This morning I am feeling cross.
I'm the Legislative and Governmental Concerns Liaison for the hypnotist union, the legislative arm of the National Guild of Hypnotists. It's my (volunteer) job to stay informed of hypnotism laws around the country, to engage in political activity to influence and shape those laws, and to advocate within the Guild leadership for strict adherence to ethics and recommended standards.
I'm also the person who has to fly around the country to help put out a public relations fire when a hypnotist catches the negative attention of the press.
This morning I'm looking at an ad by a hypnotist that makes me mad.
Hypnotists and Hypnotherapists (the words are synonyms) are self-regulated professionals, like Certified Public Accountants, Financial Planners and many other occupations.
Before a state government will license a profession there has to be evidence that the unlicensed practice of it can harm the public. There is no evidence that hypnotism can harm anyone, even if poorly done. All the research shows that a hypnotized person will reject any suggestion that does not fit with his or her values, beliefs or self-image. Therefore, we practice under a system of voluntary self-regulation.
The oldest and largest hypnotism organization in the world is the National Guild of Hypnotists. It sets explicit training standards, uses a standardized curriculum, sets a rigorous code of ethics, and recommends standards of practice and terminology to keep from infringing on the protected scope of practice of psychologists and physicians. I'm very proud of my Guild affiliation and standing.
The ad in front of me is from someone who is ignoring all of that. It's full of claims that are overstated and sensationalistic. She uses a professional title that is probably illegal for someone who isn't licensed to practice medicine, and she engages in all manner of "self-puffery," as one comedian calls it. None of it would stand up to serious examination.
I know her. Her practice is a tiny, part-time thing. It's more of a hobby than a livelihood. But that's always the way it is with such matters. It's usually the small-fry that cause all the problems and create suspicion about the rest of us.
Serious hypnotists with large busy practices run those practices squeaky clean. They are strict about following the code of ethics and the standards of practice. They do this for a simple reason--they have large busy practices to protect. They've got a lot of lose if they are ever caught bending the rules.
A serious practitioner takes a heavy hit if he or she gets a Cease and Desist Order for making an improper claim. Worse, he or she would face peer rejection that would mean no more invitations to present at national conventions, no more students to attend their classes and no one who will buy their books or read their articles.
All this is more than enough motivation so that the vast majority of practitioners make very sure that they follow the rules in both the letter and the spirit. They are good role models for new practitioners who want to do likewise and earn their living by becoming real professionals.
Not so the few practitioners who care only about a fast buck. Such persons have absolutely nothing to lose by playing fast and loose. They don't have a good reputation to protect, so there is no worry about peer rejection. There are only a few clients so there isn't a serious income source to protect. Therefore, they'll say almost anything in order to have a chance to make a few dollars on the side.
This sort of thing is probably the most serious obstacle to wider acceptance of hypnotism by the general public. It gives the rest of us an undeserved black-eye.