This article first appeared in Lawyers Weekly:
So, what do you do? Standard small talk, right? Well, I’m a lawyer … and a hypnotherapist. My answer always elicits a visceral response of some kind, usually surprise, amusement or confusion.
Something doesn’t add up. Law and hypnotherapy seem, on the face of it, to be such divergent occupations. But occasionally someone will see the common thread.
As members of the legal profession, clarity is one of the tools of our trade, along with precision, foresight and persuasion. I see a clear continuity in the skills I apply to both being a commercial lawyer and being a hypnotherapist. I help clients gain clarity around their situation and I offer guidance and direction on how they can move forward to be more relaxed, more centred and, of course, happier.
As lawyers, we’re good at definitions. Let’s start with a couple of definitions. Hypnotherapy is the therapeutic use of hypnosis. Hypnosis is a relaxed, pleasant, focused state that induces enhanced receptivity to suggestion.
So how did I go from law to hypnotherapy? I was always interested in wellbeing. As an idealistic teenager, it was human rights that drew me to the law in the first place. In my 30s I went back to uni while working as a commercial lawyer and did a Graduate Diploma in Psychology. It was dry, rigorous study that gave me flashbacks of studying law. I gained a thorough grounding in dysfunction and stats and then decided to explore alternative avenues to mental and overall wellbeing. That’s how I encountered hypnotherapy, first as a client and then as a practitioner.
So how can hypnosis benefit the legal profession? We’re all familiar with the high levels of stress and pressure that are part and parcel of legal work. Just search for stress in the online Lawyers Weekly and you’ll find articles galore on how the industry is rife with stress, anxiety and depression, and how lawyers can minimise, manage and damage-control the effects on their personal and professional lives.
Underlying most modern biopsychosocial issues is stress. This reality is one of the reasons I have been drawn to hypnotherapy as a healing modality, because it induces deep relaxation that has a pervasive and continuing impact. When we’re relaxed we’re better at decision-making, problem solving and simply just getting through higher workloads if that’s what we need to do. Relaxed, in this sense, doesn’t mean sleepy or unmotivated; it means centred, focused and in flow.
On the other hand, when we’re stressed and anxious, our attention is scattered. It’s hard to concentrate and our productivity is severely compromised. We then have the flow on effects of unhealthy eating, minimal exercise and disrupted sleep patterns that can then become a vicious circle that is hard to break.
Many people immediately think of hypnosis to quit smoking, which has very high success rates. But they’re not usually aware that hypnosis can be used to interrupt any dysfunctional pattern, behaviour or habit that is impacting on your wellbeing. I personally believe that there is no price for peace of mind. It is the foundation of a happy life and when we have it, then we really hold the key to opening any door in life.
I chose to practise hypnotherapy rather than psychology because it’s a form of brief therapy, limited to three to six sessions. I personally get bored rehashing the same old stuff time and time again. I’m not one for endless talk therapy, although it does have its place and is beneficial to some. I would much rather be a sounding board, a jump-start and a partner in the client’s journey to a better frame of mind. That doesn’t mean compassion and understanding fly out the window. It’s a balance of strategy and understanding, which I’m sure many in the legal profession will intuitively understand.
To have a successful therapeutic relationship, mutual respect between client and therapist is essential. Coming from the same level of understanding is also crucial in building rapport. I consider it a privilege to be trusted with someone’s inner thoughts and emotions, their vulnerability and their humanness.
When I first transitioned from law to hypnotherapy, I thought it would be clean break. Many of us think in this light when we look at our careers and ask the questions, ‘What am I meant to be doing? What is my purpose?’ As I discovered, transition can be non-linear, and being flexible, open-minded and pragmatic can be a winning combination when it comes to job and life satisfaction.
I love the variety and challenge of my work, which is why I keep a foot in both professions so they can inform and enrich each other.