©1998, revised ©1999-2012, written and
C. Roy Hunter, Published Author, Certified Hypnosis Instructor
This is the website for the FAQ (Frequently Answered
Questions) Files that were posted on the alt.hypnosis newsgroup from the mid-1990's through early 2012. It
contains considerable hypnosis information and hypnotherapy information contributed by four different authors: Roy
Hunter, Todd Stark,
The latest FAQ revisions were completed on January 2, 2012. (Those questions with the latest revisions since the previous version are noted with an asterisk.) At this website, you can link to the other FAQ Files directly from the Contents. Also, you may go to a specific question in a particular FAQ simply by clicking on that question in the Contents of the applicable FAQ.
The information contained in any FAQ file may be reproduced in whole or in part PROVIDED it is REPRODUCED EXACTLY AS WRITTEN (INCLUDING LINKS IF REPRODUCED ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB), AND PROVIDED CREDIT IS GIVEN to the author(s) in such reproduction. The FAQ Files were posted on the newsgroup twice monthly for over a decade; but in recent years they were posted once monthly (in the middle of the month) in five files. They are available for review or downloading 24-hours daily at this location:
Note that the Hypnosis FAQ is arranged into two parts. The first part contains questions of interest to the consumer, while the second part includes questions about hypnosis that a serious student of hypnosis might ask. Also, the Hypnosis and Self-Hypnosis FAQs are based on the emphasis of practicing hypnosis and hypnotherapy as an ART, thus the responses come from that point of view (combined with professional experience). There is another hypnosis FAQ written from a scientific point of view, authored by Todd Stark, located at:
If you have the time, read both Hypnosis FAQs, as well as the other FAQ files.
Comments Regarding Advertising and Courtesy in the alt.hypnosis Newsgroup - formerly posted with intro in File 1
HYPNOSIS FAQ (written by Roy Hunter) - formerly posted as File 2
(Hypnosis FAQ Contents appear at start of Hypnosis FAQ)
GLOSSARY (of common hypnosis terms & abbreviations) formerly posted with File 3
Self-Hypnosis FAQ (written by Roy Hunter) formerly posted with File 3
Stage Hypnosis FAQ (written by a former stage hypnotist who wishes to remain anonymous) formerly posted with File 4, with an important article on stage hypnosis.
Subliminal messages FAQ (written by Todd Stark) introduction formerly posted as File 5
**The Resource Guide, formerly written and maintained by Paul Bunnell, has not been posted for several years. You may find two Online Resource Guides for books and for hypnosis links (and other information) at:
Comments Regarding Courtesy in the alt.hypnosis newsgroup (and any public forum):
Over the years, many readers in numerous public forums have expressed dislike for advertising that was not marked as such in the "subject" line. Strong dislike has been expressed for ads irrelevant to hypnosis.
Regarding courtesy, numerous "flame wars" over the years have driven many good people and professionals away from the alt.hypnosis newsgroup (as well as other public forums), who shared from their experience generously. Some critical people have often posted under several different names. We may question the motives of those who post negative criticism under several different names. While each of you should draw your own conclusions, my personal advice for anyone reading public forums regarding hypnosis is: MAY THE READER BE AWARE.
I'll speak personally in this next paragraph: My opinion to those who post in hypnosis newsgroups can be stated quite simply: DO UNTO OTHERS THAT WHICH YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU. If you wish to criticize an issue or opinion, please remember to debate the issue rather than attacking or insulting the individual. The number of times I've seen people slammed instead of opinions debated is why I no longer participate in alt.hypnosis. Nonetheless, I am honoring the request of several hypnosis professionals by keeping the hypnosis FAQ available on my website.
My responses to the hypnosis questions in the Hypnosis FAQ are based on
MY OWN EXPERIENCE rather than on scientific research (professional hypnotherapy
starting in 1983, and teaching professional hypnosis in a college starting in
1987). Additionally, feedback from hypnosis professionals in a number of
countries validates the benefit of client centered hypnosis. Many successful
sessions over a period of years also validate the value of my opinions. Others
may have DIFFERING OPINIONS to the same questions presented here, which might
also be valid from their viewpoints (there is MORE THAN ONE WAY to effectively
help a client!). There are many ways to travel from
Hypnosis FAQ Contents:
Background of FAQ author (Roy Hunter)
QUESTIONS Regarding Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy:
1. What IS hypnosis?
2. What are the benefits of hypnosis?
3. Does a hypnotized person give up control?
4. How does hypnosis feel?
5. How do we induce hypnosis?
6. What is the difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy?
7. What makes hypnotherapy different than traditional therapy?
8. How can hypnosis be used to quite smoking or manage weight?
9. Can hypnosis be used to reduce pain and/or suffering from illness?
10. Is hypnotherapy covered by insurance?
11. What about stage hypnosis?
12. Is hypnosis dangerous?
QUESTIONS for the Serious Hypnosis Student:
13. What hypnosis books and/or other sources
can you recommend?
14. How can I choose a competent hypnosis instructor?
15. Which courses or instructors come highly recommended?
16. Who is the leading authority on hypnosis?
17. If I have a natural gift, why should I seek training?
18. What about legislation to regulate hypnotherapy?
19. Can you hypnotize people without their knowledge?
20. Are people doing hypnotherapy and calling it something else?
21. What about so-called Past Life Therapy?
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If you wish to skip this part, click here to go to Question #1.
My name is Roy Hunter, and I am the published author of several hypnosis texts used in a number of hypnosis schools around the globe. My hypnosis career began in 1983, and I first started teaching professional hypnotherapy in a college in 1987. My course is based on the teachings of my teacher and mentor, the late Charles Tebbetts, who believed that all hypnosis is really guided self-hypnosis. I concur with this, as explained in FAQ Question #1. Additionally, I believe in a self-empowerment approach.
My well-known books are: THE ART OF HYPNOSIS:
MASTERING BASIC TECHNIQUES (3rd ed. 2010, Crown House Publishing), and THE ART OF HYPNOTHERAPY
(4th ed. 2010, Crown House Publishing). My book for the general public is Mastering
the Power of Self-Hypnosis (2nd ed. 2011, Crown House Publishing). My
advanced text entitled Hypnosis for Inner
Conflict Resolution: Introducing Parts Therapy (Crown House Publishing,
2005), sold out its first printing in less than one year. This book has
resulted in numerous invitations from around the world for me to teach parts
therapy workshops. My latest book from Crown House is THE ART OF HYPNOTIC REGRESSION THERAPY: A CLINICAL GUIDE (2012, Crown House Publishing), co-authored by Bruce Eimer, PhD, who is a licensed clinical psychologist and Fellow of ASCH. All my books are available online at:
Two different hypnosis associations honored me for lifetime achievement in the hypnosis profession.
Additional information about me is available at:
Now that you know a little more about who I am, perhaps you will enjoy reading my responses in this FAQ...
* * * QUESTIONS Regarding Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy * * *
Even as we enter the 21st Century, opinions still vary on the exact definition of this natural state of mind. First of all, contrary to what many commonly believe, hypnosis is NOT a "sleep" state even though a person in hypnosis may appear to be sleeping. James Braid, a 19th Century English physician, gave us the name "hypnotism" because the people he mesmerized appeared to be asleep. Within a few months he tried to change the name that he coined, but instead found that hypnotism is here to stay.
Some people assume that a hypnotized person is asleep, especially because one who goes into a very deep trance can sometimes have partial amnesia. I prefer the way my late mentor, Charles Tebbetts, defined hypnosis, so let me quote his exact words as written in MIRACLES ON DEMAND (which is out of print): "There is no legal definition of hypnosis. Webster's dictionary describes it incorrectly as an artificially induced sleep, but it is actually a natural state of mind and induced normally in everyday living much more often than it is induced artificially. Every time we become engrossed in a novel or a motion picture, we are in a natural hypnotic trance (p. 211-212)." He also taught that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, and many in the hypnotherapy profession believe likewise.
I totally agree with the above, and I also believe that THE POWER IS IN THE MIND OF THE PERSON BEING HYPNOTIZED. So, in reality, the hypnotherapist acts like a guide who facilitates the hypnotic process. Myron Teitelbaum, M.D., author of HYPNOSIS INDUCTION TECHNICS, came to the same conclusion - as is evidenced by what he wrote in the last part of Chapter 3: "The hypnotist is merely the guide who directs and leads the subject into the trance (page 18)." Yet even today there are debates over whether this is true. (Simply by reading the postings on this newsgroup and/or others, you may soon discover that people are still debating over who has the power of trance.)
In my opinion, the most accurate way of defining hypnosis is to simply call it "guided meditation." The brain waves slow down to a rhythm called the “alpha” state. Since many of us enter a meditative (alpha state) or "trance" while listening to music, watching TV, listening to a good speaker or a good sermon at church, or even while reading, you could say that the hypnotist does not even have to be a live person. So if hypnosis were ever outlawed, it would be virtually impossible to enforce, because we would have to stop the freedom of speech and freedom of press; and we would have to outlaw TV, music, sermons, political speeches, etc. Do we lose control? While the answer is “no” to that question, many of us are more susceptible to suggestions when entering the “alpha” state of mind.
The above being said, a personal friend of mine (and a well-known expert in hypnotherapy) does NOT believe that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis...as stated on his web site. He states, "Hypnosis is a focusing of attention and resonation with the unconscious mind. It is fairly easy to do this without the cooperation of another person's conscious mind." He is not alone in this opinion, nor am I alone in my opposite viewpoint. While I respect my friend's accomplishments in the field of hypnotherapy, I respectfully disagree with him and retain my personal opinion. No matter how deep one goes into the hypnotic state, if the hypnotized person BELIEVES that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, he/she will be more easily able to reject (or modify) any unwanted suggestions. However, if one believes that he/she is under the total control of the hypnotist, might he/she be more likely to respond according to that belief? Thus BELIEF is a very important part of the hypnotic process.
Some claim that hypnosis can become mind control by tricking someone into trance without their knowledge or consent. The fact that music can induce hypnosis without one's knowledge does NOT prove hypnosis to be mind control any more than the act of tricking someone into a trance without his or her knowing what is happening. Thus, I still teach and practice hypnosis based on the philosophy taught by my late mentor, because I believe it to be a more empowering approach for my clients. While I do not question others on whether or not someone can be induced into hypnosis without his/her consent, my opinion stands: I believe hypnosis to be guided self-hypnosis. If someone enters that state of mind without consent or knowledge, is it possible that he/she was tricked into trance rather than induced against his/her will? I am easily able to resist hypnosis if I know someone is trying to induce me without my consent. However, though my own opinion is strong, some would argue that the most professional response would be to say that the verdict is still out on whether or not ALL hypnosis is self-hypnosis.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: The common belief evidenced by research is that a person experiencing hypnosis slows down his or her brain waves from BETA into ALPHA - although some people believe that we may actually enter THETA during deep trance states. (THETA is normally the "dream" state we pass through on the way to and from DELTA - or deep sleep.) Be aware that since we must all pass through ALPHA on the way to and from sleep, we could easily say that all of us experience hypnosis at least twice daily. While working with clients, I keep the explanation as simple as possible. That being said, some professionals believe that a person in a very deep state of hypnosis can actually attain THETA.
2. What are the benefits of hypnosis?
Have you ever tried to change a habit, only to find your subconscious resisting? Hypnosis has an excellent track record in empowering people to get the subconscious to accept their conscious decisions, especially when facilitated by someone who is competently trained in the art of hypnosis.
Diets work on the body, but not on the mind. Most people who lose weight end up finding the pounds they lose within two years or less, because of subconscious resistance to change. Also, many smokers who make New Years Resolutions to quit smoking find their resolutions literally going up in smoke.
Hypnosis can be helpful in overcoming undesired habits (such as quitting smoking or reducing), managing stress, enhancing job performance, improving at sports, increasing self-motivation and self-confidence, reducing anxieties (such as fear of flying), and with appropriate medical referral and/or supervision, hypnosis can often be helpful in reducing pain and/or in helping cancer patients or patients of other major diseases.
While there are many websites available for a hypnosis professional near you, be sure to check out several prospective hypnotherapists before choosing one.
Even NOW this question is still debated; but consider...
If this were true, then all hypnotherapists would have a 100% success rate after only one session for every client who enters hypnosis. While countless thousands of ex-smokers have successfully used hypnosis to quit, there are thousands more who still smoke, even after being successfully hypnotized several times. (The same can be said for people wishing to use hypnosis to overcome improper eating habits and/or other undesirable habits.)
Do we give up control of our minds during a movie? When is the last time you got so involved during a movie or TV show that you actually felt emotion? You were literally in a hypnotic trance, although you retained the power to emerge from that state if desired. Your mind may be guided by a movie, TV show, self-hypnosis tape, or hypnotherapist, but YOU still have the power to resist. Even though there are some people who seem to at least partially give up control of their minds, that is because of misunderstanding who has the power. Certainly one can be TRICKED into believing that he/she has "given up control" in some forms of stage hypnosis or other experiments, but does that make it right? I am part of the NEW ETHICS of hypnotherapy, perpetuating what Tebbetts taught me to disclose: "ALL HYPNOSIS IS SELF-HYPNOSIS."
While stage hypnotists often create the illusion of having their participants be under their control, I believe it is just what I said: an illusion. Some years ago I witnessed a woman in deep trance bring herself up out of hypnosis after the stage hypnotist gave her a suggestion that she didn’t like. She flipped him off in front of everyone, and promptly returned to her original seat in the audience. Her actions demonstrated publicly that she was the one who had the power to enter trance, as well as the power to terminate the trance when she didn’t like where the hypnotists took her.
Once people really accept this concept, they may enter deep states of hypnosis while still retaining the power to resist unwanted suggestions. While it may be possible to trick some people into believing and acting as though they have given up control, that doesn't necessarily prove that hypnosis causes loss of control. I proved this myself some years ago during a profoundly deep trance when the hypnotist suggested that I shave my beard. I brought myself right out of hypnosis and gave her a lecture on ethics that hopefully she will always remember.
I believe that hypnotherapists should start informing people where the real power is - within THEIR OWN MINDS! This will empower them to protect themselves against being tricked into giving up control. My ultimate goal is to help clients attain their ideal self-empowerment; and we can begin by no longer referring to people in hypnosis as "subjects." I ask my own students to use the following definitions for people in hypnosis:
CLIENTS = People hypnotized for self-improvement, etc.
PARTICIPANTS = People hypnotized for practice, demonstration, stage hypnosis, etc.
PATIENTS = People hypnotized for medical applications of hypnosis.
SUBJECTS = Those who are the subjects of someone experimenting with hypnosis (whether for scientific research, or parlor games done by untrained hypnotists), or someone who has been tricked into giving up control. I ask professionals to please AVOID using this word to refer to clients or patients experiencing hypnosis for a beneficial purpose!
In my opinion, the very fact that the scientific community has used the word "subject" for so many decades is part of the reason why people still fear hypnosis today. This very word implies giving up control... and while there are those who wish to still use "disempowerment" hypnotic methods by tricking people into giving up control, I believe it's time to teach the truth about where the power resides! Yet truly if someone becomes convinced that he/she has "given up" control and has become a "subject" of the hypnotist, that illusion can seem very real as long as the "subject" believes it to be a reality.
Are YOU seeking hypnosis for self-improvement or therapy? If so, you decide which of the above words would best describe what you desire to be called when receiving hypnotherapy. Perhaps you might wish to find out how your prospective therapist describes someone experiencing hypnosis, and whether he/she wishes to try to take control. The ethical hypnotherapist will seek to help you become more empowered, and not less empowered.
Benjamin Franklin proved over two centuries ago that Anton Mesmer had no power over his patients; but rather, that his patients enjoyed their cures because of their own beliefs and what was taking place inside their imaginations. Yet for over 200 years, trance researchers have been attempting to use hypnosis to find ways to gain control over other people. Had all of our researchers over the years used hypnosis to EMPOWER others rather than trying to disempower their subjects, perhaps hypnosis might have a totally different history and widespread acceptance today.
Since hypnosis is a natural state of mind, clients are often surprised that they hear every word. Unless one enters a deeper state, or at least a medium state, he or she may not "feel" any different than when relaxing in the favorite easy chair with a good book or some beautiful music. One may feel quite mellow, and may feel light (or weightless), or very heavy as if sinking into the chair. The feeling may be euphoric for some who enter a very deep state, almost like being intoxicated without the side effects. In a light state, it is entirely possible for a client to believe that he or she was not hypnotized; so I consider it important for a hypnotherapist to know how to competently handle the pre-induction discussion as well as the discussion after hypnosis. Amazingly, however, many of my clients have successfully achieved their goals without ever getting deeper than light trance. Yet deeper states tend to INCREASE hypnotic abilities...
The actual hypnotic process itself enhances certain abilities: (a) the ability to IMAGINE, (b) the ability to REMEMBER, (c) the CREATIVE abilities, and (d) RESPONSIVENESS TO SUGGESTIONS. Naturally, this last ability creates the most appeal of hypnosis to some and the fear of hypnosis to others; but before you go experimenting with hypnosis, be advised to seek competent "hands-on" training (or at the very least, invest in a quality Home Study course). Simply reading alone may not provide sufficient education if you plan on trying to hypnotize other people.
If you go to three different hypnotherapists, it is possible that you might experience three different methods of induction.
The late Charles Tebbetts taught that virtually all techniques of hypnotic induction could be categorized into six main induction categories, which he called INDUCTION TYPES. Once understood, a competent hypnotist can use them as building blocks for creating almost limitless induction techniques. They are explained in Chapter 5 of my book, THE ART OF HYPNOSIS: MASTERING BASIC TECHNIQUES. Let me summarize them here:
a. EYE FIXATION (or "fixed gaze" methods) were primarily used
during the 1800's, and are the ones
b. PROGRESSIVE RELAXATION (and/or guided imagery) methods are frequently used on self-hypnosis tapes, as well as by some who facilitate meditation. Facilitators often use a relaxation induction (or guided imagery) to have someone imagine being in a safe or peaceful place, and then awaken to full consciousness. Often those who actually use hypnosis inductions of this type will deny their use of hypnosis; and some facilitators of such meditations have actually told me that they don't believe in hypnosis! A trance is a trance, and is still a trance regardless of what name or disguise people give it.
c. MENTAL CONFUSION methods are designed to confuse the conscious mind, so that it simply becomes easier to just relax and "let go" into hypnosis. I recommend that hypnosis students avoid using this type of induction until they understand it, and also until they know what to do once a client enters hypnosis.
d. MENTAL MISDIRECTION methods employ active use of the imagination, coupled with physical response, to hypnotize through responding to suggestions. An example would be having an arm float upwards (or down towards the lap) as a result of responding to suggestions involving the use of the imagination. Personally, I believe a better name for this category would be PHYSICAL RESPONSE TO IMAGINATION.
e. LOSS OF EQUILIBRIUM: most of us seem to have an inherited desire to be gently rocked, as evidenced by the millions of rocking chairs available. How many mothers "hypnotize" their babies to sleep by rocking them at night? I personally found it quite effective when another hypnotherapist used a rocking recliner, which she gently rocked while giving me suggestions to progressively relax the various parts of my body.
f. SHOCK TO NERVOUS SYSTEM (surprise): the paternal "rapid" inductions frequently used by stage hypnotists are examples of this induction type, employing a sudden emphatic command given in a surprising manner. The participant or client will experience a "moment of passivity" during which he or she will either resist the trance, or "let go" and drop quickly into hypnosis. Some evangelists may unknowingly be hypnotizing their followers by this method at faith healing services while shouting a "heal" command. Although I very rarely use this induction type, there seems to be a time and place for it once in a while. When the student of hypnosis understands these induction types, he/she may combine two or more as "building blocks" for techniques which are as limitless as your imagination.
There is an additional induction that does not fit in any of the above categories, which only applies to a person previously hypnotized: instant hypnosis by post-hypnotic suggestion. To prevent accidental hypnosis, I link this to the combination of a visual and verbal signal. This induction is helpful for a minority of clients, but I do not use it for most of my clients.
Over the years students and professionals alike have often asked me which induction is the best. My response is: The BEST induction for most of your clients most of the time is the one YOU like best! Your confidence in your favorite induction will usually influence most of the clients who have good rapport with you.
For more detailed explanations of the above basic induction types, as well as sample techniques, order my book THE ART OF HYPNOSIS: MASTERING BASIC TECHNIQUES from Kendall/Hunt Publishing. It is the first volume of a 500-page major work based mainly on the teachings of Charles Tebbetts, updated with my own professional experience, and is praised highly by my peers. It may be ordered from Kendall/Hunt Publishing by calling 1-(800)-228-0810.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: There are MANY excellent hypnosis books available besides mine, and you may check the resource guide for titles. I've named mine in the FAQ because others in the alt.hypnosis newsgroup have told me that it is appropriate to do so; and also because I believe the amount of time invested in preparing this FAQ and maintaining it entitles me to refer to my own books! Additionally, the fact that I've written hypnosis texts demonstrates my qualifications as author of the FAQ for this newsgroup. While others might disagree with some of my answers to these questions, regular readers of this newsgroup have accepted me as the author of the OFFICIAL FAQ for the alt.hypnosis newsgroup since 1994.
I would like to provide a clear answer to this question, but opinions vary. I’ll provide my own opinions, which have changed in recent years…
In the United States there is a growing controversy over whether we should call ourselves Hypnotherapists or Consulting Hypnotists. All hypnotherapy employs hypnosis; but not all hypnosis is hypnotherapy. Additionally, mastering the art of hypnosis does not necessarily qualify someone as a hypnotherapist.
For years I taught that hypnosis employed only non-therapeutic suggestion, while hypnotherapy was the application of suggestions for self-improvement and/or therapeutic purposes. Contrary to what many might believe, more than simple hypnotic suggestions are required to help someone overcome undesired habits. My stated opinion in recent years was that hypnotherapy constitutes the application of techniques to help the subconscious discover and release causes of problem, while the act of giving suggestions for self-improvement (without discovering causes) may constitute hypnosis rather than hypnotherapy. This change from my opinion in the early 1990's is explained below:
The plethora of graduates of 3-day and 5-day crash courses during the 20th Century produced many "certified hypnotherapists" who learned how to hypnotize many people and use scripts and/or a particular modality, which may work for many of the people much of the time. The drawback is that subconscious resistance to positive suggestion often requires more than hypnotic suggestions and/or guided imagery to overcome. Thus, many veteran hypnotherapists (including myself) are considering revising their opinions as to the difference between a hypnotist and a hypnotherapist. I believe that someone who simply employs hypnosis and hypnotic suggestions might more accurately be called a "Consulting Hypnotist" or “hypnosiws professional” rather than a "Certified Hypnotherapist." In my own professional opinion, it is more accurate to require that a "Certified Hypnotherapist" be able to demonstrate the ability to go beyond knowing a few inductions and the exclusive use of scripts and imagery and/or EFT. I believe that a competent hypnotherapist should be trained to discover the subconscious cause(s) of subconscious resistance when working with a willing client, utilizing such tools as regression and parts therapy (or its variations)...and to enable the client to release those causes so that he/she may be free to respond to positive suggestions.
If a person's subconscious resists positive suggestions for goal achievement, the competently trained hypnotherapist may far more likely provide service than he/she with minimal training in hypnosis, or who are simply self-taught. In short, the person who simply uses a methodology and/or a set of scripts while a client is hypnotized is IMHO really practicing hypnosis rather than hypnotherapy.
Some professionals, both in the
Even now, as of January 2, 2012, I came upon a website promoting a workshop promising a “Certificate in Clinical Hypnotherapy” after only three days of training. In my opinion, this hurts the credibility of more comprehensive training programs, because the general public may not know the difference due to the lack of uniform training standards. Even the professional hypnosis associations cannot seem to come to mutually accepted terms of agreement on what constitutes adequate training to be a "Certified Hypnotherapist" rather than a Certified Hypnotist or Consulting Hypnotist, and such disagreement has been an obstacle for greater professional unity around the world.
The National Guild of Hypnotists is now leaning strongly towards the philosophy that we should call ourselves “Consulting Hypnotists” rather than hypnotherapists. My primary concern with this opinion is that it could open the door for the psychology profession to restrict what we may or may not do to help clients. If the psychology profession is TRULY interested in helping clients achieve their ideal self-empowerment, then I believe that they should NOT make any attempts to restrict a competently trained hypnotherapist from helping a client attain his or her ideal self-empowerment. Also, I appreciate that the more open-minded psychologists are now recognizing the fact that many experienced hypnotherapists can demonstrate success with empowering their clients. This encouraging fact became apparent recently when a leading psychologist chose to participate with me in a joint project.
Past efforts to use legal loopholes and restrictive definitions of the “scope of practice,” if allowed to continue, could result in preventing some people from getting the help they need from qualified professionals originally trained and certified by the “lay hypnosis” profession. Does a massage therapist do psychotherapy? ...yet they are allowed to keep the name "therapy" in their job title.
Since my 2005 FAQ revision,
For some reason we still have a few psychologists in the United States who believe that people like me should not own the professional title of hypnotherapist. I strongly disagree with this opinion…but am willing to find another professional title if ever required by law to do so. However, it is my professional opinion that I am more than just a consulting hypnotist. See the first paragraph of Question #7 for more info validating the difference between a hypnotherapist and a psychotherapist.
It is my hope and prayer that we will see a professional unity during my lifetime! Also note that a background in counseling is NOT a substitute for adequate training in hypnotherapy when hypnosis is used to help people. (Refer to the questions regarding training.)
While a trained and licensed therapist may diagnose causes of problems, a competent hypnotherapist asks the client's subconscious mind to disclose the cause. The licensed mental health professional formulates a professional opinion describing the problem and/or its cause, and treats or counsels accordingly. (He/she can also attach labels to clients or patients, which are normally required by insurance companies for insurance claims.) Meanwhile, the hypnotherapist proceeds or refers accordingly, based on the information disclosed by the client, and also based on the hypnotherapist's qualifications to work with the issue(s) presented by the client and/or the client's subconscious.
The above paragraph describes what I believe to be the PRIMARY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HYPNOTHERAPY AND TRADITIONAL THERAPY. Now I’ll continue in more detail…
A hypnotherapist neither treats nor diagnoses physical or mental illness, unless otherwise trained and licensed to do so. The licensed mental health professional (psychologist, psychotherapist, etc.) can diagnose and/or give professional advice to clients (or patients), whether the causes of the problems are in the past or present. In my opinion, any professional practicing client-centered hypnosis does NOT diagnose the subconscious cause of a client’s problem (even if licensed to do so). Rather, he/she employs appropriate hypnotic techniques to ENABLE THE CLIENT’S SUBCONSCIOUS TO DISCOVER THE CORE CAUSE of a client’s problem, and then helps the client RELEASE his/her emotional attachment to the cause(s) unless the cause is a present ongoing issue. Once the facilitator of hypnosis release the cause(s) of the problem, he/she then uses suggestion and imagery to help the client's subconscious to accept the goals that the client wishes to achieve. If the cause is a present, unresolved issue, then the hypnotherapist should refer the client to another professional as appropriate (such as an unresolved family problem).
Cognitive counseling (or traditional therapy) deals with issues at a cognitive level; and many of life's problems require just that. When someone has to make difficult cognitive decisions, competent professional help is absolutely essential! For example, hypnotherapy is not a substitute for marriage counseling. When it comes to changing habits or behaviors regulated by the subconscious, hypnotherapy shines. Hypnosis is NOT A PANACEA for all life's problems, however, and should never be advertised as such.
If you have tough decisions to make, you need a skilled professional to help you understand your options (such as a marriage counselor for marriage problems). If your problem is due to the subconscious refusing to allow you to accomplish what you consciously wish, you may wish to consider hypnotherapy to help you discover why your subconscious is resisting the solution.
It's also important to realize that an ethical hypnotherapist will NOT try to give you his/her opinion about the cause of a problem. If he/she tries to tell you the cause of your problem, ask whether he/she is qualified to diagnose. While a physician, psychologist, or licensed mental health practitioner may be qualified to diagnose or "label" the cause of someone's problem, the hypnotherapist should avoid doing so.
Also, in my opinion, even when a licensed mental health practitioner uses hypnosis, it's very important to avoid projecting a preconceived opinion into the hypnotherapy session. An incorrect opinion may taint the trance, making it difficult to differentiate between real or imagined causes, and/or tell the difference between repressed memories and false memories. This is why I believe that a mental health practitioner needs specialized training in hypnotherapy before employing hypnosis. If hypnosis is used to "validate" an alleged cause based on the facilitator's preconceived opinion, that constitutes inappropriate leading...which can take the client down the wrong path.
Here's a good analogy: psychologists and mental health counselors could be compared to the "hardware" experts, whereas hypnotherapists are only trained to improve the software. Or you could say that a left brain problem requires a left brain solution, while a right brain problem requires a right brain solution!
Many roads lead from
I start with a positive approach, based on the client identifying the benefits of change. Hypnosis helps to sell the benefits to the subconscious before I give any suggestions regarding change.
Some people use substitutes for old smoking triggers, and some do not. I recommend one deep breath, as it has no calories and no side effects. It is far better for the CONSCIOUS mind to choose the substitute than for the subconscious, as one addiction might be traded for another. Furthermore, if the client associates pleasure with smoking, he/she needs to make a conscious decision to choose another way of having pleasure in a healthy manner - or risk backsliding.
Some hypnotherapists use regression back to the first smoke, based on the premise that the original cause must be removed. With smoking, more recent causes may far overshadow the original cause, which has often faded with time. In some instances, particularly with the addictive personality, regression therapy might be needed to uncover the subconscious cause of the addiction. I personally prefer not to use regression in the first session for two reasons: (1) regression is not necessary for all the people all the time, and (2) I want the client's first session to be pleasant and enjoyable. (First impressions are lasting!) When necessary, I'll use regression in a subsequent session to discover the cause(s) of any resistance to the positive approach, and/or employ parts therapy to help a client resolve an inner conflict.
With weight reduction, I still start with the benefits approach. If the subconscious resists the more positive approach, the client-centered approach is to ask the subconscious to reveal the CAUSE so that it may be released. (Without release from the cause, the problem may return.) Once the subconscious reveals the cause, numerous advanced hypnotherapy techniques are available for the competently trained hypnotherapist, including (but not limited to) regression therapy or parts therapy. Often more work remains; however, some people overeat as an adjunctive response to another unresolved issue. Also, depending on what cause(s) the subconscious reveals, I may or may not be qualified to help the client resolve the issue. Some clients are referred elsewhere.
If your therapist simply uses scripts and/or positive suggestions without any lasting improvement, you might ask for a referral to a hypnotherapist who is competently trained in advanced hypnotic techniques.
Pain is a warning that something is wrong with the body, and the cause should be diagnosed by someone qualified to do so. You should only seek hypnotherapy for pain management after receiving the appropriate referral from your primary health care professional. Any competent hypnotherapy instructor emphasizes to his or her students the importance of requiring a written referral from an examining physician before using hypnosis to reduce pain or other physical symptoms.
There are three exceptions:
The first exception (for those who are not licensed to practice medicine) is if the examining physician is physically present and/or supervises the hypnotic process. Once such permission is obtained, hypnosis can often be a very beneficial ADJUNCT to appropriate traditional treatment.
A second exception is for a hypnotherapist who has pre-authorization because he/she works for a medical center and/or a hospice, and is referred by the hospice and/or medical center to work with patients for pain management and/or whatever other area(s) pre-authorized for the hypnotherapist. (I worked within the second exception for seven years.)
The third exception applies when the person employing hypnosis IS a licensed physician using hypnotic pain reduction with his or her patient.
How effective is hypnosis for the chronic pain patient? Bruce Eimer, PhD, wrote an excellent book, HYPNOTIZE YOURSELF OUT OF PAIN, available on his website: www.bruceeimer.com.
When facilitating hypnotherapy with medical approval, the results can be varied. Some of the hospice patients I saw over the years enjoyed considerable comfort from pain reduction suggestions and guided imagery, while others have only minimal response at best. My work with the Franciscan Hospice indicated a great need for hypnotherapy to be offered in hospices throughout the world. One of my former hypnotherapy students built this bridge between traditional treatment and hypnotherapy, which I believe is important to everyone concerned. If similar bridges are built throughout the world in other medical fields (as well as hospice), I believe that the long-term benefits will surpass the expectations of today's medical establishment.
Since the time of a hypnotherapist is not nearly as expensive as the time of a physician, it is more cost-effective to employ a hypnotherapist than it would be for the physician to facilitate hypnosis. Also, a competently trained hypnotherapist should be trained to know when to simply use hypnosis for symptom removal, and when and how to use hypnosis to search for subconscious causes of symptom(s) that might be created by the subconscious. Many of us believe that hypnosis can make a difference even with major disease! You might be interested in reading the book mentioned in Question #2: LOVE, MEDICINE & MIRACLES by Bernie S. Siegel, M.D. (Publisher: Harper & Row), and/or ANSWER CANCER by Steve Parkhill. Also, as noted in Question #2, Kevin Hogan has documented some outstanding results with people who suffer from tinnitus.
Before using hypnosis for pain reduction (even with medical referral), seek specialized training. Several well known trainers are (in alphabetical order): Dan Cleary, Michael Ellner, Ron Eslinger, Scot Giles, Seth-Deborah Roth, and Scott Sandland.
If you wish to explore the use of hypnosis to reduce your pain, ask your personal physician to provide you with a referral. Then, for your own well-being, make certain that you keep him/her updated on your progress. Once you have the medical referral for hypnotic pain management, you may consider contacting one of the following major hypnosis associations for a hypnotherapy referral in your area:
American Council of Hypnotist Examiners: hypnotistexaminers.org
International Medical & Dental Hypnotherapy Association: www.imdha.com
National Guild of Hypnotists: www.ngh.net
Because of the
Certain health care plans in
Unfortunately, one of the state’s largest insurance companies caused us to take a step backwards by refusing to provide insurance coverage unless the provider was a physician, psychologist, or certified mental health counselor, even though state law apparently indicated otherwise. When this FAQ author approached that insurance company regarding their non-compliance (in behalf of the Washington State Hypnosis Association), they used a technicality of the law to avoid compliance, and the office of the Washington State Insurance Commissioner suggested that we obtain legal counsel if we wanted to pursue action. Because of the potential expense involved in a legal battle, we backed off. Smokers who successfully quit through hypnosis will save FAR more money by not smoking than the amount of their personal investment for competent hypnotherapy.
For a number of years, Boeing covered smoking cessation as an employee benefit even when hypnotherapy is used. ONLY the employee was covered, with 80% reimbursed up to the first $200; and the employee needed to submit a special reimbursement form to Boeing rather than going through his/her normal health insurance plans. There is a question whether or not this benefit still exists.
Perhaps it's time for the general public to ask their insurance companies to offer coverage for hypnotherapy! Isn’t an ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure? There was a time when chiropractic was not available in any insurance plan...yet now there are numerous health plans that include chiropractic.
It's time for hypnotherapy to be recognized!
My original FAQ response to this question began by saying: "This broad topic could easily justify a separate FAQ." Thanks to a former stage hypnotist who wishes to remain anonymous, we now have a separate stage hypnosis FAQ. However, some readers requested that I preserve my original short response, which follows this paragraph. Nonetheless, I encourage you to also read the stage hypnosis FAQ which provides a more comprehensive response...and one that comes from an experienced stage hypnotist. Additionally, an article appears in that FAQ that was written by Jerry Valley, a stage hypnotist with considerable experience and awards. Now here's my own response.
The reason most people do things they might not ordinarily do during a hypnosis show is primarily because of the expectations. Many of those same people might refuse similar suggestions in the privacy of a hypnotherapy office. While most hypnotherapists believe that all hypnosis is really guided self-hypnosis, a person will still respond according to his/her beliefs! So if a person enters hypnosis during a stage show with the belief that the hypnotist has control, he/she will respond accordingly unless given some suggestions generating strong emotional resistance. Some people can be tricked into giving their power away, but that doesn't make it right to do so!
Many hypnotherapists are totally against stage hypnosis; but again, my belief is that stage hypnosis of and by itself is neither good nor bad. Rather, it depends on the way one presents it. Some hypnotherapists forget that stage hypnosis kept interest in hypnosis alive since the days of Mesmer. Let's appreciate that fact!
To learn more about stage hypnosis, link to the stage hypnosis FAQ.
This question may be of interest to both the consumer and the serious student of hypnosis alike.
According to many instructors, hypnosis of and by itself is not dangerous. If it were, we would all be in jeopardy every time we get engrossed in a good book, movie, or TV show. Unwise use of suggestion may create the opposite of the desired results if the person using hypnosis does not understand the disciplines of suggestion structure. For example, a suggestion such as "You don't like candy" will cause someone to imagine candy, and imagination is the language of the subconscious!
What we say and how we say it creates images in the subconscious, which does not know the difference between fact and fantasy. (If you don't believe that last statement, hold your arms out in front of you and close your eyes. Then imagine a bucket in one hand and 100 helium balloons in the other. Imagine SEEING water pour into the bucket. HEAR it splashing, and FEEL the bucket getting heavy. After several seconds of deep breathing, open your eyes and notice where your arms are. Most people will notice a difference!) An untrained hypnotist often talks about the problems to be avoided; whereas most competent hypnotherapists focus on results - whether they use direct or indirect suggestions, and/or discovering and releasing the subconscious cause(s) of resistance to change.
However, with that being said, I wish to address several concerns:
a. AVERSION SUGGESTION: In my opinion, the gross aversion suggestion given in many group hypnosis seminars is very risky. If a person VIVIDLY IMAGINES major disease as a result of smoking, and convinces himself or herself that the disease will come if the smoking habit persists, then how can we be sure whether the negative subconscious belief had anything to do with creating the onset of the disease? Suggestions must be kept POSITIVE, affirming the desired results. Yet there are books written by people with doctorate degrees advocating the use of aversion suggestion when dealing with tobacco and other addictions.
One of my former clients, desperate to lose weight, bought a suggestion given by her psychiatrist to get sick whenever she tasted or desired pizza; and she did so twice weekly whenever her husband called for pizza delivery. After suffering for over a year, she saw me to have the aversion suggestion removed. I am 99% opposed to most uses of aversion suggestion, except very temporary and mild ones in rare cases when numerous other attempted (and appropriate) techniques are resisted.
b. REGRESSIONS AND FALSE MEMORIES: First of all, let's consider the fact that a COMPETENTLY trained hypnotherapist might frequently choose to hypnotize a client with a hypnotic regression being one of the objectives to achieving therapeutic results. It is perfectly acceptable if the hypnotherapist understands how to effectively handle client abreactions, understands the risk of false memories, and stays within his or her field of competency. Also, any regression therapist MUST understand the important difference between "leading" and "guiding" questions.
Hypnosis causes an increased ability to fantasize, so it is all to easy for a compliant client to fantasize a suggested sexual molestation that never took place! Some mental health professionals have found themselves on the wrong end of lawsuits because of this very problem. These glaring examples show the dangers of projecting your own preconceived opinions into your client's trance. Until you how to competently facilitate hypnotic regressions, DON'T.
If the above warnings about false memories aren't enough to convince you to obtain competent training, ask yourself how easy it would be for a "UFO abductee-wannabe" to convince both himself/herself and a hypnotist that a real abduction took place? Also, if a hypnotist convinces a client that he/she starved to death in a past life, it is amazingly easy for the subconscious to fantasize something to validate that opinion. In short, no matter what degrees you do or don't have, avoid using hypnosis to validate a preconceived opinion about the cause of a client's problem.
For the reasons discussed above, the therapist without actual "hands on" training in regression therapy should avoid facilitating regression therapy. The National Guild of Hypnotists Code of Ethics prohibits facilitating regressions without appropriate training in regressions.
c. PAIN MANAGEMENT: Since pain is a warning that something is wrong with the body, the cause should be discovered by someone who is licensed to diagnose. See my comments for Question #13.
d. ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR: No ethical hypnotherapist would even consider trying to use hypnosis to induce criminal or anti-social behavior, nor trying to deceive someone into doing such. Furthermore, research seems to indicate that a person would not knowingly accept suggestions to break the law unless he/she already feels inclined to do so. Nonetheless there are occasional postings on this newsgroup claiming that some people have been the subjects of secret government experiments involving drug-induced hypnotic mind control experiments. Although I am not personally aware of such experiments, there have been many questionable things done over the centuries in the name of scientific research. I personally believe that a normal person could resist unwanted suggestions (especially if he/she knows that hypnosis is self-hypnosis), but I'm not qualified to state what might or might not be possible with certain mind-altering drugs. Also, people can be tricked even in a fully conscious state; so it might be unwise to let an unscrupulous person hypnotize you.
e. FORENSIC HYPNOSIS: If you plan on using forensic hypnosis, perhaps you should read TRANCE ON TRIAL (Scheflin and Shapiro) and then decide whether you wish to seek additional training in that field first. Also, unless you have a legal background or background in law enforcement, make certain that the training you receive is specialized and adequate. Even with all my years of experience in hypnotherapy, I still avoid the use of forensic hypnosis. Those wishing to learn more about forensic hypnosis might wish to browse the website of one of our experts in forensic hypnosis, Marx Howell: http://www.marxhowell.com/
f. DEPENDENCE: The dependence issue should not be a concern with any client of a hypnotherapist who seeks to help a client become self-empowered. Client-centered techniques help clients use the power of their own minds to change, while the hypnotherapist serves only as the guide or facilitator of such change. Since I'm a firm believer in the benefits of self-hypnosis, perhaps you could say that I've become dependent on self-hypnosis because it works! Furthermore, I'll put myself on the receiving end of hypnotherapy whenever I require it. Self-hypnosis is like lifting a chair; but when I'm moving a piano in my subconscious, it's much easier with someone on the other end helping to lift.
There are those who would like to control hypnosis for themselves (whether or not by calling it "hypnosis") on the false assumption that it is mind control and/or mind manipulation; thus, they seek to discredit the hypnotherapy profession. Is the profession perfect? ...no, we have growing pains. However, just as with ANY profession, there are varying levels of skill and competency. Choose a hypnotherapist with ethics and integrity, and your risk of danger diminishes whether or not he/she was trained thoroughly or marginally - or even if still in training. I personally would rather be hypnotized by a hypnosis student with integrity and ethics rather than by someone who hides ego or personal bias under the cloak of advanced degrees.
* * * QUESTIONS for the Serious Hypnosis Student * * *
13. What hypnosis books and/or other sources can you recommend?
When I studied hypnosis back in 1983, Charles Tebbetts required all his students to read HYPNOTISM TODAY by LeCron & Bordeaux (Wilshire Book Co.). I believe that it is now out of print, as it was written about a half-century ago. It stood for many years as the leading book recommended by my mentor, along with another book entitled HYPNOTHERAPY by Dave Elman (Westwood Publishing), which I strongly recommend that any serious student or practitioner of hypnosis purchase and read. Also, get John Hugh's HYPNOSIS: THE INDUCTION OF CONVICTION (available from the National Guild of Hypnotists). These two books are required reading in many hypnosis schools; and, in my opinion, they should be in the library of every practicing hypnotherapist.
My own two-volume major work based on the teachings of my late mentor has already received many praises from my peers, and has become required reading in many hypnosis schools around the world: THE ART OF HYPNOSIS: MASTERING BASIC TECHNIQUES (1994, NGH; 2nd version Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 3rd edition, Crown House Publishing, 2010), and THE ART OF HYPNOTHERAPY (Kendall/Hunt, 2nd edition, 2000; 3rd ed., 2007, 4th ed. Crown House Publishing, 2010). You may order either volume by calling the publisher toll-free at 1-800-228-0810; and receive a discount if you order both volumes together. My latest book from Crown House Publishing (2005) is HYPNOSIS FOR INNER CONFLICT RESOLUTION: INTRODUCING PARTS THERAPY, available on my website: www.royhunter.com/books.htm
Other common "required reading" books in some hypnosis schools are: TRANSFORMING THERAPY, A NEW APPROACH TO HYPNOTHERAPY by Gil Boyne (Westwood Publ., 1989), TRANCEWORK: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE PRACTICE OF CLINICAL HYPNOSIS by Michael D. Yapko (Brunner/Mazel, 1990), and HYPNOTHERAPY HANDBOOK: HYPNOSIS AND MINDBODY HEALING IN THE 21ST CENTURY by Kevin L. Hogan (Network 3000 Publishing, 1999). Two recent additions to the above list are: HYPNOSIS AND HYPNOTHERAPY BASIC TO ADVANCED TECHNIQUES FOR THE PROFESSIONAL by Calvin D. Banyan and Gerald F. Kein, (Abbot Publishing House, 2001) and REGRESSION HYPNOTHERAPY by Randal Churchill (available at: www.hypnoschool.com)
I would suggest that the serious hypnosis student invest in all of the above books.
The "Recommended Hypnosis Books" page (formerly The Hypnosis Resource Guide) provides an OUTSTANDING resource list originally compiled by Paul Bunnell, who wrote and maintained the valuable guide for several years. His list is merged with selected recommendations from other professionals. The list of books is at:
Rather than simply telling you where to go, allow me to share my own views regarding instruction itself. My opinions expressed here are my own, but NOT in behalf of any hypnosis association. My lengthy response is from the point of reference of a combination of factors: my professional experience, the opinions expressed by several experienced hypnotherapists who have taken my course to enhance their training, my national involvement with several professional hypnosis associations and other leaders in the profession, and my awareness that some would like to control who can legally practice hypnosis. Legitimate concerns are frequently raised about the inadequate training programs that are all too common.
Many 3-day to 5-day training programs provide "certification" which represents that a participant can become qualified or certified to work with almost any client walking through the door. On 4/1/97, I saw a three-day "certification" course flier advertising that someone with a doctorate degree could become a "Certified Medical Hypnotherapist" after only three days of training! Who would you prefer hypnotizing you: a full-time hypnotherapist, or a doctor with only three days of hypnosis training? (For medical applications of hypnosis, a medical referral and/or supervision is needed.)
Let me quote sections from Chapter 1 of my own book, The Art of Hypnotherapy (Crown House Publishing, 4th ed., 2010):
"Charles Tebbetts said numerous times that there is no substitute for practice to develop confidence and competence with the art of hypnosis. In my opinion, this is even more true for those who wish to teach the art of hypnosis. [portions deleted]...how can you determine whether or not your prospective trainer is your wisest choice? First of all, ask your prospective hypnotherapy teacher whether or not he/she practices hypnotherapy on a full-time or part time basis, and for how many years. This is far more important than his or her academic credentials.
[snip]..."I would far rather see someone teaching basic hypnotherapy with five years' experience in the profession than an instructor with a doctorate degree who only occasionally uses hypnosis in his or her practice of medicine or psychology - except for medical and/or other specialized applications of hypnosis." (I believe specialty courses should normally be taught by those who specialize in those applications of hypnosis.)
In my opinion, newly certified hypnotherapists who jump right into teaching hypnosis a few weeks after their certification course are jeopardizing the credibility of our profession. Pay your dues and get your experience first! Thus, the prospective student should first inquire about the professional experience of the prospective instructor.
SECOND: Find out the length of the training. Is it a one-weekend certification course? If so, forget it unless it is a specialized application of hypnosis for those who are already using hypnotherapy professionally. Most major hypnosis associations around the United States have now endorsed a 100-hour minimum training requirement before one may be considered a Certified Hypnotherapist or Consulting Hypnotist, even if said person has counseling experience…yet this is minimal compared to training requirements in a number of other countries.
THIRD: Find out whether or not the techniques taught are client-centered
and the classes student-centered. Will you learn hypnotherapy techniques that
you must use on every single client? No hypnotic technique will work on all of
the people all of the time. Charles Tebbetts taught what I now call
"diversified client-centered hypnosis." (Maria Cobb gave me this
definition in the 1990's when she was practicing hypnotherapy in
Tebbetts also exclusively taught subject matter that was directly related to the art of hypnotherapy. He did not believe we needed hundreds of hours of classes on theories or on topics that have nothing to do with the practice of hypnotherapy.
Additionally, is your prospective teacher a self-appointed instructor, or actually certified by a credible source? While some self-appointed instructors may be competent, many actually teach courses that are not recognized by any major hypnosis association. Avoid any instructors whose courses are not recognized by any national hypnosis association.
Last but not least, find out whether the approach is self-empowerment, or whether your instructor treats people as "subjects" dominated during hypnotherapy.
Realize that because hypnosis is an art, there is probably no such thing as a perfect instructor. Be willing to learn from him or her; but make certain you are also willing to continue learning and grow beyond your instructor's viewpoints. DON'T EVER make the mistake of thinking your instructor is the only person qualified to be an authority in hypnotherapy. None of us has all the answers, and I do not recognize anyone as the "leading authority" in hypnosis. We are all still learning. In other words, do NOT give your power away to a self-appointed guru.
If the only program available near you is a short one, be willing to refer many of your clients to those who are adequately trained. Make a commitment to yourself to pursue additional training ASAP, and/or enroll in a home study course (check the resource guide). Even if you have counseling experience, please do NOT let 3-day or one-week certification instructors dupe you into thinking that their short courses offer sufficient training to qualify you to use regressions or other advanced techniques to deal with subconscious resistance to change! (The National Guild's Code of Ethics FORBIDS the use of hypnotic regression until you are trained in that area.)
Also, do not get stung by the consequences of their failure to respond to the light of truth: there is NO SHORTCUT to learning hypnosis competently. The increasing controversies over "false memories" have resulted from therapists employing hypnotic regression without adequate training in hypnotic techniques! ...and in many cases these are experienced mental health counselors who have only minimal training in hypnosis.
To minimize public controversy, I have chosen to delete giving specific school recommendations in an informational posting. That being said, schools approved by these four major international associations are required to meet the following minimal required hours of study for certification: (alphabetical order)
300 hrs.: American Council of Hypnotist Examiners
150 hrs.: Association for Professional Hypnosis and Psychotherapy: (www.aphp.co.uk)
*200 hrs.: International Medical & Dental Hypnosis Association (www.imdha.com)
100 hrs.: National Guild of Hypnotists (www.ngh.net)
*Requirements have been increasing 20 hours per year for several years.
Note that some schools approved by the above four associations actually offer programs that EXCEED their certification standards. There are some others that also exceed the above standards even though they might not have formal approval from any of the above three associations.
Although I lean towards longer training programs, I believe that a
program of 100 hours is far better than any weekend certification
course...although I personally recommend 200 hours as required for IMDHA
certification, and have a partial listing of those schools or instructors at:
If you contemplate training outside one of these approved schools (or
If a one-week course or less is all that is initially available to you, then you might consider investing in a Home Study course. Then, please make a firm commitment to both yourself and your clients to continue your training as soon as you can afford to invest the time and money to do so, whether this is by investing in a home study course as a supplement to augment the shorter course, and/or by traveling to work with a competent trainer. When possible, please augment any Home Study course with "hands-on" training. Omni Hypnosis offers Home Study courses. Also, my own home study course is summarized at: http://www.royhunter.com/homestudy.htm.
This is a difficult question to answer. There are some who hold themselves up as such, but the longer I'm in this profession the more I realize there is to learn about the art of hypnosis. I'm only an artist who is still learning even as I teach.
Who is the leading authority on music? Music is an art. Would you consider Barbra Streisand the leading authority on music? Of course not... but she is a master artist! Would you consider a music professor at Juliard a leading authority? ...in classical music? ...in popular music? ...in country Western? ...and is there a difference between an artist and an expert who is an "authority" on any one area of music? It's only a matter of opinion...whose opinion? Is the "authority" also a good artist?
Hypnosis can be used to reduce pain. Hypnosis can be used to quit smoking. Hypnosis can be used for weight reduction. Hypnosis can be used to overcome phobias. Hypnosis can be used to reduce stress or anxiety. Hypnosis can be used for entertainment. Can any one person be an expert in all areas? It's only a matter of opinion...whose opinion?
I personally recognize the late Milton Erickson, MD, as the Grandfather
of modern hypnotherapy. I personally recognize the late Charles Tebbetts as the
leading authority of his day on diversified client-centered hypnosis, and a
pioneer of parts therapy. I personally recognize the late Dave Elman as a
leading 20th Century pioneer of widespread acceptance of hypnosis by
physicians. I personally recognize LeCron & Bordeaux as 20th Century
pioneers as well. I personally recognize the late Arthur Winkler, Ph.D., as a
leading authority on spiritual uses of hypnosis. I personally recognize the
late Ormond McGill as the 20th Century world expert on stage
Any practicing hypnotherapist or consulting hypnotist has heard of the work of Milton Erickson, M.D., already mentioned above. Although books about Erickson's work are virtual classics, there are other outstanding books from the scientific community that serve the entire world; and some are written for the average person. For example, one outstanding book was written by Bernie Siegel, M.D., entitled LOVE, MEDICINE & MIRACLES (Harper & Rowe). This important book is a must-read for anyone interested in medical applications of hypnosis; and Dr. Siegel does suggest that some readers consider seeing a hypnotherapist for certain situations. There are numerous contributions to hypnotherapy from the scientific community, from names too numerous to mention here.
Also, within the hypnosis profession, some good people have contributed
to greater credibility of the benefits of hypnotherapy. Paul Durbin, author of
several books, spent years working in a hospital as a hypnotherapist. Randall
Churchill, a hypnosis instructor near San Francisco, contributed a very
important book on regression therapy: REGRESSION HYPNOTHERAPY: TRANSCRIPTS OF
TRANSFORMATIONS (2002, Transforming Press). Gil Boyne (Churchill's mentor)
dedicated decades of work towards promoting comprehensive hypnotherapy training
programs and endeavoring to make hypnotherapy a more credible and recognized
profession, and founded the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners. Dwight
Damon, president of the National Guild of Hypnotists, has worked through
lawmakers in attempts to promote the hypnosis profession. Steve Parkhill has
done some profoundly successful hypnotherapy with cancer patients, and his work
deserves greater recognition. Additionally, Kevin Hogan, Ph.D., has a proven
record of success with Tinnitus, giving hope to many who suffer from this noisy
inconvenience. (You can read Dr. Hogan's book, TINNITUS: TURNING THE VOLUME
DOWN; Morris Publishing, 1998). Hogan has written other credible books as well.
Terrence Watts of the
Certainly there are many other researchers and authors who could be mentioned here, but space does not permit. Perhaps someday a comprehensive book on 20th Century hypnotherapy will preserve their work for future generations.
Since we are entering the age of specialization, there may be new notable names within specialized areas emerging in the years ahead. Two of these specialize in helping women. One is Marie Mongan, founder of HypnoBirthing – a worldwide network of HypnoBirthing practitioners specializing in helping women with pregnancy and childbirth. Another is Lynsi Eastburn, doing groundbreaking research with the use of hypnosis to increase fertility for women who have difficulty getting pregnant. As this century progresses, I believe many other names will emerge.
If the medical community could join hands with the hypnotherapy profession, it is my opinion that some very substantial additional research could result from such cooperation. In an era of greater acceptance of alternative health care, why can't some research funds be allocated to men like Steve Parkhill, Kevin Hogan, Terrence Watts, and others, to explore the healing values of hypnosis? Certainly this would be far more productive to society than the confusion that is created by a few feeding the ongoing controversy over whether or not "lay" hypnotists should be put out of business.
Now let me add a caution: BUYER BEWARE! Certain marketers who represent themselves as "authorities" or leaders of the hypnotherapy profession travel the country marketing 3-day or 5-day hypnosis training programs, and offer hypnotherapy certification in a matter of a few days. Regardless of their apparent credentials, I cannot recognize them as leaders in the hypnotherapy profession because of the damage done to our professional credibility by their churning out "certified hypnotherapists" with an investment of only a few short days. There is already an uphill battle in our profession because certain psychologists would like to outlaw hypnotherapy by defining it as part of the practice of psychology, and these weekend warriors have given ammunition to those who wish to destroy what they call "lay hypnosis."
Also, some marketers who give public seminars for smoking cessation and/or weight reduction represent themselves as "authority" within the hypnosis profession. The negative aversion suggestions and/or use of a DISempowerment approach indicates their lack of training. They frequently make promises of outrageous success rates that are as unbelievable as they sound! I believe that if they knew half of what they say they know about hypnotherapy, they would inform their audiences how to wisely choose a hypnotherapist for the needed private follow up sessions. I understand why some do not do so, however, as a marketer asked me to facilitate such programs a number of years ago. He promised me a huge income, but would NOT allow me to disclose that some participants would need private sessions with a local hypnotherapist. I told the marketer that I would facilitate such programs ethically, or not at all. We parted ways.
I refer to people who teach programs described above as "hotel hoppers," and in no way do I consider them to be authorities or leaders in our profession. Let me go on record by stating that I am NOT opposed to hypnosis seminars facilitated properly, but it is my belief that misrepresentation and/or distortion of success rates in advertising has hurt the public image of the hypnotherapy profession - and that those who do such do not deserve to be called leaders.
In summary, success in marketing does not qualify that person as an "authority" in hypnosis or hypnotherapy. Let him or her who is considered a "leading authority" be so designated by others and not by himself or herself. That being said, there are numerous names highly respected in our profession. Most have been published.
Some people seem gifted in the art of hypnosis right from the very first class, so it is possible that you could be good at non-therapeutic aspects of hypnosis. If you EVER plan on using hypnosis in a therapeutic way to help people be motivated, or to overcome bad habits, etc., you run two risks if you fail to obtain "hands-on" training:
(a) First of all, and of VITAL importance, you run a risk of someone being left with a negative impression of hypnosis if he/she fails to respond to your attempts to help. Even the best of us cannot help all the people all the time. But the probability of helping a client is far greater if you have a good understanding of a variety of techniques and disciplines, so that you may fit the technique to the client rather than the other way around. Even if you understand the importance of suggestion structure, some people may have subconscious resistance to change. Frequently the failure is not theirs; but rather, that of an inadequately trained hypnotherapist who tried to make the client fit his/her technique or style. Believe it or not, this sometimes happens with counselors or psychologists with little or no training in hypnotherapy who use hypnosis because it is legal for them to do so. For example, improper wording itself often cancels hypnotic suggestion.
(b) Second, you will simply not have the respect of hypnotherapists who have respected hypnosis enough to invest in their own training. If you ARE one of those who learned in only 3 to 5 days, do yourself a favor and SEEK ADDITIONAL TRAINING, even if through a home study course. This is important to both you and your clients.
Additionally, our legal survival as a profession is in danger because of the very fact that there are self-taught people using hypnosis therapeutically, as well as "certified" hypnotherapists who only completed "certification" courses lasting a week or less. We as a profession simply must increase our own standards if we are to prevent the AMA and A.P.A. from dictating who may or may not use hypnosis. Some with doctorate degrees have been ACTIVELY trying to legislate us out of legality in a number of states. We must start insisting that hypnotherapists seek adequate training before calling themselves "Certified Hypnotherapists," or we must create a new name for those trained in advanced techniques! If we do not do so, we run the risk that hypnosis could once again fall under the control of an elite few.
Although I will admit these opinions are my own, they are strong ones based on my awareness of problems that have arisen in recent years. Please don't take short-cuts in your training, or you may be short-cutting both yourself and your clients.
This issue is one of the most hotly debated issues in hypnotherapy!
"The law goes into effect January 1, 2003. Starting at that time, those therapists who are not licensed in the healing arts are required to have new clients read and sign a disclosure form. The client receives a copy and the therapist is required to keep the signed copy for three years. The disclosure must include a statement that the therapist is not a licensed physician, that the session is complementary to healing arts services licensed by the state, and that the therapist's services are not licensed by the state. Therapist must describe the theory upon which the services are based, the nature of the services, and therapist's education, training, and experience."
For more details about SB577, visit http://hypnotistexaminers.org/legislation.html
In other states, the A.S.C.H. has made attempts to pass legislation that
would outlaw hypnotherapy unless done by someone with a doctorate degree or by
a licensed mental health care professional. They succeeded in
This type of restrictive legislation is in my opinion nothing more than a "turf war" designed to protect the pocketbooks of an elite few at the expense of many competent hypnotherapists, as well as the expense of those among the general public who may be unethically denied their right of free choice for alternative therapy.
Where do I stand personally on legislation? I oppose turf wars. In my
opinion, NO ONE GROUP nor any one hypnosis association should have total
control over hypnotherapy in any state or in any country. After the turn of the
century, the National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH) impressed many (including me)
by stopping the passage of a bill in one of the Southern states that would have
given the NGH virtual control inside that state where said legislation was
considered. More recently, however, they stood by while
If we must have legislation, let it serve both the profession and the general public rather than serving the elite. At the same time, my inner conflicts over the issues surrounding legislation are due to the concerns created by those who sell 3-day and 5-day certification courses. The uninformed public has no way of knowing whether a hypnotherapist has received one week or one year of training. The A.S.C.H. has used this as ammunition against the hypnotherapy profession. However, if the A.S.C.H. really cared about the hypnotherapy profession receiving competent training, then I find it interesting that several unspecified members of the Psychology Departments in certain universities have BLOCKED college class proposals from experienced certified hypnotherapy instructors! It appears to me as though some psychologists want total control of hypnotherapy...else why would they continue to call us "lay hypnotists" and try to stop hypnotherapy both at the legislative level and at the university level?
If the psychology profession is dedicated to helping the general public,
they need to allow the general public the right of free choice in their health
care, and help prevent any further laws from passing that resemble the one
I also hope that whatever legislation passes in any state will become
both a win/win for both the hypnotherapy profession AND the public, just as we
It would be my preference for hypnotherapy to be self-regulated rather
than government regulated. The law in
If there is pending legislation regarding hypnosis in your state, please provide a copy of this entire hypnosis FAQ to your state representative. Let's save the hypnotherapy profession from legal extinction.
In my opinion, we should not ask whether this is possible, but whether this would be ETHICAL!
I include this question in the FAQ because there are many who want to know. Unfortunately, just as people can be tricked while fully aware, they can also be tricked into hypnosis without knowing (or even believing) that they experience a hypnotic trance!
"Is this IMPOSSIBLE?" you might ask? Well, ask yourself how many times you've been literally HYPNOTIZED by television! Since hypnosis is a natural state of mind, you can even enter hypnosis without realizing it while sitting in Church on Sunday listening to the sermon. Even a good story-teller can induce us into hypnosis by holding our interest.
The best way to recognize the spontaneous hypnotic state is to be AWARE of when your imagination starts working vividly. Realize that since all hypnosis is really self-hypnosis, YOU have the ability to MONITOR all suggestions going into your mind...unless, through ignorance, you have been tricked into giving up control. Refer back to Questions 1 & 2.
Now I'm going to state an opinion that may be considered the most controversial of this FAQ...
In my opinion, religious cults often control their membership through group hypnosis. This belief is partly based on my own past experience as a member of a religious cult. It took several years for me to overcome the guilt and to become fully "de-programmed" from all the manipulative subconscious programming done by my former church. So it is now my opinion that some religions regularly hypnotize their membership without their ever knowing it. Does that make it ethical? You decide. Perhaps the best answer depends on whether the motive is to empower you, or to take away your power and free choice. There are more comments in the next question...
A trance is still a trance, regardless of whether it is called hypnosis, meditation, visualization, progressive relaxation, creative daydreaming, auditing, rebirthing, etc. Even if you believe that there is a difference between trance and hypnosis, both are still altered states. Most people experience altered states frequently without ever realizing it.
Facilitators in seminars often employ group hypnosis without disclosing to their audience that hypnosis is being used! In some cases, the facilitator actually realizes that he/she hypnotizes the audience. In other cases, the facilitator doesn't even realize that hypnosis is taking place! This is often true in church, where sometimes a minister who literally hypnotizes many in the congregation will actually command those same people to avoid hypnosis!
One religious organization actually has practitioners who employ hypnosis under a different name while telling its members to avoid using hypnosis! YOU decide the ethics of this. How would you like to be hypnotized by the same person repeatedly, receiving suggestions to return week after week, and then be given suggestions to refuse to let anyone else ever hypnotize you? Yet since including this question in my FAQ, I've received a couple of complaints from people who apparently disagree with this response for Question #20. Meanwhile, a client who was a FORMER member of this particular religious organization referenced in this paragraph validated what I disclosed.
It's time we awaken out of our mass hypnosis. Perhaps the true hypnotherapist is actually DE-hypnotizing people from the negative trances induced upon us by the world around us.
Past life therapy remains among the most controversial of all hypnotic techniques. While many can truthfully argue that there is no scientific evidence to support the validity of past life regressions (PLR), many argue with equal fervor that PLR offers many benefits, and cannot be disproven.
Does one person's belief OR disbelief in PLR make it true or untrue? Most of those reading this FAQ have already formed opinions pro or con, or somewhere in between. Before revealing my somewhat ambiguous opinion, consider SEVERAL possible explanations...
a. FANTASY OR METAPHOR (false memories): This is a possible explanation for many PLR's, and is plausible even if you believe one or more of the other explanations.
b. ACTUAL PAST LIFE MEMORIES: Many people believe that this explanation can neither be proven NOR disproven by science. It has been said that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. Thus, some scientists might wisely ask "Can it be proven?" while skeptics might use science to claim that the lack of proof discredits the theory. Some of us might ask, "Can you DISprove it?" Just because a belief or theory cannot be proven to be true, does that constitute proof that the theory is false?
c. SOUL-TAPPING: Is it possible for us to tap into actual memories of a soul that lived in the past? Perhaps we can be like a VCR, playing the tape of selected memories by tapping into the Universal Library where the book of life is kept, etc., or Akashic records, or by tapping into the actual memories of a departed soul.
d. UNIVERSAL CONSCIOUSNESS: Some people believe we can tap into the Holy Spirit or Universal Consciousness, and find any appropriate memories of an actual soul that lived in the past...as though all such memories remain permanently circulating in the universe.
You are free to choose your own explanation(s) which best serve you. Nonetheless, I maintain my strong opinion that the hypnotherapist should work within the CLIENT'S belief system! You have a personal right to decide which of the above explanations you choose to believe; however, the most client-centered therapeutic approach is to AVOID projecting personal opinions into others. A therapist should NOT facilitate a PLR unless the client requests it in advance. Likewise, a client should NOT be criticized for requesting a PLR just because the therapist doesn't believe in PLR. In my opinion, the therapist has a professional obligation to either honor the requested PLR, or to refer the client elsewhere. PLR is discussed at length in Chapter 13 of THE ART OF HYPNOTHERAPY; but the reader still might not know my own beliefs regarding this controversial technique even after reading my book.
If you go to a hypnotherapist who, prior to hypnosis, tries to convince you that your problem originated in a past life, then go elsewhere. Likewise, if you ask for a past life regression and your hypnotherapist tries to convince you that they are all false memories, seek out someone who is more open-minded and willing to work with your belief system.
While an unproven theory cannot be accepted as fact except on faith, it is equally true that DISbelieving in the possibility of PLR is also faith in your own belief - unless the theory has been proven to be impossible. (Fear of new ideas kept this world in the dark ages for centuries!) In the absence of scientific proof OR disproof of past lives, my recommendation is that we keep an open mind for either possibility. Maybe we will never know for certain until our present life on this planet is complete.
GLOSSARY (of common hypnosis terms & abbreviations):
affirmations: positive statements designed to change subconscious programming
age regression: guiding a hypnotized person backwards in time by
WARNING: Only those trained in regression therapy should do this!
alpha: a state of the mind where brainwave activity slows down to a range of from 7-14 cycles per second, during which we experience hypnosis, and which we pass through on the way to and from sleep daily
altered consciousness: synonymous with alpha; terminology used to refer to the state of mind we experience during hypnosis, meditation, or any form of trance
anchoring: establishing a trigger which, when activated, will trigger certain responses; this happens randomly in life, but can be suggested during hypnosis (see also triggers)
aversion suggestion: suggestions given that emphasize negative aspects of a habit, such as finding smoke to smell horrible and/or make someone sick
awakening: the act of bringing a person up out of trance and into full conscious awareness
beta: that state of mind we are in during most of our waking hours, the thinking mode
deepening: in hypnosis, this refers to attaining a more profound trance state
delta: that state of mind we enter during deep sleep, total unconsciousness
direct suggestion: suggestions given as commands ("take a deep breath")
ego states: see parts therapy
expectancy: having expectations of a certain outcome
expectation: another word for expectancy
eye-fixation: induction involving staring at an object
false memories: fantasies that are experienced during a mishandled regression which are believed to be repressed memories rather than fantasies
FMS: abbreviation for False Memory Syndrome (having false memories)
Gestalt therapy: involves role-playing (often used for release)
HRT: abbreviation for Hypnotic Regression Therapy
HypnoCise: a word coined by the FAQ author to describe the combination of imagery, meditation, self-hypnosis and properly constructed affirmations
hypnosis: a trance state which is guided by someone or something other than the person experiencing the trance (there are numerous definitions by different experts)
hypnotherapist: a trained professional who uses hypnosis to help people with self-improvement and/or for therapeutic purposes who, contrary to some opinions, should NOT required to have a doctorate degree
hypnotherapy: the use of hypnosis for self-improvement and/or for therapeutic purposes
hypnotist: anyone who guides another person into hypnosis
ideomotor responding: having client answer questions via finger movement
imagery: using the imagination to fantasize or remember events
indirect suggestion: permissive suggestions ("you can take a deep breath whenever you wish to relax")
induction: a technique that guides (induces) a person into a hypnotic state
initial sensitizing event: an emotional event that is the ORIGIN of a problem, creating a sensitivity to feelings; such as claustrophobia being traced back to being locked in a closet at age 3
ISE: abbreviation for Initial Sensitizing Event (also called original sensitizing event)
NLP: abbreviation for Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a modality of change that evolved from the teachings of Milton Erickson
NS: abbreviation for Non-Smoking programs
old tapes: a term frequently used to describe memories that are replayed in the imagination in a manner that may influence our behavior and/or attitudes
original sensitizing event: alternate name for initial sensitizing event (ISE)
parts therapy: a complex hypnotic technique where the therapist
talks with various parts of the mind, such as the inner child and inner adult -
also called ego states therapy
WARNING: Only those trained in parts therapy should use it!
past life therapy: a regression into a real or imagined past life
PH (or p/h): abbreviation for post-hypnotic suggestion
PLR: abbreviation for Past Life Regression
PLT: abbreviation for Past Life Therapy (PLR is used more often)
post-hypnotic suggestion: a suggestion given during the trance state which is acted upon after emerging from the trance state
PR: abbreviation for Progressive Relaxation
progressive relaxation: a type of induction involving the progressive relaxation of various parts of the body
PT: abbreviation for Parts Therapy
rapport: a comfortable feeling between client and hypnotist resulting in a level of trust, resulting in greater ability to respond to suggestion
reframing: using the imagination to imagine a different outcome of a past event, such as combining Gestalt therapy with regression therapy to facilitate release; also used in NLP with guided imagery
regression: going back in time during trance to remember past events, and replaying them in the imagination, often with accompanying emotions
self-hypnosis: a self-induced trance state
stage hypnosis: the public use of hypnosis purely for entertainment purposes
subconscious: that part of our mind which is the seat of imagination, emotion, artistic abilities (and other skills), and which takes care of numerous functions without our conscious awareness, such as automatic functions of our organs, etc.
subjects (of hypnosis): the term used by many to describe a person who is in hypnosis (NOTE: the word "client" is used with increasing frequency by hypnotherapists)
systematic desensitization: the use of programmed imagery in a systematic way to help desensitize someone from an anxiety or phobia
theta: that state of the mind we are in while dreaming
time distortion: the term for a unique phenomenon where we lose conscious awareness of how much time has passed (examples: 5 minutes can seem like 20 minutes, or vice versa)
triggers: something seen, heard, felt, etc., which "triggers" a response, urge, memory, or emotion, etc., such as turning the key in the car might "trigger" a smoker to light up a cigarette
WT: abbreviation for WeighT
zzz: sleeeeeeeeep (go waaaaay down deep!)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Link to Self-hypnosis FAQ.
Link to stage hypnosis section (newest part of official alt.hypnosis FAQ).
Link to hypnosis FAQ from a scientific view by Todd Stark.
E-mail Roy Hunter at Alliance Self-Empowerment (click here)
Last FAQ revisions: January 2, 2012
Last minor revisions: January 13, 2013
Roy Hunter, Certified Hypnotherapy Instructor
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