America at work
Meet Alexandra Janelli, a Hypnosis Entrepreneur
Free Enterprise Staff | May 28, 2015

Hypnosis: If it conjures up an image of a swinging pocket watch, then you have obviously not met Alexandra Janelli, a certified hypnotherapist who owns and operates a hypnotherapy practice in New York City.

You are getting very sleepy. Credit: Giphy

Though you might not have encountered a hypnosis entrepreneur before, growing a private practice—whether in law, dentistry, or traditional or alternative medicine—demands an entrepreneurial sensibility. These days, the most successful clinicians are the ones who effectively market and distinguish themselves amid increased competition.

Janelli has managed to do just that over the past few years. A native of New York City—she was raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side—Janelli in many ways embodies the characteristics of the prototypical entrepreneur. Innately curious, she’s a problem solver who is constantly seeking to learn more and help others. The path she took to where she is today is also emblematic of one forged by countless other successful business owners. “I had a successful career in environmental consulting, but I wasn’t fulfilled,” Janelli told Free Enterprise.

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“I had gone to a hypnotherapist for a couple of sessions, and I couldn’t believe the difference it had on my life. I couldn’t really pinpoint what, exactly, changed, but I recognized that it had a profound impact on me. At that time, I thought, ‘What do I really want to do? What inspires me? What has really changed my life that I can use as an example of what I want to do for others?’ So, I was reflecting on what my passions were, and what I wanted to do, and I kept coming back to hypnotherapy.”

“A lot of people who come in have an expectation that it’s kind of a cure all when, in fact, it’s nothing like you would see in stage hypnotherapists.”

This realization eventually led Janelli to go back to school for hypnotherapy and, later, to start her own practice, Theta Spring Hypnosis. Though she initially launched the business in Chicago, where she lived for a time with her then-boyfriend, Janelli ultimately moved back to New York, where she leased space in a wellness center and relaunched her practice. She continues to operate Theta Spring Hypnosis out of that building, which sits at the intersection of the Flatiron and Chelsea neighborhoods in downtown Manhattan.

Janelli isn’t unique in her experience with hypnotherapy, whose history traces back centuries. Contrary to how it’s often portrayed in film and television, hypnosis is an effective therapy that can lead to a more heightened sense of self-awareness.

That’s something that’s backed up by leading medical organizations. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, hypnotherapy enjoyed a renaissance during the mid-20th century thanks to Milton H. Erickson, a psychiatrist who successfully demonstrated its use in his own practice. Today, the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association recognize hypnotherapy as a valid medical procedure, and the National Institutes of Health has endorsed its use as a treatment for chronic pain.

When she first returned to New York, Janelli began looking for ways to promote her fledgling practice. At the time, she says, there were hypnotherapists scattered throughout the city. “I did whatever it took to get new clients—whether it was offering a Groupon or advertising on Yelp. I just put myself out there and got creative in the way I work with clients,” she says.

As more and more people discovered Theta Spring, Janelli’s client base grew. Along the way, she has continually worked to fine-tune how she communicates and interacts with each individual whom she sees professionally. Over time, she has learned how important it is to manage expectations, beginning with the first encounter. “A lot of people who come in have an expectation that it’s kind of a cure all when, in fact, it’s nothing like you would see in stage hypnotherapists,” Janelli says. (Stage hypnotherapists are the people who can make you bark like a dog when they clap their hands.)

“I think an informed client is the best client, and they should come in with a little skepticism because hypnotherapy has not always been painted in the most wonderful of ways.”

“People who come in firmly believing that this is going to work miracles, and that we can somehow magically erase their minds, they tend to leave feeling a little disappointed. So, what I always do with my first session is let the client say what made her want to try hypnotherapy. I’ll then step in and tell her what hypnotherapy is, what it’s not, how it works, and why it works. We move on from there.”

That’s not to say that Janelli is simply searching for a specific kind of person who happens to possess some predetermined list of desired attributes. Janelli’s clients—the majority of whom receive treatment for anxiety and stress management—comprise a diverse group that includes a number of people who were, at least initially, cynical about what they could achieve through hypnotherapy.

“I think an informed client is the best client, and they should come in with a little skepticism because hypnotherapy has not always been painted in the most wonderful of ways,” Janelli says. “There are so many myths surrounding it, so part of my job is to teach my clients what they can expect from therapy.”

Janelli also helps her clients search for the root causes of whatever problem they are facing. “I find when clients come in for weight loss or even smoking cessation, there is so much more underneath than the presenting issue, which is rarely the underlying cause,” she explains. “I work extensively with my clients to help them understand the different parts of their personalities— the anxious you, the calm you, the angry you—so they can gain more clarity and have a new sense of awareness.”

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As she’s progressed in her own career, Janelli has acquired additional certifications in areas like pain management. In spite of the hard work and the long hours that can be psychologically draining, she’s never regretted her decision to change careers and start a practice. “You know, it never really was an option for me not do it my own way,” she says.

“I didn’t want to conform or play to some predetermined rules other people lived by. I really wanted to build something myself, drawing from lots of different areas in order to create my own practice. I think that’s been my greatest success: I’ve really continued to learn, open myself to my clients, and expand on what I’m doing. It’s my job to be not only a teacher, but also a student, and it’s something I take very seriously.”