Despite common misconceptions, there are no swirling black-and-white umbrellas or swinging pocket watches in hypnotist Matthew Fallon's comedic stage show HYPNO-tainment.
Nobody waddles around the stage quacking like a duck, though Fallon, 38, admits he has been known to make his volunteers dance.
"People will transform into heavyweight champion boxers, take an amazing airplane ride, become celebrity singers and more," he says.
Fallon, a certified hypnotherapist since 2006, was introduced to the technique at age 7 when a hypnotherapist treated his insomnia. Now, he performs his comedy hypnosis show internationally, using humor to educate his audience about hypnotherapy's power. "People are more open to the idea of hypnosis than they were before seeing my show," he says, calling the stereotypical ideas about hypnosis "antiquated."
"Somehow the pocket watch remains," he laments.
Marti Liebowitz, a certified hypnotherapist and owner of Harmony Through Hypnosis, says she hopes shows like Fallon's and her work with individuals will help display hypnosis' true healing power.
"Hypnosis is a natural state of mind, one that we encounter several times a day on our own," says the 38-year-old. "You know right before you get to sleep when you're laying there, dozing in and out? That's hypnosis."
Through a local lecture as part of World Hypnotism Day, Jan. 4, Liebowitz hopes to take public education further by debunking common myths. For instance: "People have this misconception that they're giving the power over to the hypnotist, and that's just not true." Hypnotism is not a truth serum, says Liebowitz, who turned to the craft in 2006 to battle depression.
Liebowitz's most common clients are smokers; typically, between two and six $100 visits will help them kick the addiction. She says hypnotherapy can improve any problem, including fear of going to the dentist, test anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder.
In two, one-hour sessions, Liebowitz says she helped a 30-year-old man overcome his fear of riding in a car, caused by a traumatic accident. Another client, a 40-year-old woman, sought out hypnotherapy to cope with her fear of flying.
"It is not witchcraft or voodoo," she says, noting that it should be seen as a complement to modern medicine. "Hypnosis can work really well for pain, but it doesn't cure or treat illness, it's only helpful in relieving symptoms."
Fallon says having an open mind is key to embracing the technique and benefits that come with it: "When folks say they don't believe in hypnosis, they're essentially saying they don't believe in relaxation and the power of their own mind," he says. "They don't believe because of either what they don't know about hypnosis, or what they think they know."