The “Dirty Secret” of Hypnotherapy

A couple of weeks ago, I went for a coffee with my lawyer. I had asked her to do some legal research into the feasibility of Hypnotizr, and she came back to me with surprise at how unregulated the hypnotherapy profession is in the U.S. and Canada. When I tell my clients the requirements for becoming a hypnotherapist, many of them are similarly surprised.

That's what this blog post is about. I want to reveal some harsh truths about the hypnotherapy profession that are not widely known. The “dirty secret” of hypnotherapy is that, in most states and provinces, anybody can hang out a shingle and start practicing as a hypnotherapist with minimal qualifications or experience.

Registered massage therapists require 2000 hours of classroom instruction, including classes in anatomy and physiology. Psychotherapists require several years of schooling, plus years of psychotherapy to work through their own issues. Doctors, lawyers and dentists require an undergraduate degree and a professional degree, plus residency or articling. But hypnotherapists? The world's most popular hypnosis training program provides less than 75 hours of classroom instruction, usually over the course of nine days.

What's more, most other professions have a system to weed out underachievers. If you do badly in high school, chances are you'll never become a doctor or a lawyer. Hypnotherapy doesn't have anything like that. Despite the inflated titles we sometimes use, the requirements to call oneself a hypnotherapist are dismally low. Nobody looks at your grades before admitting you to a hypnosis school. Few associations do reference or background checks. And as one psychologist in Delaware found out, with a little misdirection, even a cat can become certified as a hypnotherapist.

Does that mean the whole profession is bad? No, absolutely not! Different associations have different standards for membership, and there are plenty of hypnotherapists who are highly skilled, insightful and empathetic. What it means is that the rule of the game is caveat emptor. You should do your own research and ask a lot of questions before hiring a hypnotherapist.

The good news is that hypnosis is very safe and hard to mess up, since it taps into people's natural ability to enter into trance. That's why you rarely hear bad news about hypnosis, despite the lack of regulation. What also helps is that under-trained hypnotherapists tend to rely on scripts. Reading scripts means that these hypnotherapists are using reliable, proven techniques that were authored by more experienced hypnotherapists.

But if you ask me, script-reading is not $100–150/hour work. That's where I saw the opportunity to create Hypnotizr. Although Hypnotizr can't replace face-to-face sessions with a top-tier hypnotherapist, it's good enough to replace hypnotherapists who rely on scripts—and at a fraction of the cost. If I can make my vision for this company a reality, Hypnotizr (and not script readers) will be the obvious choice for anybody who wants a hypnosis session that's better than a generic recording but who can't afford a top-tier hypnotherapist.

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