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Merrilee Ellis, owner of Hope Hypnotherapy, stands inside her Monument clinic on Jan. 6. Ellis opened the practice two years ago.

Merrilee Ellis would like to dispel some myths about hypnotherapy. The practice doesn’t involve New Age and holistic philosophies, and one doesn’t have to be asleep for it to work.

In fact, hypnotherapy involves relaxation and comfort which facilitates a trance state. No one knows this better than Ellis, a registered psychotherapist and a certified Medical-Support Clinical Hypnotherapist, who established Hope Hypnotherapy at 325 Second St., Suite V, in Monument in 2018.

Some clients come for just one session, while others book multiple sessions of hypnotherapy to help them reduce anxiety and depression, reduce and manage chronic pain, fears and phobias, stop bad habits and promote good ones, improve sleep and performance in school, work and sports, prepare for medical or dental procedures and even help women through childbirth without the use of pain medication.

Having experienced the benefits of hypnotherapy firsthand, Ellis decided to become a licensed clinical professional in the application in hypnotherapy. She began experiencing chronic pain from fibromyalgia at age 12, and sought treatment from medical doctors, chiropractors and acupuncturists throughout the years.

“I tried everything, stupid and smart stuff, and not much helped,” Ellis said.

About three years ago, Ellis read about a Colorado Springs hypnotherapist using hypnosis to treat medical issues including chronic pain. She called him immediately. Two sessions later, her chronic pain was reduced.

“After that, I said I had to learn how to do this,” said Ellis, who worked as a counselor for eight years before opening Hope Hypnotherapy.

Ellis felt she already had a good background for the field, having earned a master’s in counseling. She researched post-secondary schools and received hypnotherapy training at the Hypnotherapy Academy of America in Albuquerque.

In establishing Hope Hypnotherapy, Ellis’ top objective was to educate the market about this form of therapy.

“Even though it’s been around a very long time, I think now there’s going to be a very big growth in it, because people are interested. With the opioid crisis and similar things, people are learning how they can naturally help themselves,” Ellis said.

Ellis’ clientele ranges in age from 9 to 90. The average amount of times she sees a client is six sessions, which Ellis said is a testament to the benefits of hypnotherapy. It typically requires far less time to be successful than “talk” therapy.

“You couldn’t talk me out of my chronic pain, but you could hypnotize me to be able to control it a lot better myself,” Ellis said.

For clients who are looking to end a habit like smoking or nail-biting, usually only one session will warrant the desired result, Ellis said. Most of Ellis’ sessions are about 90 minutes — longer than many other hypnotherapy clinics in El Paso County, she said.

Potential clients may visit Hope Hypnotherapy for a free, 30-minute introductory “Hypnosis Experience,” during which Ellis explains the process and allows the person to sit in her clinic’s special comfortable chair and experience the therapy it firsthand.

“I induce hypnosis, just do brief relaxation and bring you back to your full awareness. It’s very brief,” she said. “I’m looking for five signs on your face that you entered into a trance. Then we do it again.”

Trance is a natural experience that occurs during a person’s “waking” hours, shown by a person’s ability to daydream or be absorbed into a movie or music, or simply forgetting the reasons he or she entered a room. Trance facilitated through hypnosis promotes access to the unconscious mind and a suspension of critical thinking.

When Ellis brings a client’s brain waves to a more relaxed and meditative state thereafter, the objective is to achieve a deeper state each time.

She describes the feeling of hypnosis the same as the moment a person is about to fall asleep. Some clients have said there’s almost a euphoric quality to it. However, it doesn’t work for everyone. Ellis said there are two criteria for someone to be hypnotizable: First, the person must want to be hypnotized; and second, he or she must have a rapport with the therapist to be able to relax and trust the process, she said.

Some individuals are considered to be poor candidates for hypnosis — particularly those with a history of intellectual disorders, dementia and psychosis —because of a general inability to focus his or her attention in ways that enable therapeutic trance. Ellis said has seen the occasional client whom she has not been able to hypnotize and solely provided counseling.

Ellis said people who are mentally stable despite their psychological or medical challenges usually benefit from this type of therapy.

Undergoing hypnotherapy does not mean a client would be put to sleep for his or her session but rather, will enter a state of relaxation and physical comfort. Ellis said most people recall many details about their session after being returned to their full awareness.

For more information on Hope Hypnotherapy, visit hopehypno.org.

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