Thinking their way clear to HSC success

Chilled: Cristian Pagano enjoys a quiet moment with hypnotherapist Julie Phillips-Moore. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Chilled: Cristian Pagano enjoys a quiet moment with hypnotherapist Julie Phillips-Moore. Photo: Edwina Pickles

As HSC student Cristian Pagano looks at the exam paper in front of him, he feels completely relaxed. The final high school exams do not start until October, but the 17-year-old is already mentally rehearsing the nerve-racking experience through hypnosis.

In response to the stress often associated with the high pressure exams, some high school students are turning to hypnosis for help.

Fairfax Media spoke to a number of hypnotherapists from Newcastle to Thornleigh who said they had worked with HSC students recently and expected to see more in the coming weeks.

Janine Rod, a psychologist and hypnotherapist at Bondi Junction, says she is working with more than 30 HSC students.

Students are induced into a relaxed and focused state through muscle relaxation and calming suggestions spoken by the hypnotist. The initial trance is often described as being similar to meditation.

''It's almost like a daydream,'' Ms Rod said. ''So you're not wide awake or fast asleep. You're sort of in a zoned-out kind of state.''

Stress management techniques encouraged by the NSW Board of Studies include a solid study plan, regular exercise, a balanced diet, sufficient sleep and study breaks.

Associate Professor Amanda Barnier from the department of cognitive science at Macquarie University said hypnosis could also be a very effective therapy tool for people suffering from anxiety. ''But it doesn't work for all people, for all problems, all of the time,'' she said.

Since visiting hypnotherapist Julie Phillips-Moore at Woollahra, Cristian says he copes better with stress and has less trouble sleeping.

''In the exams I would freak out, lose concentration and come out getting all angry,'' the year 12 student from Marrickville said. ''But now I'm able to sit there and focus and I stress a lot less. I was a bit sketchy about it at first, but I was willing to give it a try.''

Hypnotherapists say their industry is misunderstood and has been tarnished by stage hypnotism, where people are seen humiliating themselves with bizarre behaviour.

Ms Phillips-Moore says there is ''no trickery'' to hypnosis, which is made out to be something magical.

She said most people experience hypnosis many times a day, such as going on autopilot while driving.

''When you're in that daydreamy state you're accessing the subconscious mind, which is very intuitive, very imaginative and highly suggestible,'' Ms Phillips-Moore said.

Ashleigh Flanagan, who is in year 12 at St George Christian School, travelled to Newcastle to see a hypnotherapist before her recent trial exams.

''It just relaxed me and made me feel, not purely nothing, but like I had no worries and no stresses at all,'' she said.

This story Thinking their way clear to HSC success first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.