Mention hypnotherapy to someone in casual conversation and watch for their reaction. A few interesting ones come to mind… “It’s what happens after you go under that I want to know about (wink wink)”, said with a smirk. “Can you make someone believe anything?”, questioned with fear. “I know what you do!”, said with judgement and distaste. And sometimes they just look at me as if I’m the person responsible for vandalising their car, but they can’t prove it. The misconceptions about hypnotherapy are endless, but let’s talk a little about what hypnotherapy is not.

What Hypnotherapy Isn’t

Hypnotherapy is not a game. That is, it is not an opportunity to carry out ‘wink wink’ scenarios with unwitting clients – sorry. Other misconceptions about hypnotherapy involve a broader abuse of power, for instance, making someone believe that they are a certain species of animal, to snort like a pig or more commonly thought, to cluck like a chicken. Nor is it about making someone believe that they are a vampire, as a colleague of mine was once asked to do. Yes, you read correctly.

In my clinic, it is also not about making someone forget that they ever had a relationship with a certain ex, in order to wipe out the pain of heartache. It is much better here to resolve the issue behind the experience because we all know what happens when you try and hide information from yourself don’t we… it tends to grow on the unconscious level and become an even bigger problem!

Importantly, there are grave misconceptions about hypnotherapy that you can close your eyes and wake up, all better, without having to engage, like a magic pill. Hypnotherapy requires your engagement, your input, your commitment. It is true that there are a very small percentage of people who are highly suggestible and could literally achieve results without effort, but the impact would be unlikely to last in most cases.

As for the disdained reactions I’ve received, these were few but memorable and came mostly from highly conservative medical practitioners, the type who tell you that your symptoms are not valid because they don’t fit the check list of their diagnosis. These practitioners see hypnotherapists as annoying and untrustworthy, because our methods also do not fit their checklists. I remember the last time this happened to me was when I was just about to go into surgery and the specialist let me know how little she thought of my profession – that filled me with confidence about the operation (not!). If I wasn’t so good at managing my emotions, it could have triggered a panic attack – thank you very much.

Why you do need to be careful

Perhaps the specialist missed the Dr at the start of my name that indicates a high aptitude for research and critical thinking? Perhaps she had encountered hypnotherapists in the past who were unqualified or inexperienced, or lacking the ethical standards stipulated by the professional bodies in hypnotherapy? Unfortunately though, this has been somewhat of a concern within the profession.

I myself had consulted a hypnotherapist many years back who behaved in a highly unethical manner, making sexual innuendos while I was supposedly in a trance. This man did not belong to a professional body, and he performed hypnotherapy as a sideline to his manual therapies practice. This made him largely unaccountable as a hypnotherapist. At the same time, there are many documented cases where qualified medical doctors have behaved criminally (not to mention the power abuse of the specialist herself) so this poor behaviour is not specific to alternative therapists, but indicates a broader issue.

Professional status

As with naturopathy, hypnotherapy is a self governing profession. It is not recognised by the Medicare, although health funds do recognise it as an alternative therapy and currently at least some still offer rebates. Watch out for the absence of professional status as a sign that the practitioner may not have the required training, experience and understanding and commitment to ethical practice.

Professional status can be ascertained by the practitioner’s membership to a professional association, such as the Australian Association for Clinical Hypnotherapists and Psychotherapists, or the Australian Hypnotherapy Association, for example. If a practitioner makes the commitment to sustain membership to such an organisation, it means that they have jumped through certain hoops to reach a level of professionalism as a hypnotherapist. The Hypnotherapy Council of Australia have a consolidated list of accredited practitioners.

It is easy to see how these misconceptions about hypnotherapy have begun, when there are dodgy characters playing power games, and myopic medicos shoveling everybody into their proverbial boxes. But if you are reading this post, it is likely that you are interested in addressing your problems with hypnotherapy. Just be sure to pick a reliable practitioner and understand that when you do, your fears of ‘wink wink’, ‘cluck cluck’ and magic pills will dissipate, as you go deeper, and deeper along the trek of self-understanding and resolution. Any questions? Drop me a line Horizons Clinical Hypnotherapy Noosa.