| Choosing a Hypnotherapist:
What Every Consumer Needs to Know
Quigley, founder of the
Alchemy Institute of Hypnosis
is no mystery about the mixed results many people experience from
hypnosis therapy. The reason is that there are no consistent standards
of training or certification in the field.
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Hypnosis therapy has proven itself over the past 20 years to be enormously practical and valuable for many kinds of personal problems. It has been demonstrated effective for long-term weight loss, smoking cessation, pain control, recovery from illness in conjunction with medical treatment, and treatment of the underlying causes of phobias, anxiety, and depression--plus a host of other problems.
Unlike most medical or pharmaceutical interventions which mask the symptoms of illness or treat only its outer physical manifestations, hypnosis therapy can address the causes of our behavioral and disease conditions in the subconscious mind. It is also proven to be far safer and more rapid than other strategies. I have been told by thousands of clients over the years that a few sessions of hypnosis have achieved more powerful results than years of psychotherapy, and have often freed them from long-term dependence on medical treatment, or the self administered "therapy" of illegal drugs and alcohol.
But for all of its success, there's still a great deal of ambivalence in the medical and counseling communities about the effectiveness of hypnotherapy. Research results are often mixed. In my work with clients, I frequently hear that other hypnotherapists were unable to achieve the results they were looking for, even though they readily achieved results with me.
To me there is no mystery about the mixed results many people experience from hypnosis therapy. The reason is this: there are no consistent standards of training or certification in the field. Hypnosis trainings vary widely from one school to another. Many reputable schools (including my own), require up to a year of intensive training, with extensive testing and supervised practice. But thousands of hypnotherapists have been "certified" by private membership organizations with little more than a weekend of training. Other programs require only 50 hours of training; some can be completed online, with no documented practice or clinical supervision. How could such a short amount of training prepare anyone for a successful practice in a field that requires a profound understanding of human nature?
As a result, many "certified" hypnotherapists lack the essential skills necessary to deal with a wide variety of client issues. A scandal erupted recently when a skeptical psychotherapist had his cat certified as both a hypnotherapist and a board-certified psychologist by some major certification organizations. While it is unlikely that anyone would trust a cat with their deepest issues, regardless of the framed certificate on his wall, there are plenty of "weekend wonders" out there who are scarcely better equipped than this furry friend to help you solve your problems.
Alas, these imposters aren't the only problem for our profession. I must caution you about another popular misconception in the field. Some professional hypnosis organizations offer this stern warning to the consumer: "Only put your trust in a licensed professional (such as a doctor, psychotherapist, or social worker) who is trained in hypnosis." Given the anarchy of our profession, I can sympathize with this position--but years of experience in the field with such licensed professionals has taught me a lesson. While doctors and other licensees certainly have more years in the classroom and in the clinic learning their art, there is no guarantee that they have the extensive training in hypnosis technology necessary to give you the maximum help that hypnosis therapy can provide.
Most doctors and psychotherapists had no training in hypnosis skills during their education or internship. Courses in hypnotherapy are not even offered as electives in many accredited training institutions within these professions. Post graduate training in hypnosis for certification as a hypnosis specialist can usually be completed in as little as one weekend or as much as 40 hours (one week) of instruction. Many licensed professionals justify this ridiculously inadequate training by claiming that hypnosis therapy is nothing more than the use of hypnotic suggestion and guided imagery, so it is not difficult to master for the professional clinician. This is entirely erroneous! If done right, hypnotherapy requires a complex set of skills that no one can master in 40 hours of instruction. Period.
Don't get me wrong. Many licensed professionals are indeed as highly skilled and reliable in hypnosis as any unlicensed practitioner. They certainly will bring the rich resources of years of professional education and clinical experience with patients to this practice, which is no small contribution to their value as healers. But if you are counting on the presence of a license to prove the ability of a hypnotherapist to assist you with the latest in hypnosis techniques, this is your wake up call. Licensure alone is no guarantee of adequate training or effectiveness.
In addition, if you limit your search to licensed professionals, you may pay a stiff price for their licensed status. Or, if you want insurance coverage, which is one significant advantage of working with these practitioners, you will need to accept a diagnosis as having a medical condition, and it will stay in your medical file all your life.
Of course, if you are seeking treatment for a mental or physical illness, working with a licensed professional is an advantage, because of their clinical experience. Just be aware that their training and experience in hypnotherapy may be less thorough than that of the typical non-licensed but well-trained hypnotherapist.
So how are you to make a wise selection of a hypnotherapist who is right for you? First, ask around among your friends who have benefitted from hypnosis therapy. Is there anyone they recommend? If you have a physician, chiropractor, or psychotherapist you trust who is open to alternative therapies, ask whom they recommend.
If neither of these options proves fruitful, another good strategy is to search the web. Most reputable hypnotherapists nowadays have a website in which you can review their credentials, training, and years of experience. Even better is if they have published articles about their work with clients.
I also recommend consulting the National Guild of Hypnotists (www.ngh.net ) and the International Medical and Dental Hypnosis Association (www.imdha.com).
Once you have a potential hypnotherapist on the phone, don't hesitate to describe the nature of the problem in exact detail. And be sure to ask what training and experience this hypnotist has in the exact area you want to work in. The techniques used by hypnotists vary widely, as do the successes they achieve. To learn what technologies actually work with weight loss and a host of other problems, check my web library at www.alchemyinstitute.com.
Nearly everyone who calls my office wants to know three things: how long will it take, how much will it cost, and what kind of guarantee we offer. I think such concerns are quite normal, but as a hypnotherapist with 30 years of experience, I have to tell people that shopping for hypnosis therapy is not like shopping for clothes or auto repair. If you are focused only on time or cost, you will almost certainly receive an inferior product. And you may get no permanent results at all. The old adage "you get what you pay for" is nowhere more true than in the fields of therapy and counseling.
Unfortunately, it is often the inexperienced amateurs who enthusiastically offer quick fixes and unconditional guarantees of success at low prices. I met a newly certified hypnotist at a conference, with 50 hours of training and a tiny part time practice who bragged about her 100% success rate with smokers. "They are so easy to fix in one session!" she blithely assured me. I asked how she knew they were all so successful, since with all my skill my success rate is only about 85%. She replied, "Well, they don't call me back, so obviously they have quit." Actually, I could think of a number of reasons why they wouldn't call her back besides having quit smoking. I recommend that you avoid working with practitioners who offer these kinds of easy guarantees. If promises sound too good to be true, they probably are!
It's important to know what kind of training and experience a given practitioner has in the area of your problem. I have found over and over that having a wide variety of available tools to address the deep underlying causes of the problem makes for more effective, and permanent, results. A skilled hypnosis practitioner should have in their tool bag specific training in several of these modalities: regression therapy, Gestalt therapy, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), sub-personality therapy (sometimes called parts therapy), Ericksonian hypnosis, inner child work, emotional freedom technique (EFT), idiomotor questioning. Not every hypnotherapist will have skills in all of these areas-but at least 4 or 5 of the above is the bottom line for most skilled practitioners. Of course, you may not even know what the words listed above mean, but mention these therapies anyway. If your hypnotist does not recognize these words and know these technologies, then they probably don't have all the skills they need to assist you.
David Quigley is the founder of Alchemical Hypnotherapy. Since he created the Alchemy Institute of Hypnosis based in Santa Rosa in 1983, over 2000 students from all over the world have graduated as professional hypnotherapists. David is available for private hypnotherapy sessions either in person or by phone. For more information call 800-950-4984 or visit www.alchemyinstitute.com.
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