Ryan Nichols – B.Sc., M.A., CHt.
The short version:
Ryan is a Certified Hypnotherapist (CHt.) (Coastal Academy of Hypnotic Arts and Science / Hypnotherapy Training Institute) and a certified member of the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners (ACHE, 2013) the International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association (IMDHA, 2011) and the National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH, 2008). He is a Certified Parts Therapy Facilitator and a former Board Member of the British Columbia chapter of the IMDHA. He also holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology (University of Alberta) and a Masters of Arts degree in Peace Studies (University of Bradford, U.K.).
The long version:
The short version above is a fancy array of titles and qualifications but provides you with no relevant information regarding who I am and why I do what I do. I, for one, like to know how people got to where they are, and what is driving them towards where they want to go. I also believe that, as a hypnotherapist, if I expect my clients to be open, honest and willing to share from the heart, then I should go first. With that said, if you have the patience, here is the longer version of who I am and what makes me tick.
I have always been, and still am, incredibly fortunate. I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and had every opportunity a child could ever hope for to grow, learn and flourish. A loving family and great friends surrounded me along the way. However, when I was 11-years old my world came crashing down when my parents divorced, and despite the continued love and support from friends and family, from that moment on I carried with me an underlying sadness that would end up weighing me down for the next couple of decades. As personal dramas go, divorcing parents is not nearly as traumatic as some of the potential tragedies many people experience, but for me as an 11-year old it severely rocked the boat and became the most formative event of my young life. Of note is that when my parents divorced my self-appointed role in the family became one of the ‘peace-keeper’ – I did all that I could to keep things calm between my parents. Looking back I realize that I believed that if I could minimize the conflict around me, then I would find greater happiness within me.
Unable to resolve my internal angst, I soon began a pattern of running away. I left home when I was 18, after the last day of high school. I stayed in Edmonton, however, and went to the University of Alberta – I majored in Psychology, which is a common choice amongst those who are striving to sort out their own ‘issues’. After two years of school, I ran away again and travelled the world for a year, winding through South-East Asia, the South Pacific and Australia. While my travels started to teach me that I would never be able to outrun my personal issues, they opened up my eyes to the wondrous diversity of the planet and this would be the first of many global adventures.
I returned home and completed my Psychology degree, and in the process started to do some counseling work, including crisis management and suicide prevention. From this experience I learned a few things – first, that it was wonderful to be able to help people, second – that I was good at it, and third – that I was not ready to commit my life to being a counseling psychologist. I was still not overly happy, and had my own baggage to work through. I graduated from the U of A, and ran away to Vancouver.
My time in Vancouver was short-lived. After my first rainy winter I decided that the next one would find me somewhere less soggy. I bought a one-way ticket to Egypt, and spent the winter working and travelling through the Middle East and Europe. I was a SCUBA Divemaster on the Red Sea, a Kibbutz worker in Israel, an Ultimate Frisbee player in Switzerland and a couch-surfer many places in between. I was loving being abroad. There was a part of me that still clung to the idea that the further I could get from Canada, the more I could escape some of the unhappiness I was wrestling with.
I returned to Vancouver briefly for a summer, but in the fall of 2001 left again, for what would turn out to be a 10-year stint abroad. I taught English and worked at the Canadian Embassy in South Korea, went to graduate school in the U.K. where I did an MA in Peace Studies (International Politics), and then launched into a career with the United Nations. My desire to help people remained strong but I had decided I would focus my energy on a global level. I wanted to do my part to ‘save the world’ and I felt the UN was the way to do it. I quickly cultivated a specialty in disarmament and small arms control (e.g. AK-47s), and I worked to develop and implement weapons collection and community security projects.
My years with the UN took me to many places, and I lived and/or worked in some of the most desperate, war-torn and depressing places on the planet – Togo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo-Brazzaville, and Sudan. I was drawn to these miserable places, out of a sense of guilt and as part of a search for perspective. I was so incredibly fortunate with all I had in my life, and yet remained unhappy. This fuelled a sense of guilt within me, which gnawed at my insides, and made me feel even worse. How could I possibly be unhappy when I had so much to be grateful for? How much carnage would I have to see on the planet before I stopped taking my wonderful life for granted? I did not realize it at the time, but I believe I was drawn to these places where people had virtually nothing – where they were literally dying around me – because I hoped that if I surrounded myself with misery then I was bound to feel happier about my own good fortune.
I never stayed in one place for long. If not in some war-torn hole in Africa I could often be found at my ‘home-base’ in Geneva, though I also lived in Istanbul, New York, and Kathmandu. I wrote an array of academic papers, published a book chapter, and in general was fast becoming a specialist in my chosen field. But I was unfulfilled and unhappy. The problem with running is that you always end up taking yourself with you…
It is only recently that I made the connection between my ‘peace-keeping’ role as a child, and my subsequent desire to bring peace to the world with the UN. I believe, in hindsight, that since I was still unhappy at my core I was driven by the belief that if I could just help to bring peace around me, I would find some peace and happiness within – much like I did with my parents when I was a kid. It was easier for me to focus my attention and energy externally to try and control my surroundings rather than to turn it inward to address my own issues. I had yet to learn that to be truly happy, I needed to shift my focus.
I read my first hypnosis book in 2007, given to me by my father, while living in Southern Sudan. My interest was piqued, and this was the start of a significant shift in my life towards self-discovery. My father had already been a certified hypnotherapist for years, but I had never shown much of an interest, nor been around much to learn from him. As I came to terms with the reality that a UN career was no longer for me, and that I needed to re-commit my focus to sorting out my own issues before focusing on fixing those of the people around me, the idea of pursuing the power of hypnosis was born.
While in New York in 2008 I took my first certification course in hypnotherapy. It was a good start, but I was not ready to commit to opening a practice, and had yet to fully extricate myself from the UN. My final gig with the UN took me to Nepal, and while my time there served to re-enforce my desire to make a career change, it also provided a much-needed opportunity to turn my focus inward.
I read, practiced my hypnosis skills on myself and others, and re-connected with what is important to me. I came to terms with the fact that the best way to help the world, and those around me, is to help myself. I also realized that not being true to myself was my greatest source of pain. Sometimes listening to your heart takes a tremendous effort – you must drown out the noise from around and within. With practice and patience I started to learn to let go of some of the baggage I had been carrying with me, and to have the courage to let my heart guide me to where I knew I needed to go. I resolved to quit the UN for good. I was slowly finding my happiness.
Concurrent to my process of self-reflection in Nepal, I also became certified as a Bikram yoga teacher in 2009. I taught in Kathmandu, and then moved to Hawaii where I spent a winter teaching yoga in Maui. During this time, I slowly came to terms with the idea that it was time to stop running. I was enjoying a newly found sense of peace and contentment. It was time to go home, settle down, continue to work on myself, and then pursue my passion of helping others.
I returned to Vancouver in 2011, 10 years after leaving, and prepared to start a new chapter in my life. I continued to teach Bikram yoga, and I completed a 2nd hypnotherapy certification course to sharpen my skills. I then joined Nichols Clinical Hypnotherapy (NCH) which my father had formally established the year prior. After two successful years running the practice in Vancouver, I met my future wife (a native of San Francisco) and moved to San Francisco to get married and set up the US branch of NCH in 2014.
It took tremendous courage for me to leave my career with the UN, return home, and step into the unknown realm of hypnotherapy and small business ownership. But the more I learned, and continue to learn, about the power of hypnosis, the more excited I have become about the opportunity I have to help others. Hypnosis is so poorly misunderstood and under utilized, that it is almost tragic. And this is why I want to share it with the world. Just like when you see a great film or listen to a great album and you want to tell all your friends “Hey, you’ve gotta check this out!” – that is how I feel about hypnosis.
Hypnosis can help almost anyone, in virtually any facet of his or her life. And ‘help’ is an understatement. It can transform people’s lives, permanently. It has helped transform mine. These days, I am happy, at peace and filled with gratitude. I know of no greater feeling of satisfaction than the feeling I get when I am able to help someone undergo their own transformation- to have a breakthrough that sees him or her come alive in way that they have never been before.
This is why I do what I do. It took me awhile to arrive, but I am very happy to be here. I am committed to making the most of my own life – to continue to remove my own barriers and find the joy in every moment. And I am committed to taking as many people with me as I can. Are you ready to get on board?
Hey, you’ve gotta check this out!
Yours, in gratitude,
Working hard with the UN
The rewards of a weapons collection project
A lovely sandstorm approaching in Khartoum (photo: Dijana Kostovic-Vlahovic)
Yoga teaching in Maui