Josh Nichols kick the habit.

It started with one cigarette butt. It was the one I threw on the ground standing outside the off campus kegger my sophomore year of college.

Then came another butt, and another. As the months flew off the paper calendar on the wall, the butts continued to pile up around me.

The months flew by faster, and the cigarettes piled up faster. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them - about seven years' worth.

They engulfed my shoulders and then my head.

The nasty little things were swallowing me up - choking me.

Soon, I was buried in the dirty, stinky butts.

I wanted out. I wanted out bad.

A few minutes later, could have been two, could have been 30, I'm not really sure, she slowly started bringing me back.

She told me to open my eyes. I was lying back in a recliner, feet extended out in front of me.

Three feet away sat Teddi. She asked me how it was. I didn't know how to answer. OK, I guess.

Had I been hypnotized?

I wasn't sure.

I probably messed it up. I wanted to relax and allow the hypnosis to happen so bad I might have done just the opposite, stressed myself out.

But I did have a curious feeling.

The image of the 50-some-year-old lady, who looked like she was 90, hunched over a slot machine in Vegas chain-smoking, was permanently engraved in my head - as was the pile of cigarettes I'd just been buried beneath.

Maybe it worked.

When I walked out the front door onto the sidewalk, I mentally tested myself.

Did I want a smoke? I wasn't sure. If I had one at that moment, I would've probably smoked it. Damn, maybe it didn't work. But at the same time, I didn't want one. That's the reason I went to "Change Your Mind Hypnotherapy" in the first place.

It had been seven years. It was time.

Becoming a Believer

"I was the kid on the playground that everyone went to about their problems" said Teddi Rachlin, a psychotherapist who specializes in therapeutic hypnosis. "I was always the one who broke up the fights. I always liked to help people."

Now she was trying to help me.

I'd gone through two sessions with Rachlin to kick the smoking habit.

One week after my first session with her, the day I said good-bye to my seven-year habit, I was still going strong in my quit.

Now, I wanted to know exactly what she'd done to my brain and exactly how one comes to be a hypnotherapist. Turns out, Rachlin's only been a believer in the power of hypnosis for about four years.

Originally, her lifelong desire to help people took her to the University of Manchester in England where she studied psychology, eventually earning a master's degree.

Hypnosis was not part of the psychology curriculum.

She wasn't exposed to hypnosis until just four years ago, when a car crash left Rachlin with a severe neck injury.

She says she couldn't even turn her head.

After visits to what seemed like every doctor in Southern California, she'd given up, tired of them telling her there was nothing they could do to help her.

She then met a woman who specialized in hypnoanesthesia.

"She spent 20 minutes with me and I absolutely did not believe her," Rachlin recalled.

But her doubts were put to rest when the woman was through.

Rachlin could turn her head.

A woman who always wanted to help people had just found what she believed to be the best means of doing so - hypnosis.

Soon she was enrolled in a hypnotherapy graduate program in Los Angeles.

A few short years later, she has a tiny office on Main Street in Grand Junction.

She's ready to start helping people.

How Hypnosis Works

According to Rachlin, about 12 percent of the brain is conscious thought. The other 88 percent is subconscious.

"All those years of studying the mind and I didn't know anything about the subconscious," she said. "If you really want to affect permanent change, you need to get through to the subconscious."

The brain is flooded with about 2,000 types of stimuli at any given moment, and the human brain is able to respond to about seven of them.

"I'm helping people get in control of where they put their focus,' she said. "The therapist has no control at all. I suggest where they put their attention and they make their own decisions."

When a new client walks into Rachlin's office, she first interviews them for about an hour, trying to pinpoint where their stress, anxiety, fatigue, fears or habits are stemming from.

Then the person moves to a recliner, where she talks them into a relaxed state.

She's helped people quit smoking, manage their weight, improve their sleep, deal with depression and improve relationships.

She claims to have a 90-percent success rate in helping people quit smoking, and anywhere from 80 to 90 percent success in helping people achieve desired weight loss.

Rachlin has combined hypnosis with her other psychotherapy training.

"It's getting more understood that there's nothing magical about it," she said. "It's not beam me up levitation. It's just calm. You don't analyze in the hypnotic state. You relax."

In order for it to be effective, people need to allow themselves to relax, and most importantly they need to be wiling to be helped, she said.

"They just need to decide if they want to make changes or not," she said. "If they're ready, this will work."

Wanting Help

I'd made up my mind I was ready to quit the habit I picked up in my wild youth.

But I'd made up my mind to do that several times in the past. Until one week ago I was still throwing down more money than I wish to disclose supporting a harmful habit.

Now, a week into this quit thing, I'm feeling good. Sure I get an urge here and there, but I'm not scratching my eyeballs out, screaming at my fellow employees or puking from withdrawal.

I left both sessions with Rachlin wondering if I'd really been hypnotized.

I still don't know for sure that I was.

All I know is I walked out of her office with more desire to kick the habit than I've ever had before.

There was the lingering image of me buried in a pile of smokes and the chain-smoking old woman pulling on the slot machine lever.

While those images lingered, so did a more positive image planted in my brain by Rachlin.

It was an image of myself in 15 years, at the peak of my physical health in my early 40s.

That's not the vision I had smoking a pack a day.

But it's a vision I have now.

I like it.

I think this whole quitting thing just might work this time around.

"You have to be ready to make the change," Rachlin said.

I think I'm ready.