Editor's note: This is the fourth story in a holistic health series
BENNINGTON -- At the Center for Hypnotherapy and Hypnoanalysis at 160 Benmont Ave., Thomas Lusa, a board certified hypnotherapist by the American Board of Hypnotherapy and the Association of Integrative Psychology, is in the business of relaxing, calming and helping his local clientele live with more clarity.
According to Lusa, hypnotherapy is the oldest natural treatment modality in existence, dating back to the time of ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, all of whom used hypnosis in some form for the treatment of various ailments.
In 1841, James Braid, a Scottish surgeon, coined the term "neuro-hypnotism," later shortened to hypnosis and stems from the Greek god of sleep, Hypnos.
Later, during the Civil War, surgeons used hypnosis when they didn't have the option of anesthesia. Hypnotherapy was not recognized as a bonafied treatment for illness until 1958, when it was accepted by the British Medical Society, and later by the United States in 1960.
Today, hypnosis and hypnotherapy are commonly practiced methods for pain management, overcoming addictions, weight reduction, and, of course, relaxation.
Lusa says he frequently finds himself at the hospital, working with patients who are about to go into surgery and those in recovery, too.
The four levels of hypnosis can send a patient into a relaxed state at level one, and, at level four, into a state comparable to being under general anesthesia.
After practicing as a registered holistic nurse for most of his professional career, Lusa became interested in hypnotherapy and its perceived health benefits.
He took several training classes throughout the United States and Canada and studied Chinese and Japanese philosophy in great detail.
"I found working with the mind to be much more interesting than any other modality I'd explored over the years," Lusa said, having researched massage and reflexology as well. "Nothing else clicked with me the way hypnotherapy did."
The results yielded from hypnotherapy sessions come more rapidly than with other modalities as well, according to Lusa, which may appeal to many.
A study in alternative medicine showed that after 600 sessions of psychoanalysis, only 33 percent of patients reported recovery from their conditions.
After 22 sessions of behavior therapy, 72 percent of those reported recovery while hypnotherapy has a 93 percent success rate after only six sessions.
However, according to Lusa, it may take a few sessions to simply develop a certain level of comfort and trust with the therapist before one is able to completely relax and reap the benefits of hypnotherapy.
For those who may struggle with anxiety or stress in general, Lusa says hypnotherapy may be the solution you have been searching for.
"For most people, one or two sessions isn't enough," he said. "They're dealing with the anticipation of what's happening, not focusing on relaxing fully."
An initial hypnotherapy session will last for about 90 minutes and will include a complete health consultation.
Subsequent sessions will range from 45 to 60 minutes, and once the therapist and patient determine a certain level of success, a CD recorded by the therapist will be given to the patient to use at their discretion for maintenance purposes.
Lusa holds his private sessions in a small, naturally lit, minimally furnished office. A tiny stone fountain provides the perfect amount of tinkling white noise. Upon entrance to his little oasis of an office, it is impossible not to feel immediately relaxed.
Banner Arts Editor Andrew Roiter, who had never before experienced hypnotherapy, offered to join in on the adventure.
Before beginning the session, Lusa asked Andrew, as he does with every other patient, a series of questions about how he was feeling and explained that, contrary to how hypnosis is sometimes portrayed in movies or on television, you don't lose control over your behavior while under hypnosis, that you generally remain aware of and remember what happens throughout the session.
Lusa then helped Andrew to fully relax into the chair he was sitting on, and asked him to close his eyes and begin taking slow, deep breaths.
For the next 15 minutes or so, Lusa guided Andrew through a relaxation journey.
During this time, my eyes were wide open and my hand were busy taking notes and photos, but at times I found my eyelids drooping just from the deep, lulling cadence at which Lusa spoke.
Toward the end of the session, Lusa told Andrew that he would be tying a balloon to his left wrist (not literally) and to allow the balloon to guide his hand and arm up towards the ceiling.
I was amazed to see Andrew's arm float effortlessly above him, while the rest of his body remained still and seemingly asleep.
Lusa then told Andrew he would be puncturing the balloon and to let the falling balloon guide his arm back down to its original resting place. Again, this was done without second thought.
After counting backwards from 10, Lusa announced to Andrew that he would be awaking in a much more relaxed state.
His eyes fluttered open and Andrew smiled.
"I feel so rested," Andrew later said, explaining that he could feel many of the sensations Lusa was describing in his verbiage. "Everything except for my arm floating up felt like a conscious choice. It was like I had taken a long nap and woken up naturally and completely refreshed. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience."
With a treatment cost range between $60 and $125 per session, Lusa says he works with his patients to find a price that fits into their budget.
"I offer discounts to students and members of the local gyms," he said. "It really depends on what my patients can afford to pay. I'm in this to help people, not to make money."
Lusa said that the most important thing for those new to hypnotherapy to remember is to keep an open mind.
"Just as your mind creates disease, it heals disease," Lusa said. "If you're open to hypnotherapy, it can heal you."
To make an appointment with Lusa, call (413) 496-1831. To learn more about hypnotherapy and hypnosis, visit www.mayoclinic.com and search, "hypnosis."
Contact Elizabeth Conkey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bethconkey.