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NOVEMBER 2nd & 3rd, 2019


Chapter 26 of Fifteen Minutes to Freedom

Interview with Doug O'Brien

Doug O'Brien is a Hypnotherapist and NLP Master Trainer

with a private practice in New York City.           

H: Doug, how did you first discover Havening?


D: I was introduced to it by my colleague, Ira Scott. About three or four years ago he said to me, “There’s this new thing I learned called Havening. You really need to find out about it.” I am skeptical, honestly, about a lot of things. So I told him, “Okay, if you say so. I’ll try to keep an open mind. Let me see what it’s all about”.


I went to an intro and I was interested; it sounded like something that I could maybe get behind. Then I went to the full training with the two Dr. Rudens in New York City, met people like Tony Burgess and was impressed with what I saw. The demonstrations with Paul McKenna and Dr. Ruden just blew me away. This was in 2013.


H: You have a really extensive background in hypnosis and NLP. So I can imagine you’ve seen many different methods and techniques.


D: Yes. I’ve been doing NLP and hypnosis since 1985. For me to be so impressed by Havening  is saying something.


I’ve seen a lot of things come and go and am by nature rather skeptical. I was skeptical about NLP when I was first introduced to it as well. But I tried to keep an open mind and like with Havening, I was blown away with it. My first teacher of NLP was Tony Robbins. And his take on NLP was that it doesn’t have to follow the set rules. What matters is what works. What matters is you get the result that you’re going for. So I always have embraced that principle.


H: Since you already had a lot of skills, understanding and competency, has learning Havening changed your practice in any way?


D: People don’t come to me for Havening. They don’t come for hypnosis or NLP. They come for an outcome. They want to stop suffering, or they want to get over a fear. They don’t care how they get there. So I look for whatever tool is going to be the most effective one to get them there. And Havening has proven to be that in a lot a lot of cases.


When I learned Havening, I immediately starting putting it into that mix. So I still do NLP. I still do hypnosis. But now I often, probably sixty to eighty percent of the time, will include Havening in whatever session I do.


H: That’s beautiful. Something I love about Havening is the adaptability. Whatever your modality or your therapy or your philosophy, you can find a way to integrate it. Who are your typical clients? Do you have a specialty?


D: I don’t have a specialty. I’ve had my full time NLP practice since 1990, and I’ve got a solidly established reputation for getting results. Anything a person would go to a therapist for, of any kind, I’ve worked with. From depression to anticipatory anxieties, to sexual dysfunction or whatever.


I also worked for six years with Dr. Oz, at Columbia Presbyterian medical center, where I was the hypnotist in the department of complementary medicine. Part of the reason I was able to be there is that Dr. Oz and a few other open minded surgeons at the center were looking to see which alternative and complimentary therapies would be efficacious and workable in a hospital setting. We were being scrutinized to see if each technique would actually work and produce results. A variety of things were being tested.


One of the techniques being investigated was therapeutic touch. In therapeutic touch, there’s actually no touch involved at all. It’s an energy healing modality. Only nurses were allowed to be trained in it. It seemed very mainstream in many ways.


In therapeutic touch, the patient would sit in a chair or lay in a bed if they couldn’t sit.  The nurses would hold their hands five to six inches above the patient’s body, scanning different parts of their bodies with their hands. They would feel the energy and determine where they felt an imbalance. Then they would bring a healing intention to that.


The technique seemed to be very good, people liked it. The nurses were even able to do this in the operating room. I wasn’t allowed into the operating room because I’m not a doctor or a medical professional. I could only treat patients in their private rooms. But the nurses could go in there and do therapeutic touch while the person was being operating on, which is really wild! It was a widely accepted modality.


Then one day, a published report appeared. A sixth grader had done a science fair project, and had set up an experiment involving several therapeutic touch practitioners. She got a large refrigerator-sized cardboard box and cut two holes in it so that people could stick their arms through it without seeing what's on the other side.


She sat on the other side as they held their hands through these cardboard holes. Then, she flipped a coin. If it was heads, she’d put her hand over the person’s right hand. If it was tails, she’d put her hand over the person’s left hand. Then the person would say, “Okay. I can feel it on the right hand,” or “I can feel it on my left hand.” She conducted her experiment with ten or twelve therapeutic touch practitioners. Then at the end of the science fair project, she tallied the results. The practitioner’s ability to feel the energy was no better than chance. In other words, they couldn’t feel the energy.


I don't why this particular sixth grader's science fair project got so much press, but it did. If I recall correctly it was broadcast nationally on a show like 60 Minutes or something and reported in some newspapers. At any rate, virtually the next day, therapeutic touch was removed from the hospital. This is in spite of the fact that they were getting results... the patients subjectively felt much better, more relaxed. They could even see measurable factors indicating that the relaxation response was happening like their blood pressure being lower. They got tangible positive medical results from it, but because the science behind it was questionable, it was immediately kicked out of the hospital.


That’s an important story for me, because it illustrates a critical reason why I like Havening so much. Dr. Ruden has done the research. When you apply the Havening touch you actually do make a neurochemical change in the brain. Delta waves are produced. You get calcineurin, you get GABA, you get serotonin. It really does work. That’s one of the big reasons I’m sold on it.


H: That’s very important. I discovered Havening last Valentine’s day, February 14, 2015. I was in a conversation with a friend of mine who’s an executive coach. I was lamenting the fact that in the energy psychology world, the TFT, EFT domains, the science is still nebulous. They have some great studies including double blind studies, but they still don't have a mechanism of action that explains how and why it works. I’ve also studied NLP, I've had a private coaching practice for seven years. I’ve seen, as you have, virtual miracles happen with my clients, and I was really frustrated because I was searching for the science behind how these changes actually occur in the brain.


My friend asked if I knew about Dr. Ronald Ruden. And everything changed from that moment on. I ordered the book, received it three or four days later. A month later I was in New York at the workshop.  Six months later I become a certified practitioner, and now I’m actively engaged in the Havening community, writing this book and bringing a training to my home city.


My sense is that the specific neurobiological model that Ruden developed after his ten years of research opens up incredible possibilities and validates the experiences that we have that seem miraculous on a scientific, or literally a synaptic, level. Thank you for sharing your passion for the science.


What else do you like about Havening? What do you like about using that specific set of tools?


D: Numerous things. Number one, obviously, is that it works. That's the big thing. And it works for a variety of purposes. It works to set in new patterns. One of the things that we are striving for is to not only outgrow the old patterns but to grow into new patterns. With Event Havening and Transpirational Havening, we can outgrow old patterns, get rid of stuff that we don’t want anymore. But with Affirmational, Ifformational, Outcome Havening plus the other protocols, we can help ourselves to set in place new patterns of functionality that are really important.


So I'm using this with, I said earlier 60 - 80%, it’s probably more like 80 - 90% of my clients. It’s pretty rare that I don't use Havening at some point with a client, even my executive coach clients. I’ve got clients who are not coming to me for a phobia or problem. They’re executive coaches. I'm teaching them Havening and they're doing it. I’ve got a property developer in Florida doing Havening every day. But he's doing Affirmational Havening and things like that in order to focus in on creating new patterns for himself. And it works!


H: What was most challenging for you as you integrated Havening into your current work?


D: You know what? I started using it with clients the very next day after the first two-day workshop with the Rudens in New York. I’ve had no challenges with it whatsoever. It fit in seamlessly with what I was already doing.


H: In your work do you do primarily facilitated self-havening, where the clients apply the touch themselves? Do you facilitate the touch?


D: When I’m seeing someone in person, (I work with clients on the phone and on Skype and also in person), I almost always facilitate the Havening at first, then I teach them how to do it for themselves. So I start off doing it, assuming they are comfortable with that. Of course, they’ve completed an intake form that gives permission. I tend to do it for them at first so they get a sense of how it feels. I think it works better to have it being done for you.


H: That's my sense as well. It will be interesting at some point for there to be some research around that.


D: Yeah, that's interesting because it’s a curious thing. There’s a brilliant PBS series, The Brain by David Eagleman. In it, he talks about why it is that you can’t tickle yourself. There's a reason for that. It’s like with Havening or a massage. You can do self massage. It’s okay; it works to get the knot out of your thigh muscle.         


H: But it's not the same as going to someone. Thank you. What are some of the most interesting, powerful experiences that you’ve had as you’ve used or observed Havening? Any stories you’d like to share?  


D: The one that I often go back to is the time I watched Dr. Ruden work with a woman who had been in the World Trade Centers during 9/11. That just amazed me because obviously she had been traumatized. Many people had been traumatized just from watching it on TV as I did. But she was actually in the buildings.


And to have her trauma be alleviated, basically, after ten minutes, was just astonishing. That's the one that I go back to when asked “what’s the most amazing thing you ever saw?”, because that was pretty much it.


When I work with people, every individual who has a phobia, who has a fear, who has a trauma, for them it’s obviously huge. For them to no longer have that phobia or to no longer have that effect of the trauma is huge. I’ve done a lot of work with veterans, as an example. And to have them go from having regular nightmares and traumatic responses to not having them anymore is amazing. For them it is absolutely life-changing. I keep going back to my experience watching Dr. Ruden help this woman as the one that hooked me in the first place.


H: It's amazing how one becomes more and more acclimated, but never less astounded, when you see these kinds of things happen.


D: Very true. Well put.


H: So from your perspective, how do you see Havening impacting mental health practice and wellness and coaching into the future, 10, 20 years in the future?


D: I think that it really is something that's going to transform mental health. Freud was a seminal figure obviously in the world of psychotherapy, but he was also a Victorian. He was from Austria, growing up in a very patriarchal society. One aspect of that influence was that he actually sat behind his patient when he did psychoanalysis! They didn’t even look at each other. And touching was just wrong — even illegal in some cases. You just didn't do that.


But it's such a human thing to have touch. When a child runs to his mother because he or she’s afraid of lightning, the mother doesn’t say, “sit down, let’s talk about it.”


H: No, it’s “hold me mommy, I’m scared!”


D: It's just so human. So I think Havening is going to revolutionize things because number one, it's a natural human experience to touch and be touched, and number two, it works. So why talk about it for so many years in psychotherapy when you can literally get results in a season or two or three or whatever. I believe it will revolutionize psychotherapy.


H: You are both a certified Havening practitioner as well as a trainer. As you've been spreading the word within your professional community and your client community, how are people responding? I’m particularly curious about people who might be qualified to become practitioners and trainers. How do they respond to your sharing the work, the science, the experiences?


D: Again, I have to give another shout out to Dr. Ruden for the extensive research he did, because having the ability to say it has this science and research behind it, gives it backbone.


People are always intrigued by it. They're intrigued by this idea of psychosensory therapy, of being able to talk and touch at the same time. They're intrigued by the results that we get. They’re intrigued by this process and by the fact that they can do it for themselves.


And when you add to it the discussion about how it works and the different components — the amygdala, the limbic system, the delta waves, the electrochemicals that are released, these electroceuticals, it's a pretty easy sell. People are excited about it. They want to learn it. When I reach people and I touch people, they’re really intrigued.


H: I worked with a really brilliant woman, a year or so ago when I was doing my case studies for certification.  We did the session and she had a complete release of a significant long standing issue.


She had this funny look on her face afterwards. She asked me, “Okay, so how did that happen?” When I explained it to her, I explained the delta waves and the serotonin and the GABA and the calcineurin and the receptor sites and everything then she relaxed and said “Oh, okay, got it.”


It's so fascinating how somebody can actually have the experience but once they have a cognitive understanding of the mechanism it seats it in an entirely different way.


D: Exactly.


H: One more question, Doug. What advice would you have for someone who is reading these words who is looking into the possibility of adding Havening to their toolkit? What would you say to them?


D: I’d say stop thinking about it and do it! It’s the kind of thing that once you experience it, it flat out works. We have a body. We have an electrochemical system. We are an electrical and chemical mechanism. We get access to our brain, to our neurology, through touch and through the thoughts and ideas that we have. This — Havening — is the future, so do it now.


H: Yes, this is the future. Thank you so much.

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