Calming the mind: The practice of hypnotherapy

Montana Health Journal

A Missoula hypnotherapist discusses ways inward

By Therese Wood/Montana Health Journal

In his small office in downtown Missoula, Clark Patton has created a sanctuary for his clients to experience clinical hypnotherapy.

The serenity of the space emanates not only from the plants, soft lights and ethereal art in the room, but also from the gentle, grounded presence of Patton. Patton began his interest in psychological therapies at the intersection of nature studies and psychology. He learned nature tracking and survival skills under wilderness tracker Tom Brown, author of The Tracker, and later with Bill McConnell, a Bozeman outdoorsman who created the school for Philosophy Awareness Survival Tracking. Patton noticed the same brain wave functions that create a wider field of awareness inherent to wilderness awareness could have healing effects on human psychology when the brain is attuned to this wave state.

Missoula hypnotherapist  Clark Patton

The skills Patton learned in these studies put him on a track to become a facilitator in wilderness therapy and he worked with teens who could not be helped through regular therapy. Patton’s keen attention to successfully navigating states of consciousness in the natural world, and now through hypnotherapy, allows him to help clients manage the jungles of their own minds so they can not only survive and get by, but also thrive.

Patton describes that the use of hypnotherapy is to create dexterity of mind, which is the ability to easily shift between the analytical and trance states. In a society that teaches us to overtrain the intellect, it often comes as a surprise that the logical part of our mind can actually block awareness and even create suffering, he says. According to Patton, deeper levels of trance are actually more focused, use less energy, and allow a person to take in greater amounts of information. When a person habitually experiences fight or flight mode, or stress, it is difficult for them to access these deeper levels of consciousness and it can create a myriad of problems, Patton says.

In the wilderness, however, it is very natural to have this dexterity of mind, Patton says. Indigenous people spend their entire lives in the natural world and their behaviors are designed to be highly adaptable, he says.

“If we encounter hardship, or an obstacle in life, we don’t necessarily need years of therapy to overcome it. It’s possible to create profound change in a surprisingly short period of time,” Patton says. The conscious intellectual mind works in a linear, logical way, he says, while the subconscious is the collection of all our memories, experiences, behaviors, automatic responses, imagination and creativity. This part of the mind does not work through logic, but instead through association. An example of this is smokers who logically know they should stop smoking but are unable to quit despite their intellectual understanding, Patton says.

“The downfall of traditional talk-therapy is that it tries to solve an illogical, associative problem with logic and linear reasoning. Often it only scratches the surface of the problem,” Patton says.

Unlike wild animals, modern humans can hold on to event stress states for long amounts of time; hours, days, weeks, and sometimes years by recreating the events or the overall feeling of the events over and over again, Patton says. As Patton guides his clients into deeper levels of consciousness, he says many profound shifts can spontaneously occur for them.

Hypnotherapy uses hypnosis as a tool combined with analysis techniques to create long-lasting change, according to Patton. Hypnotherapy is different than hypnosis because it addresses the underlying root cause of an issue and, rather than using suggestion, it engages a state of consent so that the mind can navigate toward what is best for the individual.

Patton sees a client usually one to four times. He says he has witnessed his clients go from using multiple prescription drugs for depression and anxiety for many years, to no drugs and no symptoms after only a few sessions. Similarly, addictions like smoking or even obsessive behaviors that have persisted for decades may, for some people, become a thing of the past, according to Patton, who says he has seen positive emotional changes in his clients.

“It’s one of the most far-reaching healing tools I know of,” Patton says. •

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