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How this ex-sales exec found a wildly successful, second career in hypnotherapy

Lisa Ludovici, 51, is proving it’s never too late to take a different path.
Lisa Ludovici is a certified medical support hypnotist.
Lisa Ludovici is a certified medical support hypnotist.Dorothy Shui

Lisa Ludovici typed her letter of resignation in three minutes flat.

At the time, Ludovici was an advertising sales executive with 17 years of experience at a national media company. But over the years, her work environment became toxic and the joy she once found in the high-pressure job was no longer there. A tense internal conference call with her coworkers was the last straw.

“I realized that the industry is changing and so was I,” Ludovici, 51, recounted. “It just seemed like everything around me was crumbling and my frustration was growing. Even though I did quite well, I didn't feel like I did well. Abundance without fulfillment is basically failure.”

Ludovici, who lived in New York City, had no idea where to go after she left her job in 2009. But she found her new calling through an unexpected source: a local Manhattan television show. After quitting her job, she had cancelled her cable and joked that she only ended up watching this particular channel “because it was the only one that didn’t show static.”

Ludovici became mesmerized by a hypnotherapist with the International Coaching Federation who spoke on the show’s panel. She tracked the speaker down, contacted her, and by the end of a three-hour conversation, Ludovici decided to go to hypnotherapy school.

She had previously been aware of the subconscious mind and how it affects human function, and was immediately interested in the topic. Especially significant was the fact that the speaker — like Ludocivi —had started in corporate America before moving into hypnotherapy.

“It’s cliché, but the fear of staying the same was greater than the fear of what I was moving into, so I took the leap,” Ludovici said. “I jumped and the net appeared on the way down.”

Beginning to heal

During her second week at the Hypnotherapy Academy of America in New Mexico in February 2010, Ludovici developed a migraine. She had been diagnosed with chronic migraines at the age of 3 and experienced frequent migraines ever since.

Ludovici spent the morning break from class with her finger pressing on her right eye, a move that had given her relief in the past. A program director noticed and brought Ludovici into her office to do a guided hypnotherapy session that Ludovici said “used metaphors to guide my body to function the way it was created and designed to…because when our bodies function optimally, we're not sick, we don't have disease and we don't feel pain.”

Because that one short session helped her feel a bit better, Ludovici sought additional hypnotherapy sessions to target her migraines at the same time as she was learning how to perform hypnotherapy to help others. “That one day I went into the director's office and did that session was the very last day I had a migraine. And that was 11 years ago, this past February,” said Ludovici.

Starting again

After 10 weeks of full-time accelerated studies, Ludovici completed the hypnotherapy program, she had all the skills she needed to help people—but she didn’t have any clients. What she did have was her personal experience in using hypnotherapy to heal her body…and 17 years of corporate sales training that surprisingly proved extremely useful in getting her new venture off the ground.

Ludovici began to work in a very grassroots way. First, she sent an email to friends and family, telling the story about her migraines and her training. She offered complimentary hypnotherapy sessions to anyone who was “called to heal some part of their life.” In August 2010, when her client list was becoming “friends of friends of friends,” Ludovici decided she was ready to open her practice, which she said involved “a lot of cold calling.”

Though she enjoyed working with clients individually, Ludovici felt compelled to share hypnotherapy with doctors as an “adjunct” to their treatments for patients. In her effort to network with physicians, Ludovici attended the Mount Sinai physician lecture series at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. Impressed by one particular speaker, Dr. Houman Danesh, Ludovici said she waited until the crowded room emptied out: “Then I walked up to him, and I said, ‘The information you shared on pain management was fabulous. And there's something else that you could perhaps add to it—hypnotherapy. My name is Lisa Ludovici. I'm a medical support hypnotist.” Dr. Danesh grabbed her hand and said, “I need you.”

“From that moment on,” Ludovici said, “he has been—and still is—paramount in the work that I do.”

After that meeting, Dr. Danesh began referring clients to Ludovici, and his colleagues did the same. She helped them with everything from eliminating needle phobias to controlling post-operative pain. Referrals led to lectures and grand rounds at Mount Sinai. One of the fellows who attended one of Ludovici’s lectures eventually became the medical director at the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital in Manhattan; he asked her to visit the hospital to continue much of the same work she was doing at Mount Sinai.

Being her own cheerleader

Success didn’t come easy for Ludovici. Everyone from her orthodontist to her apartment building superintendent expressed doubt when she told them she was going to hypnotherapy school. To counter those negative messages, she said, “I had a lot of conversations with myself to keep moving forward. [I told myself], ‘take one step, just keep going.’ And it was really like cheerleading myself on and believing in myself.”

Though many senior-level executives who consider changing careers worry about “wasting” the years they invested, Ludovici found that her corporate experience was essential to her success in a totally different industry. She said that she built her hypnotherapy practice by “using those skills I acquired in my 17 years in corporate America—to sell, to create relationships, to network, and to solve people’s problems. I was doing the same thing but in a different way.”

Ludovici said that it’s never too late to change your life: “Make a change at 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65…Time is going to pass anyhow. Dream. Dream big. Take the first step. It doesn't matter if you don't know how it's going to end up. There's really not an end until we're finished with our time here on Earth. Until then, have experiences that set your soul on fire.”