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How to Choose your Hypnotherapist

by Kate McEwen(more info)

listed in hypnosis, originally published in issue 218 - November 2014

Having trained in hypnotherapy in the 1990s I made the foolish mistake of assuming that everyone knew or knows what hypnotherapy is and what job the hypnotherapist does.  I was brought up short, however, at a trade fair when I overheard a man say to his wife, ‘Hypnotherapy?  Oh, that’s to do with using water!’  Okay, so he meant hydrotherapy but it did make me wonder if there may be some people who don’t really know what a hypnotherapist’s job consists of and therefore, what one should be looking for when choosing a therapist.

So what does a hypnotherapist do and how do you make sure that, should you wish to utilize the services of same, you choose a bona fide practitioner?

Well, to answer the first part of the question, a hypnotherapist’s job is to assist and support clients, to help themselves, to bring about desired change and, contrary to popular belief, the successful therapist does not have to be born with special powers or a particular ‘voice’.

However, even today, there is no formal legislation in place and it remains that anyone who chooses to call themselves a hypnotherapist can do so without risk of sanction. It is important, therefore that both those who wish to benefit from hypnotherapy, and those who seek training in this field, use large helpings of caution and common sense as well as equip themselves with as much information as possible in order to make informed choices.

Kate McEwen 218 Choose your Hypnotherapist

The use of hypnosis in therapy is still distrusted by many people resulting in hypnotherapy, both as an intervention to improve quality of life and/or as a career option, being dismissed by individuals who would or could benefit from the therapy or even make very good hypnotherapists. Many of these ambiguous attitudes to hypnosis arise from its history which is, in part, fairly colourful and often its more esoteric associations are to be found at the forefront of the mind of those who have not had the time or opportunity to find out more about it.

From witch doctors and shamans to outlandish portrayals of the watch swinging Svengalis in film and on stage, the subject is often shrouded in mystery and occult allusion.  While the waters continue to be muddied by the occasional stage hypnosis act and the increased ‘pedalling’, online, of less than salubrious ‘covert’ hypnosis type techniques/courses, (most of which are simply designed to encourage one to part with one’s money by promising amazing ‘powers’) hypnosis is actually, somewhat disappointingly, straight forward.

To be pedantic, hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis in a therapeutic setting and the word ‘hypnosis’ is simply a term applied to a naturally occurring, altered state of awareness which is similar to daydreaming.  There is nothing mysterious about it.  No-one takes control of anyone else and change can only be encouraged through the willing acquiescence of the client.

To this end a good, fully trained hypnotherapist’s first job is to create a suitable ambience and supportive relationship with their client from which rapport will naturally result.  Rapport is essential for a trusting relationship to be established; a relationship in which belief in the therapist and conviction in therapeutic approach is innate.

Under those conditions an individual may permit themselves to become passive, thus inhibiting the functioning of the critical, analytical, conscious mind and rendering themselves more open to suggestions; suggestions designed to bring about change, in aberrant behaviour or attitudes, in line with the stated goals of the client.  At no time, however, does the client ‘lose control’ and they remain capable of resisting any suggestions made by the therapist which conflict with their norms and values.  The client is always in control.

So if you are looking to employ the services of a hypnotherapist, what should you be looking for?

  • First of all have a look at their website but remain aware that a great website does not promise a great therapist!  Start your research by looking for any, potentially outrageous, claims.  If the therapist is offering guarantees, don’t go there!  If they are making subjective and unquantifiable statements such as ‘ultra advanced therapy’ or suggesting that they, the therapist will ‘cure’ you, again don’t go there! If they are offering ‘block bookings’ (i.e. 10% discount if you sign up for 6 sessions) don’t necessarily write them off completely but let it flag up a consideration.
    I do not offer discounts (other than concessions) for ‘blocks’ of bookings as it is not possible to know, in advance, how many sessions will be required to bring about the change the client desires. Some individuals are more ‘hypnotizable’ than others and can respond in as little as one or two sessions, whereas others may require more sessions to achieve the same goal.  Imagine a sliding scale from 1 (deepest level) to 100 practically awake.  The majority of people fall into the 25-75 part of the scale with some, from 25 down being able to experience very deep level of hypnosis (often termed somnambulism - erroneously mirroring the meaning of sleep walking).
    The extremely deep levels are not necessary for hypnotherapy to be successful, but those who have an innate ability to enter the deeper levels may need fewer sessions than others. Even individuals who can only enter lighter states of altered awareness can still benefit from the process, but it may take a little longer. 
  • If you are, at this point, still interested in what the therapist and their website has to offer, you may wish to phone them as you will be able to tell quite a lot from how they respond to you.  I would always suggest you ask them if they offer a free initial consultation.  Why?
    Well in order to achieve the aforementioned willing acquiescence of the client, it is essential that the client is comfortable with their therapist and without a pre-session dialogue how would the client really be able to judge whether or not they were in or out of their comfort zone?  A client who is not sure of their therapist will not enter hypnosis.
    This initial consultation is also a prerequisite for the therapist to glean information about the client and the nature of their presenting problem.  Furthermore it provides the opportunity for the therapist to explain just how hypnosis ‘works’ and what it can and can’t do for the client.  Only then can the client make an ‘informed choice’.
    It is possible, too, that the therapist discovers, during the discussion, that they would be better to refer on the client.  This is not demonstrating weakness, more a strength in that the therapist is able to honestly evaluate their competence.  It may be that they themselves are uncomfortable with the client or that their presenting problem is out with their area of expertise.
    I always reassure my clients that they are welcome to decide, after this initial consultation (which usually takes about an hour), whether they wish to proceed with the therapy.  Should they choose not to go ahead with the session, then I do not charge any fee at all. 
  • During the phone call I would also suggest you ask the therapist about their training and membership of any professional associations.  Don’t be overly impressed by a string of letters after their name.  It is what these letters stand for which is important;
    Simply ‘googling’ the qualifications can be useful, but then you might want to carry out further research into the organisations which have accredited the therapist’s training as well. Although the industry lead bodies, including UKCHO (United Kingdom Confederation of Hypnotherapy Organisations) and the General Hypnotherapy Standards Council have devised minimum training standards and oversee a voluntary code of conduct and ethics, there still exists a wide array of training opportunities.
    To protect the public, the CNHC (Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council) has waded into the fray and is also seeking to moderate minimum standards of hypnotherapy training and monitor those who practise.  Membership of the CNHC is a good guide as to the validity of the therapist’s training. In Scotland, the largest professional organisation of hypnotherapists is the NSPH and membership of that Society is also a good indicator of professionalism. At minimum, you want to be assured that any bodies which have accredited the therapist’s training maintain a register of practitioners, have an Advisory Council of some sort to ensure maintenance of standards in training and professional practice, have a formal Code of Conduct, Code of Ethics and Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures in place.
  • After all of this research is completed one of the most valuable indicators, in making your choice is your own intuition.  However well qualified, or however much they comply with what I have said above, if something doesn’t feel right to you, find a different therapist.
    Remember, as I said earlier, in order for therapy to be helpful to you and to be value for your session fee just remember that you need to be able to permit yourself to become passive.  At no time will you ‘lose control’ and you will remain capable of resisting any suggestions made by the therapist which conflict with your norms and values.  However, this passivity will be elusive unless you are fully comfortable with the therapist.

Good luck and enjoy your hypnotherapy.


  1. Garry Coles said..

    A good article, however I would like to raise a couple of points which are just my personal opinion.

    My biggest sign to avoid a therapist, is those therapists that either have an NHS provider number, (as could a contract cleaner), or paying to go into the NHS register of complementary therapists (not run by the NHS and similar to 'yellow pages'), misleadingly (and illegally) claiming to be NHS registered or NHS approved. They are simply conning the public as they are not approved or registered in any way. Before people 'shoot me down', I do use the phrase 'NHS contracted' in my advertising, but that is because I actually have a contract of employment with the NHS as a clinical hypnotherapist!

    Secondly, although I agree that membership of the CNHC is a good starting point, it should be noted that the CNHC is a private company not recognised by the government any more than any other self regulating body (despite their advertising seemly trying to persuade otherwise). I agree that membership is a good thing but not infallible. Due to grandfather rights from some 'self regulating bodies' - I know of members who have had virtually no hypnotherapy training, or just 'on-line' training.

    Thirdly, it's interesting that neither the National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) or the British Society for Clinical Hypnosis (BSCH) were mentioned - their members actually have government recognised qualifications:- The Hypnotherapy Practitioners Diploma (HPD) in the case of the NCH, and post graduate university validated qualifications in the case of the BSCH (up to MSc level). Beware of all these so called 'post graduate' diplomas and certificates not actually validated at that level by anyone other than the training provider.

    I also personally don't particularly agree with the 'free initial session' idea, (I know of very few clinical and medical practitioners in other fields that would offer such a thing). I find often the therapists that do offer it are simply 'doing a sales job' and that many clients asking for it are trying to get a certain amount of 'free therapy'. Having trained for many years (and still doing so), patients pay for my time, experience and expertise. I find that a good initial session is often longer than a standard session, requiring a good explanation of hypnosis and therapy, a case history and initial goal setting exercise and an experience of hypnosis as a very minimum - I'm certainly not doing all that for free!

    Sadly very few GP's will recommend therapists (I'm lucky in that many do recommend me and I actually practice from a GP surgery), so I would say if possible to ask around and get a personal recommendation of a therapist as a good starting point. Then follow up the points in the article, whilst taking into account my comments. That way you should (hopefully) find a therapist who in partnership with yourself can assist you in achieving your aims.

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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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