A reporter on the local paper came to see Jean for help with the shorthand exam he dreaded. After he passed - with distinction - he wrote this article for the Leatherhead Advertiser 

Power of hypnotherapy helped John beat his deepest fears about a crucial exam

FRAUGHT with concern over the repeated failure of a dreaded shorthand exam, reporter JOHN WILLIAMS turned to alternative therarapies and contacted a hypnotherapist to see if she could help him in his search for success

May 21, and I had just failed my shorthand exam again. "Anyone who has untidy writing, is male, and is over 25 should not really try to pass a shorthand exam," said a journalistic coach.

"Brilliant," thought 28-year-old me, who has. writing like an exhausted spider which has fallen in the ink-pot and then dragged itself across the page with its eyes closed.

My cause seemed hopeless. All the other elements of my new job seemed to be falling into place but passing the shorthand exam had become a monthly humiliation.

In desperation I called my brother - a doctor - to see if he could perform key-hole surgery on my obviously ineffectual fingers, but instead he suggested going to see a hypnotherapist.

I was more sceptical than Jeffrey Archer's judge, but agreed to go to hypnotherapy sessions with a lady called Jean, who lives in Bookham.

Sensing my unease, Jean was very kind when I explained my sheer inability to pass my exam, which by this stage was compounded by a nasty dose of nerves every time I had a biro in my hand and was forced to simply write my name.

But she was very sympathetic and positive that she could help me.

The sensation of being hypnotised is rather like being lured into that half-waking world between sleep and awareness of the outside world.

It is the afternoon nap on a lazy Saturday when you can hear the lawn mower next door, and the dog up the road barking but you are still ensconced in your own sleepy daze and your body feels supremely relaxed.

I was surprised to find myself in this state after a few soothing words from Jean, and several minutes with my eyes closed.

There was no swinging watch chain, no circus dramatics, simply Jean talking me into a relaxed state until I was well aware of her voice but was drifting dreamily along in that daze of being half-asleep

It was then that she talked me through visualisation techniques of success in my shorthand exam. I imagined going into the exam room and not feeling nervous. I thought about the jubilation I would feel when I passed. And I focused on holding my pen firmly and with the necessary focus to pass my bete noire.

An hour of these dreamy passages of thought passed until Jean counted down from five to one and told me to open my eyes when I was ready. The hour had passed as if it was really a matter of 10 minutes and I felt sensationally rested.

I returned to my car and was unsure of what had really just passed.

According to its national body, hypnotherapy is "the application of hypnotic techniques in such a way as to bring about beneficial changes.

"An outside influence - the therapist - assists in activating the inner resources of a person - the client - in order to achieve realistic goals."

Well I wasn't sure if my inner resources had been activated but I knew I felt relaxed and it wasn't until I next practised my shorthand that I felt the benefits.

Previously I had been able to write comfortably at 100 words a minute, but after a solitary session of hypnotherapy with Jean I was scribing away at 110wpm and sometimes even 120wpm.

Jean explained to me why she had taken up hypnotherapy.

"I had been in the Samaritans for 22 years and just felt that there was something more I had to offer. It gave me the grounding in caring for people but I wanted to do something more constructive.

"I had tried hypnotherapy and found it to be useful and thought that it would be nice to be able to do something more than listening." Since finding she could help people change through hypnotherapy and undertaking a rigorous training course at the British Ethical School of Therapies, she has been working from her Bookham home for the last 10 years.

After my initial success I was keen to go back for more sessions before my shorthand exam. In the end I returned three times, the last being the night before my exam.

I had managed to wind myself up tighter than a ball of string and was highly stressed at the prospect of the exam, but after my final hour of visualisation techniques under hypnosis I felt remarkably calm.

In fact I slept well the night before, drove to the abominable exam-centre in Egham - a town whose merest mention makes me shiver in a cold sweat of loathing and suspicion - and bounded up the stairs to my examination room.

An hour and a half later I had passed, feeling a little tense but without the usual fierce attack of nerves and found out several hours later that I had passed with distinction.

Now at this stage I should thank my teacher Inge Lefevre who, over a year that she must have likened to a thousand paper cuts between her toes, slowly taught me the dark arts of shorthand.

She combined the patience of Mother Teresa with the ability to laugh through displays of petulance that would shame a teething toddler.

But there is no doubting the influence that the hypnotherapy sessions had in reducing the mental mountain I had built up in my mind at the thought of succeeding

By talking me through my subconscious fear of failure I approached the exam in a much more systematic way, and it essentially removed nerves from the equation.

Jean said: "I love helping people through their exams.

"It is very satisfying. I have helped people with ice-skating exams, piano recitals, and now even shorthand."

Hypnotherapy helps people with a number of problems. Jean explained she has helped with eating disorders and helped smokers to quit.

But I suppose that it is still in that grey area of science where no scientist is willing to stick his neck out and confirm the cause of its success.

Alternative therapy or otherwise, my shorthand prospered after hypnotherapy and if it could help me conquer that form of calligraphic witchcraft then there is no limits to its power.

August 12 2004 p20

*please be aware that results may vary from person to person and that a specific result cannot be guaranteed