Titles and initials are short-cuts to building trust. If you don't know what those initials mean (and how meaningless they often are), your brain assumes they represent some special achievement or qualification.
Quick test: say you have two people, "Jane Schmo" and "Joe Schmo". Jane Schmo is a hypnotist. So is Joe Schmo, but he calls himself "Joe Schmo, C.Ht., D.C.H., Board Certified Master Hypnotherapist".
Who would you guess is more likely to have actual experience working as a hypnotist?
If you didn't know any better, you might be impressed by the titles and initials. Much of the hypnosis industry seems to depend on hoping that the public does not know any better. This page is dedicated to helping you know better.
(any resemblance to an actual Schmo is purely coincidental, those names are used for example purposes)
I've been certified by the National Guild of Hypnotists, as well as other training programs and organizations. Such organizations usually at least give lip service to the idea of upholding high ethical standards. Part of this involves educating the public so that you can cut through misleading hype and confusion.
The truth is that these certifications shouldn't be considered to be anything like a diploma from a traditional academic institution. (I do have a "real" college degree, but not related to hypnosis, because there is no such thing). Hypnosis-specific credentials such as "C.H.", "C.ht.", "B.C.H.", "C.I.", or "D.C.H." and titles such as "Clinical Hypnotherapist" are basically made-up and sold by private organizations and businesses. They are not recognized by any official governing body.
This doesn't mean that everyone using those titles is intentionally trying to scam people. It just means that you, as the consumer, need to understand that those initials and titles mean very very little. You want to be aware, so that you aren't taking advice from a "Doctor of Hypnosis" whose background consists of watching Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz!
The hypnosis training industry churns out all kinds of certifications to people eager to buy them. A certificate from a "fly-by-night" outfit looks just as fancy as one from a well-established program. But even if it's from a fairly reputable organization, it doesn't tell you very much about the individual practitioner.
Additionally, would-be hypnotists are often sold on the idea of buying a "board" certification (even though there is no state licensing board), plus "instructor" certifications which permit them to re-sell certification courses to other people, and so on and so on. This adds to the public's confusion about how to find a reliable, experienced hypnotist.
Note: there are state-licensed doctors, psychologists, and counseling professionals who use hypnosis as part of their treatment program. If you're looking for a traditional mental healthcare therapist, doctor or counselor who uses hypnosis, please read further, this page contains resources that will help you find one.
Not everyone needs to see a psychiatrist or psychologist or counselor in order to be helped with hypnosis. But I believe that if a consumer is intentionally looking to work with a doctor or psychologist who uses hypnosis, then it's wrong for them to be misled by those who are just pretending to have that sort of background!
The fact is, anyone can give themselves a title like "Elite Grand Master Clinical Hypnotherapist" in order to impress people, even if their only experience with hypnosis is practicing on friends and relatives as a hobby!
You should be aware that in Pennsylvania and in most other states, hypnosis is not a state-licensed profession. That just means it's not licensed in the same way that accountants, medical doctors or social workers are (for example). Hypnotists do not diagnose physical or mental disorders, and they do not prescribe medication.
In the United States, there is no such thing as a Bachelors, Masters or Ph.D. in hypnosis or hypnotherapy from a legitimately accredited institution.
These types of diplomas and titles (including the "Doctorate of Clinical Hypnotherapy", or DCH) are often promoted to "certificate junkies" with the promise that they will earn the respect and admiration of their colleagues and professional community. I assure you, the exact opposite is the case.
Some people have a strange ego-gratifying desire to pretend that they are a doctor, even if it is misleading to the public. It's also unfair to people who earn genuine degrees and credentials from years of hard work and dedication.
To be clear: I am a hypnotist, not a Doctor. The content on this website is provided based on my knowledge and experience as a working hypnotist --- it should not be considered any form of professional advice regarding any disorder or specific courses of treatment. Being a hypnotist does not qualify anyone to diagnose or independently treat medical or psychological conditions, unless they are also a state-licensed professional.
By the same token, a medical doctor, psychologist or therapist does not necessarily have more knowledge, experience or training about hypnosis.
If you are struggling with a serious psychological disorder or medical condition, and are interested in hypnosis as an option, I recommend you seek help from a more broadly trained mental healthcare professional. This is the website of the Greater Philadelphia Society of Clinical Hypnosis (GPSCH). They are a good resource for people who want to find psychologists, social workers, and doctors who use hypnosis as part of their treatment.
Unfortunately, it's easy for anyone to buy degrees (in many different subjects, not just hypnosis) from diploma mills. When consulting a hypnotist or hypnotherapist who presents themselves as a "Dr." or "Ph.D.", you may want to ask them about the nature of their credential.
Generally, if someone explicitly states that they are a state-licensed psychologist or counselor, you can be fairly certain that they are. Even hypnotists who use misleading credentials usually know better than to make that kind of claim.
The Pennsylvania Department of State maintains a website where you can verify a licensed healthcare professional's status if they practice in Pennsylvania: http://www.licensepa.state.pa.us/. If you look up this information, you might be surprised to discover how common it is for people to claim that they are psychotherapists or doctors, when there's no record of them as such in the state database.
Please note: when searching by a person's name, remember that a name may be kept in the state's database with a different spelling. You can also lookup a professional by their state-issued license number.
Caution: do not be fooled by people who claim that they are part of some fancy-sounding "accredited" organization or training program. Literally anyone can setup an accrediting organization at their kitchen table, and then call themselves "fully-accredited".
In other words, they accredit themselves.
Even better: they often claim to be "members in good standing" of their own made-up organization!
Then they promote training programs that include membership in their organization, selling so-called accredited degrees and diplomas to people who sometimes truly believe that they can earn a doctorate or Ph.D. by studying at home over the course of a few weekends.
Use the official government resources that are available to you that can help you look into things. The US Department of Education maintains a website where you can check if a school which claims to offer academic degrees is approved by a legitimate accrediting agency: http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/Search.aspx
I know that sharing this type of uncomfortable information isn't going to win me points in a popularity contest. It doesn't even help me in terms of common "business sense" or "getting more clients".
In fact, I am pretty sure that I'm missing out on many potential clients because I'm sharing this information. We all know that human nature often holds responsible "the bearer of uncomfortable news", people would rather just hear what they want to hear.
The thing is, if you've read my bio, you'll be familiar with my previous background in systems and technical work, which suits a certain personality type that strives for logical consistency. Combined with what I believe to be a mild form of OCD, this means that I have a real personal problem with incongruencies in facts that are presented.
So when I see how common it is for a Doctorate in Clinical Hypnotherapy to come from a "University" that's operating out of a UPS Mailbox in a strip mall, next to a Payless Shoe Source, that kind of drives me nuts!
Aside from my personal inability to tolerate nonsense, I strongly believe people should have the freedom to choose what kind of person they work with to solve a problem --- whether it is a traditional licensed mental health professional, or a voodoo priest, or a pastor in their community, or an urban shaman, or personal coach. But that freedom is only meaningful when the consumer is informed in a truthful and transparent manner.
The unfortunate truth is: this field is full of Master Hypnotists who have never hypnotized anyone, instructors who have never run an active practice, and Doctors of Hypnotherapy who brag about never having completed high school!
So, as a consumer you need to be extra cautious, if you want to protect your right to make an informed decision.
I can say these things because hypnotists know this is the truth. Although most are basically honest people, most are also afraid of offending other practitioners and getting the "hypnosis community" upset at them. But I believe educating the public about the truth is more important than protecting the feelings of fellow practitioners; this is the best way to bring about positive change!
I am glad to say, I hear from many fellow hypnotists who are quietly supportive of this information being shared with the public. They are just as fed up as I am of the amount of B.S. and nonsense that is out there.
They are just as troubled as I am about the tendency to sweep these problems under the rug, usually in the name of preserving the reputation of the profession. But we've seen over and over again what happens when an interest group is mainly interested in protecting it's reputation --- recent history of the Penn State football organization and other religious hierarchies comes to mind.
History teaches us that it's a bad idea to mindlessly trust any organization to look out for us. You should not delegate responsibility for protecting your own interests --- so do your research, and don't be eager to be fooled by made-up titles and certificates.
Being cautious also applies to people who are interested in hypnosis training:
I recently received an email from someone who had signed up for a hypnosis course in her local area... she expressed disappointment with her experience, mainly because she felt the instructor had misrepresented their credentials. She wondered if the information on this page was specifically about that instructor.
Here is my response to her:
So, the information here is not just about a specific individual (I was unfamiliar with the person she was referring to). This is a broader problem in the field.
If you're interested in learning hypnosis, I recommend you stick with reputable training organizations such as the folks who run HypnosisDownloads.com --- Click the banner below or follow this link to learn more (this is an affiliate link):
Some people justify the use of inflated credentials and exaggerated claims by telling themselves: "But I'm just trying to make my clients feel more confident about working with me."
I'm sorry, but this is the lamest sort of self-serving excuse. If a hypnotist (or any professional) feels a need to lie about their background and experience in order to project confidence, then personally I question their confidence and belief in themselves and even in the work itself.
Although it is true that people do better when they are confident in the hypnotist's skill and ability to help, that hardly justifies committing fraud and pretending it's for a good cause. The worst aspect of this kind of fraud: it is stealing from the consumer their opportunity to make an informed choice. That is theft, plain and simple, of something that is even more valuable than money!
I support and respect people's right to seek help from any source that suits them, even if it is not me. That is why I included the links earlier to the referral sites where you can get connected to other hypnotists in your area and evaluate your options. When people have good experiences with any hypnotist, it is good for the entire field!
But it is an entirely different thing if someone chooses a hypnotist based on inflated credentials and false promises, and then feels as if they have been misled.
I was not always this crazy about this issue. But when I started working with clients, many of them would describe previous experiences that left them feeling as if they had been tricked. The "world-famous" Advanced Master Hypnotherapist CEO's "clinic" would turn out to be a couch in the corner of their basement, or a room in a "wellness center" or massage parlor that had been rented out by the hour.
I realized that these clients who reported these experiences to me were only the ones who were willing to give hypnosis another try... and for each one of them, there must be many others who decided the whole thing is a sham!
No. Hypnosis itself is a very real phenomenon.
First of all, let's agree on a definition: a scam is when someone promises or implies things that they know to be untrue.
Something isn't a scam just because it sometimes does not deliver desired results. People undergo chemotherapy treatments and yet still die from cancer. I don't think anyone would call chemotherapy a scam.
Also, in many cases, when people use bogus credentials or misleading information, they are genuinely unaware that it's wrong --- they may actually believe what they are offering to be true! That isn't a scam in my book, it's just someone being inexperienced and naive, or self-delusional in the sense of being a "quack".
Many good hypnotists acquire such credentials with positive intentions, especially early on in their careers, but later on realize that they are just an embarrassment and stop using them. But, in any field, there are always going to be people who knowingly, purposefully exploit the ignorance of the public, in order to get people in the door. THAT is a scam, at least in my book.
The problem is that hypnosis is a subject with a high degree of "information asymmetry". That's just a fancy way of saying: one side of the transaction knows a lot more about the subject than the other side. In anything involving high information asymmetry, there is a higher potential of unfair advantage-taking.
This brings us back to the point of this page: beware of "cheap signaling". Cheap signaling is found in areas of high information asymmetry. Because there is a lopsided amount of knowledge about the subject, and your brain is hungry for clues about quality, competence and experience, cheap signals such as certificates, titles and initials are used as bait.
That kind of bait is designed to attract clueless people. Cluelessness about an unfamiliar, mysterious subject like hypnosis is natural, but it's a good idea to develop at least enough "cluefulness" so that you make your choices based upon reality, not made-up nonsense.
Aside from the issue of phony credential baloney, check out the extensive FAQ on this website to discover other common scams, including information about bait-and-switch guarantees, made-up success rates, etc.
Be skeptical and use your brain
Google is your friend
Don't believe the hype.
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