A FEW MINUTES WITH … Mark Allen Babineaux

POSITION: Attorney and certified forensic hypnotist

AGE: 59

Lafayette Parish School Board member Mark Allen Babineaux, of Scott, is an attorney who also works as a hypnotherapist. Babineaux holds a doctorate in clinical hypnotherapy and is certified by the International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association as a forensic hypnotist. He has assisted law enforcement agencies with forensic hypnosis of victims, witnesses and defendants.

What is the difference between forensic hypnotherapy and hypnotherapy?

There are four basic applications of hypnosis. The first one is stage hypnosis. These are the entertainers who make people do silly things like forget their name or quack like a duck. Then, there’s self-hypnosis and hypnotherapy: They don’t give you anything more than what you already have, but they give you tools to deal with the trance that you find yourself in at the moment. Hypnotherapy is the application of hypnosis to help people overcome an obstacle in their life. I’ve helped people overcome fears of snakes, cats, heights, giving presentations in front of a group, testing anxiety, smoking, weight, swallowing pills. The fourth application is forensic hypnosis or investigative hypnosis.

What’s forensic hypnosis?

It’s a specific application of hypnosis to help a person re-piece together an event in the past. Forensic means you can allow this as testimony in court. In Louisiana, there is conditional admissibility for using hypnosis to recover a memory that may be evidence in court.

How does it work?

It’s getting your conscious mind and subconscious mind to get the same message at the same time. A victim is a little bit easier than a witness because the victim has an emotional attachment to the incident. A rape victim can tell you what (the attacker) smelled like, what his skin felt like. The witness saw a guy in the white shirt and blue jeans walk out of the store, but didn’t realize he just robbed it, so you have to make it fit within their pattern of the day for them to recover more and more detail. That’s why we use open-ended questions. Either the trauma involved or lack of emotional attachment can present difficulty in recovering that memory.

What is the benefit of using hypnosis in criminal investigations?

Investigative hypnosis allows you to link directly to the subconscious mind without the distraction of the conscious being involved. The subconscious mind records everything. We all have perfect memories. We just don’t have the same level of recall, and the level of recall, I believe, is directly linked to the emotional attachment we have to the situation.

How did you get involved in hypnotherapy?

About 28 or 29 years ago, when I was able to quit smoking with one session. I was a pretty heavy smoker at up to three packs a day. I started studying hypnosis and self-hypnosis. In the early 2000s, I started studying to become a hypnotherapist.

Is there a certification process?

There’s no law in Louisiana and, I think, only one state requires licensing for hypnotherapy. The level of education I have in the hypnosis field is well over 1,000 hours. Some organizations require only 50 hours of training for certification. When I applied for certification back in 2003, the IHDMA required 120 hours — soon it’s going to be over 200 hours for basic certification — and you’re required to take 30 hours of continuing education hours every year.

How have you used forensic or investigative hypnosis?

I’ve had opportunity to help private investigators from Boston in an industrial theft. I’ve helped someone to recover money hidden for safe keeping who had an intervening illness and forgot where they put the money. I’ve also had an opportunity to help a police agency with a case and within three hours we were able to get a vehicle description from a witness. Because I’m a lawyer and also trained as a hypnotist, I get a lot of questions from attorneys and hypnotherapists about whether they should use hypnotherapy in certain cases involving defendants. There are many legal issues involved that may prevent you from doing the hypnosis.

Advocate staff writer
Marsha Sills