Interestingly, the prospect of smoking cessation is what attracted Benton to hypnosis in the first place. After being cured of a lifelong habit in one 10-minute hypnosis session, Benton, who was ignorant of the field, realized he’d found his raison d’être. Now he’s a national and international hypnosis instructor who has been featured on CNN and the Discovery Channel, and delights in teaching students everything he knows about a therapy he feels doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
Impressions of hypnotism we get from movies and TV and night-club acts do little to legitimate it as a tool for real healing. Understandably, Benton vehemently opposes Hollywood’s harmful portrayals and the nefarious stunts of stage hypnotists. “These stage guys create an illusion that there’s a loss of control and that everyone is under [their] spell, which, of course, is pure garbage, because really there’s no loss of control or consciousness,” explains Benton. “The truth is that in hypnotism, you’re more in control than when you’re not because you’re really in the zone.”
So what is hypnosis, really? The key, Benton explains, is the cooperation of the unconscious mind, which he likens to a computer’s hard drive. Every event you experience and every corresponding emotion is stored, uncritically, in your unconscious mind. The conscious mind, on the other hand, is like RAM — which consumes only about five percent of the computer’s power. The conscious mind is critical, ethical, judgmental, and protective; hence, for people to heal via hypnotism, it needs to be circumvented.
Once a subject is induced, the therapist aims suggestions, affirmations, and the like at the unconscious mind. This can allow people to overcome their psychological demons and even some medical issues, such as skin disorders, high blood pressure, and fibryomyalgia.
Benton, who has trained for the past nine years under Harvard Medical School’s Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychology Dan Brown, claims to have an overall patient-success rate, backed up by hospital documentation, of 90 percent. He also asserts that approximately 95 percent of all people can be hypnotized, so it’s no wonder that hypnosis is expanding into such fields as nursing, dentistry, and social work.
“Many of the nurses who come through my program use hypnosis with the children they work with,” says Benton. “Social workers use it a lot to help their clients with anxiety and depression, and dentists use it to help people with dental phobias or with various dental disorders.”
Dr. Murad Padamsee, a Wellesley-based dentist who specializes in chronic dental pain, enrolled in Benton’s certification course several years ago and has successfully used Benton’s techniques to help patients overcome their fear of dentists and treat painful disorders, such as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) or bruxis (teeth-grinding).
“Ted is a remarkable practitioner and teacher. He’s very open, straightforward, and incredibly knowledgeable. The techniques he taught me to use on my patients really work,” says an enthusiastic Padamsee.
Surely, students of the course, who can join the American Board of Hypnotherapy upon graduation, shouldn’t expect to attain Benton’s level of expertise from the get-go. “While I can teach someone to hypnotize someone in five minutes, finding your hypnotic voice or developing a real comfort zone using hypnosis can take time. Usually, it takes several months to a year for most people to truly develop that,” says Benton.