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“Lay Hypnotists”: A Critique of our Profession


by Tim Brunson PhD

The tendency for any organization or profession to mislabel a hypnotic practitioner as a "lay" person is harmful to the general public and does nothing but question the credibility of the self-styled authority. Actually it is impossible to have a "lay" designation without the acceptance that hypnosis (or hypnotherapy) is a valid, unique profession.


When it applies to professions, the term "lay" is commonly defined as "not of or coming a particular profession." Therefore, when someone uses the term "lay" they should immediately be asked to what profession they are referring. For instance, to a medical professional a licensed psychologist is a "lay" person. Of course, the opposite would also be true. Indeed, a medical professional would be a "lay" person to a psychologist.

So what then is a "lay hypnotist"? Unfortunately, some erroneously consider any hypnosis practitioner without a specific degree required FOR THEIR PROFESSION must be a "lay hypnotist." Yes, I would agree that someone who has four to twelve years of concentrated education in a particular field of study and belongs to a association of others with similar credentials is a professional. However, that same person, who may have only 20 hours of training in hypnosis is most certainly not a hypnosis professional by any stretch of the imagination – despite their professional standing in the medical or mental health fields. On the other hand, there are many non-medical or psychologically trained individuals who have hundreds to thousands of hours of training in hypnosis and may even have advanced degrees in the field of hypnosis that are during professionals in this area.

The apparent controversy between certain professions and hypnotherapists is similar that I see in other health care arenas. For instance, in the area of pain management there is a concern about monolithic care (like with medical doctors only) versus a need for interdisciplinary care in which the mind and body both are considered in treatment protocols. However, the existence of true integrative care is a rarity.

Integrative care must be multidisciplinary with medical and psychological considerations. Otherwise, patients suffer. Increasingly good research literature, which documents valid exploration of hypnotic protocols – unfortunately done too often by minimally trained hypnotists, shows the efficacy of hypnosis is a wide range of mind and body interventions. The problem is that professionals are reluctant to work with or refer those of other professionals. Often this is a factor of ignorance about others expertise. This is likewise true when involving a trained professional hypnotist. Nevertheless, a lack of formal medical and/or psychological training on the part of the hypnotist does not help. In conclusion, all healing professionals need to spend improving their training in adjunctive field, to contribute to the training of those in the other professions, to develop an unprecedented level of trust in related professionals, and to absolutely stop the unprofessional attitude towards others not in their field.

The International Hypnosis Research Institute is a member supported project involving integrative health care specialists from around the world. We provide information and educational resources to clinicians. Dr. Brunson is the author of over 150 self-help and clinical CD's and MP3's.



Posted: 12/10/2012

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