A sports psychologist for a U.S. Olympic team once noted that 80 to 90 percent of an Olympic athlete’s performance is in the mind. In the 1960’s in East Germany, Olympic trainers were working with athletes using hypnosis. Today hypnotherapists work with trainers and sports psychologists at the college and professional levels as well as Olympic athletes. Using your mind to improve physical performance can be of real value to you. And hypnosis is a great way of using your mind.

An issue for which clients come to see me is improving athletic performance. I have seen people who are professionals wanting to improve their performance in every sport from football to golf. Students come to see me hoping to release fears about getting hit by a ball or a tackle or improving their skills enough for a scholarship. I have worked with Olympic hopefuls in diving, swimming and gymnastics. all recognize that hypnosis can be a valuable tool to improve their skills in their chosen sport.

There are a number of different ways that hypnosis can improve athletic performance. Using visualization is a key part of such improvement. Back in 1984, Mary Lou Retton competed in the Olympics. She described her nighttime ritual of visualizing her routines. “I see myself hitting all my routines, doing everything perfectly. I imagine all the moves and go through them with the image in my mind.” She did just that in competition. Note that the hypnotherapist does not need to know a great deal about your sport, you will give her a description and the words that will be used in your session.

Thomas Tutko and Umberto Tosi in their book SPORTS PSYCHING talked of using visualization which they called “Mental Rehearsal”. In this rehearsal, you picture your goal clearly, going through a routine, shot or stroke in exactly the same pattern as you hoped to do it in competition. In this mind rehearsal, every movement is clear and positive. These mental rehearsals improve neuromuscular coordination and emotional confidence and affirmation.

Using visualization can heighten your awareness of each movement and improve your technique. It can improve your coordination, concentration and agility. As these improve, it will also increase your enjoyment of your chosen sport as it eases the pressure of competition while increasing competitiveness.

Eliminating fears, anxieties and other obstacles which can hold you back from your best athletic performance is another way to use hypnotherapy. Over the years, I have seen many clients who had an actual fear of their sport. Little-leaguers afraid of being hit by a ball, gymnasts afraid of falling offf “the” horse or equestrians afraid of falling off “a” horse are some of those issues.

But there are other fears that may stand in the way of peak performance. Sometimes the fear is of failing. Some of the children I see have been competing in their sports for much of their lives. They know the many hours and much money that has been spent to get them to the competition and the pressure and fear of failing can be enormous. Professional athletes no prime performance is necessary to stay competitive and employed.

Sometimes the fear is of moving up to the next level and fear of a stronger and more powerful competition is causing problems for the athlete. Hypnosis can be used to eliminate those fears and allow the athlete to compete and enjoy their sport.

Other emotional issues can also be addressed when they are affecting athletic performance. Besides the fears mentioned above, anger and resentment can affect all areas of life including sports. Some children and adults feel pressures from parents or coaches and respond with distractedness, lack of self-confidence or inappropriate aggressiveness. Releasing these negative fears allows room to overcome fears and pressures and to develop a winning attitude.

Occasionally, a client will call because they are experiencing a slump. Golfers talk about “losing their game”. Baseball players lose the ability to play automatically which interferes with their ability to pitch or hit the ball as they had in the past. These issues can be addressed by regressing and reconnecting back to a time when they were pitching or hitting successfully.

Almost always as a part of the hypnosis session, I will have the client picture and imagine their perfect game or meet. Using very positive words and suggestions, I have the client go through the competition in their mind, “moving perfectly, in exactly the right way”. Using the terminology of their sport, I lead them through the competition with their body, strong yet relaxed, their mind clear and focused, playing the game with strength and power.

As Bob Reese, a New York Jets trainer, once commented, “There is no guarantee that if you create a vision in will happen. There is a guarantee that if you don’t have a vision, it will never happen.” Hypnotherapy is a way of creating that vision.

Some people may think, “I can’t use hypnosis for athletic performance because I don’t play baseball or compete in gymnastics.” But hypnosis works in much the same way for other competitions as well. Whether you are on a bowling team, go to the firing range, left weights or play indoor games like chess, bridge, Scrabble or on line, you may be amazed at the results of a hypnosis session to improve your performance.


     Do you know what the most common anxiety disorder is?  The answer may surprise you.  Phobias are the most common affecting up to 14% of Americans during their lifetimes.  The word phobia comes from the Greek word phobos which means mortal fear.  If you are extremely anxious about flying, being in an elevator or exposed to heights, your life may be limited by these fears.  A phobia is considered to be an unreasonable and persistent fear that limits the person's ability to freely socially interact, work or play.  Sufferers with phobias will often make unreasonable or irrational choices in order to avoid that fear.

      Some people suffer with phobias by simple avoidance which often limits their lives.  Others become so uncomfortable by the physical symptoms that often often occur with phobias.  When such symptoms as shortness of breath, trembling, rapid heart beat and the strong desire to flee become too strong, they take medications like alprazolam (Xanax)  or clonazepam (Klonapin).  

     Be aware there are other treatments to reduce the severity of a phobia or even help it to disappear.  Therapy can be a non-medication way to treat phobias.  Your medical doctor may be able to recommend a mental-health professional who works with clients suffering from phobias.  There are a number of different therapies, including talk therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and exposure therapy.

      Hypnotherapy can be a valuable tool to alleviate or eliminate your phobia. You can free yourself from the limitations caused by phobias.  Hypnotherapy is brief therapy.  I work with most phobics only one time and allow the client to record the session for reinforcement at home.  Get the help you need, free yourself and Be Well. 


    I love to get calls where clients tell me about their experiences after using hypnotherapy to help correct a problem or challenge in their lives.  This morning I had a call from a former client.  When she first came to see me, she was very anxious.  She had been in an accident while showing a horse.  A champion rider before the accident, she was fearful and having a real problem doing something she had enjoyed for years.  We did one session of hypnotherapy.  Her call this morning was one of joy and victory as she reported the horse show over the past weekend was a great experience.  She concluded it was "the most wonderful experience, I'd had in a long time."  Hypnotherapy can be a great tool to meet the challenges in your life as well.


     If you have a job interview on your calendar.  It's highly likely you have tried to prepare to do a good job. You've read the books. You have an excellent resume.  You've researched the prospective employer.  When you go to the interview you are well-groomed, on time and have thought through how you intend to present yourself and how you could be of value to your company. 

     Yet too often, people are sabotauged by their nonverbal communication.  Psychologists believe that between 60% and 80% of all communication is nonverbal.  So when you go into an interview, know you're not only being listened to - you are being watched.  Your facial expressions and body language will be sending messages just as much as what you say.

    In this hiring market, there can be many qualified applicants for every job.  You want to present yourself as calm and relaxed.  Get to the apppointment early, so you do not feel rushed and anxious.  Check where your resume and any other papers are in your briefcase before the interview so you can retrieve them quickly during the interview at the appropriate time.  As you are waiting, do a deep breathing exercise.  I tell my clients, "Breathe deeply.  Exhale completely."  Deep breathing can be very calming.  

     When you enter the interviewer's office, be aware of your posture.  Enter without hesitation.  This is your chance to make that important first impression.   Behave the way you want to be perceived - as calm and collected. Handshakes are important.  Match handshakes and hand movements to the other person.  If an interviewer is a hardy handshaker, he will respect the same from the person he is interviewing.  On the other hand, if the interviewer uses moderate pressure, he may think you are trying to dominate if you shake hands in a hard way.

     When you are seated sit forward on the chair.  Keep both feet on the floor.  Cross your legs only if the interviewer does.  Once you are seated, keep your eyes on the interviewer's face.  A wandering gaze can show lack of interest or even disrespect.  Even if the interviewer's eyes' wander, your gaze should be on his/her face.  Keep your hands in view and use slow, calm hand movements.  Speak slowly to convey your calmness to the interviewer.

     The job interview process is hard.  There are a lot of things to remember.  A session with a hypnotherapist can be a wonderful tool to facilitate a calm, productive and successful job interview.


     It's that time of the year.  A lot of us are traveling at this time of the year.  For many, the idea of taking a vacation is very appealing.  But if you are afraid of flying, a holiday may lose its appeal.  If you fear flying, it can limit your life.  If this is an issue check out some of the old posts on this blog for dealing with phobias and anxieties.  Hypnotherapy can be a great way to set yourself free from the fear of flying.  I'm leaving for a few days at the beach. Don't let your fear of flying keep you from having the vacation you want.  


      Just got back from my trip to my high school reunion.  As part of our classes' reunion we attended an Alumni Banquet designed for anyone who had graduated from the school.  The oldest person there graduated in 1934.  Part of the program included speeches from representatives of three honored classes.  I spoke for my class and had a great time reminiscing about my time in that small town and the years we spent together as classmates.  The evening reminded me how many people find public speaking terrifying.  Several people came up to me afterwards and told me they could never do that.  Yes, you can!.  Hypnotherapy can be a great tool to help you overcome public speaking anxiety.


     Recently I saw a client whose life was being impacted by his fear of riding on elevators.  When a person has a persistent illogical fear of a specific situation or a thing, that fear is called a phobia.  Most people have heard of claustrophobia (the fear of confined spaces) and perhaps seen the movie "Arachnaphobia", the title meaning fear of spiders.  In my practice in northern Virginia, the two phobias I encounter the most are fear of bridges and fear of driving on the beltway.  Whether a person fears heights (acrophobia), doctors ( (latrophobia) or the number 13 (triskadekaphobia), when the phobia begins to dominate a person's life, they may seek help.  Doctors will probably write a prescription and psychotherapists will use talk therapy and education to help the person get over their phobia.

    Hypnosis can be a powerful tool in dealing with phobias.  With my client who had the fear of being on an elevator, I took a detailed clinical interview.  I found out his history including two traumatic events which had triggered his fear.  He described his physical and emotional feelings when he thought he would be exposed to the possibility of riding on an elevator, and I tried to get as many of his words as possible to describe what he wanted to do and how he wanted to feel around elevators.  In hypnosis, I had him visualize himself as safe, calm, confident and in control when riding on elevators.  The session included an age regression to go back to the two traumatic events to envision a different outcome.  I gave him a physical trigger that he could activate himself for stopping anxiety and another for activating relaxation and feeling calm, confident and being in control. He then visualized himself going right away to his girlfriend's office and riding up on the elevator in her building.

   The client left a message later that afternoon, saying he had successfully ridden on that elevator.  I encouraged him to continue to reinforce with the recording of the session and to practice stopping anxiety and triggering relaxation.  Hypnosis can be a valuable tool for dealing with many phobias including fear of elevators.


     Almost everyone has experienced trauma at one time or another.  So often when we hear that word, we think of a childhood trauma like physical or sexual abuse or of trauma caused during wartime.  But a person can experience trauma from a fender bender and be afraid to drive or trauma from a home burglary that leaves the person afraid to be in their home.  

     When the traumatized person is not able to overcome the fear, it can exhibit as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia or specific phobia such as fears of flying, heights or blood.  These are ways of putting up a protective wall but do not relieve the fear.

     Sometimes traumatized people are encouraged to "get right back up on the horse".  This may actually cause further harm and the person may be traumatized again.  In some case, individuals are so traumatized that they have trouble seeking help for themselves.  It is always wise to seek professional help as soon as possible.  Family members may have to help facilitate this.  This may consist of brief psychotherapy of somewhere between twelve and twenty sessions.   Medication may be prescribed including sleeping pills, anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants.  Medication is usually prescribed as part of a treatment plan to support the therapy. 

     Hypnotherapy is often used as an adjunct therapy to psychotherapy.  Hypnosis may include:  retrieveing traumatic memories, facing them and viewing them clearly in a broader perspective, recalling memories and working through the trauma that they caused, and creating new coping techniques to protect themselves as they leave the trauma behind.  Most hypnotherapists will teach the client relaxation techniques which can be practiced whenever the client is anxious.

       Self-help is also a way to deal with trauma.  This may mean talking to an understanding person or someone who has actually shared the same experience.  Group sessions and support groups are helpful in providing the encouragement and understanding the traumatized person needs.

     Another self-help tool is to use a journal to write about the fears, anger and other negative emotions experienced because of the trauma.  Writing down memories, feelings and nightmares helps to give new insights and understanding about the experience.

     Self-talk is another way to deal with those traumas that limit everyday life.  We talk to ourselves all the time.  Reframe those negative thoughts into positive ones.  If you focus on the negative, the fear will be reinforced.  Rather than think to yourself, "Driving is dangerous. I might have an accident like last time", focus on the positive and tell yourself, "I will drive safely and cautiously and get there safely."

    When it is time to get back on the horse, take small steps.  If you are afraid of flying, just drive out to the airport and watch the planes.  The next time, you might go in the airport.  When you finally fly, take a short trip and experience how easily and comfortably you made the trip.  Each time it will get easier.

     We know that traumatic things happen all the time.  People lose jobs.  People die.  Accidents happen.  The stock market tanks.  With the right tools including  psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, medications, and self-help tools, it is possible to overcome the trauma and get on with your life.


     The past week in my area of Northern Virginia has been really interesting.  Last Tuesday we had a 5.8 earthquake which has been followed by several aftershocks.  Two of these were in the 4.5 range.  This may cause many people on the west coast to be amused at our shock and drama.  But earthquakes are not usually a part of our lives.  Because of the earthquake, there was a rockslide on a major traffic artery that upset thousands of commuters.  Mid-week storms came in from the west causing tornado watches and warnings.  Then over the weekend Hurricane Irene came ashore in North Carolina and swept up the east coast.  This morning the announcer on the radio said 25 people have been killed by Irene.

    The reason I mentioned all this drama is because of the number of calls I have had from people who are terrified.  Fear is a natural human emotion.  Sometimes fear is triggered by specific things which most people would consider dangerous or threatening.  In these cases fear may just be the next step up from healthy respect.  It is healthy to respect dangerous situations such as tornadoes and earthquakes.  This respect encourages a person to make appropriate responses such as taking shelter.

    When fear is irrational or becomes so debilitating that it is effecting your life, it is time to seek help.  Hypnotherapy is an excellent way to deal with fear. A persistent illogical fear of a thing or specific situation is called a phobia.  Anxiety about social interactions or performances is called social phobia.  Inexplicable terror such as that experienced in panic attacks or chronic fearful distress called generalized anxiety disorder or GAD may also be experienced.  A well-trained hypnotherapist can be very valuable in helping people to deal with their fears.