The tripod aimed at the reclining chair and a miniscule black dot on the wall across from it are the only two signs that something out of the ordinary takes place in linguistics freshman Nathaniel Lawson’s otherwise nondescript dorm room.
In August, Lawson became a certified consulting hypnotist and now runs a stress management program for UT students from within the walls of his room in Duren Residence Hall. So far, he has worked with more than 30 clients, providing a variety of services including reducing panic in large crowds, combating insomnia and helping clients relive memories.
“What I do just helps people to deal with different things,” Lawson said. “In hypnosis, I can get people through a state of relaxation that’s as deep as (rapid eye movement) sleep. You can get profound relaxation and then have experiences in your head that are mind-blowing, and it can be a stress reliever, or just fun and funny — it can be anything.”
Hypnosis is a misunderstood practice, Lawson said.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions,” Lawson said. “It’s associated with pervertedness and exploitation. But (the client is) totally in control during hypnosis. If you feel uncomfortable … you just come out.”
Lawson began experimenting with magic at eight years old, a hobby that led him to discover mentalism and later hypnosis. Before receiving his certification, he performed one-man shows as a “cognitive entertainer,” the title Lawson coined to describe an act involving stage hypnosis and recreating participants’ secret drawings.
“They look like party tricks, but they’re really not,” Lawson said. “Making it look like a trick, that’s the goal, but there’s a lot of mental work going on behind these things.”
To learn the fundamentals of consulting hypnosis, Lawson completed an intensive apprenticeship with Paul Ramsay, a stage hypnotist and instructor who also runs a consulting practice from his New Hampshire home.
“He approaches what he does from the perspective of a craftsman,” Ramsay said. “His observational skills, his listening skills — he notices things when he’s talking to other people, that most people wouldn’t notice, and that’s important when you’re doing consulting hypnosis.”
Hypnotism isn’t a typical career choice, but it’s one that holds a vast array of possibilities, Lawson said.
“(Hypnotism and mentalism) are fields that are growing quickly, but they need to be growing 150 times more quickly,” Lawson said. “I hope to take them all over. I think the world needs it.”