January 29, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 29°F


Professor hypnotizes campus

Schissel said hypnosis is an alternative to talk therapy.
Schissel said hypnosis is an alternative to talk therapy.

Richard Schissel, associate professor and chair of the speech-language, pathology and audiology department, will speak March 2 about a seldom-discussed therapy alternative — hypnosis.

Schissel, owner of the private practice Empower Hypnosis, plans to lecture on the potential of hypnosis as a remedy for students suffering from stress-related problems.

Staff Writer Kyle Robertson spoke with Schissel about the limitations of hypnosis, as well as its uses in college.

Kyle Robertson: What is hypnosis?

Richard Schissel: Hypnosis is a state of total focus. Your conscious mind is focused on something to the extent that you’re not aware of anything else around you. It’s like when you become enraptured by a book or a television program, or listening to some piece of music, and you’re aware of reality around you, but it’s not important to you. Your conscious mind is off somewhere else, and I’m making suggestions to your subconscious; your conscious mind is totally unaware that I did this.

KR: How did you get interested in hypnosis?

RS: I was wondering why it took people so long when they went to counseling to get over the issue they were trying to resolve, and also from my work in speech-language pathology. Talk therapy just takes an incredibly long time to be effective because the issues are really in the subconscious, which we can’t easily access. With hypnosis, you can find the root of the problem without the interference of your conscious mind. We call this the “critical factor.”

KR: How can hypnosis help people, and what areas does it apply to?

RS: In my practice, it’s mostly pain relief, weight loss, stress reduction and performance anxiety issues in music and sports. There are people who are using it in surgery in place of anesthetic because many people react very negatively to anesthesia. It’s also great for childbirth to calm and focus mothers who are in pain.

KR: How do you use hypnosis to help students?

RS: I don’t want people to think I’m taking advantage of a population that’s right here, but students do come to me. They constitute about 10 percent of my clients. They come for a lot of the same kinds of issues: weight loss, smoking, but also for test anxiety and stress issues. I’m not a certified counselor, though, so if we get into an area that requires actual therapy I have to refer them to a psychologist.

KR: Are there any risks involved?

RS: Some people worry about what will happen to them if something happens to your hypnotist while you’re still in the trance, but if that happened, you’d probably just fall asleep and wake up, or your subconscious will recognize that you’re no longer hearing my voice and will bring you out of the trance to see what’s going on. I also can’t make you do anything you wouldn’t do normally. If I said something that bothered you or felt wrong you’d pop right back out. None of my clients have ever complained about nightmares or any kind of problems. There’s really no downside to this form of treatment.

KR: How would you advertise hypnosis?

RS: I would advertise it as twofold: stress-management and motivational. I can help with anxiety, organization, creativity, career issues and determining what kind of person you are. A lot of people don’t know themselves very well, and I can help them believe in themselves enough to solve their problems on their own.