Dr. Philip Holder
Copyright by Philip Holder 1998

In the past 35 years or so I have seen alternative wellness modalities come from relative obscurity to the brink of being accepted as mainstream. In the past 15 years I have watched the field or hypnotherapy rise from being stereotyped with images of Count Dracula, to being viewed as a respected profession. One of my goals is to inspire those practicing hypnotherapy (and other alternative wellness methods) to present and conduct themselves in a professional way. That is the only way through which hypnotherapy (or any alternative method of wellness) will attain the full respect that it deserves. Not only is it in every practitioner’s best interest to represent our profession(s) in a respectable way, it is imperative for the future of holistic and alternative health that we do so.

As hypnotherapists (or counselors) it is our job and purpose to assist the client/patient in achieving his or her goals. That is our only job. A true professional never agendizes his or her therapy sessions. As a professional it is critical that we leave our personal agendas outside of the office walls. A therapist should never assume the roll of pastor, priest, or rabbi. If a person goes to his or her spiritual leader for counseling that is a horse of a different color. He or she has gone to that spiritual leader for the express purpose of receiving counseling based upon that particular belief structure. That is not the case when an individual chooses a professional clinical therapist or counselor. This holds true even if the therapist happens to be a man (or woman) of the cloth. In a clinical setting those biases must be left outside.

We all have prejudices and biases. Anyone who says that they do not is either lying to you, or to themselves. One difference between a true professional and a want-to-be therapist, is the ability to keep those biases out of the therapy sessions. Clearly, those who bring their personal agendas into therapy sessions are, in my opinion, either self-righteous people who think that they have all of the answers, or they are simply inept therapists. Either way the client/patient looses.

One way to assure a quality session is to make non-agendized suggestions and to ask non-leading questions. Conversely, making agendized suggestions or asking leading questions automatically perverts the session. In much the same way that politicians manipulate surveys and polls some therapists manipulate sessions. This is done sometimes by accident and sometime with intent (possibly even good intent). Either way, the damage is the same. Below, as an example, you will find two imaginary political statements. They both represent the same situation but are framed to solicit two very different responses.

  1. Candidate John Smith wants to starve children by cutting funding.
  2. Candidate John Smith will vote against a tax increase wanted by (opponent) for the purpose of sending additional funds to an unstable third world government.

According to the first statement, most people would think that John Smith was a dirty rat. Reading the second statement, he would probably be perceived to be a responsible taxpayer’s advocate.

Often poorly trained or unprofessional therapists do virtually the same thing within their sessions. Some, based only on the initial contact, (even before the intake), will decide what the client/patient “really needs”… even if that differs from the client/patient’s stated goal. The therapist then proceeds, based on the pre-determined result he or she “expects to get”, rather that what the client/patient came to the therapist to accomplish. This is certainly not in the client/patient’s best interest. For example, it has been discovered (more frequently than anyone should be comfortable with) that, many parents have been wrongly accused of child abuse due to the leading nature of questions within sessions conducted by overzealous or agendized therapists. I am not saying that cases of child abuse don’t exist. They certainly do. When they do exist the punishment should be severe. The sad part is that there have been caring parents wrongly convicted based on the testimony of agendized psychologists and therapists. Those of you trained in hypnotherapy know the power of words. This is especially true when dealing with children. If an authority figure asks a child, “where did mommy or daddy touch you” that therapist, by virtue of that statement, has already planted the idea that it happened. That therapist probably entered into the interview with the pre-conceived idea that it did happen. That can be enough to taint the process. A more accurate way to conduct the interview would be to ask the child general questions about every day life thereby letting the child develop the information. If the child volunteers that mommy or daddy touched him or her, the therapist might then say, oh really, in what way, or describe that to me. This type of questioning may take longer, but it will result in a far more accurate and unbiased interview.

Non-leading questions and statements should be the norm, beginning with the pre-talk. The intake should be an information-gathering tool, not an indoctrination.

Anything other than professional conduct jeopardizes the future for all alternative wellness professionals. You know the old saying: “Do something right and no one remembers. Do something wrong and no one forgets”. This is so true, and one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. We have to be self-policing and maintain the highest level of professionalism. This is the era where alternative wellness professions have the opportunity to show themselves to be valuable professionals. As in any emerging profession we must go over and above the call of duty to prove our value. Those who do anything else give ammunition to those who would like to see alternative modalities fail. This is our duty and obligation. It is our responsibility to ourselves and to our colleagues to uphold the highest levels of professionalism.

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