For many people here in midcoast Maine, spending time on the water is definitely recreational, not only in the sense of being an enjoyable pastime, but also in the therapeutic sense of renewing one’s peace of mind. This latter meaning is one reason Martinsville resident Joanna Calderwood chose to use “Sailing Hope” in her professional email address.
“Our sailboat is Hope,” Calderwood explains. “She has been a home for us—my husband Bill and I even spent a sabbatical year on her. And I believe being on the water is a metaphor for the work I do as a hypnotherapist because it can be such a good way to relieve stress. I also like to think that I can bring hope to people through my therapeutic work.”
Calderwood began her work as a hypnotherapist in 2011, after retiring from a career in education during which she focused on literacy and special education, mostly at the high school level (she still subcontracts part time with RSU 13 to perform assessments and other services). The career change was something she had long been contemplating.
“I had worked with a hypnotherapist years back following a divorce. At the time I thought, ‘This is so helpful! It is just amazing how this can help clarify issues for people.’ So I thought if I ever found a really good training program I’d like to get training in this.”
The hypnotherapist had put her into a light level of trance that allowed her to get to “a deeper thought process,” Calderwood says. The therapist had then used guided imagery to help Calderwood work through different issues she had brought to the session—family issues, goals, things that were obstacles to moving forward with her life.
“She was able to help me relax deeply so I could access my subconscious mind and do some work,” Calderwood explains. “What is really going on when you do that is that you are really talking to yourself, your deeper self where your memories lie, where your issues lie, where your earliest learnings lie and sometimes stay hidden because in all the chatter of the conscious mind—errands to run, bills to pay, deadlines to meet—we don’t bring those things up very often to look at them.”
Calderwood acknowledges that some people fear that hypnosis is a form a mind control or a way for a hypnotist to discover a person’s closely held secrets. But she says that is definitely not the case. “When someone is in hypnosis they are not unconscious, they are aware of everything that is going on,” she points out, adding, “I think hypnosis is meditation, a deeper level of meditation. When we do inductions to take a person into a trance, we are just providing a series of steps to help people who aren’t used to being that deeply relaxed. Once relaxed, your body is able to restore balance chemically, mentally and spiritually. It is actually a physiological shift in your autonomic nervous system.” That shift, she says, is basically from a “flight-or-fight” response to the world to a “feed-and-breed” response that is about nurturing the body’s immune system, its digestive system—all the systems that are negatively impacted by stress.
Calderwood’s clients come from all walks of life. “I’ve worked with students, with professional people, with fishermen, veterans, people in the arts, retired people, carpenters, landscapers, janitorial workers—there are just so many stresses people have, whether from work, home, family, finance, or health issues. We are all seeking calm and resolution.”
Working with veterans, in particular, is something close to Calderwood’s heart. “I love that work. I have a real strong empathy for veterans and their issues. My father was a surgeon on Iwo Jima and I believe he suffered with PTSD. And during the Vietnam War I saw so many soldiers who returned completely changed or damaged.”
In this part of Maine, Calderwood notes, “we are in an atmosphere where hypnosis is not foreign. A lot of people who come to me are already familiar with holistic healing practices. People in this area are a little more informed because of the wealth of resources here.”
A downside of Calderwood’s practice, which includes life coaching, she admits, is that health insurance does not cover the cost. However, she adds, three to six session is often enough. “Hypnotherapy doesn’t usually take very long because we are addressing more immediate issues that a person would like to resolve, from relationship issues and money issues to finding ways to manage and cope with chronic illness or pain. It is not a deep therapeutic process of going back and working through something from childhood.”
But the connection between hypnotherapy and psychotherapy is growing closer, Calderwood notes. “There is a psychologist in Camden who uses hypnosis and who is training mental health professionals all over the midcoast area to bring it into their practices to help people relax and access different parts of their mind and emotions that may be blocked and might take a lot longer to get to than with just ‘talk’ therapy.”
In the end, Calderwood reflects, the most important thing is to find ways to let your body slow down and rest so it can come into balance and thus allow your mind and emotions to come into balance. “I think meditation is one of the most therapeutic things you can do,” she states with conviction. Also doing yoga, tai chi—or even going sailing, she notes with a smile—“only add more benefit.”—JW
(To contact Calderwood at Coastal Maine Hypnotherapy call 590-8636 or email SailingHope@msn.com.)
PHOTO: Julie Wortman