Karen Mattison is counting me down — down into a hypnotic state. It’s weird. Feeling as if I could open my eyes if I chose to, but choosing (I think) not to, because for one thing it’s so comfortable and reassuring, this slide down into relaxation and being.
Mattison opened her practice, Tokyo Hypnotherapy, in September. She rents rooms in WIS Salon in Akasaka, depending on the needs of the client. For hypnotherapy, the space is small but cozy. She uses a room with a table for reiki and seikim, both forms of energetic healing; there is also a larger space that she plans to use for group work.
Back in August, Mattison was in New Mexico, training for professional accreditation. There are two major state-licensed hypnotherapy schools, the Hypnotherapy Training Institute in California, and the Hypnotherapy Academy of America in Santa Fe.
She chose Santa Fe because “it’s more spiritual than San Francisco” and she likes desert: “if there’s one thing I dislike about Japan, it’s too wet, has too much rain.” But the main reason was the strength of the clinical hypnotherapy program.
“HAA has two medical doctors and a doctor of psychology on staff and the director of the school is a former paramedic. It’s also a longer program with more clinical practice.”
Mattison, who now specializes in accelerated healing and pain management, became interested in complementary medicine after developing repetitive strain injury (RSI) in both wrists.
“I’d moved from teaching environmental studies to teaching English to re-writing technical English. In no time at all the number of hours I used my hands went from zero to 40, typing for hours at a stretch. No wonder my body rebelled.”
Realizing that unless she helped herself, she faced a possible lifetime of chronic pain and associated depression, Mattison looked around for a solution that would avoid medication.
“Reiki and seikim work the same but only relieve pain from injuries for short periods of time,” she explains. “However, I still use them both for healing and relaxation and they are good for pain caused by tension.”
What gave Mattison control over her condition was learning how to hypnotize herself. “I can now type, do housework for limited periods, and as you can see, I’m working, with right now no pain at all.”
Most people fear hypnosis, she says. They think they will lose control. That it’s a negative form of mind control that will make them do and say things — “drag secrets out of them.” But this is a misconception. “Mind control requires sleep deprivation, narcotics, usually torture or threats, etc.”
Also, Mattison abhors “stage hypnotherapy” — where in Japan, for example, tarento on TV are made to do stupid things to make people laugh. As a clinical hypnotherapist, she aims to help people overcome genuine problems, like pain, nausea, insomnia, blocks, phobias and habits, using the power of their mind.
Interestingly, she adds, individuals can exercise control if they so choose. “Selective thinking is always maintained. Once someone asked me to do something stupid in a stage show and I just got up and walked off. If you stay in (a hypnotized state), it’s because you want to, not because you have no control.”
A proven networker, Mattison describes herself as “nicely busy,” though holidays bring an inevitable slowdown. Mostly her clients are ex-pat, but 20 percent are Japanese. They have to be comfortable working in English, however: “It’ll be a while before I can practice in Japanese. I’d like too though.”
Mattison first came to Japan on the JET program in 1995 after completing a B.A. in environmental planning from the University of California in San Diego. With most of her friends taking off to teach English around the world, she thought Japan sounded “the most interesting.”
She then went back and forth (including graduate school for a masters in international environmental policy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. She returned finally in 2000 and is now married and settled.
Totally supportive of her work, her Japanese husband recently found hypnosis enormously supportive after oral surgery (a root canal). Normally he likes to receive reiki’s healing relaxing energy after he comes home from work.
Asked about clients who benefit from hypnotherapy, Mattison recalls three cases from the U.S.
The first involved trauma reversal, where a woman had seen her daughter run through a plate-glass window, and although her daughter survived, had been unable to get over it. After a 15-minute session she was able to talk about it without crying.
“Also, I remember a guy who lost his business, the memory of which was affecting attempts to get back onto his feet. Offered a few techniques to help boost his confidence, he felt much better.”
There was also the case of the man whose sister was very ill, and he felt her doctor was not handling her case well. “She had no problem; her brother did.”
Anyway he was helped to regress to a point when he recalled his father yelling at his sister as a small child and feeling totally helpless, unable to protect her. By the end of the session he felt clear of all negative feelings toward his father, with whom he lived. It was as simple as that.”
Mattison believes that single session worked so well because the client had come totally committed to getting to the root cause of the problem. “But mostly regressive work doesn’t take place until the third session because the client has to trust the therapist completely, and it takes time to build that rapport.”
Mattison thinks herself lucky to have had a happy childhood, with a mother — a psychiatric nurse — who was good with people. “My siblings are all healers of one type or another. My sister’s a home health aide, two brothers are doctors, and the third is an AA sponsor. My father? A former marketing executive for IBM.”
Does her family understand her work?
“Well,” she laughs, “my brothers always thought I should go to med school before I decided on hypnotherapy. My dad is mainly worried about job security because self-employment is riskier than working for someone else.”
Believing the benefits far outweigh the risks, Mattison views the year ahead with excitement: She’s totally focused, knows what she wants to do and where she’s going.
“I want to work with medical issues, especially pain (chronic pain; migraines; post-surgery, post-fracture or post-injury pain; and childbirth. Also I want to write books about healing. And I’ve had so many people asking for past-life regressive work — Japanese especially — that I am thinking to study more about that.”
More immediately, she has two evening workshops upcoming in Tokyo’s Aoyama. On Jan. 24, she will conduct a self-hypnosis workshop to “Make Your (New Year) Resolutions Stick!” The second, on Feb. 28, will offer visualization and self-hypnosis exercises to quiet the mind, relax the body, and even take a power nap.
“The subconscious mind is powerful,” Mattison says. “People are often very surprised by what comes up in hypnosis and what you can do with it.”