A hypnotherapist is a welfare professional who uses subconscious hypnosis techniques to treat a variety of neurological, psychological and physiological ailments in their patients.
Hypnosis is a state where the body’s nervous system shuts down, leaving the subject in a state of “suggestive passivity.” During this state, the patient is able to be conditioned to receive information, psychotherapeutic guidance or suggestive persuasion, in order to facilitate a goal or treat a pre-existing condition. The professional who administers hypnotherapy is a hypnotherapist, or hypnotherapy practitioner.
Hypnotherapy can be used to treat a wide range of conditions, from cessation of smoking, the removal of hypertension or anxiety, through to support with weight loss programmes and the reduction of a dependency on alcohol. Published efficacy rates vary, although certain ailments are said to benefit strongly from a course of hypnotherapy. Most practitioners are self-employed, and operate their own business from a therapy centre (clinic) or office. Patients will typically undergo either one session or a series of sessions designed to treat the particular ailment or life impediment.
According to Barclays Salary Survey 2009, the average wage for an experienced hypnosis therapy practitioner in England and Wales was £38,347. The survey is not clear on the level of experience required to reach this salary range, and a distinction should be made between the earnings potential for those who practice in London and those working outside the capital. First year self-employed practitioners can expect a salary of around £12,000 whilst they initially develop their business. For this reason, most begin part-time, and support themselves with another job.
- Engage with the patient and discuss aims, objectives and ambitions of treatment course.
- Agree a timescale for ongoing treatment sessions, and a relevant fee.
- Administer hypnotherapy in an attempt to resolve the specific issue.
- Provide the patient with feedback on progress and consultative recommendation.
- Handle marketing, accounting and administration for the business.
Hypnotherapy is currently unregulated in the UK, although this may change in the near future. Candidates who set up a practice without accreditation from one of the hypnotherapy organisations will be prevented from joining their professional registers, and consequentially, they will probably struggle to find new clients. People are aware (to some degree) of the dangers of hypnotherapy malpractice, and those considering using the services of a hypnotherapist will usually do some homework before employing an unknown practitioner. Examples of accreditation bodies include the National Council of Hypnotherapy, and the British Society for Clinical Hypnosis.
- A good understanding of hypnosis techniques and psychotherapy
- A good understanding of people, the need for patient confidentiality and a desire to see their circumstances improve
- Self-motivation is essential to develop and build a client roster
- Good general organisation and communication skills
- Empathy with the patient
- The greater the individual’s general life experience, the better
- The candidate must be confident and self-assured
The candidate must be comfortable and experienced in dealing with people from a broad diversity of backgrounds and differing circumstances. Most of the sessions will take place in the candidate’s own office or place of business, which can lead to long spells of working under one’s own initiative. For this reason, it is essential that the practitioner is self-motivated and able to manage their time effectively. Hypnotherapy is generally considered to be a low-risk occupational environment of practice, especially when compared to other branches such as criminal psychotherapy and domestic abuse counselling.
Customers looking to use a hypnotherapist on an ongoing basis will usually want to see some examples of the practitioner’s past career history and this can make it difficult for inexperienced practitioners to become established in the first instance. Those who have completed an accreditation with one of the established self-governing organisations in the UK have the option of studying for up to 100 additional hours, on top of the basic 200 practitioner standard which most hypnotherapists complete as part of their primary academic learning.
Hypnotherapists rely partly on word-of-mouth advertising to increase their customer base. A happy customer will usually carry with them a potential “friend recommendation.” In this respect, a full diary of appointments equates to an escalating reputation, and the subsequent possibility of increased earnings.
Most hypnotherapists are self-employed, and so it is difficult to pick one clinic which stands head and shoulders above the rest. Most hypnotherapists work regionally, and so are only in competition with their immediate geographical peers. A new subdivision of the hypnotherapy “consumer” practice is self-hypnosis downloads: a modern version of the 1990’s self-hypnosis tapes. The most widely-recognised supplier of these materials is Uncommon Knowledge, owned by hypnotherapist Roger Elliott.
Alix Needham is a well-known and fully qualified hypnotherapy practitioner based in London, with a popular practice close to Regents Park.
What made you decide or choose to get into this sort of career?
My first career was as a Physical Education teacher, and I had attended numerous courses on improving performance psychologically. This led to an interest in hypnotherapy in order to change pupils' attitudes and get better results.
Do you have a standard day or a standard type of 'exercise'?
As my own boss, my days are flexible and designed to suit the needs of myself and my clients. My mornings are usually spent on administrative tasks such as marketing. Afternoons and evenings are usually reserved for hypnotherapy client work.
What is the most common type of problem/call-out/enquiry to which you must attend?
The most common problems I try and deal with currently seem to be anxiety in its many forms. I specialise in shyness, blushing, self confidence and public speaking. A lot of people find the last one particularly difficult, especially business people who are trying to fast-track their careers and take on additional responsibilities with their employer. Also, many clients want help with hypnosis for weight loss and giving up smoking. This last one is a particularly well known application of hypnotherapy.
What do you like most about the job?
Being able to help people who are stuck or in conflict to move forward, and make changes in their life to improve their life quality. I enjoy seeing results in a short period of time. Also, being my own boss and being in control of my own business are two very large positives for me.
What do you like least about the job?
Sometimes it can be emotionally draining, in the respect of having to deal with people's complex, deep-seated emotional problems. This is both the positive and the negative element of the work.
What are the key responsibilities?
From a business perspective, making sure I have a regular client base who are happy with my work, and who recommend me to other people. The main tasks are in marketing, advertising, self-promotion, and crucially, liaising with doctors and other health care professionals.
What about academic requirements? Any formal demands, eg A Levels?
Life experience is very important so that you understand the client’s problems. You do not need A-levels as such, but you need to find a reputable training course, which you can find through the National Council of Hypnotherapy in the first instance.
What is the starting salary, and how does this increase over time with promotion?
This varies a great deal on experience and length of time in practice. Also, your own marketing skills and how much competition there is in your area are key factors. When you start out, you may need to supplement your income with a part time job until you gain a satisfactory supply of clients.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career?
Before you decide to train as a hypnotherapist, make sure you are very self-motivated. Also, that you are able to work on your own. In many areas, there is a lot of competition, so a good network of influential people would help to get referrals. Also, good marketing and public relations skills are very helpful as you build up your client base.
What are the most important qualities an applicant must and should possess?
A good understanding and interest in people, self-motivation in order to build your business, good organisation and communication skills, empathy, life experience, flexible attitude, and the candidate must be confident and self-assured. Self knowledge and wisdom are all-important.