There’s a lot messed up about the UK hypnotherapy scene.
Here’s the basic unfortunate pattern, and it doesn’t seem to change:
1) Someone burns out of a sales or IT job, normally in their forties.
2) They go on a half-baked hypnotherapy course, which is run by another person from step 1) who is trying to make more money.
3) They get all fired-up with a basic (misinformed) knowledge of psychology, thinking they’re now some kind of personal-change guru.
4) They knock up a website with some combination of pebbles, water & ripples, and hype themselves up to ridiculous levels.
These people do not understand hypnosis
They really don’t. The “hypnosis” that is taught in the vast majority of UK training schools is actually just relaxation. They learn that talking to the subconscious mind in a soft, soothing voice will bring about whatever change they want it to.
If you hear them doing this, then you don’t feel like you’ve been hypnotised and wonder what the hell you actually just paid for. If you don’t hear them doing this, you likely fell asleep. Shockingly, I’ve heard many so-called hypnotherapists claim that their words still have powerful effects if you fall asleep. They absolutely don’t have any effect if you are asleep.
This is not how hypnosis works. If you fall asleep to a movie, you don’t wake up thinking you’re Jason Bourne on the run. Practitioners make this stupid claim because a) they think saying that will create a kind of placebo effect where you expect something to happen and b) they are hiding the fact that they don’t really know or understand hypnosis.
It can be useful and relaxing, certainly. But its also incredibly limited – as is the practitioners awareness and understanding of anything relating to how your mind, or hypnosis actually works.
What about hypnosis with unconscious, involuntary effects?
If you ask them about hypnosis, the kind where you can experience strange effects – they will often say its just for the stage, that its play-acting, that people only behave like that because they want to, trivialising it into something less important than what they offer. This is absolutely not true. They are just masking their incompetence and lack of understanding.
They will say that the relaxation version of hypnosis is all that is needed to bring about powerful change – that’s not true either.
When a hypnotherapist doesn’t feel comfortable talking about or approaching hypnosis in a far more powerful way, they are making assumptions about the mind and its working that are blocking them from understanding how hypnosis works. This same blocking will be the same as what often lies at the root of a persons problems – so the practitioner is really in no position to help, except for a “throw shit at the wall and see what sticks” approach.
There are lots of inherent causes of results, within a hypnotherapy session, that has nothing really to do with the practitioner:
1) You get to talk about your problem to a stranger, and hearing it yourself discussed out loud can often lead to new thoughts or realisations.
2) Someone appears interested and listening – sympathy and empathy contribute to that feeling that “you’re not alone” and “you’re not broken”. This can feel empowering.
3) Being relaxed by a relaxo-therapist can lead you to imagine that something may have shifted – the expectation/imagination of which can easily lead to feeling different. This then amplifies into feeling that it must be working – even if the root causes and triggers remain unaffected.
4) You have paid for the session so again this will lead to expectation that something must have changed.
5) The positive rapport of feeling approved of by a supposed professional, having someone smile at you and be nice (before taking your money) makes you feel special and good about yourself.
These things though are all very fluffy. Its the same kind of change or help you can often get if you end up chatting to a stranger about something, or have a change of context and get some new ideas that motivate some new course of action.
The practitioner of course will take all the credit for this, claiming its their expertise and the power of hypnosis that has led to you believing that something has changed.
Often though, nothing has changed.
What you should be getting for your money
At the bare minimum, its absolutely reasonable to expect to feel like you were hypnotised.
Its true that you are responsible for that too – you need to follow instructions, be open and honest to the practitioners direction, and be actively involved rather than just passively waiting for it to happen.
How will you know if you have experienced hypnosis? You may experience an involuntary effect, or just feel profound sense of physical, mental and emotional relaxation.
You should also expect some kind of understanding of your problem. If your hypnotherapist has any psychological awareness or wisdom at all, they should be able to work with you in understanding the dynamics of your problem, the underlying false beliefs/meanings/associations that have led to it, and what needs to be achieved to steer it towards a better outcome. If they just focus on vague, talked out generalisations for feeling better, then you’re being ripped off.
Its so much worse than I’m making it out to be
I attended a self-help workshop by two older women hypnotherapists this weekend, and was shocked at the shit that came out their mouths.
Genuinely, it was the shoddiest grasp of psychology and neuroscience I’ve ever seen.
Some things that were said:
“Getting over anxiety is all about doing good things, to keep a constant flow of neurotransmitters”.
“If you don’t do good things, the constant flow of neurotransmitters grinds to a halt”
“Its all about getting back to the top of your brain, where you can feel good and motivated”
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The audience’s heads were filled with so much junk. Honestly, if I wrote it all out what went on, you would think I was making it up.
This is the state of hypnotherapy in the UK.
There are some great ones out there though – you just have to find them.