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HealthWatch: Hypnotherapist Credited For Kicking Addictions

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (CBS 5) - Two prominent Bay Area residents say hypnotherapy was the key to helping them kick an unhealthy addiction to chewing tobacco.

Kevin Albanese is a busy San Jose executive who is used to tackling the toughest construction projects, but when he tried to dump chewing tobacco the task proved two difficult for the father of 2.

"As strong as I believe I am, nicotine controlled me," said Albanese, who said he began dipping tobacco when he was 11. "I chewed all day, every day."

He knew he needed help but he wasn't going to find in the form of a pill or a patch or some expensive treatment. Instead Albanese found it in the Arizona desert, in Scottsdale. He flew into town specifically to get help from medical hypnotherapist Dr. AlVera Paxson.

Paxson uses hypnosis to treat clients for any number of problems, including addiction, pain, weight, even to enhance athletic performance. But, she insists that she is not the miracle worker.

"It's not me doing it. It's me knowing how to talk to your body and mind." Said Paxson.

CBS 5 traveled to Scottsdale to see a typical session. The client was a woman who suffered from a tobacco addiction.

The session began with Paxson talking with the client to identify issues, feelings and emotions. Dr. Paxson spoke to the client about hypnosis, how it worked and what the mind does. She then spoke about the dangers of tobacco and what the science shows. They then both opened up a cigarette and Paxson identified what was in the tobacco.

After this discussion, it was time for the client to fall into a deep state of relaxation.

By just using her voice, Paxson helped the individual go into an almost dreamlike state. But it's not what you'd see in the movies.

"There wasn't any watch. I wasn't walking around quacking like a duck," Albanese said of his experience.

Paxson explained how, during hypnosis, the mind can become more focused on changing a behavior. After a single three-hour session, Albanese said it worked immediately.

"I woke up and I was done chewing tobacco," said the executive.

How did Albanese even know about Paxson in the first place? Look no further than AT&T Park. San Francisco Giants Manager Bruce Bochy is a believer.

"It was the best thing…the best money I ever spent," said Bochy.

Bochy saw Paxson a year ago. He wanted to quit his 40-year habit of dipping tobacco.

"I didn't know any better when I started playing baseball. My roots are in North Carolina… my parents had a tobacco farm and we all chewed as kids," said the manager.

During the team's road trip to Arizona in April 2011, Bochy booked a session.

"All I know is when it was over, she said 'how long do you think you were in the chair?' And I said 'at least half an hour' and she said 'you were in that chair for over three hours.' That's how relaxed you are. I said 'Oh no. I missed the game.' I had a night game in Arizona," Bochy laughed.

The Giants manager made the game, but he lost the habit.

The story got picked up by news wires, The San Francisco Chronicle and even ESPN. Paxson's phones started ringing off the hook.

"The first day, there were 200 calls," said Paxson.

Ever since, a steady stream of people from as far away as Thailand have beaten a path to her door.

"I'm a believer. I'm an absolute believer. She was amazing," said Albanese.

"I'm glad to hear these stories that people are going to see her, getting off it and quitting," said Bochy.

Both men believe the habit is gone for good. Paxson had no doubt. She said it's mind over matter.

"Once the mind accepts it, it's very easy for the mind to do It," said the medical hypnotherapist.

The American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association recognize hypnotherapy as an effective tool.

Most hypnotherapists are licensed medical doctors, registered nurses, social workers, or family counselors who have received additional training in hypnotherapy. It's recommended that you find a licensed or certified hypnotherapist.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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