Category Archives: The Psychotherapy Profession

the professional practice of hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and counselling in the United Kingdom

The Truth about Hypnotherapy Training

thinking about hypnotherapy training

I’m sometimes contacted by people who want advice about training as a hypnotherapist. Many of these people are very disappointed in the hard facts I’m able to supply. They’ve read the seductive adverts from the various training schools, which tell them that hypnotherapy is one of the “fastest growing” professions. But what is actually meant by this? To be sure, the number of qualified hypnotherapists is growing very fast indeed, but how many of them actually practice, and how many of those remain in practice for any length of time- even long enough to gain real confidence in their abilities?

The truth is that hypnotherapy in the UK is a “saturated market.” Many people will deny this, but you’ll generally find they’re running training schools and therefore don’t want to put off potential students.

Today I surveyed the websites of the 28 institutions listed on the National Council for Hypnotherapy’s website as having been approved to offer the Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma. These are by no means the only hypnotherapy schools, just the ones that have sought and obtained NCH approval. These 28 institutes are this year offering a total of 45 diploma courses. Let’s suppose that six people graduate from each course (a conservative estimate, as some have far more). 45 x 6 = 270 newly-qualified hypnotherapists per year. Let’s suppose that each hypnotherapist would reckon to stay in practice for 20 years on average (I began practicing aged 38, I’m now 60 and have no plans to retire). So 270 x 20 = 5,400 hypnotherapists practicing in the UK, if they all remained in business. How plausible does that figure sound? Well, Devon contains about 1/60 of the UK population, so 5,400 divided by 60 = 90! I invite you to spend a while on Google and see if you can find ninety hypnotherapists practicing in Devon! Even those you do find are mostly part-timers, although this will not be apparent from their websites.

The fact is that the majority of hypnotherapy graduates never practice long enough to become proficient or to make a full-time living. The great majority will quit after one to three years. Some won’t even stick out their first year, and many- perhaps the majority- won’t even attempt the daunting task of setting up their practice.


Hypnosis is not Arm Wrestling

When assessing clients at my Plymouth and Exeter hypnotherapy practice, I’m still sometimes asked a question along these lines.

“Are you powerful enough to hypnotise me and take control of my mind and make me do this or that?”

This question always rings alarm bells. Some people really seem to think of hypnosis as a “battle of wills,” a contest like arm-wrestling. They regard themselves as “strong-willed” and therefore doubt they can be hypnotised. Sometimes they seem to have some fantasy of the ideal hypnotherapist as being stern, mysterious, and domineering- like some character played by Christopher Lee in a movie!

The fact is that hypnosis itself is very powerful, but the power can only be found through collaboration between client and therapist. It’s not something that one person DOES to another. Many of my most successful clients have been very strong-willed, tough-minded people.

As regards “taking control,” I have no wish to take control of any mind other than my own. Hypnotherapy is an excellent way for clients to gain better self-control, and to prevent themselves from being controlled unwittingly by other people. A professional hypnotherapist is not interested in “making you” do anything. He or she is there to help you do things for yourself.

Can Everyone Experience Hypnosis?

In my Plymouth hypnotherapy practice I sometimes meet people who are doubtful whether they could experience hypnosis. Sometimes they have seen a hypnotherapist previously, who having failed to hypnotise them, told them they were “not susceptible to hypnotism”. My own view is that hypnotherapists should never say this.
Having practiced hypnotherapy for 20 years, I have found various reasons why someone might not experience hypnosis on a specific occasion with a specific hypnotherapist. Maybe that particular hypnotherapist is unskilled or inexperienced. Maybe the client distrusts them, for whatever reason. Maybe they fear hypnosis, thinking that the hypnotherapist will have power over them or will discover their secrets. If they seek hypnotherapy to help them make changes in their life, maybe they resist hypnosis because they don’t really want to make those changes.
People I meet socially sometimes try to challenge me, suggesting that they would be “too strong-willed” to be hypnotised. I never rise to these challenges, because they are based on a misunderstanding of hypnosis.
Hypnotism does not involve a “battle of wills” between the hypnotherapist and his client. Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness, which the client voluntarily chooses to experience. The job of the hypnotherapist is to guide the client into trance. In every case, the client goes as deep into hypnosis as they are willing to go, at that point in time.

The Truth About Regression

As a hypnotherapist I’m often asked about regression. In particular, I get inquiries from people who believe that something traumatic may have happened to them in their childhood, and that they will benefit from digging up the buried memories through hypnotic regression. I never attempt this type of therapy, and in this post I’ll be explaining why that is.

Basically, hypnosis is an extremely powerful way to dig up memories in vivid detail. But this power is the very reason why it shouldn’t generally be used for this purpose. The point is, that however vividly events may be “remembered”, there’s no guarantee that they’re remembered accurately. We tend to assume that the more vividly we recall something, and the more details we remember, the more accurate our memory must be. But scientific studies have shown this to be absolutely wrong. Complete fantasies can be remembered in vivid circumstantial detail. And once a “false memory” is created, it feels exactly like a real memory.

Modern technology has added to this problem. We don’t really understand how memory and thinking work, so we used analogies, comparing these processes to things that we know more about, to try to understand them. Memory is often compared to a video recording, that can be rewound, and that shows the same images however many times it’s played. But in reality, memory is nothing like a video. It’s more like a story that we tell ourselves, and we all know that in telling stories we often change the details to make a better story, maybe exaggerating or tidying up the details.

In America, hypnotherapists with very poor knowledge of psychology have torn families apart by “regressing” clients and persuading them to “remember” incidents of sexual abuse of which they previously had no awareness whatsoever. In many cases, investigations later revealed that these incidents couldn’t possibly have occurred.

Having problems doesn’t mean that you were sexually abused. Distrusting an older relative doesn’t mean that he sexually abused you. Having low self esteem, or a history of abusive relationships in adult life, doesn’t mean that you were sexually abused in childhood. Every problem that results from genuine sexual abuse can also have other causes.

Occasionally I’m approached by clients who already remember being abused, but just want to recall more details to assist in prosecuting the offender. In these cases it’s even more important to avoid any kind of hypnotic regression. Defence lawyers in this country are well aware of the research about false memory. If it was testified that evidence had been obtained through hypnotism, the case would be thrown out of court on that basis.