Roberta Swartz saw Hollywood’s version of hypnosis—bent spoons and Manchurian candidates—debunked, in Hollywood itself. As a teen, she would traipse down to a Sunset Boulevard nightclub, The Interlude, to watch a stage hypnotist’s shows.
Typically, says Swartz, “stage shows perpetuate misinformation.” Not the one she attended. The famed hypnotist, Pat Collins, used the first portion of the act to educate the audience. Swartz learned that under a state of hypnosis, a person could eliminate fear or even stop bleeding.
So she decided to become a clinical hypnotherapist herself. Now, after 22 years of practicing, 11 of those years in the Bitterroot, Swartz has opened up shop: Hypnotism Center of Western Montana, Inc. It’s just west of Hamilton on two acres with views of the Bitterroot Range. Here, Swartz, along with seven other hypnotists, will train those interested in hypnosis and continue to see clients.
Swartz, who is patient with a skeptic’s questions about silver spoons twitching in front of hypnotized noses, explains that everyone enters the state of hypnosis twice daily—right before and after sleep. Hypnosis, she says, can also be behind a highway driver suddenly realizing he’s missed his turn.
Unlike in 1958, when the American Medical Association gave hypnosis its seal of approval, says Swartz, the changes that occur in a hypnotized brain can now be measured. Hypnosis, or psychoneuroimmunology, amounts to a lower brainwave frequency and results in increased levels of serotonin and endorphins in the brain.
One of Swartz’s students, Kristin Fuller, RN, has been a nurse for 30 years. She works in the emergency room of Hamilton’s Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital and has used hypnosis, with parental consent, on a 6-year-old child, “hollering and carrying on,” who was terrified of needles. The child needed an IV, and Fuller inserted it with no numbing solution but the boy’s “own imagination,” says Fuller.
Hypnotherapy, says Swartz, is “right on the brink of becoming mainstream.” It isn’t mainstream yet, however. Asked for the names of the six local doctors who refer clients to her, Swartz is cautious: “I don’t know that I would want to mention their names.”