Hypnotism show is just for laughs

Though our university rarely gets visited by any top celebrities or entertainers, we do get a smattering of equally qualified, lesser-known and local performance artists. Now Student Activities is adding public hypnosis to the list of weekend entertainment genres.

Hypnotherapist Frederick Winters will perform his comedic routine in the Campus Center on Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. While he guarantees good times and hard laughs, Winters' professional background as a hypnotherapist appears to be somewhat lacking. According to his agency, Bass-Shuler Entertainment, Winters is the leading hypnotherapist in the nation and has earned the “Campus Entertainer of the Year” award.

Bass-Shuler books Winters' trips nationwide and raves about his skill as a performer on their Web site. Not much information outside of a collection of positive one-line reviews is provided. The three credentials that are exhausted in Winters' press releases are: He graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he originally became interested in hypnosis, he is a lifetime member of the International Association of Counselors and Therapists (IACT), and he is certified through the Hypnodyne Foundation, based in Florida. Upon closer examination, these three credentials seem permeable at best. Winters did graduate from Northwestern in 1983, but with a bachelor's degree in communications, not hypnosis or psychology. Winters says he first became interested in hypnosis after attending a public show his freshman year. Winters is a lifetime member of IACT, which he achieved by going through their certification program and paying a one-time fee. No previous education or experience is necessary to become a member of the association.

Winters was accredited by the Hypnodyne Foundation through a home-study course that mails all its materials including its certificate of course completion. The Hypnodyne Foundation is an Internet-friendly program that promotes hypnotherapy as a lucrative career opportunity.

Winters says a hypnotherapist today can make anywhere from $50 for a single birthday party appearance to $5,000 for a large public show.

Some programs are created by following state health board requirements, while some are not. According to the Hypnodyne's Web site, it researches what other state-board certified programs require for operation and tries to keep their program's requirements similar.

“There's not really laws that govern the use of hypnotherapy,” Winters said.

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Winters doesn't let this lack of professional background hinder his success though. He performs for about 200 colleges a year around the United States. Winters gave up clinical therapy about 10 years ago, he said. Because of his extensive traveling and tight show schedules he does not have the time to do follow ups or clinical sessions anymore.

What Winters does do is provide a well-received show comprised of putting people on roller-coasters, making them think they're naked and making football players dance like ballerinas. However, the idea of hypnosis is to make suggestions for behavioral changes. Winters says no one can be hypnotized to do something that violates one's personal code of ethics.

“I put logical people in very illogical situations while they're hypnotized,” Winters said.

After the show, Winters sells his own line of self-help CDs which tackle such subjects as quitting smoking, losing weight, improving study skills and self motivation through hypnotic suggestion.

“If a person's motivated to bring about change, then hypnosis is very effective,” Winters said.

If nothing else, Winters' performance should be an enjoyable evening. Remember, it really is just for laughs.