What makes a good hypnotherapist?

In his book, Trances People Live, psychotherapist Stephen Wolinsky, Ph.D, makes the statement:

“Being a therapist is as much (if not more) about my own growth as it is about my clients’ … perhaps the most profound way for a person earning a living as a therapist to expand his or her inner context is to integrate and own the understanding that there is no difference between the therapist and the client.”

A therapy session should be a respectful meeting between two equals, where one person receives help from another.

One of the more common things a person in a helping or healing role might think (and sometimes be brave enough to say out loud!) is “Who am I to offer help? Why would anyone listen to me?”. As Dr Wolinsky also notes, we are taught to maintain barriers by projecting authority, and “encouraged and even pressured into rigid role definitions that are supposed to protect us while somehow helping our clients” (p.71).

A hypnotherapist is, primarily, a person with sound skills in the induction of the trance state, and an ability to adapt the techniques and approach, tailored to different people and different presenting issues.

A good hypnotherapist is a person who can do all of the above; who also studies different ways of understanding the human mind, has explored their own personal therapeutic philosophy, and attends to their professional development with regularity.  

A great hypnotherapist does all of that, rigorously attends to their own personal development, and has a fundamental and functional understanding that they are no wiser or cleverer than their client, and that the therapist-client relationship is one of equals.

Like any profession, a hypnotherapists’ job gets easier over time, and as they gain more experience by working with more people their authority will grow. But authority will not necessarily make for better outcomes for their individual clients.

In our practice, we use the phrase “walk the talk”, as in, a good therapist must walk their talk.

Each session presents an opportunity for learning and growth for both the client and the therapist. Of course, when we seek help from another, we hope that they have skills that we don’t have, and perhaps a different or fresh perspective. But the techniques used are only important inasmuch as they arise from the relationship between the therapist and their client.

Dr Irving Yalom, M.D. is of the opinion that “”technique” is facilitative when it emanates from the therapist’s unique encounter with the patient. [E]very course of therapy consists of small and large spontaneously generated responses or techniques that are impossible to program in advance.” (Yalom, p. 85). This is a simple suggestion for the therapist to remain humble and open, and to pay attention. 

We usually only visit a therapist when we feel like we’re all out of ideas. If we could help ourselves we would – but sometimes we need the help of another. Better that the other we seek help from is a fellow traveller.

Yalom, I. D. (2002). The gift of therapy: An open letter to a new generation of therapists and their patients. New York: HarperCollins.

Wolinsky, S. (1991). Trances people live: Healing approaches in quantum psychology. Bramble Books.


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