While COVID-19 has sadly isolated many people and prevented many in-person erotic explorations, the virus has also encouraged some sensual pilgrims to turn to their own research and imagination to test the boundaries of their intimate identities.
When life hands you obstacles, go around them, and for some people, that means seeking hypnosis or guided meditation to reach into the depths of their imagination. When combined with the concepts of therapeutics and eroticism, hypnosis can offer a chance for individuals to explore their orientations, proclivities and fantasies in privacy and safety—free from the pressure of a partner or the judgment of others.
Jane Leiby is a life coach working in Silicon Valley in California. Though erotic hypnosis is one of her favorite tools in helping people who want to explore personal options, how she applies the technique changes to match the broad spectrum of requests coming her way.
"Where and how I use hypnosis depends on a client's current sexuality and orientation," Leiby said. "People come to me if they're questioning their sexual identity—or if they just want to enjoy a fulfilling fantasy."
Leiby sees mostly beginners for her services and carefully considers how sensitive such rookies can be entering the psychosexual therapeutic space. For example, a newcomer to sexual exploration via hypnosis might encounter anxiety before experiencing trance or struggle with putting their desired exploration into words. Leiby walks them through the experience gently before beginning.
"If there wasn't anxiety involved already, they wouldn't come to me in the first place," she explained. "And it doesn't help if you go to it too aggressively or directly. I like to take them somewhere magical and comfortable in their mind where they can explore their programming."
The 101 of what happens next
A hypnotherapy session can last up to two hours. It begins with a consultation and a talk through what the client wants to explore and hopes to accomplish. The therapist often explains what hypnosis is and what it is not—dispelling myths and nonsense proliferated by popular culture.
Once that's established, Leiby uses different induction techniques to create a relaxed trance state in which the mind's critical factor is quieted and the imagination activated. This means the client is an active participant in the mental exploration. They're never helpless; they're in control of the session and they're even aware enough to move if needed.
If someone raises past troubling experiences, Leiby works with the client to "reexperience" those events and reframe them more positively and pleasurably. However, if the session encounters more serious trauma, she directs the visitor to other professional services.
"I'm not a doctor or a nurse," Leiby added. "If I sense something dangerous, if I can sense heart rate increase or other signs of anxiety, I know to encourage additional help or urge that person to seek a referral."
GG Flowers, a Seattle-based kink educator and erotic hypnotist, takes similar precautions with her clients as they seek everything from domination to simple sensual relaxation.
'So much of my work is about ending suppression. What's more therapeutic than stepping into a space where your secrets are welcomed and your desires no longer shamed?'
"Part of being an ethical practitioner is having a community of colleagues, psychologists and sex therapists to connect to for references and additional services," Flowers said. "Still, when someone comes to me for light play, I can sense if there's a need for liberation. So much of my work is about ending suppression. What's more therapeutic than stepping into a space where your secrets are welcomed and your desires no longer shamed?"
Flowers described people coming to her wanting to free a part of their sexuality bogged down by repression and shame. She helps them find a place where they can fully engage in play to unlock decades and generations of shame and repression. She begins the process by sitting down with clients in her office to discuss how their issues affect their lives, exploring vulnerabilities and remaining sensitive to them while crafting the induction and environment she builds.
"They seek the kind of play they're not allowed to have in their life because it's essential to their sense of self," she added. "The process is never just physical. It's always spiritual and emotional, too."
Sheila Swenson is a licensed clinical hypnotherapist with Greater Achievement Hypnotherapy in Chicago.
"Essentially, I teach my client self-hypnosis to help them make their imagination as vivid as possible in an ordinary, nonsexual situation," Swenson explained. "Once that skill is built and feels more like lucid dreaming, then the content and the goal would be pivoted toward sexual visualizations."
The need for exploration
Denver-based Ravyn Ryder is a sexual healer and hypnotist who saw her work expand and move entirely online during the pandemic.
"I began doing more erotic hypnosis during COVID-19 as I wasn't doing in-person sessions anymore," she explained. "I still wanted to help people and saw a missing piece in many people's lives that combining hypnosis with sexuality could heal. I found people needing connection and I wanted to create an experience where they could feel like they're in a long embrace in a personal realm. I wanted them to no longer feel alone in that moment and to wrap sexuality into that to create a stronger response."
Now that she's moving toward seeing in-person clients again, Ryder wants to build a feeling of self-worth, empowerment and mastery for her clients, whether they're looking to change, expand or simply enjoy their sexuality. Many of her clients have done the psychotherapy or sexual therapy work around their sensuality-based shame and want to move to another level, and she insists erotic hypnosis and the power of their minds offer a better connection with a partner.
"I think that with this type of work, it's important to lay the groundwork with the subject," Ryder noted. "If you come to me, you're in a very safe place where you're not being judged. We allow the subconscious to open up to what it truly wants. You might discover an element you never knew you wanted."
In Ryder's world, she's asking her clients important questions, such as "What feels good to you?" "What do you want?" "What do you want for your partner?" and "What do you want from your partner?"
"In the end, all of this work leads to the discovery of what sexual fulfillment feels like—what it's like to feel fully loved," she said.