For the Maltese woman who used to be petrified of cheese, Alan Bates is a hero. In a single hypnotism session, her odd phobia was erased: she no longer broke out in a sweat and felt faint at the sight of cheese.

They flew over to England for a day, came to my house, had one session and stopped smoking

British hypnotist Alan Bates was last in Malta five years ago.

He treated people suffering from quirky phobias such as fear of bird feathers and helped scores of chain smokers to stamp out their last cigarette butt.

Such was his success that he regularly receives e-mails from Maltese people pleading him to come back and help them.

“The things that can be done with hypnosis can be life-changing. I can use the powers of the mind, therapeutically, to help people with their issues or problems,” said Bates, 55.

Two smokers who successfully attended his stop smoking workshop five years ago recently regressed. “They flew over to England for a day, came to my house, had one session and stopped smoking again,” he said.

There will not be any need to book flights though: he is heading to Malta again in November to stage a comedy show and stop smoking workshops.

Bates’ sing-song Scouse accent betrays his home city of Liverpool but he is constantly travelling around the world for shows and workshops, hypnotising people to win their battle with smoking.

The myth about the typical hypnotist’s image – the evil frowning man with a swinging pendulum in hand, is easily dispelled with just one look at Bates.

With his salt-and-pepper hair and piercing, smiling eyes, he looks like someone who will sort out the world for you.

So does he just look at people and hypnotise them?

“I have the ability to hypnotise perfect strangers very, very quickly. But still it doesn’t work for everyone. The microphone I use is not a magic wand,” he said.

He refuses to go into detail about “the tricks of the trade” of how he actually hypnotises people in front of him, but it does not sound like an unobtainable skill.

“I could teach you to be able to hypnotise someone and you may be able to do it,” he said.

His was a late calling. Hypnosis turned into a vocation in his early 30s, when he was an entertainer and worked as a radio DJ. He had watched people being hypnotised and was originally very sceptical.

Then, one day he got in close contact with a hypnotist and was hooked. He packed up everything and started studying psychology and training as a hypnotist.

“I started by experimenting on friends and doing smaller shows – and I built up my abilities and my confidence to be able to take the show on a big stage,” he said.

During his “cheeky” comedy show, he opens people’s minds to susceptibility. “If I tell you that you have 10 fingers on each hand, you will look at your hand and you will see 10 fingers on your hand, even though you know you only have five,” he said.

People enjoy the experience as he only “suggests” positive things, such as getting them to believe they have won the lottery.

“There is no danger in this. At the end of the show all the suggestions are completely and totally removed, so whoever has been hypnotised will be in the same state of mind they started off with,” he said.

Because hypnosis had a bad name in the past, he makes it very clear that he respects the people on stage: “Only willing volunteers can be hypnotised and they take to the stage only if they want to.”

He is proud of his work, which helps people’s lives to take a turn for the better. “Getting people to stop smoking is very important to me because I am changing people’s lives and saving their lives,” he said.

He is an ex-smoker himself, having managed to hypnotise himself to quit some 12 years ago, so he knows what it means for people who have been battling with tobacco addiction all their lives.

He also has a track record in helping people with psychosomatic disorders, derived from the stresses and strains of everyday living as well as phobias.

Through hypnosis he can take people back in time to identify the origin of their fear – a form of regression therapy.

“I take them back to their childhood and then I find out why, for example, they are afraid of garden worms,” he said, explaining that, say, their brother would have surprised them and put some worms into their shirt.

“The subconscious mind would have registered the fear and they go through their lives frightened to death by worms,” he said.

With a slight tweak, he removes that negative action and then brings them forward through the years.

He has even helped people who go through tough relationship break-ups.

“Sometimes people are so hung up on their partner that they can’t envisage a life without him or her,” he said.

If they can get hypnotised, he removes the emotions so they can move on in life.

He draws the line, however, at making people fall in love. “That would be unethical, wouldn’t it?” he laughed.

His determination and love of the job oozes out of him.

“I’m not claiming to be a massive faith healer or anything like that, but the results have been very, very positive.”

• Two Stop Smoking with Alan Bates seminars will be held on November 18 and 21. He will also give a live comedy show at City Theatre, Valletta, on November 17. More information on


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