As far as coming of age stories go, Lucas Handwerker has one for the books.
His tale begins in the 1970s, when his parents met and married in an esoteric cult. After vowing poverty and celibacy for 14 years, they left the cult to have two children in the Catskills. It was there, in the peace and quiet of the Hudson Valley, that Handwerker grew up. During his formative years, he attended Woodstock Day School and, later, SUNY New Paltz, where he cultivated his interest in the arts.
When Handwerker was 15, he began studying hypnotherapy. He had long been fascinated by sleight of hand tricks and the states of wonder elicited by them. So, hypnosis seemed like a natural extension.
“Hypnosis is real, and you don’t need any special objects,” he explains. Around that time, he realized hypnotic trances were not just what he terms “real magic,” but were also portals for healing. “Those states can give people moments of healing, moments of clarity [for] curing their fears and helping them overcome limiting beliefs.”
At only 18 years old, Handwerker became licensed as a hypnotherapist. He had already performed a number of stage shows and seen firsthand what hypnotherapy could do. In high school, for instance, he worked with a football player to overcome his fear of cockroaches during a 15-minute session. In another case, he helped a friend memorize encyclopedias to excel during his final exams.
“You don’t have to be sick to get better,” he observes, adding that hypnotherapy doesn’t just heal issues but improves other areas of life as well. Embracing that dual-purpose mentality, he uses his practice to leave a ripple of healing and transformation wherever he goes. Over the years, he’s developed a reputation for his ability to cure phobias and help clients work through limiting beliefs and find direction. When he was 20, he was even invited to give a TEDx Talk on how hypnosis can positively change beliefs. The video currently has over 100,000 views.
Although Handwerker travels across the nation to give talks and host workshops (he also wrote a book, A Voice Which Uses No Words, with another already in the works), he credits much of his formative training to his years in Woodstock, where he studied under a local sound healer and collaborated with acclaimed high-wire walker and Hudson Valley resident Philippe Petit.
“Most of my really good friends and teachers and mentors live there [and in New Paltz],” he says.
Now, he’s fully engrossed in his You & I show, which already sold out in Los Angeles and New York City. In line with his signature, intimate performance style, Handwerker’s tour features a series of workshops in which he combines his mentalism background with his psychotherapy practice to elicit wonder from his audience while digging into issues and curing phobias. For him, the key to transformative success is enabling participants to feel the impossible is possible. As soon as that happens, the road to healing can begin.
The show’s title, You & I, is a reference to the format. Instead of beginning each event with an official introduction, Handwerker keeps the structure as informal as possible.
“When people walk in, there’s no one to introduce me. There are no objects. There’s just you and I,” he says. After settling into the space, he gives every attendee the chance to think of an area on which they want more clarity. Depending upon the person, this could be anything from changing relationships or quitting a job to astral projecting or overcoming grief. Then, throughout the course of the show, Handwerker tackles each question without ever compromising privacy or creating embarrassment.
“My goal is to be helpful,” he explains. Toward the middle of the show, he brings up five or six people to work on fears and overcome them. To conclude it, he leads everyone on a group healing experience to set them on the path toward development and transformation.
“People are looking for answers. They want to be healed,” he observes. “By the end of the evening, people are turning and talking to each other. They feel heard and respected.”
While Handwerker is fully immersed in You & I, he still finds time to balance his tour with his private clientele, his forthcoming book, and his online courses.
“I have a lot of stuff cooking,” he admits.
Want to experience Handwerker’s hypnotherapy for yourself? He’ll be at Hotel Dylan in Woodstock for two intimate performances on March 13 and 14, with the option for one-on-one sessions on Sunday. Visit his website to learn more and purchase tickets.
*Update: Handwerker’s Hotel Dylan shows are postponed until further notice.