A WARNING!

I have added this at the suggestion of someone who emailed me at this site after having had an unfortunate experience of hypnotherapy.

His email read as follows:

Last year I had a rather bad encounter with hypnosis. With abreactions and some of the suggestions given to me causing me great distress.. The person who administered the hypnosis was of poor character himself. He used some of the techniques I notice in your book and "groomed" me over several days to do hypnosis with me.

During my trance I started to remember some childhood sexual abuse. Though the hypnotist continued the trance.

During the weeks afterwards I started to exhibit abreactions and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And as I understand the disorder there is a precipitating event that happens after the trauma that starts the PTSD symptoms. For me it was this trance.

This has cause me both fear of and a desire to learn more about hypnosis. I'm shaking a bit typing this now...

In an attempt to deal with my negative encounter with hypnosis I looked for others who had negative things happen to them, mostly with abusive hypnotists. with very disturbing suggestions given to some. Like "Every time you call your brother you will dial my number instead."

In your book you had an example of a student who was to walk around the room before returning to his seat though he thought enough is enough and wanted to go directly to his seat. This conflict was uncomfortable for the subject, though that was not expanded on in your book. That uncomfortable experience when a subject is given a suggestion that is distressing for the subject.

Also I notice there was little information on abreactions in your book. I believe this is an important part for students to know about. And would be remiss to practice hypnosis on friends with knowing about it. Even if it would be as simple as a headache, the student and the subject should make an informed choice.

Being honest with my fear and my abusive encounter with this field is not easy. I have found most sites promote hypnosis freely and without limits or consideration for teaching responsibility or ethical use for the subject.

When in trance I became aware of some abusive memories. The hypnotist continued and disregarded the information I was giving him, to continue his agenda with the trance. A student just wishing to learn and develop the skill might also make the same error.

I encourage you to add to your web page information on abreaction's and the ethical use for hypnosis. To promote the positive use of hypnosis.

Personally it helps me cope and grow when I can share a little about what happened to me and I thank you for this opportunity.

You, the reader may well know that an abreaction is the name given to what happens if a person has for a long time suppressed all recall of an unpleasant event, and it then surfaces as a kind of reliving of the emotions and sensations of the time. There are many schools of therapy, dating back at least to Freud who believe that this can be therapeutic and cathartic.

What this email correctly observes is that it is in fact far from sufficient to allow such material to surface in an uncontrolled and unrecognised way. The correct strategy involves such things as allowing the experience to surface by degrees; always to help the client to deal with the memories in a more positive way than simply suppressing them and to "tidy up" in the memory all loose ends.

It would appear that in this case the hypnotist failed to do any of these things.

How can you avoid such treatment?

Here are some ideas that you might like to bear in mind when selecting a hypnotherapist.

* Do you feel that he/she is competent and trustworthy?

Most people, like animals, can actually sense such things as a slight nervousness or deviousness in another. It may be nothing that we can pin down rationally, but I would suggest that it is actually a very good criterion. Since you may not feel this until you are well into a session, or even into the hypnotic treatment it would be wise to establish as a ground rule, "Will it be alright if I terminate treatment if I get uneasy?" Personally I would not go for therapy with anyone who answered "No" to this.

* Is the practitioner a member of an organisation?

Since in fact there are very few practising therapists who are NOT members of some society, this may not be as useful as it sounds. There are a LOT of organisations in this field at present.

* How long as the therapist been in full-time practice?

An honest answer to this can be very useful. As in most fields the less experience you have the less you are able to deal with difficulties. I gather that plane crashes are most common when pilots have done about 100 hours training. It is enough to give some confidence and competence but not enough to deal with emergencies. Also there is the pragmatic fact that if a person has been able to make a living for many years from hypnotherapy it is more likely that not that they must be getting something right!

* What is the person's background?

Almost all of us in the UK have done something else before retraining as hypnotherapists. It is not like dentistry where you start training from university. As I make it clear I was previously a university mathematician, which tells you that I must have a good brain, and be able to think and analyse clearly. You may well wonder if I am also able to relate to people: but that is something that you could find out on the phone or face to face. If a hypnotherapist dropped out of school at fourteen and was previously a stage hypnotist it would tell you that he had good personal confidence and certain hypnotic skills. But you would then have to check that he also knew something about psychological problems and was more interested in helping you than in making a living. In short the answer to this question will tell you something, and leave other things to be checked.

* Ask around.

In practice a lot of people come to established hypnotherapists on the recommendation of a friend or a friend of a friend who say "It worked for me. He/she seemed fine." Common sense suggests that this is not a bad start.