‘That Lady Hypnotist’ uses her skill for comedy and therapy

MILL CREEK — She’s given up her badge for a spinning hypnosis wheel.

Not many transition from a career in law enforcement to show business, but that’s exactly what Mariana Matthews has done.

A former community service officer for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, she now earns her living as a stage hypnotist and clinical hypnotherapist.

“I was looking for a profession where people would wave with all five fingers,” she joked.

Today, Matthews, 59, is building her hypnotherapy practice — treating phobias, addictions and emotional issues. She also travels around the United States and Canada, performing as a comedic hypnotist.

Her husband, Don Matthews, a retired Seattle police officer and special education teacher, now supports her act as the sound technician. The couple raised their four children in Mill Creek before moving to Maui and back. Upon their return seven years ago, Matthews became a state-licensed hypnotherapist through a program at Everett Community College. She then went to Las Vegas, where she studied under Sin City’s headlining hypnotist, Marc Savard, and other entertainers.

“There are so few women in stage hypnosis,” Matthews said. “I’m proud to be one of the few to do it professionally.”

She calls herself “That Lady Hypnotist” on stage. Through her shows, Matthews is set on dispelling myths about hypnosis. It is a heightened state of suggestibility in which the mind remains active while the body relaxes.

During her show, she invites volunteers from the audience onto the stage to be inducted into a hypnotic trance. She has them breathe deeply while they focus on their eyes becoming heavy. Once they’re in a trance, she leads them in entertaining skits.

“Laughter is the best therapy,” she said.

People cannot be hypnotized against their will. Matthews guides people through the process of self-hypnosis.

“It’s telling your conscious mind to relax and being able to get to the subconscious,” she said.

People often think only those with low intelligence can be hypnotized but, Matthews said, just the opposite is true.

“It’s being able to focus,” she said. “That’s the main thing.”

In the trance, people won’t do anything that is against their morals or ethics, Matthews said. They also won’t reveal their deepest secrets.

Though practitioners often call it sleep, Matthews said, hypnosis is an awakened state in which people become more aware and their senses are heightened.

“Before they know it, time just goes by like that,” she said, snapping her fingers. “That’s hypnosis.”

It’s a focused concentration that is similar to daydreaming. Zoning out while watching television or reading the newspaper are forms of hypnosis, Matthews said. It also happens when a person is driving a car on mental autopilot yet manages to safely arrive at the destination.

Matthews aims to educate people about hypnosis through her shows. She donates her time for charity fundraisers. Her paid gigs range in price from about $850 to $3,000, depending on the type of performance and the venue.

Matthews also belongs to an international organization of women in hypnosis that is based in Washington. The group recently published a book. “Hypnotic Women” includes contributions by Matthews and 56 other practitioners. They’re working on a second book.

In her clinical hypnotherapy practice, Matthews is licensed through the state Department of Health to help people deal with all kinds of issues, including pain management, addiction, fear, stress and emotional problems. She also aids clients in achieving goals in areas, such as athletics and academics.

For example, Matthews said, she recently helped a young guitar player conquer stage fright.

Matthews sees herself as an ambassador for her profession, sharing knowledge through her work in her clinical practice and on stage.

“It makes believers out of non-believers,” she said. “If you change your mind, you can change your life. Anything is possible”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com.

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