[Originally published by Dr. Giles in 2004 in The Journal of Hypnotism]
The pitch was simple and clear. “Take this piece of paper,” the pitchman said. “Now write your name with ‘Dr.’ in front of it.”
“Feels good, doesn’t it?” said the pitchman. He then went on to tell me that for about $4000 I could become a “Doctor of Clinical Hypnotherapy” in return for writing ten book reports. “It’s easy,” he said. “You can write them on just about anything you want.”
Later in this conversation he went on to flash a roll of $100 bills under my nose, assuming, I guess, that the smell would excite me. “You’ll make more money if you can call yourself a doctor” he opined. “Besides,” he said, leaning forward to hold his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart “We’re this close to getting the degree accredited.”
This incident really happened to me about thirteen years ago when I was just getting involved with the national hypnosis organizations. The degree the man was pitching still is not accredited and the pitchman himself has retired, selling his school to someone else who has since moved it to Hawaii where he now offers “Ph.D.” degrees in hypnotherapy and “hermetic science,” whatever that is.
I’ll always remember this incident as it was my introduction to the world of unaccredited and diploma mill degrees. As I hold an accredited doctoral degree that took me eight years of full time university study to earn, I was not very impressed by the offer to get a doctoral degree for ten book reports and a fee. Although I must say that the degree this fellow was pitching is not the worst of the lot by any means. While this is no longer true, at the time he was pitching it the degree did hold approval from his state’s government. Believe it or not, there is someplace in India that will sell you the degree of “Medical Doctor (alternative medicine)” for doing even less work and paying about $800.
Every year people ask the National Guild of Hypnotists what it thinks of these degrees. The official position of the Guild is that it is neutral with regard to them. We neither endorse nor oppose these degrees provided they are used lawfully. However, if you get into trouble because you have used such a degree as part of your professional title, the Guild will not intervene to help you. You did not obtain the degree from us as the Guild is not a degree-granting institution. Therefore, if you need assistance, you must seek it from whatever school awarded you the degree.
The reason we say that such degrees must be used lawfully is that there are states that do not allow you to mention such degrees when holding services out to the public. Further, there are some unaccredited degrees that are illegal (for example calling yourself a “Doctor of Medicine” or using the degree abbreviation “M.D.” is regulated in every state and you cannot escape that regulation by adding a disclaimer in parenthesis). The National Guild of Hypnotists states its belief that you should always obey the law.
The Recommended Standards of Practice of the Guild state that if you possess such an alternative or unaccredited degree and use it while holding services out to the public you should disclose its alternative nature to your clients by using specific wording in your Client Bill of Rights. There is a model for how to do this included with the Sample Client Bill of Rights contained in the Recommended Standards. You can download the Standards from the Guild’s website at http://www.ngh.net. If you hold such a degree and use it in your by-line for an article you write that the Guild publishes, or if you use it after your name in our convention catalogue, you will find that there is a asterisk added by the Guild staff that refers to a footnote saying “denotes alternative, nonacademic degree.” The Guild believes that “truth in labeling” is always a good idea.
If you are contemplating obtaining such a degree, the Guild suggests some points for you to consider in your decision making.
First, be aware that these degrees are increasingly problematic. Because of the popularity of the Internet most people have gotten more than one spam email solicitation offering to sell a doctoral degree in return for little or no work. Even if the degree you are considering is not one of these, you will be placed in a defensive position with your clients when they ask if your degree is accredited. Increasingly, they ask.
Second, beware of schools that try to lure you into paying them with spurious claims. For example, some will tell you that they are “internationally accredited.” This is something of a ruse. There is no international government that has created an accreditation agency. Any such “accreditation” is unofficial and is not recognized by the Department of Education in the United States. Similarly, there are other schools who will tell you that they are “fully accredited” but not tell you the agency bestowing the accreditation is affiliated with the school and is without any official academic recognition. You probably don’t want to be linked to a “school” that pulls something like this.
Third, understand that the laws are changing. There is discussion among consumer protection groups and regulatory boards about further regulation of unaccredited degrees. The Federal Government has begun investigations into its employees who have negotiated pay raises based on such degree and other organizations are sure to follow that lead. One popular proposal will require anyone using such a degree title to add the disclaimer that “my degree does not qualify me to practice any profession” to all advertising. Would this sort of degree really make your advertising look more effective?
Finally, think about your colleagues. When the Guild goes before a state legislature to oppose a law that would restrict your right to practice hypnotism we routinely get questions about people who are advertising services using such diplomas. Whether or not you think such degrees are valid, I can assure you that the lawmakers in your state government regard them with suspicion. Are you helping our profession, or hurting it, when you list such a degree after your name?
The National Guild of Hypnotists believes that a person trains to becoming a hypnotist by attending an approved training program taught by a Guild Certified Instructor, or the exact equivalent. We believe that the credential to use when holding services out to the public should be a powerful private certification from an influential hypnosis organization. There is no organization more powerful than the Guild.