While some people drink coffee, study in groups or pull marathon all-nighters to write essays and prep for exams, one local doctor is seeing more patients come to her to fix their study habit struggles. The twist? She’s a hypnotist.

Pushing all the myths aside, the practice of hypnotism is currently being used to help students overcome various poor and debilitating study habits. While many students do find help through the traditional means of academic counseling and time management seminars, there are cases where the reasons for procrastination, stress and anxiety are found to lie deeper within the brain.

A clinical hypnotherapist and one of the director of the Ontario Hypnosis Center, Dr. Georgina Cannon has seen numerous cases in which students and adults struggled to determine the cause of their lack of success, despite many efforts at correcting their behaviour. As a result of her years of experience in the field, she has amassed a lot of information behind many of the underlying reasons for poor study habits. Cannon says that for some students, procrastination is actually the result of a fear of failure.

“People who are perfectionists often procrastinate,” she explains. “They’re frightened to do it until the last minute.” Cannon says that many students perform this behavior so that they can reason their resulting grade was due to working last minute, not because of a lack of intelligence. She says the cause for such behaviour is the result of students having a lot of fear about “not being perfect and not being good enough” so that often they’re too frightened to even start working.

While a person may not be aware of the exact reasons for unconsciously “shooting themselves in the foot,” Dr. Cannon says that hypnosis sessions with patients often reveal childhood as the cause for shaping such behaviours.

“Usually they come from a family where one of the parents is quite dominant and the child feels ‘less than,’ so it doesn’t matter what they do, [the student] can’t be good enough,” she said. “That piece of not being good enough, is pervasive. And so it doesn’t matter if I get 99% the answer will be what’s wrong with a 100%.”

Cannon is quick to explain that this kind of attitude doesn’t mean that a person’s parents are right, or that they don’t love their child, it’s that they simply don’t know how else to behave. Cannon explains that parents are often so anxious and keen for their children to have the very best so much so “that they want you to be perfect.” Cannon points out that such a situation points is “of course, impossible” for someone to achieve.

As a result of the many patients Cannon has dealt with, she has noticed some clear patterns in the cases among male and female students. Guys, she says, usually attend hypnosis sessions for problems in anger management and study habits. In contrast, women usually go to her for emotional issues, problems regarding self-esteem and presentation skills.

Cannon reasons this distinction in problems is a result of the extra challenges women have to face: “I think women have grown up knowing they have to work hard just to stand still,” she said. “I think it’s just a fact of life that you have to work harder as a woman to achieve something than the guys do.”

While many of her patients have provided insight and information on the current concerns of students, it seems that public perception still holds to many false ideas about the practice of hypnotism. When asked about some of the more popular student misconceptions, Cannon is quick to denounce the popular hypnotist events at universities and colleges. She says that very often those shows perpetuate the common myth of hypnotists being able to control people’s minds, when the reality is quite different.

“Nobody will tell you anything against their will,” she explains. “You can’t take over someone’s mind, ever.”

It is this ability for a person to remain in control that sometimes limits the outcome of a hypnosis session. In fact, Dr. Cannon says that a person has such control during a state of hypnosis that they retain the ability to keep secrets and speak lies.

Recalling an example where a boyfriend called to ask if he could have his girlfriend be put under hypnosis to see if she was sheating on him, Cannon explained, “Hypnosis is not a truth drug.”

Furthermore, she says this to all those who still wonder about hypnosis as a possible means to control others: “If could take over people’s minds I’d have Johnny Depp living with me,” she said, laughing. “You can’t do it.”

For all those still sweating over the inability to use hypnosis to convince your professors for extensions on essays or easier questions on your finals, here’s a final thought from Dr. Cannon on looking at the larger picture: “This is only a speck of time in the scheme of your life. Swallow hard, bite the bullet, do it and it will be over.”