LOOK into my eyes, deep into my eyes – Who hasn’t recited those words as a child while dangling a watch in front of their friend’s face? JUNE 10 EDITION.Yes we all know the stereotypes surrounding hypnotherapy. From drunken holidaymakers mimicking animal noises during a hypnosis stage act; to the amazing showmanship of Paul McKenna and Derren Brown – hypnotherapy as a form of entertainment is well established. Yet, it is so much more than this. It is a technique with a proven track record of treating a range of medical conditions. Eager to find out more, I booked a session with qualified hypnotherapist Belinda Clayton at her new Bishop Auckland base.

The timing of my meeting with Belinda could not be more fitting. This week, hypnotherapy has come under the media spotlight, with specialists from the Royal Society of Medicine’s Section of Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine (SHPM) pushing for increased use of the technique in clinical settings.

Their reason – hypnosis is proven to aid in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and research has also shown it can provide effective pain relief to women in labour. Add to this its success rate in curbing addictions to cigarettes and fast food and its use for stress-busting and relaxation experts believe expanding its usage in medical circles could save the NHS millions of pounds.

However, there are two problems; the aforementioned stereotypes and a lack of understanding of what hypnotherapy actually is. And, according to SHPM, unqualified “cowboy” practitioners are to blame.

However, within minutes of meeting Belinda Clayton in her new therapy room at Trimmers Hair Salon on Newgate Street, it is clear she is as far removed from this description as possible. For starters, framed certificates hang off the walls showing her numerous qualifications.

She is a fully-fledged clinical hypnotherapist, a member of the National Council of Psychotherapists and has a background in social work and counselling. Her warm, friendly and down-to-earth persona is also in contrast to the dramatic, larger-than-life hypnotists we see on television. As we sit down for a chat and cup of tea prior to my treatment, Belinda gives me the lowdown on hypnosis and what attracted her to it.

“Hypnosis is a completely natural state of deep relaxation, which allows your subconscious mind to become more open to ideas and suggestions,” she explains.

“The theory is we all have a subconscious mind and a conscious mind. The best way of demonstrating this is when you drive from A to B, perhaps on your way to work, but you can’t remember the journey. This is not because you are an unsafe driver. It is just your subconscious mind has taken you there.

“Our subconscious mind is responsible for so much – body temperature, heart beat, sleep patterns, balance. By getting into a very deep relaxed state you are much more open to positive suggestion.”

And that is what hypnotherapists do, they offer positive ideas and suggestions to clients while in a relaxed/trance-like state, which can have a positive effect on attitude and behaviour.

Belinda’s impressive success rate is testament to the effectiveness of the practice. Since starting her freelance business in the Consett area several years ago, the mother-of-three, who recently became a grandma, has helped men and women tackle fears, anxieties, phobias and addictions. From addressing low self-esteem, depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; to helping people overcome their fears of needles, operations, flying and spiders – no issue is too trivial.

“I love what I do,” she said. “It is fantastic and extremely rewarding. I think one of the most rewarding cases I dealt with was a lady who had not been out of the house for years. It was so exciting when she held my arm and walked down the street.

She was like a rabbit – her eyes darting around like she wanted to bolt down a rabbit hole. “I spoke to her again recently and she said she was 95 per cent right, which I think is a pretty good result.” Belinda moved from social work to hypnotherapy when her health broke down in 2000.

“I took six years out of work and during that time I started looking for something where I could use similar skills without having to be as physically active as I suffer from ME,” she explained. “I enrolled on a hypnotherapy foundation course and it just seemed to tick all of the right boxes. I also think the problems in my own life makes me more understanding with people who have problems and less judgemental.”

Belinda started practicing in her hometown of Consett but this March she moved to Binchester. She now hopes to expand her client base across Wear Valley – visiting clients in their homes and providing sessions at Trimmers on an appointment basis. “Trimmers is an excellent base and Jean and the team have been so welcoming,” she said.

Creating a welcoming environment is important to Belinda, as it is important her clients feel at ease. This is also the thinking behind her free, no obligation consultation – a 30-minute consultation where clients can discuss any worries or anxieties they have.

“It gives us a chance to really get to know each other and touch upon the issues that underlie their fears or addictions,” she said. “It maybe I recommend they consult a doctor before they come back and see me. I think it is important people go away and think about it before embarking on a course of sessions.”

“Each individual is different and we plan together the type of therapy suitable. Sometimes only one session is needed but usually it takes more. Most sessions take up to 90 minutes, they are safe, comfortable and confidential.” Belinda adopts a number of hypnotherapy techniques to induce a relaxed state.

These include NLP (Neuro-Lingustic Programming), which focuses on the links between patterns of thought and behaviour to encourage greater self-awareness, and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), which involves tapping acupuncture points to target specific issues.

With our tea finished, it is now time for my session. Like most people, there are many habits I would like to kick – snacking between meals and an aversion to exercise are high on my list. However, on this occasion, Belinda is going to help me become more assertive and decisive.

As we begin, my mind is racing with fears it will not work but the more Belinda speaks to me the more relaxed I feel. It almost feels like I am in two places at the same time – I am still aware of being in the room but I am also somewhere else too. When the treatment comes to an end, I certainly feel happy and relaxed. And, if you notice my writing takes on a more direct and confident tone in future weeks – you know why.

If you would like to book a session with Belinda you can contact her on 07766 916720. For more information, visit www.bchypnotherapy