Education Level in Hypnotherapy
My initial certification training presented an unfamiliar experience for me. I already had a doctoral degree, and therefore extensive academic training. Throughout the context of that conventional schooling, my classmates and I shared a common educational background and interests. Clearly, graduate school represented a specialized program of courses in a specific field. That meant I was accustomed to classmates who were more like me academically than not.
Hypnotherapy training was quite different in several ways. Firstly, there were no prerequisites. No expectation of prior training or education level. But neither was there any interest in students’ lifetime experiences or dispositions. This made some limited sense, since hypnotherapy is not subject to any licensure requirements.
I had to release my own academic assumptions. Though it sometimes seems the only qualification for hypnotherapy training is the ability to pay the course fees, most people self-select into the field out of a desire to help others. At least that is the only commonality in the various trainings I have attended.
In my first basic hypnotherapy class, two other students had master’s degrees, while the others had not even a college education. It would be easy to assume that lesser education would make them inferior practitioners, but I observed no correlation. Rather, it seems that the diversity of one’s background is more relevant. Broad life experience is important.
It is also important to be well and widely read. Hypnotherapy is highly linguistic; so, being articulate and proficient in language – a positive consequence of reading – creates a distinct advantage.
My conclusion is that education level and background are not barriers to learning and practicing hypnotherapy. But it does influence how one is perceived and, therefore, how one positions their practice. It also influences professional conduct. As a former university professor I have knowledge and skills that allow my work to be more therapeutic, whereas someone with less formal education is likely to adhere to the unique benefits of hypnosis.
Hypnotist or Hypnotherapist?
It wasn’t until I had completed certification myself that I began to notice the range of conduct and professionalism among my new peers. I was highly invested in providing therapy; whereas others (having attained the exact same training) used hypnosis for entertainment. I considered my work “serious” as opposed to “fun”. To be fair, I was making a choice not to be an entertainer. That was a personal choice. And, just as I did not need to be everything to everybody (stage hypnotist thru hypnotherapist), I had to allow others their own choices.
On the other hand, I believe you need to make that choice. I understand the components and theory that comprise a successful stage hypnosis act. I could do it if I chose to. But it would require effort and practice, potentially compromising my primary expertise. So I am concerned when I see a successful stage hypnotist advertising therapy services. Not that one cannot be successful at both, but it is a relatively rare phenomenon.
I have learned to respect hypnotists who limit themselves to practicing in a particular style, and I mean that in an entirely positive way. I have come to the realization that my own abilities are unique. Just as not everyone aspires to a doctoral degree, my iChange Therapy reflects a particular level of academic background and a disposition for creative and extemporaneous problem-solving. The master class intensives I teach guide students to understand my work, not necessarily to replicate it themselves. And few people get even that far, as most are satisfied to work at the pedestrian level of their original training.
That suits me just fine. Just as I wouldn’t know what to do with 100,000 clients (the over-enthusiastic promise of every website developer vying for my business), not every hypnotherapist needs to practice as I do, integrating language skills and energy work. Rather, I advocate practice at a high level of skill, proficiency and confidence; concentrating on a form of practice that gives you joy. That means looking at other successful hypnotists or hypnotherapists as a model, but carving out your own niche, your own expertise.
Few hypnotists now go from town to town giving mass sessions, but for many people that was their first lasting impression of hypnosis. I do not like doing smoking cessation and weight loss myself, but I respect hypnotists who have concentrated their skills to consistently achieve success addressing narrow issues.
I have less respect for anyone who focuses on making a lot of money. Yes, I have made a comfortable living from hypnotherapy; but I have focused on doing very good work, as opposed to seeing a lot of clients.
Good work takes many forms. Whether you see clients individually face-to-face for a few sessions or deliver a program on CD & DVD; whether you work on specific acute issues, phobias and anxieties or chronic illness and dis-ease; whether you collaborate in a medical or dental office facilitating pain relief or work independently from home; whether you rely on scripts by others, write them yourself, or create an extemporary patter; whether you work with individuals or groups; whether your clients are young or old – it is important to choose what suits you best, practice and refine it to a high level of master, then build an unassailable reputation for successful application of it.
I am excited by the diversity I see within the field of hypnotherapy. After all, clients are just as diverse. The key is to connect each client to the right practitioner.
It is not the number of courses you attend, the hours you accumulate, or the certificates you collect that make you a success. Rather, it is a sense of curiosity, inquisitiveness and wonder that draws you to explore, experiment, reflect and improve.
The question to ask yourself is NOT “Where do I fit within the breadth of hypnosis and hypnotherapy?” but rather, “Which of my new skills excite me, and what client characteristics do I need to attract in order to gain the opportunity to apply those skills?”
Too many recent graduates attempt to adhere closely to what they just learned in training. And that is where education level may exert its most prominent influence. Most public education conveys content that is a mile wide and an inch deep. Students experience a cycle of teach, test and forget. The higher one goes up the education ladder, the scope narrows and meaningfulness deepens. At its extreme, the knowledge of some research scientists is a mile deep, but onIy an inch wide.
So where is the balance? Let’s use the masters degree as an analogy. At the masters level there is an increased emphasis on reading and practice-oriented research. There is less ‘testing’ and more project-based learning. The academic focus is generally narrow enough to improve abilities within a particular field, while the teaching style encourages ‘durable’ learning. In other words, it is presumed that masters graduates have developed abilities that contribute to reflection and problem-solving in their field.
That is why most ‘professions’ require a masters degree before one can be considered truly proficient. In my own case, as I became certified and opened an office, I practiced what I had learned in basic training. I charged a nominal fee by the session. I booked clients a session at a time based on their availability. I could have continued that way indefinitely. But I had the advantage of masters and doctoral degrees, the experience of which had taught me to aspire to more.
So I continued to study. I sought out master classes and mentors, replicating my masters level coursework. Then I expanded into related topics, integrating other fields of study, developing and following lines of inquiry as I had done in my doctoral studies.
So that now I offer my own hypnotherapy process, iChange Therapy. I charge a highly respectable fee to clients who commit to a twenty-hour protocol, at my convenience. My conference demonstrations are viewed with the same awe as the performance of an Olympic gymnast. “What did I just see? How is that even possible!”
People responded to Gil Boyne’s work much the same way. He never attended college, but he understood how to learn in ways that contributed to mastery. Bottom line, it is not the number of courses you attend, the hours you accumulate, or the certificates you collect that make you a success. Rather, it is a sense of curiosity, inquisitiveness and wonder that draws you to explore, experiment, reflect and improve. It’s the difference between being educated and being learned.