Hypnotist or hypnotherapist? Hypnosis or hypnotherapy? What is the difference?
It’s a good question that clients frequently ask. For us, it is a matter of practicing ethically.
Laws and regulation of hypnosis varies from state to state. In some states hypnotherapy means “psychotherapy by means of hypnosis”. In those states, only licensed therapists are allowed to use the term hypnotherapist and to refer to diagnosed terms such as Anxiety, Insomnia, Depression, Phobias, and other conditions that are in the DSMV (now in the 5th edition), or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association or the ICD10 (now in the 10th addition), the International Classifications of Diseases of the World Health.
Why is this important? Because when the word therapy is put on the end of a topic or title, it takes on a different perception. In Minnesota, and many other states, we can legally use the title hypnotherapist. At FARE, we are not therapists. We believe it is misleading to use the term hypnotherapy or hypnotherapists because it implies something we are not, so we intentionally choose not to use those words.
As hypnotists, we know how important words are. Many clients use the word anxiety to describe that they worry a lot. A perfect analogy is using the word Kleenex when referring to a tissue. Having a diagnosed condition, like anxiety or insomnia is very different than worrying too much or having stress that causes you to sleep poorly. Having a diagnosed condition can also be also a double-edged sword. While it’s helpful to know what is wrong in order to get appropriate treatment, it can also become your identity or a reason to hang on to something that may no longer be needed. Because words are important items in the toolkit of a hypnotist, we take them very seriously.
Being ethical involves even more than than just regulation and words. It also means correctly defining the work we do. Typically, the most common form of therapy is CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy. The name itself indicates that this is therapy done in the logical and decision-oriented conscious mind. Hypnotists work with the subconscious part of the mind. The subconscious mind is home to beliefs, emotions and imagination, the things that can drive cognitive behaviors. We get to the root cause of issues to give insight as to why you feel and behave the way you do. Then your conscious, or cognitive part of your mind can help reinforce new, healthy behaviors and choices. It’s why science has shown that CBT work coupled with hypnosis is extremely effective.
So does this mean that at FARE we don’t see clients who have diagnosed conditions like insomnia, chronic pain, depression or anxiety? No. But it does mean that we take a closer look at our abilities to assist in the underlying issues of those conditions. We require a referral from your therapist or doctor, and may insist on the ability to confer with them to be sure that hypnosis is the right modality for you. Hypnosis can be extremely effective and a complement to the current treatment of many diagnosed conditions. But like every other form of treatment or drug, it is a tool that may or may not be appropriate for any one individual. We may refer clients to another type of practitioner if we don’t believe that hypnosis is the appropriate modality. Our goal is to educate and set the proper expectations for our clients as to the role hypnosis can provide.
I train and certify therapists and non-therapists to be hypnotists. Ethics is an important component of my course. Practicing within boundaries is critical to the image and professionalism of hypnotism. And like I tell my clients and my students, it’s important to practice what I teach!