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Charges against hypnotherapist raise concerns about safety of hypnosis

Hypnotized women accuse therapist of abuse
Posted at 11:17 PM, May 03, 2017

Allegations of sex abuse against a Grand Blanc Township hypnotherapist are raising concerns within the profession.

The Genesee County prosecutor has charged John Gary Tomlinson, 65, with criminal sexual conduct, unlawful imprisonment, and assault by strangulation. The charges were filed after a 48 year-old woman came forward and told police Tomlinson sexually assaulted her April 17 while she was semi-conscious. The attack happened during a hypnotherapy session in Tomlinson's  office Grand Blanc Township.

Three other women have since com forward, but no other charges has been filed.

Tomlinson was accused of abusing a female patient in 2014, but the charges were dropped.

The new allegations highlight myths associated with hypnosis while raising valid concerns about how patients can keep themselves safe while undergoing hypnotherapy, said Birmingham hypnotherapist Amy Hale.

"I can't imagine how it (sex abuse) would be done with hypnosis," Hale said.

Once an alternative therapy Hale said hypnosis has gone mainstream as more people seek help coping with health and psychological issues, including smoking, chronic pain, and anxiety.

But she often has to debunk myths associated with hypnotherapy, including the notion that hypnotherapists are in complete control of their patients. It became a concern after the release of the movie Get Out earlier this year. The main character is immobilized by hypnosis.

"If you've ever seen a stage show or a movie such as Get Out it's just fiction," Hale said.

There are steps patients can take to maintain trust and safety. Hale said patients can bring someone to the session. They should also ask to have sessions recorded for use at home and to make sure nothing improper happens. She also recommends interviewing therapists and seek background checks.