Stage hypnosis is still questioned by many.

Stage hypnosis has been my career since 2004, and in that span of time I've hypnotized approximately 25,000 people.  High school students, college students, and adults at corporate events and theater shows have shared the experience with me.  My audiences have been as small as 25 people, and as large as 1600.  Throughout it all, there have always been, and always will be, naysayers and skeptics.  And that's okay.

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If you're thinking of getting into stage hypnotism, you should spend some time considering the way that a job like that will affect your lifestyle.  There are some great aspects, but some challenges, as with any job.

Before you choose what price to charge for your stage show, spend some time thinking about the value you bring to your clients.  Pricing tends to feel pretty straightforward to folks, while value can be a better more difficult to qualify, but it's important that you work out some level of appreciation for the work you do as a hypnotist.  Why?

Because at some point, a potential client is going to ask you to justify the price you are charging.

That justification should not be a canned response like, "That's the standard in our industry." Your response should be a confident, heartfelt answer about the value you will bring to them.  When you communicate that, the lead will be more likely to take action and choose you.

Wendy Merron trains consulting hypnotists in Pennsylvania.  She's a great person, and a dedicated professional.  She wanted her students to get some perspective from another practicing hypnotist, so she was kind enough to invite me to a Q&A with her class.

When I speak with people about my profession, I think it's important to be honest and open about all the different aspects of the work we do.  I think there's too much secret keeping and question dodging in our community, so when I get these opportunities to speak with students, I don't hold back.

is hypnosis real

When people ask me, "Is hypnosis real?" I point them to The Stroop Test.  The premise is pretty simple.

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While researching the topic of safety related to hypnosis, I found a news article about an incident I heard about a few years ago.  The article included a video I had never seen before, and when I watched it, I didn't feel good about it.  When you read the article and watch the video, it might be easy to focus on criticizing Mr. Nadeau, but I would ask that we avoid any rants aimed at him and focus more on the general topic of hypnotism as a form of entertainment.

I also want to be open about a clear bias that I have: I'm a stage hypnotist.  While I also see clients, and I'm a certified instructor, I generate most of my revenue doing stage work.  I love what I do, and I don't have any plans to stop performing as a stage hypnotist anytime soon, but I also value my own critical thinking skills, and believe I have a duty to re-examine my own beliefs every now and then.  If a compelling argument can be made against stage hypnotism, I will give it full consideration.

I was initially looking for news articles about people who have gotten "stuck" in hypnosis.  Every couple of years, it seems, I'll hear a story in the news about some stage hypnotist not being able to get his/her volunteers out of hypnosis at the end of the show, and the ensuing panic that creates.  You see, this is the stuff that makes for a great headline, and it will drive clicks to a news website easily, so it was no surprise that the incident in Canada was picked up here in the United States and reported nation-wide.  The story even made it across the pond and was reported in the UK.

"2nd Hypnotist Rescues Students Stuck in Trance" -CBC News
"Panic as students get stuck in hypnosis."  -NY Daily News
"Hypnotist Summons Help as Girls Get Stuck in a Trance" -USA Today
"Trainee Hypnotist Forced to Call in Help after Girls at Canadian Private School are Locked in a Trance for FIVE Hours" -Daily Mail

I felt bad for the young hypnotist.  He made a rookie mistake, but none of those girls were in danger; you can't get truly stuck in hypnosis!  It's a safe and natural state.  One way or the other, every volunteer was going to come out of hypnosis and be just fine.  But because the hypnotist didn't handle the situation more smoothly and facilitate a prompt emergence for the people in hypnosis, his picture was now plastered all over the news with these dramatic headlines.

Then I found the Huffington Post's report on the story, and it included video footage from the show.  I hadn't seen the footage when the story broke a couple of years ago, but now here was this footage of a hypnotist performing the hypnotic bridge, and as soon as I saw him doing that, something inside me turned on him.  Any sympathy I had for this hypnotist evaporated.

I have never facilitated the hypnotic bridge, and I don't believe it should be done.  I think it's grandstanding.  The only exception to that is Jim Wand's version.  Jim would use self-hypnosis to make himself a bridge, and would have a big guy picked out of the audience stand on him.  If you want to put yourself in that position, it's your choice, and I think it's a more ethical choice than doing it to someone from the audience.

The bigger issue is the use of hypnotism for entertainment, and how that invariably leads to hypnotists who want to impress people, to get the biggest pop from a crowd, choosing to do things on stage that might put people's safety at risk.  It also sometimes leads to stage hypnotists developing routines that purposefully make people feel uncomfortable (for example, "Whenever I say the word ___, somebody is jabbing you in the bum with a needle." That's an actual bit I saw a stage hypnotist do.)

I have always considered my show to be a clean act, and it is one of the most consistent pieces of feedback I get from clients.  I think you can be funny without being dirty, and without doing things at the expense of your volunteers having a positive experience on stage.  I perform for between 10,000 and 12,000 people each year, and at every show I ask people how many of them have been hypnotized before.  About five percent of the audience typically raises their hands. I also ask how many of them have never even seen live hypnotism before, and anywhere from 30-50% of the audience will raise their hands.  I've been touring for a decade, now, and those numbers really haven't changed.  The vast majority of Americans have little to no experience with hypnosis.

As a stage hypnotist, I feel a duty to entertain my audience, and I also recognize an opportunity to be an ambassador for hypnotism.  I would like to think that every time I put on a good show, that I demonstrate the fun side of hypnotism while also showing I care about people, that I am opening up people's minds to the possibility of using hypnosis.  But surely there must be some times, over a decade of performing, when I have done something in a show that somebody didn't like.  You can't control every single aspect of a stage hypnotism show.  Sometimes, even the things you are in control of don't work the way you envisioned them when you actually do them.

Some hypnotists might argue that the hypnotic bridge is a way to show people how powerful the human mind is.  They might say that, if it's performed properly, there is no risk to the volunteer.  I am basically making that same argument about my whole show, but what if that's just a rationalization?  Can you use hypnosis for entertainment ethically?  Or are you in trouble the moment you choose to use hypnosis to create moments in which the audience is laughing at the people on stage?  If we can't ensure that all stage hypnotists will perform with the highest standards of safety and ethics, should we ban stage hypnotism?

Hypnotists are just people, and all people have challenges.  When I created my reality web series, I wanted to show people that hypnosis is something we can all benefit from, so I figured I should model that myself.

Hypnosis business advice

I was recently at a cookout at a colleague's home, and everybody there was a hypnotist.  My colleague had purposefully invited only hypnosis business owners for this particular event, as a way to build some new friendships and bring like-minded people together.  A few of the people there were newly certified hypnotists, people who had gotten their certification within the past six months.  Others, like myself, had been practicing for a decade or more. It was a nice mix of people from different backgrounds and experience levels who all wanted to do good things and create successful practices.
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There's a creative process to being a stage hypnotist.  Part of the job is creating content that will entertain your audience and set you apart from other stage hypnotists.  How do you do that?

Hypnotizing people requires one set of skills.  Creating a stage show that is entertaining requires an additional set of skills.  Most stage hypnosis trainers teach you to hypnotize people, and they touch every so briefly on the the business aspects and entertainment aspects of the business.  They will often leave you to fend for yourself, in those areas.  It's a big part of why so many people who have been trained and certified in stage hypnotism aren't actually out there doing shows.