Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Hypnotherapy Training

Here’s my own, personal view of the hypnotherapy training market. I apologise in advance for everyone I am about to upset.

Hypnotherapy training is in the hands of private enterprise. The principle objective of the trainers is not to produce as many effective hypnotherapists as possible for the good of the people, but to produce as much profit as possible for the good of the principals.

In order to make as much money as possible, their imperative is to sell as many places on courses as possible. In order to do that, a variety of tactics are employed, not limited to suggesting that massive income can be earned from working a couple of days a week, or that everyone can do hypnotism and everyone can be hypnotized. All of which is, of course, tosh.

The standard hypnotherapy training model (and there are variations that either get you there quicker or get you some kind of spurious academic qualification at the end) is in three stages; Certificate, Diploma, Practitioner.

Completion of each stage rewards you with a certificate to hang on your wall. Apart from massaging your ego, it satisfies two other functions; 1) It’s a receipt for your fees, and 2) It qualifies you to pay the fees for the next course. Unfortunately, as all these courses teach relaxation instead of hypnotism, and a wishy-washy brand of therapy-lite, you end up not equipped to be either an hypnotist or a therapist, despite considering yourself ‘qualified’.

This process churns out a large number of hypnovices who arrive on these message boards full of certainty only to fizzle out as quickly as a Guy Fawkes sparkler. In order to make good on their promise that everyone can be hypnotized and everyone can do hypnosis, the institutions have had to make hypnosis something everyone can do. They make it relaxation.

To be fair, they’re just engaged in the laudable pursuit of stuffing their bank accounts and have cottoned on to the fact that there are plenty of people happy to help in in exchange for the keys to the box. The truth is that, to be a good hypnotherapist you need two minutes of induction and two lifetimes of intelligence and compassion. The problem is that, the trainers can’t make a living teaching two minutes of induction (who is going to pay £1,000 for two minutes of training?) and they can’t teach you the two lifetimes of intelligence and compassion; you either have them or you don’t.

Remember, of course, that the trainers are often (not always, but often) people who couldn’t make a living treating patients. I don’t blame them. It’s hard. I struggle. Why? Because my patients get better, and leave my diary. I have often said “I wish I was a real psychologist because then my diary would be full for the next six months of people I haven’t been able to help.” That’s not a joke.

There are a lot of courses run by people who invested in their training, got their receipts (sorry, Diplomas) spent a few months seeing the occasional person for a free assessment and maybe one or two sessions at £35 and thought, “There must be an easier way to make money than this.”

And there is. They copy the notes from their training on their own letterhead, hire a church hall for a weekend for £50, advertise the “Hypnotherapy. Yes! Practitioner Excellence” (HYPE) course and sell it to 20 people at £400 a pop. Then they regurgitate the notes that didn’t work for them, and produce nothing more than a few sparklers and one hardy soul who shall, in the fullness of time, hire a church hall and present their own version of the same, useless crap.

The world is littered with the shadows of mugs who bought prime Florida swampland, and snake oil, and that’s all fine and the way of the world. But we’re talking about people’s health here: other people’s mental health. And that stops ‘caveat emptor’ making it all fine and dandy, in my opinion.

Which brings me onto another issue about how these courses are taught. No one can make a living teaching two minutes of induction, because no one is ever going to pay £1,000 for a two minute course, even if it’s worth ten times that much. So, instead, the courses get packed out with all sorts of exercises like SUD Scales (that no one who has achieved more than Grade 1 Therapy will ever use) or Diagnostic Regression (Grade 2) and homework on the contributions Winnicott and Bowlby made to a modern understanding of Separation Anxiety (which, to be fair, you can forget about as soon as you’ve written it).

During these courses lots of practical protocols are taught. On the whole everyone goes along with them because they don’t want to spoil it for anyone else. OK, so maybe they aren’t getting hypnotized but for sure some others will be so just go along with it and pretend it worked.

I did it too. I went all the way through all my receipts (sorry, Diplomas) volunteering for every practical, and never being hypntotized. I remember one lecturer, who retains a certain profile, trying to treat me for my cheese aversion. And at the end of it I said “Yeah. Great. Thanks.” But during it I thought he might as well have been discussing his laundry with the woman next door. I didn’t want to rock the boat, but he no more hypnotized me than he made me tall, blonde and gorgeous. (And cheese still smells like vomit.)

Courses delight in giving their punters reams of scripted protocols, deceiving them into believing that now they have a script they have the power to heal. It’s bollocks. But it leads to a protocol-led perception of therapy and that, I’m afraid, is all wrong. Therapy isn’t about devices. It’s about people. That’s such an important point I’m going to give it a line of its own.

Therapy isn’t about devices. It’s about people.

I saw a video of yet another latest, greatest therapy model that made me pause, recently. I forget whom it featured and have an uncomfortable feeling it may have been a member here, so I want to say I mean no personal malice if you are reading this.

The clip featured a protocol in which letting go of a coin was a metaphor for letting go of ones problems. Many of the attached comments hailed this as some sort of incisive genius. It’s not a bad metaphor. It might be useful, sometimes.

Don’t, however, be tempted to add it to you quiver because, if you do, treating a patient will become a process of going through the filing cabinet to find something you have that you can apply to this patient; and that, I believe, is absolutely the wrong approach to therapy.

The protocol-centred approach to therapy (as typified by Hammond’s big red book) is horribly misconceived. The coin-dropping metaphor is fine, but a good hypnotherapist will create four equally good metaphors a day, 20 a week, 90 a month.  And none of them will be the Holy Grail.

Last week I said to a patient “’How shall I compare thee to a summer’s day.’ I don’t know if that’s Shakespeare or Coleridge or Wordsworth, but this is me. ‘How shall I compare thee to a flat bed truck’.”

Seems bizarre, doesn’t it? Nothing you’ve ever been fed in a training course. It was nothing I’d ever thought about before either. Never used it before and I don’t suppose I’ll ever use it again. I won’t make a video clip of it. But that patient arrived at my clinic in tears, in bits at 09:00, and met Bill Gates later the same day.

The next day, she wrote “LOL :) probably the most awesome flatbed truck in the whole world! Yesterday would be a totally amazing result on an average day in my life. But given the state i was in in the morning, totally awesome thank you.”

You see, therapy shouldn’t be about walking into M&S and buying an off the peg solution that fits the therapist perfectly and fits the patient approximately. It should be about the patient being measured for and fitted with a suit that fits them perfectly (irrespective of whether or not it will ever fit anyone else).

For that, the therapist needs to be able to take a brilliantly incisive case history, and then use all their experience, imagination and confidence to improvise a solution which is tailor-made to fit the specific patient.

To teach that, the Surrey Hypnosis and Integrative Therapies Synod (SHITS) has to find a bunch of real patients with real problems with whom to conduct real case histories and do real therapy.  That’s tough.

Alternatively they can give you a script which says “You have no desire to smoke in the morning …” and tell you to read it to your patients.

Every time a hypnotherapy trainee is given a script they feel empowered.

Every time a hypnotherapy trainee is given a script the trainers are saying “We can’t be arsed to teach you properly.”

Improvisation (done competently, of course) is the key to good therapy and I’m tempted (but not yet convinced) to think it’s the key to good training too.

I have mentioned before (I think on a thread about sitting in on my sessions) the idea of setting up a unit that treats pro bono and charges trainees to attend, observe and be taught. No one does it that way at the moment and maybe that’s because it isn’t doable. But, were it possible, I suspect that would be a far more effective model for training than anything being done currently.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Hypno Heretic

I am repeatedly astonished by the degree of scorn and opprobrium I engender from other hypnotherapists when I say that, using hypnotism, I can make people do things against their will. The very mention of the idea leads to all sorts of accusations from being a stage hypnotist to, well, worse.

I was discussing this with a patient recently. She's a consultant: a surgeon. She's also a good hypnotee (top 10%). She invited me to make her do something she didn't want to do. I said that I would ask her to stand up and that when I did she had to want to stay seated and use all her will power to make sure she didn't stand up.  There was no confusion. She knew she wanted to stay sat down and would do everything in her power to stay fixed, firmly, to the couch. "Stand up," I said.

She stood. "How do you do that?" she asked.

It's not difficult.

Why is it, then, that so many hypnotherapists get so agitated when I talk about this stuff. Why do they insist that it was staged, set-up, prepared, acted or entirely fictional? Why are they so threatened by it?

If they have done it themselves, then they know it's true.

If they haven't tried to do it themselves then they are either speculating or regurgitating something they have been taught but never tested.

If they have tested it and couldn't make people do things against their will, then they can't do hypnotism - and no hypnotist or hypnotherapist is going to like the fact that they can't do hypnotism very much.

And therein, I think, rests the hostility. I do not pretend to do things I cannot do. In fact I do not claim to be able to do things I can do. But making people stand when they are trying their very hardest to stay sat down is not controversial.

Try it. If you can do it too, you can do hypnotism and you don't need to be hostile to me. And if you can't do it ...

Here's a video of me doing double arm levitation, and stuck hands, with a running commentary - silently in a blindfold. It wasn't prepared. It wasn't staged. What you see is what it was. Click Blindfold