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Dr. Giles's Blog

Reflections from Dr. C. Scot Giles, the Consulting Hypnotist and practice owner at Rev. C. Scot Giles, D.Min., LLC

How to Choose a Hypnotist

Charles Giles

An article on “How to Find a Hypnotist” is almost a ritual formality on the web site of today’s hypnotic practitioner. I’ve read literally hundreds of them.

In my experience they tend to fall into two camps. In the first camp we have those who simply take a list of whatever training they happen to have and list it as it if were some sort of an international standard that clients should look for. In one extreme case I encountered someone who had added up his own training hours to obtain some oddball figure like 1,863 hours of training. He then stated on his web site that this was the standard number of hours of training a client should demand of any practitioner he or she consults.

The second camp consists of persons who have undergone some sort of standard training program from one or more of the many hypnotism organizations in America or the United Kingdom. This sounds more authoritative than it is.

I was President of the Council of Professional Hypnotism Organizations years ago and at that time I estimated that there were more than 140 organizations that claimed to “certify” hypnotists in the United States alone. I doubt the situation has gotten any better in the years since.

However, most of these “hypnosis organizations” are tiny little affairs, run by one or two people from a cardboard box stashed in a den. They have no assets or support staff and exist to make a few dollars for the owners. Mostly organizations of this type are simply selling certifications in the way that many unaccredited “universities” sell fake degrees or on-line “churches” sell ordinations as clergy.

Typically, when we see bad publicity about a hypnotic practitioner it is someone from one of these tiny organizations. As the organization has no assets it has nothing to lose by making far-fetched and often illegal claims about what hypnotism can do. They often award elaborate sounding titles even though these titles may violate regulatory legislation in a state, and their members can be shockingly under-trained.

Therefore, be aware that all “hypnosis organizations” are not created equal. Some are real and hold members to high standards of training while others are little more than scams.

In my professional life I’ve given my loyalty to the National Guild of Hypnotists and am now a member of its Advisory Board. This is the oldest hypnosis organization in the world with the largest active membership. It maintains a standardized curriculum, a serious Code of Ethics and rigorous Standards of Practice enforced by an aggressive Ethics Committee. There are Chapter organizations in most states and an active on-line community where practitioners share information and research in the privacy of a restricted Member’s Forum. In the Download section of this website you can find a copy of the tribute to the National Guild of Hypnotists from the United States Congress. However, there are other good organizations.

So what should you look for when seeking a hypnotic practitioner?

First, be sure the person you are considering actually has a hypnotism practice with an office, a business telephone and the other accouterments of actual work.

Weird though it may sound, many people who claim to be hypnotists are not. Because most state governments do not regulate hypnotism there are many people who hang out a shingle who have not, and never will, worked with a single paying client. They make their living doing something else and “practice” as a “hypnotist” in their imaginations. A lot of such folks can be found in the “chat” rooms on the Internet which form a support group for such people as they play what amounts to an anonymous, on-line, role playing game. They will be happy to give you all sorts of advice and I recommend you ignore it.

Second, I suggest you ignore Titles of Practice. Often the marginal organizations award the most impressive sounding titles. Sometimes the titles a practitioner can use are set by state law, sometimes not. In states where the title isn’t regulated there is no real difference between someone who calls him or herself a “hypnotist,” a “hypnotherapist,” or a “clinical hypnotherapist.” In most cases a hypnotic practitioner can call him or herself anything he or she wants when holding services out to the public. Therefore, the exact title doesn’t matter a great deal.

Third, I suggest you regard all college degrees mentioned by a practitioner with a degree of suspicion. Hypnotism is a profession one trains for by attending an approved hypnotism school and passing a certification examination. It is not a profession one trains for by attending graduate school.

As I hold an earned and accredited doctoral degree I obviously believe that education is a fine thing and that a highly educated person brings special skills to the professional encounter. However, education is meaningful only if it is in a field that is relevant to a helping profession. A degree in psychology, medicine, chiropractic, counseling, education, ministry, social work, and so on has relevance to what a hypnotist does. A degree in astrophysics will have very little relevance.

To the best of my knowledge there are currently no recognized academically accredited colleges or universities that offer a degree in hypnotism or hypnotherapy in the United States. While there are people who claim to hold such degrees, the degrees lack accreditation recognized by the Department of Education of the United States, and some are completely fake degrees that are simply sold. While one Institute in California did hold state approval to grant an unaccredited Doctor of Clinical Hypnotherapy degree years ago (and I have some sympathy for persons who hold this degree from that time), it no longer has that approval. Similarly one college in Vermont did offer an accredited Master’s Degree in Counseling and Hypnotherapy years ago, but it no longer offers that degree.

Therefore, if a practitioner tells you he or she has a graduate degree, always inquire what the degree is in and whether or not it is an academically accredited degree. If the practitioner is a member of the National Guild of Hypnotists he or she will give you a copy of a “Client Bill of Rights” that will list all degrees held and will tell you if the degree is an academic degree or not.

Fourth, look for a good reputation. If a practitioner has been in practice for a while he or she should have a pretty good reputation in his or her community. Many senior practitioners do no advertising and fill their practices solely through word-of-mouth from past clients. Type the practitioner’s name into Google or another Internet search engine and see what you find. Ask around. If there is a state-licensed hypnotism school in the state (inquire of the Department of Postsecondary Education in your state) is the practitioner a graduate or do they speak well of the practitioner? Because of privacy laws most practitioners can’t actually give you a list of past clients, but there should be something you can check.

Fifth, find out if the practitioner belongs to a serious hypnosis organization. If the practitioner is certified, check out what the certification means. Visit the web site of the certifying organization and discover whether it is easy or hard to become a certified member of that organization.

Finally, ask if the practitioner is a graduate of a state-licensed, approved or accredited hypnotism school (the exact terminology varies by state). While not all states regulate hypnotism schools, if your state does it makes good sense to insist that someone you are paying for help be a graduate of one. This guarantees that the training of the practitioner has met minimum standards, that the practitioner has been educated about the lawful limits of practice and that the practitioner has passed an examination to show that he or she learned what was taught.

Hypnotism is a fantastic tool to use to increase one’s self-control and abilities. The vast majority of hypnotists are good people who take their craft seriously. But as in most things “let the buyer beware.” A legitimate practitioner will not mind your questions and most will welcome them because they tell the practitioner you are serious about changing your life.