Alexandra Janelli is a certified Hypnotherapist and Life Coach. She also is the owner of Modrn Sanctuary in Manhattan. Alexandra exudes energy and is an amazingly attentive listener. After spending 20 minutes with her, I felt she really “got me.” Read on for my Q&A with Alexandra- I have a feeling you’ll be web-surfing to Modrn Sanctuary before you’re done reading!
FO40: How did you get involved in hypnosis? It’s not exactly a field in which many people find themselves.
AJ: It started back in the mid-2000s when I was going through a personal issue while I was working at the Wellness Center (where I still work now). One of the practitioners asked if I had ever utilized hypnosis – I said I hadn’t. I gave hypnotherapy a try, and within three sessions I felt a dramatic shift in my behaviors and mental state- my life felt so much more in control, that there was so much that I could accomplish. What changed was that I learned to understand and manage fear. This helped me feel like I could truly excel in my life.
I didn’t go back to school for hypnotherapy until 2009. I was completely sold on how hypnotherapy worked on a deep level; having myself been in therapy for a good chunk of my life, I wholeheartedly embraced the beneficial impact hypnosis could have for others as it had for me.
FO40: Tell me about the benefits of hypnosis.
AJ: Hypnotherapy can help with almost any issue depending on the client’s motivation, willingness to participate, and an openness to be introspective about what they’re feeling and experiencing. When clients come in expecting the hypnotist to do all the work for them- that it’s like a magic bullet- it doesn’t work particularly well. What does work is when a client is open to trying out new perspectives. This is ultra-important with hypnosis because if you don’t trust the person you’re working with, you’re not going to allow them to create a shift in your subconscious mind.
Hypnotherapy is not a “one size fits all” process. Every session with me is bespoke to the individual client based on what they want and what they need. This a process and involves trust. I work with each person to understand their emotions and their thoughts, to hear what actions (or inactions) they’re taking. While hypnosis can really work for any situation, it does become a little trickier working with something like severe depression. (I personally don’t work with these situations- I’m not a medical doctor, and it’s my believe that hypnosis for those types of conditions should be done with a practitioner who’s licensed in psychiatry, psychology, or social work).
FO40: What should someone expect when coming to meet you for hypnosis?
AJ: Ideally they should come in with an idea of what they want to work on. The session will start with me welcoming them, asking what it is they’re looking to work on- and why now. Usually something has triggered them to come for help, and it helps me begin to understand what this is. This discussion also gives me an opportunity to understand their expectations of the session. Then I jump into explaining how the mind works, how we see the mind as behaviorists. Next we generally will talk back and forth for about thirty minutes. I call this the coaching portion of the session. A lot of questions and listening and more questions. I want to really understand the issues going on in the client’s life and in their mind. This might entail associations on a subconscious level.
When I do the hypnosis portion, I can utilize my client’s own words because they will resonate with him/her, hopefully creating a greater potential for a behavioral shift. Before we do the hypnosis, I’ll always explain the process: what it is, what it’s not, and what to expect- so the client feels comfortable going on this journey with me. After the session, we’ll do a debrief and maybe set some goals for the week- things to think about or avoid, etc.
FO40: How do people get hypnotized?
AJ: Hypnosis is nothing more than a state of deep relaxation. First, is to help them begin to relax the body and then relax the mind. So it’s very similar to meditation in that we’re going to guide you through a series of things to think about that can help you get into a state of consciousness where it’s a directed focus similar to when you’re reading and everything around you just quiets down. There are two techniques that we can utilize- direct suggestion, and metaphorical suggestion. In direct suggestion the subject ideally will “feel light,” while in the metaphorical suggestion technique you will feel “light like a feather.”
In the hypnosis process I want the client to think about the sensation of your arms being super heavy, or the feeling of gradually sinking into a comfortable chair. With each exhale, you release further into this mental chair. We start with the body relaxation as it helps the mind focus and get directed. The mind at that point is still “thinking” a lot and is very active as the conscious mind is still at play. Then I begin to guide the mind into telling the client what to think about. One of the differences between meditation and hypnosis is that once you’re in that meditative state, I have already gotten to know what the root associations are that need to be changed. Now I’m just going to tell you what to do. It becomes a much easier process than mediation, where you have to extrapolate out in search for your own answers.
One technique to induce someone into the hypnotic state is called “eye-fascination”, which is staring at something for a long period of time. You can utilize a staircase imagery, which is having the client visualize or count descending stairs because the concept of “going down” brings them deeper into the experience. The mind likes numbers, numbers are finite, so people know that when you count down you’re going down, when you count up, you’re going up.
FO40: Are people really hypnotized?
AJ: There’s a misconception of what hypnosis is and what it’s not. A big part of my job is to debunk the myth and get to its essence. Hypnosis is nothing more than a deep state of relaxation with an acute focus, like you’ve probably experienced while reading a book or while watching a movie. You’re very focused on what’s being talked about in a book, and as you’re reading you’re visualizing what the book is talking about and the world around you just quiets down- that is a hypnotic state. I also find that anxiety, which is that panicky state where everything gets very myopic, is very similar to a hypnotic state, albeit focused on negative thoughts. In hypnosis, we’re going to direct you towards the healthier states of mind that should help you feel good, that you want to accomplish or re-associate with the positive.
As is its stereotype, many people expect hypnosis to be like a sleep state- they’re not going to remember anything, they’re not going to hear my voice. In fact, hypnosis is none of those things. There is a bit of amnesia that may occur in the deeper hypnotic depths- when you come out of it, you’ll remember bits and pieces, but some aspects can be fuzzy.
What I do believe is that anyone can be hypnotized. But, you have to be a willing participant to go through it. I can’t hypnotize an unwilling participant.
FO40: You seem to be able to understand people’s issues very quickly. How did you train to become that way?
AJ: I credit my “life coach” training for this. If you think coaching from a sports perspective, the coach’s role is to tell you what to do, to guide their players to run sort of plays, and help them think and work through situations. Life coaching does many of these things- just in a more general way as applied to a person’s life and specific issues.
My starting point is that you are your greatest asset. You know you better than anyone else what’s right – or feels right- for your life. My role is to ask questions to get you thinking differently. While I always draw on commonalities that I’ve seen to see if they resonate, I most firmly believe the process is all about listening and asking questions. The powerful place happens when I allow a client to paint me a picture of their experience. And we build the picture together versus allowing the client to solely drive the experience- again, back to questions and listening.
FO40: Tell us about the other services you offer at Modrn Sanctuary.
AJ: Our services span everything from traditional to more “out there” practices. Some of our offerings includes physical therapy, chiropractic, blood chemistry, skin care, body work, energy work, yoga, breath work, meditation, acupuncture, nutrition, and even crystal light therapy. We also have a Himalayan salt room that’s about to open. It’s a wide range of options, and I encourage our clients to find what works for them.
FO40: How can FO40 readers make an appointment with you?
AJ: Anyone can reach out via my website. You can also learn about the wellness center where my private practice is held, Modrn Sanctuary. We’re located at 12 W 27th Street in Manhattan on the 9th floor; Soul Cycle is on the ground floor and is a great landmark to find us. I’d be happy to answer any additional questions you have.