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Christine Deschemin is a certified hypnotherapy practitioner in Hong Kong. She created UpNow, a hypnosis app that puts stress relief within easy reach of its users. Photo: courtesy of Christine Deschemin

Hypnotherapy on the go: app helps you relieve anxiety, depression and stress, sleep better and more - its creator explains her mission to make hypnosis mainstream

  • Former banker Christine Deschemin studied hypnotherapy after learning a friend had used it to stop drinking, and created an app to make it more widely available
  • The UpNow app, available in-flight to Cathay Pacific passengers, has helped many thousands of people, including former Hong Kong champion jockey Olivier Doleuze

The key to better health, greater happiness and well-being may lie in mastering our anxieties and overcoming a negative mindset - and hypnotherapy is a way to gain control over them. It could also help you feel less stress or quit drinking alcohol.

Hypnosis has been used to treat patients for ailments such as pain, depression and anxiety, and phobias for more than 200 years, but it is still commonly regarded with some scepticism.

Christine Deschemin, a long-term Hong Kong resident and a certified hypnotherapy practitioner, has made it her mission to make hypnosis mainstream. To that end she launched an app, UpNow, in May 2020 to share it with people around the world.

The 47-year-old had a lucrative career in finance, thanks to a degree in aeronautical engineering from the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique in France and an MBA from Harvard Business School, but it was in hypnotherapy – which she discovered entirely by chance – that she found her true calling.

Christine Deschemin (left) is a long-term Hong Kong resident and a certified hypnotherapy practitioner. Photo: courtesy of Christine Deschemin
“I was at dinner with friends who were visiting Hong Kong and noticed that one of them, who used to drink heavily, was abstaining from alcohol,” she says. “She shared that she had used hypnotherapy to kick the habit. What fascinated me was that she was not just resisting the urge to drink, she had simply lost the urge.”

Intrigued by this, she went on to study hypnotherapy at the Ecole Centrale d’Hypnose in France.

‘Not black magic’: what hypnotherapy can do for you

“Hypnotherapy uses focused attention and intense concentration that enables a heightened state of awareness where distractions fade away,” she says. “It places the individual in an ‘altered state of consciousness’.

“In this state, a person has a heightened receptivity to suggestions and increased access to unconscious thoughts, memories and emotions.”

Hypnosis comes from the Greek word for sleep, hypnos. Many of our undesired habits and behaviours are entrenched in the subconscious mind, which we must access to make the changes we want.

UpNow offers guided hypnotherapy sessions on topics such as weight loss, sleep and stress management.

Deschemin says: “Once you tap into the state of focused awareness, you begin to address the complex, deep-rooted issues that may be guiding your behaviour. You can rebuild your mental and behavioural framework, creating a new mindset to support healthier habits and better behaviour.”

Although it has been practised for millennia, hypnosis has only been formally recognised by modern medicine since the 19th century. It is used by doctors in hospital operating theatres in Europe for pain management as well as in psychotherapists’ practices.

UpNow enables Deschemin “to share the benefits of hypnotherapy with everyone, not just my immediate clients, and provide an easily accessible, self-use mental health tool to people”. This, she says, is of particular relevance in Hong Kong, where private therapy is expensive and the wait to see a psychiatrist in the public health system can last years.

The app offers guided hypnotherapy sessions on topics such as weight loss, sleep, stress management, pain management, sports performance, relationships, gaining confidence, and alleviating anxiety and depression.

Since its launch, UpNow has helped tens of thousands people; a selection of the app’s audio sessions is available on Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific’s in-flight interactive system.

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Iris Law, a health coach in Hong Kong, turned to hypnotherapy to address deep-rooted personal issues. “I was carrying a lot of emotional baggage from the past,” she says. “It manifested as stress, poor sleep quality and chronic neck and shoulder pain. I had heard about hypnotherapy and found Christine on the internet.”

Deschemin took her through a deep relaxation process, through which she was able to release emotions pent up in her subconscious. She also started using the app.

“My sleep has improved significantly; my Fitbit shows longer hours of deep slumber compared to before, and my neck and shoulder pain is a lot less. I am much more relaxed now,” Law says.

Sophie Desgouttes tried hypnotherapy at her father’s urging. Photo: courtesy of Sophie Desgouttes

Common misconceptions about hypnosis persist, despite its benefits. Some believe that they could be made to reveal deep secrets against their will, or that they will lose control and become unable to think for themselves.

Sophie Desgouttes, who was diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) while growing up, used to share some of these misconceptions but tried hypnotherapy at her father’s urging.

“I was sceptical and had visions of clocks being dangled in front of my eyes, losing consciousness and having no control over myself,” the 24-year-old, who grew up in Hong Kong and is based in London, says. “The sessions were anything but what I had thought. Christine explained the process of hypnotherapy and gave me a background about its history.

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“The sessions gave me a high level of self-awareness. After a few sessions, I felt like something had shifted. Things that used to trigger me earlier no longer have the same impact on me now,” Desgouttes says.

Deschemin explains that nothing about hypnotherapy is magic and that it should be understood as a technique to gently reprogram the brain.

“By addressing the root of an issue, we can begin to create new habits in our lives, reframe past experiences and see things from a whole new vantage point,” she says. “We stop fighting uphill battles against our mind, and rather gently guide it towards the behaviours and choices we want to make.”

Deschemin launched UpNow in May 2020. Photo: courtesy of Christine Deschemin

James Hand, a 36-year-old professional photographer from the United States, has been using UpNow for the past six months. “I started using the app to fall asleep and to help me get out of a creative rut I was in. I was shocked at how well it worked,” he says.

“I started the sleep aid within the app, and the next thing I knew my morning alarm was going off for work. I felt more rested and alert all day. Later, I used it to enhance my creativity and to help my mood, both of which improved over time.

“The sessions on the app are for 20 to 25 minutes, long enough for a person to experience results while fitting it into their hectic lifestyle. People can listen to the sessions from the convenience of their homes and it’s a lot cheaper than an in-person session.”

Olivier Doleuze turned to hypnotherapy to improve his concentration and calm his nerves. Photo: SCMP

Regular UpNow user Terry Beach, a 64-year-old retired health care administrator from Yorkshire in England, says it has increased her self-confidence and improved her sleep levels. “I believe the deep relaxation that hypnotherapy induces reminds the brain that we have the ability to change our thought patterns and self-limiting beliefs,” she says.

“Hypnotherapy has broad applications and is very effective for behavioural change, pain control and improving performance,” says Nivedita Ramanujam, a Hong Kong-based psychotherapist and clinical hypnotherapist. “Some examples are smoking cessation, enhancing concentration and performance for athletes, chronic pain control, better stress management and weight loss.”

She uses hypnotherapy as an added tool in her overall counselling and psychological therapy practice, which she has had for more than 20 years.

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Olivier Doleuze, a French-born former champion jockey in Hong Kong, turned to hypnotherapy a few years ago to improve his concentration and calm his nerves.

“As a jockey, you need to have a clear mind and be relaxed to make decisions during the race. Horses can feel your emotions and if you are anxious or tense, your horse will feel it,” the 49-year-old says. “Christine led me through a few sessions in which I relaxed deeply and could let go of my pressures. I felt totally rejuvenated by the end of the session.”

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