What is a hypnotherapist?
A hypnotherapist is somebody who uses hypnosis in order to help people with a psychological problem—for example, anxiety, stress, depression, a medically unexplained symptom or phobic anxiety, amongst other problems. It is important to consider, however, that most hypnotherapists are not health professionals; in most cases, individuals who describe themselves as such are, in fact, lay hypnotherapists who have not been trained professionally.
Some of the hypnosis courses in London are thorough and involve both practical training and theoretical components. However, it is important to point out that the trainers are usually lay hypnotherapists themselves; indeed, in many cases, they train anyone who applies regardless of their former education and lack of clinical experience. And, there are the courses which are less thorough; for example, it is possible to do a hypnotherapy course over a series of weekends and join a ‘professional society’ in a matter of months. The use of hypnosis in clinical practice is not regulated in the UK; and often, the public, as well as many health care professionals, are unaware of this and this has caused problems in both primary and secondary care.
There is only one organization in this country which regulates the use of hypnosis in clinical practice, and that is the British Society of Clinical & Academic Hypnosis (BSCAH). All the accredited practitioners are health professional and have untaken a significant amount of training.
What the public needs to remember about hypnotherapists.
It is important to note that hypnosis is not a therapy. It is a tool to be used by a health professional—a doctor, nurse, dentist, psychologist, accredited counsellor or psychotherapist. Physiotherapists, occupational therapists and osteopaths may also use hypnosis, but it is important that they work within the limits of their training and expertise. This principle is the same for anyone using hypnosis.
Is it safe for me to see a hypnotherapist?
Some health care professionals use the term hypnotherapist when describing themselves; however, in most cases, they use their primary training in their descriptions. For instance, I describe myself as a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, or a psychologist and hypnotherapist. My advice to the public is that, when seeking treatment, go to a health professional—doctor, psychologist or accredited psychotherapist—and perhaps not a lay hypnotherapist. The important point to remember is that hypnotherapy is a tool which is used by health professionals to facilitate therapeutic change: health professionals who use hypnosis will be trained to treat this condition without hypnosis. In conclusion, in the right hands, hypnosis is a safe and valuable tool with no side effects: it is a dual process in which you, the patient, are in control.