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NLP & Hypnotherapy FAQ

By Nicholas Evans. © Active NLP Ltd

Aim of this article.

To provide accurate information to potential students about NLP and Hypnotherapy regulation so they can choose a course based on fact not fear & reason not rumour.

When I became involved with NLP and Hypnosis back in 2001 choosing an NLP course was relatively simple. All NLP courses required 25 days of face to face training and the main accrediting bodies were
  • The International NLP Trainers Association (INLPTA); and
  • The Association of NLP (ANLP).
However it wasn’t long before things began to change.

ANLP re-invented itself and modernised; 7 day NLP practitioner courses started gaining in popularity as cash rich time poor became the dominant attitude of the Blair boom years and a plethora of new private companies sprang up as self proclaimed ‘accrediting bodies’.

This is just as true for hypnotherapy, if not more so, and seems to be accelerating. If you type ‘NLP training’ or ‘Hypnosis training’ into any search engine today you will be bombarded with pay per click adverts advertising everything from online Clinical Hypnotherapy Diplomas to 4 day NLP practitioner courses.

With so many courses of different types on offer it is not surprising that people look to badges and logos for assurance. This might have been a good strategy many years ago but the proliferation of professional bodies for therapists and coaches in recent years has made it difficult to tell whose standards are genuine and practical and whose are just for show.

The trouble is they all look credible. I know of one very successful training company who promotes their courses as being accredited by the Association of Integrative Psychology (AIP), which sound sounds very impressive until you visit the AIP website and realise they are a very small outfit based in Hawaii. I believe this company is using the idea of ‘accreditation’ to justify charging £1,200 for a 4 day NLP Practitioner course, that’s £300 per day for what is normally a Foundation Level Course. This problem is exasserbated when you include Hypnotherapy and the dozens of other disciplines that make up what is known as Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Anything classified as a CAM outside of Osteopathy and Chiropractic is completely unregulated by the government or statutory body. The CAM market as a whole is worth millions of pounds and so it is no surprise that market forces have been the dominant mechanism by which CAM training companies succeed or fail. If people want online courses that certify them as ‘Clinical Hypnotherapists’ then there are a plenty of providers willing to offer such a product.

If at first you don't succeed....
The potential risk to the public was the primary motivation for calls of tighter regulation of the whole CAM field. This is a noble idea, but regulating CAM therapies is a complex matter. If you regulate them by law then you confer legitimacy on them when none may exist, if you do nothing then you leave it all to market forces, and quite rightly we are cautious of putting vulnerable people into the hands of market forces.

Because if this legitimacy issue successive governments have shied away from full statutory regulation per se and have preferred a voluntary regulation system instead. Some believe it is inevitable that counseling and psychotherapy will eventually be brought under statutory regulation and that such a move would be a good thing. I agree with them and in addition I believe the title ‘clinical hypnotherapist’ should be included. However, until that time comes ‘voluntary regulation’ is the way our industry regulates itself.

Assured Voluntary Regulation (AVR)
The latest scheme promoted in the 2012 Health and Social Care bill is called Assured Voluntary Regulation (AVR). You may have seen the logo, a purple icon with Professional Standards Association (PSA) Accredited Register written over it. This scheme has caused quite a stir, especially in the hypnosis community, with professional bodies, training providers and individual practitioners stampeding towards inclusion. I have spent considerable time and effort examining the pros and cons of the AVR system by going directly to government sources and even searching through the minutes of select committee meetings. My findings are available in a separate article, too big for inclusion here.

The questions I get asked the most
What follows for now is a summary of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) I respond to on a daily basis from people looking for NLP and Hypnosis courses and who are confused about which course they should take. It provides an accurate map of UK regulation today and I hope it helps you to do the right thing and choose a course based on fact not rumour.

NLP Regulation.
This will be a very short section indeed as NLP is not included in the CAM categories defined by the House of Lords select committee nor by subsequent departmet of Health guidelines. Consequently there are absolutely no commonly agreed standards as to length of course, content to be included or skill levels to be achieved.

Hypnotherapy Regulation.
Whenever I tell people that Hypnotherapy is not regulated by the government they don't believe me. They assume that clinical hypnotherapists, counsellors and psychotherapists undergo the same level of training that is required by doctors, nurses and other health professionals. They point to the logos and strap lines used on websites as evidence of ‘government endorsement’ and quality assurance. They are not happy to learn that these 'government schemes' are all run by private companies for profit and can require as little as 10 days face to face training to join. Potential hypnotherapy students are also often misinformed as to the true nature of the UK hypnotherapy market. Many have felt pressured to buy courses and training packages based on misleading information. Decisions they have regretted at leisure once reality hits home. Remember, a suggestion in trance doesn't need to be true, just plausible, and providers will legitimately use their hypnotic skills to sell courses as well as teach them.

In order to help potential students make informed choices I have put together a set of FAQs based on documented evidence. Whether you choose to train with me or elsewhere they will help you ask the right questions of your training provider.

Q1. Can anyone advertise and work as a counsellor, psychotherapist, CBT therapist or clinical hypnotherapist without any qualifications or experience whatsoever?
Yes. The whole area of professional standards in Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is still a mess and getting messier. As it stands anyone can call themselves a counsellor, psychotherapist, CBT therapist, clinical hypnotherapist or clinical anything because they are all classed as CAM therapies and there is no statutory regulation governing CAM therapies in the UK. There have been several attempts to bring CAMs under government control (statutory regulation) but the system promoted in the 2012 Health and Social care act is one called 'Assured Voluntary Regulation (AVR). The job of getting people and organisations to sign up to an AVR scheme fell to a QUANGO called the Professional Standards Authority (PSA). You may have seen adverts by therapists and training schools claiming they are regulated by the same 'government organisation' that regulates doctors and psychiatrists. This clever use of words disguises the fact that they are no more regulated by the British Medical Council (BMC) than a private security guard is regulated by the Ministry of Justice. They get away with this blatant misrepresentation because the 2012 Health and Social Care act gave the PSA an advisory role that covers both conventional and alternative medicine. A profusion of private companies are willing to pay the PSA 12,000 pounds a year to be part of the AVR scheme. These private companies know they can attract membership fees of many times that from individual practitioners who are either fearful of not being part of the scheme or desirous of the apparent stamp of official approval and legitimacy it gives them.

Of deeper concern is the fact that many of these private companies are only too willing to fan the fantasies of a potential hypnotherapy student, insinuating that if they take their course they will soon be walking through hospital corridors in a white coat deep in conversation with a consulting psychiatrist. The students themselves can then become convinced that they really are capable of such work and when qualified they promote themselves to the public in that way. Some of the big 'super tanker' providers are turning out thousands of newly qualified hypnotherapists every year, each of whom has the potential to promote themselves as qualified to treat clinical issues. This is increasingly damaging to the integrity and reputation of hypnosis per se. In my view if you want to call yourself a 'clinical hypnotherapist' or you want to work on clinical disorders then you should take a 3 year recognised course in counselling first then train in hypnosis. This would go a long way to narrowing the gap between the perceived skill levels of hypnotherapists and those that they actually posses. The realisation that the conventional approach to training hypnotherapists was damaging the reputation of hypnosis in general was a major driving force behind the creation of the Fast Track course.

Q2. So how is Fast Track any better?
It gives you a professional standard toolkit and then asks that you use it initially on a limited scope of practice while you learn the ropes. It prevents you from advertising for or treating clinical disorders until you have achieved sufficient knowledge and experience. Thus ensuring your skills are equal to the task. Taking the Fast Track route qualifies you to work on a scope of practice that includes the major things people want hypnosis for, namely to stop smoking and lose weight. As a private hypnotherapist in a competitive market you will be better served spending your time on real clients with these types of issues because that is the only way to become a really good hypnotist. You simply can't get really good at it by reading books, writing essays or even practising on fellow students. In a nut shell; taking the Fast Track option is the best approximation to 'on the job training' benefits that many professions have access to but is not available to self employed hypnotherapists.

Q3. Can I get insurance to practice professionally if I take the FastTrack course?
Yes, it is accredited by a professional body and trains you to a standard that is equal to or exceeds that required by the majority of insurance providers.

Q4. Is a three month course enough time to prepare me for the myriad of conditions clients will come with?

That depends;

If you are an existing medical professional or psychotherapist then yes. You will learn a proven method for putting your client in trance and how to use hypnotic language patterns so you can create powerful suggestions that compliment your overall treatment. You will also learn core NLP techniques that combine with hypnosis to form what is commonly called 'solution focused hypnotherapy'.

If this is your first qualification in 'therapy' then the answer is no. But, neither will a 12 month conventional course. There is one fundamental truth, the ignorance of which has dashed many an aspiring hypnotist's dreams and emptied their pockets;
No training course in the world can prepare you to work on clients with complex mental and emotional conditions. No course, book, DVD or webinar can teach you how to deal with depression, anxiety disorders, crippling self worth issues, or any other condition commonly labelled 'clinical'. You can learn 'what to do' from books or DVDs but not how to do it and there is a world of difference between the two. In an ideal world there would be 'on the job training’ for newly qualified hypnotherapists. A course could teach you the 'what' and then on the job training could show you the 'how'. Unfortunately there just isn't that option. The vast majority of newly qualified hypnotherapists are self employed and like any business they need paying customers to survive. The best way of attracting clients for all CAM therapists is to highlight their credentials and affiliations, which of course will attract clients with very complex needs, whether you mean to attract them or not. Many therapists will do the right thing, as stated in their codes of conduct, and refer such clients on to someone more experienced. But some won't. As far as hypnotherapy is concerned it begs the question "If the codes of conduct require you to refer such clients on, then why make you learn it in the first place instead of offering a Fast Track option?

Just because your course syllabus contains units on 'treating depression and anxiety disorders' don't assume you will be either fully trained to do so or allowed to do so. Ask the training provider specifically if that is the case and if it is how are they going to prepare you for working with that type of client.

Q5. If that's the case then shouldn’t all hypnotherapy training courses mirror those used to train nurses, counsellors and psychotherapists.
Again it depends.
If you intend to advertise yourself as a 'clinical hypnotherapist' in order to attract people with clinically diagnosed mental and emotional disorders then yes.
If you intend to use hypnosis as a complimentary therapy alongside NLP, sports massage or other approach in a coaching frame, rather than as a 'therapist' then no.

Hypnosis can bring benefits to all sorts of people in all areas of life, not just to clinically depressed people or sufferers of chronic anxiety. Hypnosis is a natural ability of human consciousness that can be harnessed with good training. It is the perfect accompaniment to coaching, training, teaching and business. Many, many coaches have increased their business by adding hypnosis skills to their existing skill set without learning how to deal with complex clinical issues.

Q6. If this is my first qualification in 'therapy' will fast Track provide the same opportunities as a conventional course?
The answer to that is a resounding yes! Plus you will be better trained with a better understanding of what it takes to work in this field. What counts above everything else is whether clients feel they are under the care of a skilled and experienced practitioner. You can't offer them half price sessions as a learner, hypnosis just doesn't work like that. Both you and the client have to have 100% confidence that it will work. If either one of you doesn't then it won't. If that wasn't tough enough for a beginner the situation is exasperated by the fact that people pick up hesitation and nervousness quite easily in normal everyday life never mind in a charged and intimate environment like a 'therapy' room. A good course should prioritise building up that essential confidence and belief.

The Fast Track course teaches you a proven step by step method for performing a professional standard hypnosis session. The feeling you get from knowing you can take any client through a complete session at a professional standard will radiate from your facial expression, voice tone and general demeanour Word of mouth is the number one way of growing your business. No one is going to recommend a wide eyed terrified looking hypnotherapist who hums and hars their way through a stilted script. That's why the confidence that comes from having a reliable framework to follow is so important.

Q7. Can I join other professional bodies as well as RNLPP.
Yes, as you 'earn and learn' you can complete the number of home study hours required to join . In addition you will have evidence from professional practice that shows you are implementing said standards not just reading about them.

Traditionally accrediting bodies held an ace up their sleeve; they were the principle route to insurance. An insurance company would have a list of 'approved' training companies and professional bodies and if your certificate was issued by a company on that list then you would get your insurance no questions asked. The reason insurance is valued so much has nothing to do with sensible precautions against being sued. It has always been seen as a mark of credibility. It says to the public "Look, if I'm good enough to get insurance then you can trust me to be really good at this stuff". Training providers publicise the fact that they are on a list of 'approved schools’. They pay huge sums to have their courses 'validated' by impressive official sounding organisations so they can advertise their courses as coming with automatic insurance and membership of a 'regulatory body'. Many of them are also quick to point out that if you don't do their course you may not be able to get insurance at all or membership of any professional body, the suggestion being that you are wasting your money if you don't train with them. A very unethical and spurious practice indeed. Whether they do this deliberately or because they genuinely don't know the facts is immaterial, it still generates a climate of fear in which people are choosing expensive courses based on half truths and fear.
In such a climate it is no surprise that potential students and recently qualified hypnotherapists are unaware that they can apply for these things directly, they do not need a particular certificate from a particular school. As long as they can demonstrate the required levels of skill and knowledge then they have a right to the same products and services as anyone else. Full details of this contentious issue can be found in the companion article to this one 'The regulation of CAM therapies past, present and future.

Q8. What do UK professional bodies base their standards on?
All UK professional bodies in the field of Hypnotherapy take as their base line the National Occupational Standards (NOS). They used to have standards based on 125 hours of practical training but adopted the NOS instead around 2008 in response to threats of possible statutory regulation of the industry. This move was intended to reassure the government that voluntary regulation was sufficient to ensure good standards (after all it is very difficult for the government to argue that voluntary regulation is not adequate when it uses the very standards drawn up by the government themselves).

The NOS for CAM therapies are drawn up by Skills for Health and were originally intended for employers. They were designed so an employer could hire say a 'Hopi ear candle therapist' and be fairly certain they weren’t going to set the clients and the building on fire. Whether you are a deep tissue massage therapist, an aromatherapist, spiritual healer or hypnotherapist the standards required by the respective voluntary accrediting bodies are all based on National Occupational Standards. They are a BTEC level qualification and are freely available on the Skills for Health website.

UK hypnotherapy organisations no longer agree on the minimum number of practical training days you need. They all use a blanket system of 450 hours study time instead. Some bodies specify a minimum of 20 days face to face training within the 450 hours, others 10 and some none at all.

As a rule the NOS for hypnotherapy are pretty sensible. Where they are not they are over cautious more than mistaken, for example, one of the standards requires that a newly qualified hypnotherapist is able to diagnose underlying physical conditions in potential clients before proceeding with any hypnotherapy, and to keep that diagnostic frame throughout the period they are in their care in case a physical symptom arises at some point. I'm not sure if this has been thought through by the 'experts' Skills for Health. After all we are talking about people who may have come straight from a course (possibly an online course with no physical interaction) and they are expected to have the diagnostic skills of Gregory House.

This is obviously ludicrous.

It would mean for example that you would have to diagnose;
  • Diabetes in overweight clients who have not yet had a diagnosis themselves;
  • Epilepsy in the person who doesn't want to tell you because they might lose their driving license;
  • Thrombosis in frequent travellers;
  • Psychosis in those coming for stop smoking
  • and on and on and on...
If you ask how specifically you should diagnose these underlying (hidden) physical symptoms you will be told that in practice the client signs a form saying they have been to the doctor and the doctor says it's OK to have hypnosis.

EXACTLY! You use common sense.

I imagine the NOS standards could include something like;

Section 1.1.0; before taking on a client you must ensure that you provide them with a referral form for their doctor or other health professional to sign confirming there is no reason for them not to be hypnotised.

That would be a practical approach suited to real life. (The FastTrack manual contains a number of such templates for you to use). BUT, the NOS are not written like that, they are written in a way that requires you to diagnose underlying symptoms. Perhaps if it was written as above it would cut down on some of those 450 study hours you are paying for.
Just a thought.

Either way you can study and learn them in your own time for free. They are freely available on the Skills for Health website and at BTEC level should be easily understood by anyone wanting to take up a role of a hypnotherapist.

Q9. Will I be able to get referrals through doctors and the NHS in general?
Excuse me while I let out a groan of dismay

The majority of work for private hypnotherapists comes from; word of mouth, good web presence and social media savvy. True, the NHS website NHS choices recommends people go through one of the existing professional bodies when looking for a hypnotherapist. You could take a conventional course over 12 months, studying at home, attending the odd training day and yes, end up with a qualification that is a 'shoe in' to a professional body in the hope someone will contact you via the NHS choices website. However, you should also be aware that the NHS choices website points out at some length;

"Overall, the evidence supporting the use of hypnotherapy as a treatment isn't strong enough to make any recommendations for clinical practice"

Not the most resounding of endorsements.

In fact the NHS choices site not only makes a point of saying how little evidence there is for hypnotherapy it also loudly promotes its own programs and services for weight loss, smoking cessation and other 'life style' changes. One shouldn't be too surprised at this. The Health and Social Care Act 2011 made it mandatory for many NHS services to be out to competitive tender and since then the NHS has found itself becoming an increasingly market driven organisation.

The question you need to ask yourself is "Is it really worth spending 12 months of predominantly home study just in case you get a rare enquiry via some NHS channel?” Or, is it better to focus on getting a successful practice up and running, giving you the opportunity to make contacts and form relationships with other professionals in the health care sector. Which strategy do you think will result in the most referrals from doctors or the NHS in general?

Q10. Is Active NLP against regulation?
Definitely not, quite the opposite. We are actively campaigning for 'counsellor, 'psychotherapist' and 'clinical hypnotherapist' to be made 'protected titles' under statutory regulation just like social workers, nurses or physiotherapists. It would then be against the law to call yourself by that title and is how chiropractors and osteopaths became part of the regulated health care system in 2003.

I am however against the idea of manipulating CAM professionals by insinuating they won't be able to work unless they do a ' government approved course' or join a ' government approved professional body' when said body is just a tax collector.

Q11. I already work in personal and professional development and just want to add hypnosis to my skill set. What should I do?

If you are a coach, trainer, manager, or otherwise engaged in professional development then taking a conventional course will be of little or no use to you. Not unless you want to promote yourself as belonging to a therapy organisation like the Complimentary and Natural Health Care Council. If this is of no interest to you (or may even be detrimental to your image) then you will definitely be better served taking the Fast Track option. It gives you professional standard skills which you can easily adapt to your particular field.

In conclusion.
The primary motivations that lead me to design the Fast Track option were a concern for the reputation and integrity of hypnosis. I know first-hand the enormous benefits hypnosis can bring to all areas of life. In the hands of skilled practitioners it is one of the most powerful tools for change in existence.

Unfortunately the recent drive for standardisation, although well intentioned, has created a situation where the gap between the perceived abilities of hypnotherapists and their actual abilities is steadily widening. Conventional courses are under pressure to include more and more 'just in case' content. However, they are supposed to verify that students have completed the required study themselves (no copying & pasting or plagerising) which is an workload. They are also under market pressures and they charge a lot for what is basically a course where you do all the work at home and then get your certificate. The result is, I believe, and have seen, a set of standardised conventional courses that don't meet the needs of anyone in the real world. They contain too little to produce skilled ‘therapists’ and too much for people who want to use hypnosis in other areas, such as coaches and business trainers.

The Fast track approach is a balanced approach for the times. The scope of practice forbids working on clinical issues until sufficiently qualified and it focuses on the practical and essential skill of performing hypnosis. It is the nearest thing to on the job training available to a self employed hypnotherapist and has major advantages over conventional courses in terms of its practicality, suitability to the times, value for money and ethical base.

All factual information contained in this article has been taken from government sources which are referenced and is to the best my knowledge accurate and up to date. If you have contadictory evidence that you can reference then please get in touch and I will update this article immeditley. Any opinions expressed in this article that are drawn from my analysis of the facts as presented to me are purely my own and are in no way representative of government attitude or policy.

1. Click◀ Takes you to the full article on UK regulation

2. Click◀ Takes you to our contact page
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