La Jolla hypnotherapist teaches self-instruction as self-help amid stress of pandemic

Hypnotherapist Elena Mosaner teaches her clients to self-hypnotize, which she says can help in times of stress.
Hypnotherapist Elena Mosaner teaches her clients to self-hypnotize, which she says can help in times of stress, like the coronavirus pandemic.

With many people dealing with fear and anxiety amid the coronavirus pandemic, Elena Mosaner said several of her clients have been inquiring about “reinventing themselves.”

“It’s key to teach clients how to deal with stress and fear and the fear of the unknown, of what we’ve lost,” said Mosaner, who has more than 15 years’ experience as a hypnotherapist and professional coach certified by the International Coaching Federation.

She said she now sees clients from all over the world via Zoom, as well as those who visit her offices in La Jolla and Sorrento Valley.

“We can’t give in to anxiety but learn to be right here and now,” said Mosaner, a La Jolla-area resident who also has a master’s degree in executive coaching and organizational behavior and a bachelor’s in film and media. “Self-hypnosis can be a powerful tool to help anchor yourself in the present moment and really appreciate everything you have.”

Mosaner prepares clients to hypnotize themselves in the fight against stress.

But this isn’t the type of hypnosis in the stage shows that captivated her as a child. “Stage hypnosis is entertainment,” she said. “It’s social compliance, and out of 100 people in the audience, only 10 will get up onstage,” already in a mind-set to perform and have fun. “You just have to direct them. You pick those people who are willing and make it look like mind control.”

Clinical hypnosis “is a lot more elaborate,” Mosaner said. It is “a process of transferring certain information. By definition, it’s a bypass of critical faculty and the establishment of selective thinking. In essence, it is about educating your mind with new information.”

Mosaner said she first became interested in hypnosis when she was 5 after seeing a stage hypnotist in Russia, where she is from originally. “I was mesmerized by the performance,” she said.

Years later, she trained as a hypnotherapist in New York after learning to hypnotize herself to combat a fear of driving.

Hypnotherapy is “wonderful to help people manage stress, especially today, to help people deal with the loss of our former life, pre-pandemic,” Mosaner said. Hypnosis helps people move on and “accept what’s next,” she said.

It also can be effective when tied to a specific goal, she said, such as quitting smoking, decreasing sugar intake, gaining confidence in relationships or conquering a fear.

“It’s about tapping into their resources,” Mosaner said. “What is it they’re looking for to improve their life?”

Influence is hypnosis, she said. “We are hypnotized from Day 1. We are influenced by our environment, our parents, teachers, mentors, television and social media. All you need is the state of openness, which is very close to the state of meditation.”

One component of Mosaner’s practice is to teach clients to do self-hypnosis, which she said is “just as it sounds; you’re hypnotizing yourself.”

The first step of self-hypnosis is the same as that of any hypnotherapy, she said — getting into a “deep state of relaxation” through breathing and other techniques, such as eye movement and counting. This “deep state of receptivity,” Mosaner said, is required “to transfer information.”

Once in that state, self-talk comes into use, she said. This self-instruction, as Mosaner calls it, “is very powerful. It’s key.”

“When I work with my clients in a state of hypnosis,” she said, “I give them suggestions in my own voice: ‘You have lost your desire for sugar; you are a confident driver.’ … I ask them to repeat five or 10 key affirmations that we both design before the session. I tell them to speak silently with their inner voice three times, so it becomes their self-talk.”

“We’re talking to ourselves all day long, in constant thought: ‘Let me grab a cigarette; I’m not worthy of a relationship,’” Mosaner added. In self-hypnosis, “we are reinforcing a new dialogue, a new narrative, a new thought by having them repeat [affirmations] in a state of hypnosis.”

Mosaner cited a recent Vanderbilt University study in which children worked with puzzles in two groups. The group that used self-talk to solve the puzzles had more success than the group without it.

“You see how in their mind they have a system developed,” Mosaner said. “That’s why you want to help your [hypnosis] clients develop that step-by-step instruction.”

Mosaner was not involved in the Vanderbilt study, nor were the participating children undergoing hypnotherapy. But Mosaner said the study “shows the power of systematic thinking and it proves how instructing yourself with your inner voice is a foundation of growth and learning.”

The goal of self-hypnosis, she said, is to “activate that same way of thinking and growth where you are instructing yourself.”

Karen Dobkins, a psychology professor at UC San Diego whose Human Experience and Awareness Lab focuses on mindfulness and well-being, said that “in hypnotherapy, what they’re doing is getting you to relax so deeply that the mind chatter is hacked away, so they can go right in with a [suggestion].”

Hypnosis, Dobkins said, is an attempt to create an association between the hypnotist’s voice and a behavior.

“I don’t know the data” on being able to learn self-hypnosis as a tool to change one’s behavior, Dobkins said.

“But the obvious effectiveness of self-hypnosis is that you can do it anytime,” she said. “Giving people the power to know you don’t have to wait, you can do that on yourself” is valuable. “If you can notice … how much you are doing this mind chatter, you can start to learn to ask yourself the right questions — in your own bedroom.”

Mosaner said she records her sessions with self-hypnosis clients so they can listen at home to “reinforce these suggestions with the relaxation techniques I provide.”

Mosaner offers a free one-hour course on self-hypnosis via her website,