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Investing in a hypnotherapy training course is a big decision.
It is a serious investment both financially and in terms of your time.
For many of you this training will be the foundation for your new career.
With so many options out there, different standards, different claims being made – there’s no clear path to take. So how can you know how to move forward?
Obviously you want to be sure that what is taught on the course is reliable and solid – and that it’s the type of therapy that you actually want to do.
Most importantly, you’ll need to ensure the training, and the qualification itself, is “fit for purpose”: will it give you what you need to fulfil your dream of becoming a professional therapist with a thriving therapy practice?
We have been in the hypnotherapy training field for nearly 20 years and have seen every type of hype and promotion around training in hypnosis.
When it comes to hypnosis, it is well known tendency for people to lose their critical faculties and believe any sort of fanciful claims.
As PT Barnum famously said: “A fool and his money are easily parted”.
Often our our dream and emotional needs are being fulfilled by believing these claims.
Over the years we have met many students of poor quality training courses – some have literally said “I can't believe that I believed what they claimed!”.
We urge you to not fall for promotional hype and to become an “informed consumer”.
Drawn from the nearly 20 years of experience in the field, here are 9 essential questions you can ask that will cut through the marketing hype and help you identify the best training course for you.
Be alert to a sales person or trainer not answering these questions clearly and simply.
“Is your training course based on scientific research?“
Hypnosis is a serious research topic in psychology.
World-famous universities like Harvard and Stanford have hosted special hypnosis research labs. On PubMed there are nearly 16,000 academic research papers on the topic of hypnosis/hypnotherapy.
Recently many training schools have added the term ‘evidence-based’ to their promotional literature. Do not take that at face value. Ask them to provide the research supporting this claim.
Note: while it is hard to ask a private college to share their training manuals, you can ask them to share the list of references that support the training.
TIP: it’s easy to be bamboozled by the claims of evidence – I recommend finding a psychology graduate (ideally doing a Masters or PhD) and asking them to review the claims for you. Most of them will love using their knowledge in this way.
“Can you provide research supporting the claims for the effectiveness of the method you teach?“
Science communicator Carl Sagan has a saying: “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” . This is particularly true when assessing the claims of hypnotherapy course providers.
This history of hypnosis is littered with exaggerated claims – from quick healing to extrasensory perception to mind control.
For some reason, when faced with hypnosis, our critical capacity to evaluate grand claims often flies out of the window (perhaps we like to imagine ourselves instantly becoming amazing healers – or we have a deep need for the ‘magical’ that supplants our reason!)
Any therapy training provider is going to be very keen to present their unique model as particularly powerful and effective.
Ask this question to find out whether big claims within the promotional material for an ‘innovative’ or ‘award winning’ method can be supported by actual research.
Do NOT accept anecdotes and testimonials instead of research evidence – nor statements such as “we have a lot of research underway”.
Watch out for your own emotional response and need to “be the best” and study this “amazing new method”.
“Imagine being one of a handful of special therapists who know how to wield this new powerful therapy!”
Hooking into our dream is an easy way to separate us from our money before we’ve really evaluated things carefully. It’s a well-known promotional technique.
We SO much want it to be true!
But is it?
What sort of research am I looking for?
How do I evaluate it?
Look for research based on Randomised Control Trials (RCTs), published in a peer-reviewed academic journal (not by the training course provider).
“Is the qualification externally verified and awarded by a government-regulated awarding body?”
(Or is it printed by the training school?)
Hypnotherapy training is not regulated by the UK government.
Therefore private training schools set their own training standards and offer their own qualifications. Many hypnotherapy training schools simply print off their own Diplomas on the office inkjet.
How can we, and the public, trust these “hypnotherapy qualifications”? They might be very good. They might not! It’s a problem.
SOLUTION: Ask this question to the training provider to be sure that the Diploma you receive is more than a piece of paper.
Look for “Externally Verified/Awarded Qualification”.
The UK Government regulates national qualifications (e.g. A Levels) via Awarding Organisations.
These Awarding Organisations can also issue “Customised Qualifications” that are created by independent private training colleges.
This means the private colleges delivering “Customised Qualifications” have to meet the same rigorous standards as national qualifications.
So when you get the certificate for an externally verified/awarded qualification, you can be sure that it really stands for something!
High Quality Training Provider: The qualification is externally verified and awarded by a government-regulated organisation.
Low Quality Training Provider: The training school awards and prints the “Diploma” themselves. There is no external verification or annual audit.
“Can you send me a list of established learning outcomes for the training?
How do you assess that learners have met the learning outcomes?“
Any course or workshop should have established learning outcomes.
i.e. when you take the training, what exactly are you supposed to learn?
These are typically in a clearly defined format:
“The learner will be able to…. [understand, evaluate… etc]”.
The learning outcomes should also be measured at the end of the training, so it is important to ask about the process for that too.
These are especially important with a therapy training as you will need to feel that you have a robust skillset before you start seeing clients.
Make sure you have clearly defined and verifiable learning outcomes for your chosen course before pay your £3000 or £6000!
TIP: A good hypnotherapy training course may have about 60-90 different learning outcomes.
“What are the core textbooks for the course?
Are these primarily based on academic and clinical research?“
It is impossible to read all of the thousands of research papers about hypnotherapy.
However, “clinical textbooks’ provide excellent and very accessible summaries of the research. They give practical guidance on how to make use of what researchers have learnt.
A good training course will be based on clinical textbooks.
Not just on the stories and anecdotes from trainers!
There are hundreds of books on hypnosis and hypnotherapy – most of them are NOT high quality.
This will give you a solid basis on which to build your skills, and a deep confidence in the approach you use with clients.
Clinical textbooks are often very well written, easy to read and are excellent summaries of the field. Make sure to check the references. There are over 15,000 academic papers on hypnosis and hypnotherapy. You are relying on the textbook to summarise the “knowledge-base” of the profession.
TIP: Look for modern clinical textbooks (written in the last 20 years) that have full references to the academic research literature.
In contrast: most ‘popular’ books on hypnosis are not based on research and most of what is written is often wrong and misleading.
Many training courses do not use modern clinical textbooks, and often say they are too “dry” or “complex” – which is simply not the case.
“Does the course teach a modern, evidence-based, scientifically informed model of hypnosis?“
As stated, there is a LOT of research into hypnosis.
In 1999 two leading hypnosis researchers, Professors Irving Kirsch and Steven Jay Lynn, published a list of 14 points which hypnotherapists could use “to educate their clients and inform their practice”.
Each point is supported by a major piece of scientific research.
So, to ensure that you won't be learning something that most psychologists regard as myth or false on your training course, ask question number 6 to your course provider!
Kirsch and Lynn's report includes the following conclusions:
- Hypnosis does not involve a sleep-like state
- Accuracy of memory is not increased in hypnosis
- Most subjects do not describe the experience of hypnosis as “trance”
- The induction of hypnosis does not create an altered state of consciousness
- The induction of hypnosis only increases suggestibility by about 15%
Several of these points clash with ideas in pop psychology, regression hypnotherapy, NLP and Ericksonian hypnosis.
Of course training schools want to hype up how powerful and special hypnosis is – however the research paints a more nuanced picture. An established fact is that nearly all the weird and wonderful phenomena of hypnosis can be experienced without hypnosis: including walking on hot coals, the human plank, pain control, amnesia, automatic behaviour etc.
TIP: If you want to verify the scientific status of a training course, use the full checklist of the 14 points. How many of the items in the list does it align with?
“Is the course approved by the British Psychological Society?”
Accreditation options for hypnotherapy courses can be very confusing, and it's hard to know what they actually mean at all!
So to make it as simple as possible, before you sign up for a course ask this question to know whether your course meets some key indicators of quality.
The first indicator is covered in question 3: is the qualification externally verified and awarded.
The second indicator, BPS approval, is more of a kite-mark of quality.
The British Psychological Society (BPS) acts as the representative body for psychology and psychologists in the UK.
The BPS is responsible for the promotion of excellence and ethical practice in the science, education, and application of the discipline.
The BPS Learning Centre publishes a list of approved workshops and courses that they have verified as suitable for psychologists to continue their study and development.
Don't automatically discount training courses that aren't BPS approved. But it is a good sign if they are.
TIP: Alongside being verified by an external awarding body (see question 3!), BPS approval is a key ‘kite-mark' of quality for a training course.
“Do you teach regression hypnotherapy as a main intervention method on your training course?”
Using hypnosis to “regress” the client back to traumatic or difficult childhood experiences is a common approach.
It is often done with the idea that we have to “get to the root of the problem” or we will never change.
However, this is NOT how our memory system works and there is no evidence for this being an effective method.
Firstly, there is no evidence demonstrating accessing early childhood experiences helps us here and now today.
In a recent article about regression hypnotherapy Professor Paul Salkovskis, director of Oxford Health NHS Centre for Psychological Health, and Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford University, said:
“The idea there is a single point, this crucial moment that everything stems from, is nonsense. In terms of the current understanding of psychological problems like anxiety and depression … it has absolutely no foundation in what we understand about these problems.”
Secondly, this is NOT how our memory system works!
Memories are not more accurate in hypnosis. Actually the reverse is true: in hypnosis memories are more likely to be mixed with imaginations and suggestions, appearing more true.
So there is a REAL RISK of creating false memories.
Thirdly, we risk opening up a “can of worms”.
– e.g. a depressed client becomes more depressed by strongly re-experiencing negative childhood memories.
Regression hypnotherapy is so controversial that most clinical psychologists and psychiatrists would view this as a dangerous technique, especially in the hands of a newly trained therapist.
In the British Psychological Society's official report into The Nature of Hypnosis (2001) the working party of psychologists wrote:
“During hypnotherapeutic procedures such as regression methods, a patient may become very emotional and may abreact. This has occasionally been reported to occur spontaneously in therapy, without the suggestion of reliving any memory. Therapists should, therefore, be knowledgeable and skilled in assisting patients who are in a state of extreme emotion.”
“There is considerable potential for harm when hypnosis is used on the assumption that it facilitates the recollection of events when no conscious memories of these events exist in the first place. […] What is incontrovertible is that using hypnosis in this way carries a real risk of producing substantial pseudo-memories.” (BPS, 2001)
Ask yourself if novice therapists should be learning regression techniques on a foundational training course.
TIP: Official reports into hypnosis include warnings and dangers when addressing the topic of regression. The BPS report into The Nature of Hypnosis specifically warns of the dangers of regression. You can familiarise yourself with key points from that report here.
“Would most professional, PhD-level psychologists accept the theories, procedures and explanations on your training?”
This last question pretty much summarises the previous 8 questions.
This question is vital because, as discussed previously, the hypnotherapy field has always been littered with exaggerated claims and pseudo-science.
There is extensive research into hypnosis and, frankly, very few training schools pay any attention to this extensive knowledge-base.
Some hypnotherapy training schools believe they have discovered an entirely alternative psychology - and tend to make discourteous comments about mainstream psychology and medicine. We believe a good training course should be well aligned with mainstream psychology and behavioural medicine. NLP & Hypnotherapy? A huge number of training schools teach NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) alongside hypnotherapy on their training programmes. Most psychologists would roll their eyes at this as NLP is generally viewed as a pseudoscience (some even state that it is outside of science). While there are some excellent techniques used in NLP, these are not unique to NLP and a useful comment to bear in mind is from Samuel Johnson, the great lexicographer who on reviewing a manuscript for a book said: "Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good." In our opinion, this applies to NLP - and possibly to much in the field of psychotherapy.
Again ask your friendly psychology student doing a PhD or Masters to review the course materials. It might be the best £50 you ever spend – as it could save you wasting up to £6000!
I hope you've found this helpful!
We're passionate about everyone being fully informed before investing in a hypnotherapy training. We have lots of articles on our website to help you learn about what psychological researchers have to say about hypnosis.
If you'd like to know more about the Diploma course and talk through the training options, book a call with a Course Advisor here.