Peter Blum has had many callings through the years including owning and managing an Occult bookshop and serving as writer and editor of Woodstock Times. For the better part of the last 25 years, he has made his living practicing and teaching hypnotherapy. He lives and practices in Saugerties.
What drew you to this field?
I was always interested in the powers of the mind and the nature of consciousness. In 1985, I interviewed my friend Richard Zarro for an article in a series I was writing on alternative health practitioners. Richard had returned to the area after having had a successful practice in California in hypnosis. As part of the interview process I received two hypnosis sessions and really enjoyed and benefited from them.
About a year or two later I realized I had reached my limits of growth in my journalism career. Richard encouraged me to consider training in hypnosis and offered me a position managing his office while I made the transition.
Tell me about your training.
Initially I spent a year shadowing Richard whenever possible. I also had one-on-one training sessions with him. In addition I took a credentialing training with the NGH and a one-week intensive with the New York Training Institute for Neuro-Linguistic Programming, focusing on Ericksonian hypnosis. Periodically I find more teachers and mentors and try to hone my skills.
Also, I feel it has been extremely valuable to study how trance is used in the context of ancient cultures. I feel fortunate to have been able to spend time learning about the trance-inducing effects of sound and music, of storytelling and of ceremony from some excellent teachers outside the field of hypnosis.
Describe a day in the life of a hypnotherapist.
All my days are different and I like that. I do a fair amount of teaching. I was certified as an instructor through the National Guild of Hypnotists in 1994 and have trained hundreds of folks in the art of hypnosis. I do at least one small training a year out of my office here in Saugerties, plus I usually travel to Rhode Island or Long Island once a year for a series of weekend trainings.
I haven’t advertised for years; all my clients are either old clients returning for a tune-up or referrals from ex-clients and other health professionals in the area. So I might see four or five clients a week. Though the most common presenting problems are weight management or smoking cessation, I have also helped people with pain management, increasing self-confidence, overcoming stage fright and eliminating old, unwanted habit patterns like nail biting.
What is your most memorable or interesting experience since starting this work?
There are so many. It’s hard to pick one. Certainly some of the most rewarding have been seeing people experience a rapid change in old negative stuck patterns of thinking or behavior, resulting in a happier, healthier life. But most memorable would be during the ’90s when I had an office in New York City, I did a session with someone who had been referred to me for release from obsessing over an ex-boyfriend who was currently incarcerated. It was apparently very successful, because this person (who ran an escort service) began referring a few of her employees to see me for various reasons. So one day I did sessions for two of the women she employed, followed by a session, unrelated, for a woman who was an undercover narcotics agent. She too, had come to me by referral, and was also seeking relief from obsessing over a relationship. That was a pretty far-out day.
What is the most difficult aspect of your job?
Without a doubt, the most difficult aspect is the daily acceptance that there are many people whom I cannot help. They come to me; we both enter into a therapist-client relationship in good faith. But they don’t get the change they were looking for; for whatever reason, whether it’s because there is a part of them that is not ready to change, or some karmic agreement that they still have to fulfill… who knows? It always seems easier to say to another person, “All you have to do is change this one little thing.” Of course if someone else is saying that to us, we can’t see it… it’s our blind spot.
How’s the money?
When I train and certify people they are hoping to support themselves with a private practice in hypnotherapy. I tell them that the world and the community always has need for good helpers, counselors, and healers, but beyond your skill set in hypnosis you also need to be able and willing to market yourself, and that takes a certain amount of moxie. In the early days I did a lot of free talks and demonstrations at schools, prisons and business luncheons to build my practice.
So rather than talk numbers, I’m happy to say that my hypnotherapy practice has been my primary source of income for the past 25 years and I live a comfortable lifestyle.