Sofia Megzari suffered from crippling depression and suicidal thoughts for more than 25 years and had tried everything conventional medicine, psychiatry and many other therapies had to offer, but to no avail.
So when she heard about a modality called Rapid Transformational TherapyTM (RTT)—a hybrid of hypnotherapy and psychotherapy—that claimed to cure people of practically any issue within one to three sessions, she was initially very skeptical.
By that time, Sofia, a French academic living in Copenhagen with three master's degrees in cultural anthropology and linguistics, had given up hope of finding any answers and had accepted that she would just have to live with depression for the rest of her life.
"I had been dealing with depression most of my life since childhood, and I had tried just about everything," she says. "I had been on different kinds of antidepressants, I had gone to psychiatrists, psychotherapists, psychologists, art therapists."
Despite being married with a 13-year-old son, Sofia's depression was very severe and debilitating; she was suicidal much of the time and had reached a point of giving up. "I had accepted my lot; this was how it was going to be," she says. She began to feel as though she were somehow built differently from other people, and didn't have the same skills to survive life.
"And then I saw a TED talk by [RTT creator] Marisa Peer that blew me away, because she had a different way of approaching depression. She talked about how your mind is geared to keep you alive. Its job is not to keep you happy, but to keep you surrounded by thoughts that are familiar. So much of it resonated with me."
Sofia frantically read everything she could about RTT and a week later booked a session online with a therapist. As there were no practitioners in Denmark, she found someone in Australia, Kerryn Bolton, who looked kind and welcoming.
First, they held a preparation session via Skype, where Kerryn did a short hypnosis on Sofia. Immediately, she says, "I felt a surge of hope as if there are some things I don't know in my mind that are keeping me here, as if I have been doing this to myself unknowingly."
This followed with a full session. Kerryn helped Sofia revisit her past and the reason for her depression emerged: "I discovered I had suffered traumatic abuse before the age of two. There was no way I would have ever known without regression. Once that came out, so many puzzle pieces connected and made sense. It validated my years of struggle, because there finally was an 'explanation.'"
The depression lifted instantly. "It felt very miraculous!" says Sofia. "I left the session and went for a walk in the park, and I was skipping and feeling elated and happy."
Not all the negative thinking disappeared, but something felt very different, because Sofia could now recognize when she was doing it, almost like an objective observer. "I could instantly notice my thoughts, whereas before I felt completely powerless over them.
"I would think, 'I am doomed, my life is never going to get any better,' and suddenly I noticed that worry. Or I'd notice when I was thinking, 'I am walking in the park, I am happy, but I bet the phone is going to ring now with some bad news and mess it up.'"
Normally, Sofia would have been overwhelmed by these negative thoughts, but this new ability to observe her own thinking processes enabled her to push the thoughts away.
That single session was sufficient to lift Sofia's depression and also enough to convince her to teach RTT herself. If this was having such a good effect on her, she needed to do it for other people. "Ten days later I was on a plane to New York to train as a therapist."
Sofia opened her own practice in August last year.
Revisiting the past
Marisa Peer, a British hypnotherapist and psychotherapist and author of five best-selling self-improvement books including I Am Enough and Ultimate Confidence, created RTT by distilling the wisdom she had gained from more than 30 years' work as a child psychologist and hypnotherapist. Her clients, who she claims include royalty, Hollywood stars and Olympic athletes, convinced her that three core disempowering beliefs lay under all issues:
1. I am not good enough
2. I don't deserve happiness, goodness or whatever it is that I want
3. I am different so I don't belong and can't connect to other people
RTT maintains that these core beliefs get adopted in childhood and are buried deep in our subconscious. Despite our best efforts to overcome negative emotional states and change unwanted habits, we tend to recreate the same old patterns because we blindly follow the subconscious programs—which are often totally in conflict with our conscious desires and beliefs.
"Since those deep unconscious beliefs have been there longer, they are stronger and in control," says Sofia. "You can say to yourself as much as you like, 'I am going to exercise, I'm going to stop eating chocolate because I really want to lose weight,' but if there is a deep belief there saying, 'You are only safe if you are overweight,' your mind is going to keep taking you there, and your body is going to keep doing that. So people feel disempowered and just give up at some point."
RTT is actually a very simple process. Clients are taken into hypnosis through a simple, five-minute visualization with the goal of understanding the issue or beliefs that are preventing them from living the life they want.
They are then regressed—guided back through time by the therapist—to key moments in their life (very often childhood) to discover where the belief came from, how old the client may have been when he or she adopted this belief, and the situation at the time. The hypnotic trance facilitates recall of past events that are often otherwise buried from everyday awareness.
"So, if someone says to me, 'I have an addiction,'" says Sofia, "then we look for a period in their life where the addiction first began and the conditions surrounding it, whether it was a period where the person felt really lonely, or had too many emotions that they couldn't deal with."
Often, she says, the addiction is a creative way of dealing with the problem. "This person's mind says, 'Hey, I got the chance to try a substance and this substance made me feel better, so from now on I only have to consume this substance, and I don't have to deal with this problem'."
After the detective work to find the key experiences and memories related to the issue, the transformation process begins, which Sofia says is tailored to the individual. Techniques are geared to clearing negative programs and building a positive self-image: if it concerns a troubled relationship the client had, Sofia may guide them into an empowering dialogue with that bully or authority figure.
Or she may examine any unmet needs the person might have and 'upgrade their inner child'—asking the client to give the 'child' the praise and love they never received and then visualize their child and adult selves merging so they become whole rather than split.
"It is very interactive," says Sofia. "What I do changes depending on the person. Eventually after working through all this, we get to a point where the person understands where it came from, why it made them feel this way and that they are ready to let it go.'"
RTT offers two processes to release the imprint of memories and beliefs, which it teaches have a genuine effect on the body and the creation of disease. One is 'command cell therapy,' a process of visualization where you create a mental picture of the mind controlling every cell in your body to do exactly what you want it to.
"I had a cyst in my throat that I was supposed to have operated on around the time of the RTT course," says Sofia. "I had to postpone surgery because of the course, and then I worked on it with this visualization exercise. It had been 3 cm [over an inch] in diameter, but when I returned home from the course it had almost vanished."
Although Sofia previously had a very weak immune system, since discovering RTT, whenever she has a hint of flu coming on she listens to one of her own recordings. "Within a half hour I feel everything leaving my body, and I realize that when you are intensely focusing on every cell healing itself, it actually does!"
The other clearing technique is the 'healing vortex.' The client is asked to imagine a vortex passing over their body, cleansing and taking away any illness through the bottom of their feet—another technique Sofia finds useful if she is getting ill.
The final part of an RTT session involves the therapist creating a transformative recording, 15-20 minutes long and tailored to the client's goal, using empowering words and concepts that have emerged during the session. Clients are encouraged to listen to this at least once a day for a minimum of three weeks, or as long as it takes for them to welcome the new beliefs.
The theory is that by listening to it every day, the mind is reprogrammed so that the new thoughts become assimilated and replace the old, familiar but limiting thoughts. RTT therapists believe that half the work takes place in the session and the other half is in the repetition of listening to the recording every day to engrain the new thought patterns into the mind and body.
Sofia believes the power of RTT lies in its comprehensiveness—uncovering the origin of an issue through regression gives clients the understanding and distance to make new choices, combined with empowerment tools such as inner-child healing, and then reprogramming through the recording. "What was it exactly in RTT that healed me? I don't think it's one thing only, but rather the whole package.
"I feel it is a bit like a miracle cure in many ways and people are very suspicious of that, but there is something miraculous in the way that it gives you back your power to transform yourself and your life."
What can RTT help?
Sofia's clients come in with a host of mental or physical issues, from chronic fatigue syndrome to depression, anxiety and addictions.
One of her clients, Mads from Copenhagen, had been addicted to marijuana for 30 years, since age 12, smoking up to 10 joints a day. Using willpower, he had tried to quit four times but relapsed quickly each time. Then he had a session with Sofia that revealed the reason for his addiction:
"I discovered that smoking was linked to my brothers and father leaving to live abroad when I was nine and my parents' separation. My brothers came back four years later and introduced smoking to me. It was a way to keep them close, a way of protecting myself from the loss."
His discovery was enough to distance himself from his habit and make a new choice, reinforced by Sofia's recording. "I quit instantly. Even though I am still surrounded by friends who smoke, I don't feel the need to any more. I perspired for the first month as the toxins came out, but other than that I found it easy."
Other RTT therapists specialize in skin problems or skin rejuvenation, weight loss, tinnitus, stage fright and general confidence and performance issues.
Cécile, a nurse, sought Sofia's help because she was stuck: "I felt trapped in life, unable to change things because I was worried about making the wrong move. I wanted to be successful but couldn't, I felt I had to hide, to be quiet and invisible."
One session with Sofia transformed her outlook and behavior: "I was able to express myself and say things that I never thought I could say, especially to my father. I felt totally relieved and lighter after realizing that I was self-sabotaging because of my childhood.
"I have been doing therapy for many years, and in one session it was like a big smack in my face, 'Wake up girl—that's why!' When I understood, I couldn't go back to who I was before."
Marisa Peer recommends that practitioners—there are more than 2,000 worldwide—do not work with narcissists (who are not open to accepting new beliefs) or those with severe psychiatric disorders such as psychosis. Other than that, RTT can be tried on anybody, including couples seeking relationship support and children facing bullying or confidence issues.
Usually RTT therapists claim to be able to clear the issues in one to three sessions. Those with multiple issues may take a bit longer, but still far less time than traditional talking therapy. Once patients get the hang of how it works, they can do a lot of work on their own.
The power of hypnosis
RTT is a new therapy and has not yet been subjected to clinical trials, but it is partly based on the power of hypnosis to affect positive change in mind and body.
Hypnosis was accepted by the American and British Medical Associations as having a valid application in medicine as long ago as the 1950s, and thousands of studies have demonstrated its efficacy for a variety of conditions, including those commonly addressed by hypnotherapists: smoking cessation,1 weight loss,2 sleep problems,3 stress4 and gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome.5
A 2005 review of hypnosis in contemporary medicine looked at studies of the technique across 17 clinical areas including, allergy, childbirth, pain relief, cancer treatment and healing from surgery and injury.6 The review author, Dr James H. Stewart of the Mayo Clinic in Florida, concluded that, despite substantial variation in techniques, "many important trials. . . have established the utility and efficacy of hypnosis for several medical conditions, either alone or as part of the treatment regimen."
Hypnosis is not just a placebo or process of following instructions: brain imaging studies show that it produces definite changes in the areas of the brain thought to be involved in focused attention, monitoring and control of body functions, and the awareness and evaluation of a person's internal and external environments.7