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Hypnosis offers an alternative for lifestyle changes

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Dr. Ronald Flora, Ph.D. (right) meets with a client before hypnotizing her to stop smoking. Photo by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi

By Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi

Lately, I drift off to sleep listening to the soothing sounds of Dr. Ronald Flora’s voice.

His speech is soft and monotone as he coaxes up images of fresh fruits and vegetables, rolling clouds, deep blue skies and cool mountain lakes. He cautions against overeating and eating foods that are “dead rather than alive.” Usually, I listen only to the first few minutes before falling into a deep slumber. Apparently, the rest of the work needed to change my thinking is done while I’m sleeping.

Dr. Flora hypnotized me two weeks ago for weight loss. Is it working? Well, I’m not completely cured of passing by the office candy dish without dipping in or sneaking a cookie every now and then but I do find myself rethinking my food choices.

Dr. Flora is a certified and registered hypnotherapist who has been holding weight loss and smoking cessation sessions in the Northern Neck for over 10 years. 

Dr. Flora’s mantra is “change begins in the mind.” His weight loss session is not about dieting but about changing one’s way of thinking. In fact, he claims that clients can achieve and maintain their goal weight without needing willpower.

“Hospitals call it biofeedback. But hypnosis is changing beliefs,” said Dr. Flora, who regulary holds clinics in 175 cities in 18 states.

We’ve all seen the hypnosis comedy shows, where a hypnotist has his subjects barking like a dog or laughing uncontrollably at nothing. That’s not what Dr. Flora is about. His is clinical hypnotherapy, used to treat clients for weight loss, smoking cessation, fears, stress, depression, migraines and many other problems.

According to Dr. Flora, only one live session is needed for weightloss and smoking cessation results.

“In fact, suggestions stay with some individuals indefinitely,” he said. Most, however, need reinforcement, which they can get from CDs used at home.

I had a 90-minute session for $85. Yes, I had to pay. Dr. Flora said most people don’t take it seriously unless there is an investment. And I am listening to a CD every night at bedtime and twice a week while in a conscious state.

During my session, Dr. Flora talked with me about general weight issues in America, my personal goals, and had me fill out a weight loss contract, which I’m supposed to read each morning as soon as I wake up. Then he hypnotized me. It wasn’t my first time so I knew what to expect.

Maximum relaxation

Hypnosis is a natural phenomenon and occurs daily for most people, according to Dee Callahan of Reedville. A licensed clinical social worker, Callahan uses hypnosis to help clients remember things and “go inside and get calmer to connect to memories.”

Along with memory recollection, hypnosis is also used for weight loss and smoking cessation and to improve self-esteem, manage pain and stop a destructive behavior such as drinking too much or overspending.

Frederick A. Mesmer is credited with discovering hypnosis in 1773.

Although the practice has been around for hundreds of years, many people still associate hypnosis with being out of control. On the contrary, hypnosis is a state of deep relaxation where the subconscious mind is listening. A hypnotized client is conscious the entire time, said Callahan, and usually able to recall everything that happened.

There are no swinging watches or chants of “you’re getting very sleepy.” Instead, Dr. Flora lulls clients into a state of relaxation. In fact, while “under,” I sat upright and motionless in a fairly uncomfortable chair for nearly 30 minutes. It felt more like 10 minutes to me and I awoke from my trance-like state feeling rested and rejuvenated.

During hypnosis, the body and conscious mind are in a relaxed, natural state, while the subconscious mind becomes more receptive to suggestion. In other words, hypnosis is receiving positive suggestions while in a relaxed state, according to Dr. Flora.

Hypnotic suggestions bypass the intellectual mind, called the “conscious,” and zero in on the subconscious, which has no interpretative powers. When given a suggestion, the subconscious mind accepts it literally as a new reality. Hypnosis allows the client to leave the world of conscious limits and enter into the world of potential, said Dr. Flora.

When hypnotized, clients are in an alpha state, that level between full consciousness and sleep.

“[Hypnosis] is something we do naturally. People don’t realize it,” said Dee Callahan of Reedville. Callahan is a licensed clinical social worker who has used hypnosis as a means of helping clients with memory, stress and calming fears. “When we’re driving our car, say from Kilmarnock to Richmond, and don’t remember the drive, you were in a trance. It happens several times a day for most people.”

According to Dr. Flora, no two therapists perform hypnosis the same way. He only uses positive imagery not aversion techniques.

And not everyone can be hypnotized, said both Callahan and Dr. Flora.

Callahan says she’s “50% successful because sometimes people aren’t ready for change” to quit smoking or lose weight. “They have to want it,” she added.

Dr. Flora says he can tell 45 minutes into the session whether someone is “into or not.” He spends the first hour of the session educating and holding a question -and-answer session with clients. The final half hour is for the actual hypnosis.

“I can usually tell if someone is serious by then,” he said. “The ones who aren’t serious are usually the husbands who are just dragged along by the wives. That’s how I get an 85% success rate. I cheat. If I can tell someone is not serious about it, I will give them a refund and they don’t continue.”

He too, says clients have to be committed to whatever it is they are trying to overcome, whether it’s quitting smoking, eating less or relieving anxiety.

When clients leave his smoking session, they are supposed to say “I’m a non-smoker” instead of “I’m quitting smoking.” And weight loss participants are never to say they are on a diet.

Diets, he said, force a person to become obsessed with food. Hypnosis helps people to bypass willpower.

“This has to happen without the use of willpower,” said Dr. Flora. “It becomes part of your routine, part of your lifestyle. It’s long term moderation.

“What changes behavior is belief and not knowledge,” he added. “It’s my job to help people bypass willpower. There isn’t a need for it when you change your way of thinking.”

According to Dr. Flora, changing someone’s way of thinking is why children are much easier to work with than adults.

“They have not had the years of failure that adults have had,” he said.

In fact, one of his most successful CDs for home use is for controlling bedwetting.

I, personally, bought one of Dr. Flora’s CDs for that purpose for a friend several years ago. Her daughter struggled with bedwetting but after one week of listening to the CD at bedtime she stopped.

He sells CDs for bedwetting, drinking, PMS, pain, spending, creative thinking, good study habits, memory improvement, migraine headaches, allergies, depression, insomnia, stress and anxiety, self-confidence, sports improvement and nail biting. One-on-one sessions aren’t needed for these issues.

I’m not sure if I’ll lose the seven pounds per month that Dr. Flora ensured me I would. But I plan to listen to my CD for the full 90 days he recommends as reinforcement. If nothing else, I haven’t slept this good in years.

posted 02.20.2013

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