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Choosing a Good Hypnotherapy Training Course – No Walk in the Park

by Kate McEwen(more info)

listed in hypnosis, originally published in issue 197 - August 2012

Hypnotherapy is a powerful tool; care should be taken in choosing your training venue

In the early 1990s, when I decided to train to become a Hypnotherapist, I investigated many available options. Even then, there were a plethora of training alternatives ranging from, at one end of the scale, Read this book, Become a hypnotherapist in a weekend (some of the latter still exist) through to, at the other end, a four year degree course, with many other programmes falling somewhere in between. Such was, the apparent ’surfeit’, of information available, I postponed my decision to train for a further three years but, eventually, chose to I train at TANTC, Blairgowrie.

I chose the course for a variety of reasons, not all capable of empirical measurement! The majority of shorter course alternatives were, rather obviously, lacking substance and my personal commitments, at the time, precluded a four year time investment.

I was lucky. I believe I could not have had a better training at that time, certainly in Scotland and probably most of the rest of the country. Indeed the course I undertook was deemed one of the top four in the UK.

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Nowadays, however, you can hardly turn round for courses being promoted on the internet which, inevitably, makes choosing the optimum course so much more difficult. Unfortunately it can be hard to see behind the veneer of a ‘smart’, well designed and well marketed site in order for the enquirer to be in a position to rationally evaluate what is actually being offered, though I would concede that there are, today, more courses of consequence ‘out there’, than in the 90s.

Naturally the cost of a course impacts on any decision. Often that is actually the least important factor in evaluating the true worth or efficacy of the training offered.  

Compounding the difficulties in assessing course provision, there is no one ‘school of thought’ relating to hypnotherapy. Viewing various providers you will discover natural bias in the courses on offer.

While I would not argue that any of the alternatives to clinical hypnotherapy, which utilizes a psychodynamic approach and involves analysis under hypnosis, are in anyway ‘wrong’, I do believe that a fundamental, practical training in the management of what are known as ‘abreactions’ and which can and do occur under hypnosis spontaneously, should be an essential element of any training course. (An abreaction is the term given to a cathartic outpouring of emotion which, if it occurs, requires careful resolution in order to ensure the client is not left vulnerable.)

A substantial supervised, practical element is an essential inclusion in the training, without which the practitioner can get into deep water. There should also be sufficient focus on underpinning theoretical knowledge to ensure that the eventual therapist is not only practically competent, but understands the power of the tools with which they are working.

Do not be misled by statements that NLP (neuro linguistic programming) is an essential prerequisite to training in hypnosis. It is not. Many NLP approaches have been ‘borrowed’ from hypnosis and are, or can be, utilized to market this concept.

So, Where does the Prospective Student Start?

I would suggest that, to begin your investigation, you take some time to see what is on offer on the internet. Even though courses may be quite far away geographically, don’t dismiss them until you have familiarized yourself with what is, generally, on offer. This may seem like a waste of time, but it is an important part of your preparation that you get a ‘feel’ for the variety of courses available. How can you make a valid decision if you are not aware of the market?

You may wish to make a phone call (or email) one or two training establishments to ask further questions. How your enquiry is handled can also be quite informative!

A shortlist of the courses you have identified, to which you are attracted or which resonate in some way with your instincts (don’t underestimate your intuition!), is a useful next step. Using this list I would then ask the following questions. While not exhaustive, they constitute a valid basis for your assessment.

  • Does the course have an intensive, supervised, practical element run in properly equipped therapy rooms?

Hypnotherapy is an art which requires confidence, and confidence comes from practice and positive results. Positive results are facilitated, from the outset of training, by properly constituted sessions which allow for the development of rapport and some elements of privacy, both germane to success.

On some courses students are paired off in a room, with other ‘pairs’ of students seated close by, to practise their skills. This is not ideal. Not only is it not how the student will work when they graduate, it doesn’t allow for the ‘normal’ client / therapist relationship, which is an essential part of practice, to be developed.

Far better is the opportunity to work, one on one (student therapist and student client), in properly equipped ‘offices’ with recliners and audio equipment, far more akin to ‘real’ work conditions, post course.

A supervisor should always be standing close by for feedback and, if required, intervention, but not in a way which will impact on the therapeutic relationship.

  • How many students constitute a class?

This may be a personal ‘decider’ as you may prefer the anonymity of training in a larger group rather than the rather ‘intense’ interaction which can occur in smaller classes, though given the nature of the therapy, the latter may be more manageable. Whatever your decision, there should always be a sufficient ratio of supervisors and assessors to students.

  • On application are you asked for references?

Hypnosis as I have said before is a powerful tool. Those who are inducted into its use should be trustworthy, responsible and have an ethical approach to their treatment of others. You would want to ensure that others on the course with you have had their background checks also.

  • Is there a face to face interview or interviews with a course director (or telephone interview in the case of potential students from abroad)?

The interview is the applicant’s opportunity to meet a representative / representatives of the training establishment which they are considering attending, and also provides the opening for further and more in depth questions and discussions for both parties.

Whilst a course director or trainer will use their instincts to assist in assessing each application and have references to which to refer, for the same reasons as above, one would hope that all applicants have undergone an interview, to ensure that those with whom you are working are ‘safe’.

  • Are you, routinely, offered the opportunity to visit the campus where any residential elements of the course will be run?

Accepting that it might not always be practical, an applicant should at least be offered the option of visiting the establishment where they will train, prior to committing to any decision, especially if the course involves a residential element(s).  Lecture room facilities, training session rooms, accommodation (where applicable) may all impact on the final decision regarding where to train.

  • Is the course trying to include too many diverse outcomes in the training ‘package’ in relation to time allowed?

This is extremely difficult for an individual enquirer to attempt to assess, but if you are being offered, say, Hypnotherapy, Life Coaching, NLP and Counselling on a single course, one might have to question how thoroughly each component is to be covered. The time element would also be cogent.

  • Is the course recognized by industry lead bodies and relevant insurance companies?

The two main industry lead bodies are UKCHO (United Kingdom Confederation of Hypnotherapy Organisations) and the GHR (General Hypnotherapy Register) incorporating the GHSC (General Hypnotherapy Standards council).

Schools or training establishments can be affiliated to UKCHO through course recognition by member associations such as the Hypnotherapy Association and courses recognized by the GHR, among others. All courses so recognized meet the current national occupational standards.

These standards are incorporated in four documents the first three of which are generic to all complementary therapies

  • CNH1 – Explore and establish the client’s need for complementary and natural healthcare;
  • CNH2 – Develop and agree plans for complementary and natural healthcare with clients;
  • Principles of Good Practice;
  • CNH23 - Provide Hypnotherapy to clients - specific to Hypnotherapy.

These documents collectively form the basis of all accredited training courses, but only encapsulate minimum standards.

  • Is there an opportunity to discuss the course with previous students/graduates?

You may wish to seek the opinions of individuals who have already completed the training. A reputable training school will facilitate this, usually by email contact (with permission), after which the person contacted may or may not be willing to discuss further questions by phone.

  • Are adjectives, utilized to market the course, such as ‘pure’ or ‘advanced’ hypnotherapy, quantified in any way or is woolly and potentially unrepresentative language being bandied about?
  • Is comprehensive assessment feedback offered?

Commonly students of hypnotherapy are expected to complete case studies and essay style responses as part of their assessment.  Judgement of progress is an inherent part of any training programme; however such measures should not be utilized only as tools of assessment, but also educational vehicles in their own right. Even satisfactory responses can benefit from additional feedback and input.

  • Is the new graduate provided, on qualification, with a mentor?

Starting out in practice can be challenging and a high-quality course will either provide mentoring for new graduates post course, or will be recognized by a professional association who will provide experienced mentors to the same end. One such organization which does this is the NSPH (National Society of Professional Hypnotherapists)

  • Are you being promised a quick route to riches?

One would expect intuition to warn you against this.

  • Finally, course scheduling - does it suit your timetable?

This is a question which only the individual can answer. Some courses are spread over a longer period of time with periodic attendance required at a specific venue. Others, such as the one offered at the Scottish School of Hypnotherapy in Argyll, provide intensive ‘immersion’ training which not only enhances the absorption of knowledge but results, almost invariably, in immense personal development.

There may be other questions which you have which are not covered here; however it is hoped that these points provide the reader with some insight or guidance to assist in choosing a course, the successful completion of which will not only be rewarding in itself, but will provide a hugely interesting, if challenging, career.

Caveat Emptor and good luck!


  1. Austin Hawkins said..

    Although this article is very informative and obviously useful to someone seeking to train in this discipline, of more interest to most people is the question "how, as a potential patient, do you choose a hypnotherapist?". There being so many half trained people who set up as hypnotherapists

  2. Kate McEwen said..

    In reply to Austin: You make a very good point. I hope the following pointers assist, but bear in mind they are only bullet points..... Prior to selecting any on therapist:

    • Phone first
    • Ask about their training and how long they have been in practice and approximately how many clients they see on average ?
    • Visit their website, if they have one, and check professional recognition (also double check on the website with any associations of which the therapist is claiming to be a member).
    • Do they offer guarantees?
    •  If so, avoid!
    • Does the therapist offer an initial consultation which allows you to meet and discuss any presenting complaint with them before you commit to a session?
    • Ask how many sessions the therapist thinks you might require – if you are given a definite number such as 10 – avoid. As a good guide, the answer should be that it depends on the presenting problem, duration and end goal as well as the client and their motivation.
    • All good hypnotherapists should undergo continuing professional development
    • This would not be an easy area to question; however membership of most legitimate professional bodies will require evidence of this. You can always check with the therapist’s accrediting organisations
    • Use your intuition – if it doesn’t feel right, don’t use them

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About Kate McEwen

Kate McEwen BA(Hons) - Director & Principal Trainer has been in practice as a hypnotherapist, in partnership with John McEwen, since 1999 during which time she has been privileged to work with thousands of clients. Firstly as a partner at Corsebar Hypnotherapy Centre, Paisley, Kate currently practises as a partner in B9 Hypnotherapy, Argyll. In 2004, with a back ground in lecturing in further and higher education spanning 22 years, Kate took over the training remit for the National Society of Professional Hypnotherapists and is the principal trainer at the Scottish School of Hypnotherapy. She is a Member of the National Society of Professional Hypnotherapists (MNSPH), Senior Qualified Hypnotherapist - General Hypnotherapy Register (SQHP), Member of the National Council of Psychotherapists (MNCP), Member of the Hypnotherapy Association and Member of the Advisory Council of, and Postgraduate trainer for, the NSPH. Kate may be contacted on Tel: 01369-820172;

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