Showing posts with label Mental Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mental Health. Show all posts

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Diversity: Writing Characters with Mental Health Issues with Olivia Vetrano

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon
Mental Health Awareness Ribbon
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Writers have an enormous role to play. We entertain, but we also educate. 

In the book Wired for Story, we learn that psychological tests show that humans are predisposed to live through others’ stories in order to grow and learn. Let me give you an example. I do not go to the woods to have picnics with bears. If I saw a bear while I was eating my sandwich, I would leave my food, make a great deal of noise, hold my body as big as I could, and back my way out of the situation. While I’ve never met a bear, I've learned through stories that they are dangerous. I’ve heard of others who have encountered bears where things have not gone well. Hearing their stories and knowing what could happen if I invited a bear to my picnic may be lifesaving information. 

When our brains are being told a story, the brain rewards us by sending all kinds of happy hormones into our bodies. We read for pleasure – but biologically we developed the feel-good pleasure hormones so we want stories and thus learn to stay alive. Pretty heady stuff, huh? 

And this is  a major reason that here on ThrillWriting that I preach (probably to the choir) that it is really important to get our facts straight. People are biologically predisposed to learn from our stories. They’re learning not just the caliber of bullets or the hand position on a bow and arrow, but also how to analyze situations, how to interpret interactions, and how to respond in our real every day existence. 

Today, I have invited Olivia Vetrano to chat with us. 
LINK to Olivia's Amazon Author Page

Olivia writes with such poignancy that she physically shook my world with her book Neverland. And without giving away the plot, I will tell you that there is a medical issue therein, and I had to for peace-of-mind’s sake go and research the outcomes of the medical issue, so I knew the chances for the heroine's survival. But more about her book in a moment.

We have been working on a new research tab on "inclusivity", and Olivia is here to talk about mental health and how it is portrayed in writing and how that writing influences our society. Olivia is both a writer and someone who experiences issues with her mental health.

Fiona - 
Can you start the discussion? What do yous see as mistakes in the plot framework  that include mental health as an issue or character quality?

Olivia -
You are absolutely right in that while writers are certainly here to entertain, they must also act as educators; which is a terrifying responsibility. It led me to write what I was familiar with, what I had already lived. I figured there was no way to mess that up. 

I realized, there were other people trying to tell me my own story, and they were telling it wrong. There are many aspects of society, not just books, that try to set the stage for how mental health issues should be perceived. 

When I was finally ready to take the pen and write my own narrative, I found my platform tainted, skewed and half occupied. I grew up hearing and reading things about how a person acting in a way you didn't want made them "crazy" or "unstable". And how those were perfectly justifiable excuses to leave them behind. 

Over the years I had subconsciously built up the idea that in order to be loved, in order to make people stay, you couldn't be "crazy". Authors have vivid imaginations and with that comes the ability to be open minded. So I don't think that any kind of writer should put such a versatile topic into such tight boundaries. 

Mental health issues don't fit neatly inside the lines. They tear through the do not cross tape, and if authors are willing to move with them, they might find a story truly worth telling.

Fiona -
Let's start with the biggest myth - I'm not sure what to call it -injustice maybe. 

Someone with a metal health illness could get over it if they tried hard enough - powered through it. That's like asking a person with cancer to think there way out of that diagnosis. 

You mentioned that a narrative is already in place and it doesn't reflect your truth. What other misconceptions or responses do you see that try to identify/interpret you in ways that you wish wasn't part of our communal understanding.

Olivia -
There aren't enough adjectives to describe how I feel when I hear the way too common argument that most mental health issues are just the person's inability to cope with daily life. 

First and foremost, it hurts. A lot. But it's also incredibly embarrassing. It's like saying, some people are hit by buses and survive, but you can't handle being sad. Which is a pathetic concept. Pathetic; there's another good descriptor. There's also shame, frustration, and the uncontrollable urge to placate everyone by pretending it's all in your head (no pun intended). 

There are things I have been diagnosed with that I had an entirely different perception of before being given the actual definition by a mental health professional. I think that's because writers, and others, want certain disorders to be understood in a way that best fits THEIR story. A character has a short temper and keeps changing her mind? Let's call her bi-polar. Another character throws a fit when people don't clean up after themselves? Let's say she has OCD. And what all these misidentifications have in common is that they are all negative. 

Some of the people I have met that actually have these disorders are some of the most incredible, loving, wonderful human beings I have ever had the honor of knowing. But so many books and stories turn them into demons and encourage the readers to root for their demise, or at the very least, for the protagonist to escape them. In many instances, a character with mental illness is the Loch Ness monster of the literary world. Something you can't see with your own eyes, but is clearly the villain.

Fiona - 
When a character is given a diagnosis by a writer, besides researching the parameters of that diagnosis, what ways could an author research the ins and outs and daily impact of a diagnosis so they can portray their characters in a life like 3D way and not in a damaged cookie cutter kind of way? Do you know of resources? Your blog for example.

Olivia - 
The first thing a writer needs to realize is that no two people are going to have the same experience with a mental health disorder. While there is certainly a vast common ground between people with the same disorder, what each individual does on that ground is where writers are going to find their story. 

Blogs are definitely a good place to start (and that's not just me shamelessly self-advertising). Any form of testimony from a person who's been through a mental health disorder or is currently living with one is like research gold. Writers should also go into the research process accepting of the fact that they might not understand what they learn. One of the most comforting things I ever heard from a friend was "I don't understand what you're going through, but I want to try".

What should we writers understand that I didn't ask you?

Olivia - 
I'm insanely grateful to be part of a generation that is working so hard to erase the stigma attached to mental illness. But erasing that stigma means addressing it. And I think that's half the battle.

Mental illness is far from black and white, and there are no comfortable grey questions. I'm not sure what I would have liked to have been asked, but I do know what I'd like to say: Be flexible. Be open. Be understanding. There are so many people out there fighting invisible enemies until they're bruised and broken just to feel like a real person. There are so many people who don't feel valid; don't feel human. If writers give them the room to define themselves, they may be surprised to discover characters worthy of the leading role.

I love this interview - I think it will touch writers' hearts and make them more aware. Thank you.

This is my review of Neverland:
Read It Now LINK

It has been a long time since I have read a novel that physically affected me. Two days after I finished NEVERLAND, I can still feel the story painting over my skin. As I read Vetrano's last few words, I found myself physically shaking. I was right there in that last poignant moment of the story. As a mother, I had lived through a similar experience, and Vetrano's words brought all of those sensations vividly back to me nine years later when I thought they had been buried. After finishing this novel, I needed a long walk and some bourbon.

This book is a rose that takes time to unfold, so be patient. As it spreads its petals, the fragrance and beauty become so heady that you get to go to that magic place where reality isn't, and you just get to experience - and in this case what you get to experience is desperate hope. I found myself crossing my fingers and holding my breath. This is one of those novels that you want all of your friends to read too, so you can share the experience

Thank you Olivia.

Keep up with Olivia here:
Keep up with Olivia here:

Keep up with Olivia here:
Twitter: @oliviavetrano
instagram: @oliviarosevetrano

BLOG - The Disordered Dreamer

As always, a big thank you ThrillWriters and readers for stopping by. Thank you, too, for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Bipolar Disorder for Writers: Does Your Character's Mood Swing From One Extreme to the Next?

English: Roller coaster in Xetululu, Guatemala
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Your character is on a wild ride. Instead of the normal hills and bumps in the road, she is instead on a roller coaster and is seeking help from a physician and a mental health provider. I would like to go over some of the diagnostics that you might be describing in your character if she has bipolar disorder

There are two components to bipolar disorder. The lows and the highs. The difference between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can be difficult to distinguish especially in adolescents since, according to the DSM, they share many of the same criteria including: irritability, agitation, grandiosity, persecution delusions.
To learn more about schizophrenia go HERE 

The two criteria for Bipolar Disorder include periods of depression and periods of expressed manic episodes.


* Find a complete blog article HERE

Manic Episode.

The criteria for a manic episodes require:
Manic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
1. A distinct period where the persons mood is
    elevated, expansive, or irritable
    and lasts for at least a week. 
    (or if it is so acute, that hospitalization
    is required, this time frame is not required.)
2. During the period of time that the individual is
    experiencing a mood disturbance, there has to 
    also be at least three items from the following list
    (remember you character would not have them all. Just pick
   * inflated esteem or grandiosity
   * decreased need for sleep (3hrs)
   * uncharacteristically talkative
   * racing thoughts
   * distractability
   * increased goal-directed behavior
   * excessive pleasure seeking (sex, buying sprees, etc.)
3. This is not mixed episode - a mixed episode is when an
     individual cycles very quickly from manic state to
    depressive state nearly every day.
4. The mood change is severe enough as to interrupt the subjects
     life - their work, relationships, and social
     interactions. OR their behavior requires hospitalization to
     prevent harm to self or others
5. The symptoms aren't caused by substances such as drugs and/or
    alcohol, medicine or a medical condition
    such as hypothyroidism. *** This is why a complete physical
    with blood workup should be conducted PRIOR to a mental
    health diagnosis
(This information comes from the DSM IV which was not significantly revised with the new DM V. The DSM - Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - is the bible for mental health workers evaluations)

Painted Lady (Cynthia cardui)
Painted Lady (Cynthia cardui) (Photo credit: bbusschots)

In order to help you understand how this chemical imbalance effects a person, I chatted with Cynthia Forget. 

I am including both the official questions and some of the aside back and forth so you get a good picture. 

Many people with psychological disorders are very private and self-protective about sharing their experiences. I am very grateful that Cynthia was so open about her experience. There is a lot of stigma that comes with a psych disorder diagnosis - I think you
will see and agree with me that
Cynthia is a lovely person who
is in a daunting position.

Fiona - 
Hey sweetie. How are you today?

Cynthia - 

I'm "phine" as opposed to "fine" - it's the word used when you say "fine" but don't mean it.

Are you on a low swing?

Cynthia - 
Very much so - but life goes on.

Fiona - 
Are your meds taking the edge off?

Cynthia - 
Not as much as I'd like, but I'm sure they're helping.

Fiona - 
I'm so sorry - is it okay for us to talk today or would you rather wait?

Cynthia - 
No today is okay - I've actually been looking forward to it, and there's not much I look forward to.

Fiona - 
Okay, good, so we'll start: Hi Cynthia, thanks for being here today. Today, we are talking about the psychological disorder called Bipolar Disorder. Can you tell me about your connection with this diagnosis and your advocacy?

Cynthia -
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2005. I have bp1. Fiona - my mind is running quite slow so I'm afraid you're going to have to pull the info out of me.

Fiona - 
Not a problem. And if you need to do this in several interviews, that's okay too.

Cynthia - 
You're so kind.

Fiona - 
Not at all - I truly appreciate your helping me. So here is a question: You said to me your mind is working slowly - is that a function of your meds?

Cynthia - 
I believe it is due to my meds and just the actual state of depression.

Fiona - 
You've been living with a diagnosis for 9 years. What are some of the difficulties that this has created for you?

Cynthia - 
The main difficulty I have encountered is that I am unable to work. I am currently on a disability pension. My job required extreme executive functioning - memory - decision making etc - they are impaired by the bp. 

This is a link to a blog article that Cynthia and I did on Criminal Trial Coordination, her position prior to her disability pension. Link

Fiona - 
Your diagnosis is BP1 can you tell us about the difference between BP1 and BP2?

Cynthia - 
Bipolar disorder is basically a brain disorder where the neurotransmitters - serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline - create episodes of mania and depression effecting mood, emotions and behavior. BP1 is when there are extremes of mania and depression BP2 is when you have hypomania rather than mania - a milder form.

Fiona - 
And the swing between the polar events - is there a predictable cycle?

Cynthia - 
There is for some people, but generally no - it tends to be an unpredictable illness - but with mood charting patterns can be identified.

Fiona - 
What might a typical cycle from low to high to low look like in terms of time span?

Cynthia - 
That's too difficult to say - everyone is so different - if a person cycles 4 or more times in a year, they are considered as rapid cycling - from days to weeks is called ultra rapid cycling and within a day/hours is called ultradian cycling

Fiona - 
How long would a peak or trough last? You are experiencing a depression, can you tell yourself - just 2 weeks, and I'll pull out of this...

Cynthia - 
Unfortunately not - sometimes it's a few days or weeks, but I personally had a 2 year episode some time ago.

Fiona - 
Of depression? Do you experience manic episodes that last as long?

Cynthia - 
BP is so individualized, I did have one manic episode that was 2 years as well - that was before I was diagnosed and before I was medicated.

Fiona - 
Are there times when you feel like you are stabilized at what you would consider to be a normal affect?

Cynthia - 
Yes - but not nearly as long as I would like - I have good days and bad days.

Fiona - 
How does your mania express itself?

Cynthia - 
Well, I become the smartest person I know - I believe I can do anything -  get pressured speech / stuttering - my thoughts go off on tangents constantly and my mind races - I have great needs to shop and spend money - I drive recklessly - I am enthusiastic and generally feel terrific, confident and invincible - very wired - very creative - a general feeling of euphoria - restless and unable to concentrate - sleeping very little - promiscuous.

Fiona - 
Is that something you feel like you want to medicate to have stop or does that feel like a high you'd really like to ride?

Cynthia - 
A high that I love to ride. Only thing is, it tends to get me in trouble. "I wish I were manic," that's a mantra you'd hear many people with bp say.

Fiona - 
That's very interesting. I'm sure it feels much better than the troughs. Tell me about some of the trouble it can get you into (and others you know have experienced).

Cynthia - 
You can get into trouble with poor judgment, irritability and aggression, also promiscuity can wreak havoc on a marriage, work problems...

Fiona - 
Do you (and others) skip medications to prolong the manic periods? If not, how do you get yourself to take pills that might make you feel less good?

Cynthia - 
I am medication compliant - I take my meds as directed - some people, as you say, may try to control their moods by skipping meds - this usually leads to problems - as time goes on, I think most people realize they need their meds.

Fiona - 
"Promiscuity can wreak havoc on a marriage" Tell me about consequences - will the law understand if you drive too fast, commit petty crimes, buy drugs etc.? Do the people in your life understand that you are not in control of your brain and give you a get out of jail free card in the relationship?

Cynthia - 
The answer to all of that is no. No get out of jail free cards.

Fiona - 
So how does that impact people's ability to stay in long term relationships?

Cynthia - 
It's challenging - the divorce rate for a marriage with one party has bp is 90% (compared to 40%)

Fiona -
You run a blog about bipolar disorder - what is your goal?

It started as an outlet for myself - something to write about - but it has evolved into providing information to people about bipolar and as a support for people with bipolar

Fiona - 
And I'm sure those who love them are looking for answers as well. What is the most common misunderstanding you run into?

Cynthia - 
I guess that if you take your meds, you'll be better - like there's a cure - there's not - it can only be managed, not cured.

Fiona - 
When you read books that include characters with bipolar disorder, or on TV and in movies, etc., do you feel that this condition is fairly represented? What would you have writers change?

Cynthia - 
I think they try to portray the condition properly - some shows do better than others - people have different opinions of what is a good portrayal - I like the "Black Box," but it's getting a lot of negative feedback on Twitter - I personally think they're doing a good job.

Fiona - 
I'm not familiar - what is Black Box?

Cynthia - 
It's a show where the lead character is a neurologist with bipolar disorder - New this season.

Fiona - 
And who is panning it? People in the bipolar community? Or those outside?

In the community, I believe.

Fiona - 
In the responses you are reading - do people in the BP community not like it because it stereotypes, or does not educate, what are their concerns?

Cynthia - 
If I remember (memory is an issue), I think it is because it stereotypes.


Are there any books that you've read that you thought, "Wow! This author nailed it - that's exactly what I experience."

Cynthia - 
Yes - An UnQuiet Mind - by Kay Redfield Jamison - she has bipolar disorder and is also a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University - an expert in her field

Fiona - 
Here is an absurdly broad question - What do you want writers to understand when they are construction characters with bipolar disorder?

Cynthia - 
That each person is different and unique - to avoid the stereotypes - it is unpredictable and exhausting - there is a lot of self care involved.

Fiona - 
Tell me about a self-care routine.

Cynthia - 
Mood charts, routine, sleep, nutrition, walking, meds, pscychiatrist, therapy, support system, light box, avoiding drugs/alcohol, avoiding personal triggers, monitoring symptoms biggest one: avoid stress. And education.

Fiona - 
Cynthia distinguishes between her psychiatrist and her therapy. A psychiatrist is someone who has a medical degree and has a psychology background. They monitor the physiologic state of a patient. While psychiatrists can provide therapy, typically this is done (for cost containment reasons) by a trained psychologist, social worker, or counselor. The therapist can then inform the psychiatrist of changes that might necessitate a review of the medication regiment.

Cynthia, are people with BP disorder generally considered to be at high risk for self-harm?

Cynthia - 

Fiona - 
The light box is to avoid depression with a lack of vitamin D from the sun?

Cynthia - 

Fiona - 
Do people with BP disorder trigger like a person experiencing PTSD? Can you give me an example of a trigger?

Cynthia - 
Triggers are very personal and different - my biggest trigger is death - any involvement in death spirals me into depression

Fiona - 
What kinds of psychotherapy is the most common/most effective with BP disorder?

Cynthia - 
CBT - cognitive behavioral therapy

Fiona - 
Do you run into a lot of snake oil salesmen? People who can "cure" you if only you would follow this diet take these supplements etc.?

Cynthia -
I've read about it, but personally I have not come in contact with it.

Fiona - 
Our hour is coming to a close, my last question:

What do you wish I had asked you?

Cynthia - 
What's the best part about having bipolar? Creativity.

Fiona - 
Oh, good one! I lied. I have another question - is there any scientific research that gives you hope that your chemistry can one day be corrected?

Cynthia - 
Good question. I guess all the neurological studies they're doing are hopeful, but truthfully, I'm not sure I'd take it away if I could. It's me.

Fiona - 
What a self-loving, wonderful answer.

Again, a huge thank you to Cynthia for sharing her life experience with BP1.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Narcissism: Is Your Villain in Love With Himself? Info for Writers

Oil on canvas
Oil on canvas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Narcissism exists in every human being along a continuum.

At the far end of this spectrum is a DSM V (the psych bible for diagnosis) mental health disorder called Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Having this full-blown personality disorder is rare. 

Video Quick Study (5:58) Narcissism on a spectrum                 normal v. pathological
Video Quick Study (2:14) Good quick over-view.

Narcissistic Traits include:

  • Grandiosity - exaggerates achievements and talents and expects others to see them as superior
  • Fantasies of unlimited success - power, brilliant intellect, beauty...
  • Belief that they are very special snowflakes and should only associate with people of their ilk
  • Requires excessive admiration - hyper-sensitive to criticism
  • Lacks empathy
  • Arrogance, haughtiness
  • Envy - of others and a belief that others envy them
  • Sense of entitlement - people should do what they asked, just because they asked/want it to be so. 
  • Takes advantage of others to achieve their personal goals. 

  • They can't be generous - strings are always attached
  • They get angry when they are criticized or disputed
  • Often artificially charming
  • Often pathological liars
  • THE KEY COMPONENT is self-absorption

Video Quick Study (3:22) Narcissist in action
Video Quick Study (11:18) Body language - excellent for
                              character development 

LOE3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Narcissistic Defense

  • Narcissism is a defense. Narcissism is a defense. Narcissism is a defense.
  • All of the components in the list above are example of ways that the narcissistic personality protects  itself. 
  • You are dealing with a weak villain   trying to gain strength. 
  • They are perceived as strong - too strong - but they are not; they are emotionally weak.
  • It's okay for your heroine to support  their defenses and  not challenge them. She just needs to be aware that she is bolstering   someone who is weak and not buying into the delusions herself.
  • Projection - They believe that the heroine is the problem not them.
  • Isolation - Narcissists isolate people and do not like   individuals to interact with one another

Video Quick Study (0:55) Narcissism in action

Narcissism in a Relationship

  • Hopefully, our heroine is not in a relationship with a narcissist; she learned the signs and ran for the woods when the narcissist    started ringing her doorbell. 
    Video Quick Study (6:27) Red flags that would clue your heroine

  • No? She got sucked in? She read the insightful magazine article just a little too late? She can try to stay grounded and true to herself while in the relationship by: 
    • identifying and admitting that there is a problem.
    • not challenging the other person's delusions - which is a waste of time.
    • surrounding herself with healthy relationships who remind her about what the truth is
    • She can seek therapy, journal, do yoga, exercise, eat healthfully etc. things that keep her centered
  • Set boundaries
  • Sometimes holding one's ground - being one's truth if you will - can cause rage and abusiveness in a narcissist. This is when your heroine should SERIOUSLY consider extricating herself from the relationship. Here abuse can be physical but is more likely emotional abuse.
  • Remember that a narcissist has an agenda - your heroine cannot make them better - not through compassion, not through sacrifice, no way, no how, nothing she can do or say will make this better.
  • In order for your heroine to get her needs met when she's in a relationship with a narcissist she should never state her needs. 

She should always frame her requests in ego-stroking ways. Instead of saying I'd like for us to go to the beach with my friends, she would instead say something like, "My friends really like you and enjoy spending time with you. We want to go to the beach and it just won't be the same unless you are there with us."

  • Your heroine's vulnerability will set the narcissist off - will make them emotionally attack.
  • Narcissists need the heroine's pain to feel good themselves
  • Really the best thing for your heroine to do once she realizes that the love of her life is in the severe range of narcissism is run.
   Run far. Run fast. And make a no-contact rule. - Remember we
   ALL have narcissistic tendencies  - we are talking about severe
   cases here.

Video Quick Study (5:36) Breaking away from a narcissist
                                (emotions, thoughts)
Video Quick Study (9:11) How to break up with a narcissist. 
                                (physical behavior)

What kinds of character might have stronger narcissistic traits?

Al Murray as (left to right) Roger Dennis, Hor...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Actors
  • Performers
  • Politicians
  • People who put themselves out in the public eye.

Why did he turn out this way?

Groopman and Cooper (2006) listed the following factors identified by various researchers as possibilities:[Groopman, Leonard C. M.D.; Cooper, Arnold M. M.D. (2006). "Narcissistic Personality Disorder". Personality Disorders – Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Armenian Medical Network. Retrieved 2007-02-14
  • An oversensitiveness temperament (personality traits) at birth.
  • Excessive admiration that is never balanced with realistic feedback.
  • Excessive praise for good behaviors or excessive criticism for bad behaviors in childhood.
  • Overindulgence and overvaluation by parents, other family members, or peers.
  • Being praised for perceived exceptional looks or abilities by adults.
  • Severe emotional abuse in childhood.
  • Unpredictable or unreliable caregiving from parents.
  • Learning manipulative behaviors from parents.
  • Valued by parents as a means to regulate their own self-esteem.

See how this article influenced my plot lines in my novella MINE and my novel CHAOS IS COME AGAIN.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Forensic Hypnosis: Information for Writers


Today, let's talk about hypnosis. I find it a fascinating subject both from a clinical (medical and mental health) point of view and also as a forensic tool.

In this article I will take a brief look at forensic hypnosis, and then I will introduce you to my friend Gus Philpott, a long time hypnotherapist who will share information about the process.

Video Quick Study (1:31) What is hypnosis?

Recently, I have read two novels that included hypnotherapy in two different but interesting ways in their plots. The Blue Monster was written by Mike Roche. Click LINK to go to his Thrillwriting interview.

* The Supreme Court ruled that limited use of information gathered under hypnosis is permitted.

A police interviewer/interrogator who uses hypnosis is a forensic hypnotist also called an investigative hypnotist. They must follow certain guidelines in order for the information to be used in courts.

* A detective who is involved in the case or has prior information cannot be the hypnotist. The fear being that
   false memories are being planted. See Blog Article on the fragility of human memory and
   eye-witness, and you will immediately grasp how a hypnotist's involvement would make for some devious
* Only witnesses and victims may be hypnotized.
* Suspects may not be interrogated under hypnosis. However, if a suspect wishes to be hypnotized as part
   of her defense, she can use the information gleaned in the hypnosis session to help exonerate her. This
   information is permitted in court. 
* Sessions must be recorded.
* A person can only be hypnotized one time.
* Hypnosis is used as a last resort.
* They must guard against re-traumatizing the victim or witness. 

* As mentioned above - false information can be ingrained in the memory during hypnosis.
* Individuals maintain their ability to lie.

Video Quick Study (2:52) - Officer talks about his new certification as a forensic hypnotist.
Video Quick Study (13:33) - Tom Silver forensic hypnosis expert
Video Quick Study (29:19 but skip right to the 16:00 mark the beginning is a weird puppet show)
                               Don Glass talks about doing forensic hypnosis.
Video Quick Study  (5:26) Excellent discussion of hypnosis and if you can use hypnosis to commit a crime. 

Image from Pinterest

And  now for the interview - 

Fiona - Let me introduce you to my long time friend, 
            Gus Philpott. Gus and I have known each other for
            almost twenty years now. He used to hypnotize me
            on a regular basis when I was in grad school. 

            Howdy Gus, can you tell my readers a little bit
            about your background with hypnotism?

Gus - Certainly. I studied regression hypnotherapy with the
         late Dr. Hickman, whom I first met in 1988.
         Of course, she wasn't  "the late... "  then. I use a
         non-directive method which employs asking a lot of
         questions, not giving a lot of directions.

Fiona - What qualifies someone to do generalized

         hypnotherapy? Are you required to have certification
         like a forensic hypnotist?

Gus -   There are certification courses, but they are not

         required for general practice; only if the hypnotist
         wants to be recognized within a professional 
         association. Qualifications include liking people, wanting
         to help, being a good listener.

Fiona - You have a law enforcement background...

Gus -   Yes, I was a police officer in a small Iowa college town and a deputy sheriff in Colorado for more

            than 7 years. That was before I studied hypnotherapy.

Fiona - Have you ever used hypnotherapy to help with a crime?

Gus -   I am familiar with how it can be used, but my contacts with law enforcement agencies have not

            provided opportunities to do so. One of the most popular cases involving use of hypnosis was in 
           California when a school bus full of children was taken over. The driver later recalled the license plate
           of a car used by the criminals.
           Link to the news story

Fiona - 
And now Gus is out with a new non-fiction about his experiences with hypnosis called
            The Healing Power of Hypnotherapy.

Amazon Link

Gus - Most of my book is a collection of stories about sessions I've done over the 20 years since
           Dr. Hickman taught me.

Fiona - Gus, can you start at the very beginning and walk us through a hypnosis session from the

          practitioners point of view?

Gus - Sure. Since I'm not a doctor, I refer to the hypnotized person as my "client". The first step is to explain

         what hypnosis is and to answer questions. Then I explain the induction; i.e., the method of helping the
         client relax.

Fiona - Let's step back, could you tell me exactly what hypnosis is, please.

Gus - I define hypnosis as a state of relaxation. It's better if you don't "try" to get hypnotized. Just "get"

             hypnotized; i.e., relaxed.

image trolled from Pinterest

Fiona  - Okay, good. I'm feeling very relaxed.

Gus - Hypnotism is a peaceful, relaxed state in which you just
             put aside thoughts, cares, worries, anxiety, concern,
            questions - to the extent possible.
            If I were working with a victim of a crime, I would
            explain that we'll work our way backwards from today
            to the time of the crime. Quite often, emotions,
            sometimes high emotions, are involved.

            I explain that it will likely feel like the crime is happening
            all over again. It will be brief, and it's important for them
            to know that it is not REALLY happening again. They
            will just re-experience it.

Fiona - Do you feel like this re-victimizes the client?

Gus - No, I don't feel that, and I tell them that, if they become 
          emotional or afraid, I'll just touch their hand
          with my hand, so that they realize their body is still right here (office, home, wherever we are) and that
          what is happening is not happening to them right now. One of the first keys is to release the emotional
          attachment to what happened.

          Then they can recall greater detail by going through the experience (under hypnosis) 2-3-4-5 times
          (quickly), recalling more and more detail of the type to help solve the crime. Releasing the emotions
          helps to free them from the trauma of the crime.

          Thinking about the use of hypnosis in criminal work, the hypnotized person will recall details
          not consciously remembered.

Fiona - Okay, as the practitioner - how do you get them into a relaxed state, and then what do you do with

Gus - I don't use any "tricks" to hypnotize people - no music, no spinning wheels, no blinking lights or
             candles. I talk to the client in a normal voice, guiding her or him into a state of relaxation with words.
             I say, "Starting at the top of the head, allow all the nerves and muscles to relax and just let go."
             Then, I work my way with words down through the face, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, torso, hips,
             legs, knees, feet.

Fiona - Uh oh - I'm feeling sleepy.
found image on Pinterest

Gus - I know, I know. You will NOT be hypnotized at these words....

Fiona - Thanks - I'll just look away from the screen. (old habits...)

Gus -  Yes, I know about those old habits...
            There are 2-3 susceptibility tests to use, so the client can experience his own degree of relaxation:
            heavy eyelids, heavy hands, rigid arm. People often say, "But I really could NOT open my eyes."
            They could have, but they didn't want to.

            Once they are relaxed, then we head into the actually meat of the session.

Fiona - Good let's talk about the meat. You move the client through the experience. How long does the meat
             usually take?

Gus - So the meat of the session is the ordeal or the traumatic event. Sometimes, the client will just go
            directly there. I recall one session where a hard-to-hypnotize person (so I thought) became
            completely relaxed when I counted to 5. The "meat" might only be 15-20 minutes, because the focus
            is on the important part. As we return to the critical part to go through it again, I guide the client so
            they are re-experiencing an increasingly narrow field of the event; only the most important part.

           For example, if the getaway car is pulling away, the client might recall in great detail the back of the
           car: shape of taillights, any burned-out bulbs, license plate details, dents, rust.

Fiona - Yes!

Gus - Perhaps one time through, s/he remembers only one number. Then, the next time, 2-3 numbers.
             Or the 3 might be an 8. Or, I DID hear a name. One of them called the other "Rusty".

Fiona - That's awesome - so now you've wrung every last detail out of the client and you're ready to bring
             them up - how does that work?

Gus - When a person is relaxed and "not" trying hard, it's amazing what he can remember. If a traumatic
             event was involved, the key is to help them release the emotion attached to it. And to suggest that
             the space that had been occupied by that emotion is filled by a sense of deep peacefulness.

             When it's time for them to return to a full state of alertness, I do that by telling them that I'll count
              from 21 to 1 by alternate numbers, and when they hear "1", they'll be wide-awake, refreshed, alert,
              happy, energized and feeling absolutely great.

              Occasionally, a person will need or want a "second" wake-up. The word I hear most after a
              session ends is "Wow".

Fiona - And you have been hypnotized...

Gus -   Yes, many times.

Fiona - I'm interested because I want to understand the response of the person who has been involved in a
           crime and is now under hypnosis what might they be experiencing?

Gus - If they are willing, they can be guided back to the time of the crime, and then just before it. As they

            re-experience it, they will "see" more and be able to provide more detail, in terms of descriptions,
            names, affects of speech, description of clothing. By going through the experience several times
            (in one session), more detail will be uncovered.

Fiona  - What about physiologically - are they experiencing the same reactions (such as adrenaline spikes)?

Gus - Very often. I recall one client who had a full-blown panic attack. Shortness of breath, etc. - the kind

             that her mother would have rushed her to the hospital for in the past.

Fiona - And what is your response when that happens (as the hypnotist).

Gus - I verbally backed her away from what she was experiencing as the cause of the panic attack, and then

            we went back through it 2-3 times. She was totally fine and without symptoms in less than 5 minutes,
Found on Pinterest
            and her panic attacks did not recur.

Fiona - Awesomeness!

Gus - It is paramount that I stay calm. It would not
          be good for me to panic, too. It's important for
          the hypnotherapist to be confident, without
          being cocky.

Fiona -  From the client's point of view - They are

            sitting in front of a hypnotist, what might you
            be experiencing from beginning to end?
            What does "being under" feel like?

Gus - It's really very simple. 
Initially a client might 
          feel nervous or express an unknowing;  
          that's fine. That's just a normal, natural feeling.
          If you (don't do it right now) just close your 
          eyes and tune in to what
          is around you. hear the furnace or the AC, the telephone ring, the door open or close, the kids' 
          voices (if you're home), a motorcycle going by. It's like that. You are aware of everything, but it
          just doesn't matter. I say, "If there is any sound or cause of danger, you'll be instantly wide awake."

Fiona - That's a good safety mechanism - I remember you telling me that if my children needed me I would

              be instantly available for them.

Gus - 
Yes, if a client thinks there might be an interruption, then we plan for it. I tell her or him that he'll be able
              to wake up fully and quickly, take care of what needs to be handled, and then easily and quickly
              return to the state of relaxation - called Hypnosis.

Fiona - I was never interrupted - so I never experienced this - did it ever happen for your other clients?

Gus - Fairly often. Sometimes the phone rings and they "know" they need to take the call. Or someone is at

             the door. Most of my sessions are done at the client's home or office.

             I remember one that I was doing on an outdoor screened balcony overlooking a street. 

             The woman said, while hypnotized, "Don't kill me." I expected the cops, but they never came.

Fiona - Bahahaha! That would have been fun to be a fly on the wall for that police intervention!

Gus - For sure... Even now, I can picture myself opening the front door and saying, "Come on in, Officer."

Fiona - So have you come across people writing about hypnotism who have made mistakes?

            What would you tell my writing friends about writing it right?

Gus - One of the best ways to learn what hypnosis is all about is to be hypnotized. From time to time I run

            across a hypnotist or hypnotherapist who thinks being hypnotized himself is not necessary to doing
            good work. I think that's wrong.

Fiona - Yes, agreed. Experiencing things makes a world of difference. It's usually not at all how you had 

             imagined it.

Gus - It's like riding a bicycle. You can write about riding a bicycle, but you still won't know the balance
             required or the actual feeling. So find someone to hypnotize you. Do a trade or something, to keep
             the cost down. Oh, and don't get hypnotized by someone "by the hour"; that could be a very long

Fiona - So if someone wanted to have this experience how could they find a professional to work with them

Gus - 
The best way is to find someone by a referral. You might be lucky if you use the yellow pages;
           I wouldn't. Always ask the price. Sometimes I do phone hypnosis or use Skype. I've even made
           tapes for clients and mailed them. Oops, dating myself. Now I can just email a file.

Fiona - How could someone set up a remote session with you?
            P.S. After surgery when I was in excruciating pain, Gus hypnotized me over the phone, and I was
            meds free within the hour. The doctors couldn't believe the change.

Gus - E-mail or Skype. Just contact me. I do my work on a "donation" basis; i.e., I ask the person to pay
            what is the right amount for them, based on the value they received and their own means. One family
            paid me with a carrot cake. Ummm, it was so good.


        My Skype UserID is gus.philpott

Fiona - Very cool! Okay - I am well past my allotted time - I have one last question which is a standard here
             at ThrillWriting. Please, tell us about your favorite scar.
from Pinterest

Gus -    My favorite scar is the one I 
            haven't gotten yet!

Fiona - Thanks so much for visiting and
             sharing your expertise!

Gus - It has been my pleasure. Happy
          writing to all!

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.