Clinical vs. Lay Hypnosis: A Hopeless Battle?
An Editorial by Steve K.D. Eichel, Ph.D.
page 1 of 6
The October 1996 issue of the ASCH Newsletter contains an interesting tidbit: a "Request for Information on Lay Hypnotherapy" by James R. Council, President of Division 30 (Psychological Hypnosis) of the American Psychological Association and Chair of the ASCH Legislative Committee. I have also read and heard elsewhere that several prominent members and officials of Division 30 and ASCH plan to make squashing "lay hypnotherapists" a priority over the next several years. I find this goal to be interesting--and one that I am at best ambivalent about.
Clarification of Terms: To simplify reading this article, I will refer to those clinicians who have received (or would qualify for) ASCH-approved training as "clinical hypnotists" who practice "clinical hypnosis." I will refer to all others as "lay hypnotists" who practice "lay hypnosis." Therefore, clinical hypnotists are individuals who possess at least a Masters degree from a regionally-accredited program in the healing arts, and whose training (if not received directly from an ASCH-approved organization or individual) matches the guidelines set forth in Standards of Training in Clinical Hypnosis (Hammond and Elkins, 1994).
Who are the "lay hypnotists?" A lay hypnotist is anyone who is not trained and credentialed as an advanced-degreed health professional, and practices hypnosis or "hypnotherapy." Since ASCH will not train anyone who is not at least in formal training toward an advanced-degree in the health sciences, it is safe to assume that lay hypnotists are generally trained by one of dozens of lay hypnosis training institutes and/or organizations, many of which also offer some form of credentialing in hypnosis and/or hypnotherapy. Among the larger (or at least more vocal) lay hypnosis organizations are the National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH), the American Board of Hypnotherapy (ABH), and the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners (ACHE). One of the earliest organizations, the Association to Advance Ethical Hypnosis (AAEH) appears to be inactive and/or no longer exists, with many of its former leaders now actively involved with NGH or other similar organizations.
What's the big deal? The official position held by ASCH, the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (SCEH), and APA Division 30 is that lay hypnosis and the training of lay hypnotists are unethical. The ASCH By-Laws and Ethics Code are clear and specific: hypnosis is a treatment modality--not a treatment in and of itself--that should be strictly limited to qualified practitioners of the healing arts. Of course, ASCH has over the years modified its view of who is "qualified." For example: When I first inquired about membership in ASCH, I was a Masters-level licensed psychologist and was told I could not join (as a full member) because I lacked a doctorate. ASCH has since changed this requirement, and they now allow Masters-level mental health professionals to become full members, and to seek certification. Next