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Why Should You Receive Hypnosis from a Licensed Professional?

Updated: Jun 8



pendulum watch with fleur de lis pattern in front of tan leather chair (out of focus) and white curtains in background
When you fix your attention on one thing and tune out everything else, you are better able to go into hypnosis. Photo: MK Hamilton.

Hypnosis might seem mysterious and strange, and in some ways it is. But mostly, it’s a method of helping someone achieve a goal by means of deep inner concentration and healthy dissociation. Many different people offer hypnosis, from people who took a few hours of instruction and got a certificate, to people who have a professional license (like LMFTs, LCSWs, psychologists, and medical doctors).


If you’re confused about which option is best for you, let me explain what hypnosis is and what it means to receive it from someone with various levels of education and training. Of course, I'm biased, but I make a case for why you should receive hypnosis from a licensed professional.


First, what is hypnosis?

Hypnosis can be defined as a “focused state of awareness” (according to Dr. Brent Geary) that is attainable and naturalistic. Sometimes it occurs easily and without your even knowing it, like when you’re driving and find yourself at our destination without even remembering how you arrived. Did you go into “trance”?


Hypnotic states of mind are altered and influenced by your role, expectations, and relationship with the hypnotist. One part of your mind is operating as it usually does, but another part is deeply absorbed internally, and exploring possibilities that usually go unexamined.


For example, if you’re trying to eat healthier, you probably know all the diets and exercises you’re supposed to do consciously. Yet you keep sabotaging yourself and do the opposite. What keeps tripping you up? You can’t seem to access that information consciously. So, in hypnosis, you get to explore your mind and body at a deeper level and discover resources that you might have forgotten, to make whatever necessary changes to release the weight. In a hypnotic state, you are more open to different ideas and emotional states, and you have access to more of your strengths.


Uses of hypnosis


Hypnosis can be used in a variety of situations, such as reducing pain and other undesirable physical symptoms in medical offices. It can also be used by mental health professionals for relief of anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, and reducing compulsive behaviors.  


In life coaching, hypnosis can boost motivation and help you envision your desired future. Once you have a clear image and experience of doing that, it becomes easier to achieve.


In the right hands, clinical hypnosis is safe and effective

Clinical hypnosis is not a way to make people do things against their will, as is often portrayed in the movies and on television. That’s stage hypnosis, for entertainment purposes. Clinical hypnotists cannot make you do things that go against your values or morals. If the hypnotist is careful and ethical in their practice of hypnosis, you’re in good hands.


Why you should receive hypnosis from a licensed professional

There is a part of the hypnosis world that is unregulated; you might not know what you’re getting from an unlicensed hypnotist. People can call themselves hypnotists with very little education or preparation for the range of responses you might experience.  They may or may not have altruistic, healing motives, and could take advantage your vulnerability in a hypnotic state. Therefore, it’s a good idea to receive hypnosis from a practitioner who is accountable, skilled, educated, and prepared to handle a wide range of possible responses to hypnosis.


Options available for hypnosis delivery

young orange and white dog with eyes mostly closed, profile
In a relaxed state, you can achieve more of your goals, whatever they might be.

There are many options for receiving hypnosis in the marketplace these days. Some hypnotists offer packages of 3-5 sessions (to pick a random number) for a specific goal, like smoking cessation or weight loss. These types of programs tend to use standard scripts, with a few alterations for the client’s preferences. They can be effective. However, they’re not really tailored or “gift wrapped” (Dr. Jeff Zeig’s term) for each particular client. They also tend to be directive and give commands rather than evoke and invite experiences.


Other hypnotists offer sessions tailored to your individual needs. This is how I work, because I do Ericksonian hypnosis. I use what you bring to me and what’s happening in the room to make the session meaningful and helpful to you. This is called utilization; this and other strategies help create a favorable climate for change in the client.


The late, great Milton H. Erickson, MD said that hypnosis and therapy in general must be delivered in the language of the client, which goes beyond what language they speak regionally (e.g., English, Spanish, etc.)  It means that I pay attention to you and how you speak, move, the tone of your voice, etc., and speak to you in a way that is easy for you to assimilate because it’s familiar and comfortable to you. If you’re a bit skeptical or downright oppositional, I’ll do hypnosis with you differently than if you’re compliant and eager to please, for example.


Certificate vs. General Psychological Degree in Hypnosis

Can you learn this in a certificate/diploma program? Probably. There’s nothing wrong with hypnotists who received their hypnosis training that way. However, are they prepared to handle more complicated situations that might arise in hypnosis?


What if, during the session, you encounter some disturbing memory or get flooded with emotions (called an abreaction)? This doesn’t happen all the time, but it could. How would a person with only a certificate in hypnosis, acquired over the course of a few weeks or a year, know how to handle this? Wouldn’t you rather have someone with general mental health knowledge, and thousands of hours of clinical experience with various mental health disorders, in that situation? I know I would prefer someone with greater experience and knowledge to someone who only got education in hypnotic techniques.


In addition, licensed mental health professionals and medical professionals must answer to regulatory boards like the Medical Board or Psychological Board for the state where we practice. We must adhere to an ethical code and receive continuing education in our fields. If we do something unethical, illegal or harmful to clients, we are subject to punishment and correction.


What keeps someone with a certificate and no regulatory board from doing something potentially harmful to you? They may not necessarily harm you, and licensed professionals are not all angels and never mess up. But if the licensed professionals make mistakes, we are held accountable and could lose our livelihoods. This is an important thing to consider when choosing someone to engage in hypnosis with you.


The American Society for Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) is a reputable organization that requires a hypnotist to have an advanced degree, clinical license, and to receive consultation and a certain number of hours of education to be certified. That is the only certification that I respect in the world of hypnosis certification.


If you are interested in finding out how clinical hypnosis can help you, please call me at 661-233-6771.

 

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