The organisation of practitioners who have had at least four years of relevant training and who comply with the best professional standards of competence and ethics in hypnotherapy

Founded in 1958

30 Cotsford Avenue New Malden Surrey KT3 5EU
Telephone: 020 8942 3988

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Choosing a Hypnotherapist


'How do I know whether I'm seeing a genuine hypnotherapist?' This is a sensible question. You want to know that the hypnotherapist:

a) is a person of integrity
b) knows the job and helps patients
c) charges reasonable fees.

Producers of television programmes on hypnosis seem to assume you are very stupid. So do thousands of hypnotists, who have set up as 'hypnotherapists' after taking a hopelessly inadequate 'training course' to make a quick buck from you.

They apparently imagine you can understand only a primitive form of therapy, in use 150 years ago, in which suggestions are pumped into you to suppress your presenting symptoms. As if you were unable to understand that:

  • there are causes behind your symptoms
  • those causes need to be discovered, understood and resolved by you in order for the symptoms to go permanently and to ensure that other symptoms don't appear instead (to serve the purpose fulfilled by the presenting symptoms), and
  • any responsible practitioner will try to help you to do this, and will ensure that he or she has the skills to do so.

There's a multitude of 'hypnotherapy' interest groups which hypnotists can join on payment of a fee. Some of these groups have professional-sounding names. Some advertise that they have, or are, 'a national register'. Some have 'a code of ethics'.

But a register, unless admission to it is restricted to suitably trained people, doesn't mean that the people on it have any expertise or standards. And a code of ethics, unless it's relevant and properly enforced, is only window-dressing, providing no protection to the public.


Reputable hypnotherapists will send you, or their organisation will send you, printed information before you see them, stating the nature of the service which they provide, their training, qualifications and experience, the names of any organisations or registers to which they belong, their fees, the terms and conditions upon which they will see you, their exact location and an indication of how soon and at what times they are likely to be able to see you. Giving you this information in print reduces the risk of any misunderstanding. It also enables you to talk about you and your problems when you have a consultation, instead of having to ask about routine points which could have been dealt with in a pamphlet.

Good hypnotherapists won't tell you before seeing you how many visits you will need, nor definitely whether they can help or not. Nobody knows, because the type of help required, if any, varies from one individual to another. So does the number of sessions. Before deciding what form of treatment you need, if any, a reputable hypnotherapist gives a thorough consultation. This will take up the whole of your first appointment, perhaps beyond, and hypnosis will not be attempted in that first visit.

Nor will any reputable hypnotherapist claim a success rate. There are many different ways of measuring success in therapy, many different views as to what constitutes success. Does it mean disappearance of the symptom presented - even if the result doesn't last, or you get, or still have, other problems, which may be underlying causes or new substitute symptoms? For how long do any benefits need to be maintained for the therapy to be counted a success? Who decides whether it's a success or not? The patient? His or her partner? The children? The parents? The therapist?

Good hypnotherapists have no connection with stage hypnotism or television shows. The use (or misuse) of hypnosis for entertainment is utterly different from its use to help people tackle their problems. Stage hypnotists are entertainers. Hypnotherapists, to do their job well, need different characteristics and years of training in psychotherapy, and therapy themselves

In 1958, the British Hypnotherapy Association was formed to set appropriate standards. It admits only therapists who have had at least four years of training, not merely in hypnosis, or psychotherapy, but in all relevant subjects and who are skilled in the understanding and treatment of emotional problems. Perhaps most important of all, to gain insight and to avoid acting out problems on patients, they have had thorough therapy themselves. They have to comply with high standards in ethics and competence in their work.

Maintaining these standards is greatly helped by you letting the Association know the results of your therapy, especially the long-term effects. So do please write to the therapist and to the Association upon completing your therapy, and once every ten years after that, stating the results in detail. Not just whether you're free of the symptoms you had, but the effects on your life as a whole, and how you are getting on.

Practitioners recommended by the Association or the Centre are on the BHA register. They don't advertise their professional services. They get their patients through recommendations from former patients and referrals from the Centre, the BHA and other organisations and practitioners.


In Britain, psycho-analysts don't use hypnotherapy. Most psychotherapists have had no training in it. Physicians aren't normally trained in psychotherapy or hypnotherapy. Nor are most psychologists or psychiatrists. Most people calling themselves hypnotherapists are only hypnotists.

The BHA no longer keeps a list of the many organisations with unsatisfactory standards, the many training courses which are worse than useless, and the many worthless qualifications which so many people who advertise their services put after their names.

There are too many of them.

To be able to do their job properly, hypnotherapists must have a thorough understanding of emotional problems, nervous conditions, the causes of these and the treatments available. Their training must include a wide range of subjects, from endocrine disorders to marital relations, from psychodynamics to alcoholism. They must have had thorough, successful therapy themselves, to ensure that they're reasonably free of neurotic kinks and blind-spots, and to give them an understanding of psychodynamics, psychotherapy and hypnotherapy.

Only the British Hypnotherapy Association requires those standards. Its practitioners are entitled to use the letters FBHA, MBHA or ABHA, depending upon their type of membership, after their names. There have been cases of practitioners who aren't members of the British Hypnotherapy Association and who don't even remotely come up to its standards claiming falsely that they belong to it or putting one of its designations, or similar-sounding letters, after their names. So always ask the Association to refer you to the nearest practitioner on their register.


If you want the quickest and best hypnotherapy don't be surprised if you're asked to pay in advance for any appointments you arrange. A busy practitioner, to reserve fifty minutes for a patient, may need some assurance that the patient will turn up. A patient who doesn't turn up for an appointment may be depriving someone else, who could have had that time. Paying in advance also makes you less likely to get coldfeetitis.

Because hypnotherapy isn't medical, it isn't covered by most private medical insurance schemes. But there have been instances of people getting reimbursement through company health schemes for employees. Some people have told us that they found that, as the therapy improved their working efficiency, all or part of the fee was tax-deductible.

It is not possible to have hypnotherapy to BHA standards on the National Health Service. It's generally better, anyway, for therapeutic reasons, to pay for hypnotherapy from your own resources if possible.

Patients need fifty-minute sessions and an adequate fifty-minute consultation at the start. Practitioners in the British Hypnotherapy Association charge fees related to their ability, training, experience, location and availability. Their fees are related to the amount of time you receive, the training and qualifications of the practitioner and the reputation which they have established. This does not apply to most practitioners not on the BHA register.


Use your eyes and ears to see for yourself how good a practitioner is who claims to use hypnotherapy or to be a hypnotherapist. Does he or she:

  1. or the organisation, inform you, in print, before seeing you, of the nature of the service provided, the name of the practitioner, his or her qualifications and the terms and conditions upon which you will be seen, including the fees?

  2. have the experience of having been a patient, having hypnotherapy/psychotherapy regularly for several years, to gain insight and to reduce the problems which attracted him or her to this work?

  3. belong to a professional organisation which confines membership to therapists with at least four years of appropriate training including having personal therapy and which attempts to ensure high standards?

  4. have freedom from pretence or delusion that he or he has never needed to be a patient?

  5. prove to be sufficiently genuine to make no promise of cure, let alone cure within a specified number of sessions?

  6. have nothing to do with stage hypnotism, nor any connection with any use of hypnosis for entertainment?

  7. have the ability to assess accurately alternative approaches when these might be relevant to the problems of patients?

  8. never prescribe drugs?

  9. have reasonably clean, pleasant premises, and see you in a private and (normally) quiet room?

  10. give you 50 minutes (provided you arrived at the time arranged) of personal attention at each visit?

  11. prove to be free of gimmicks, such as wearing a white coat, using spinning discs or skin-electricity meters, giving tests, massage, punishments or rewards?

  12. at your initial appointment, first of all get basic information about you, such as the sort of childhood you had and what sort of sex life you have, by questioning you or letting you talk freely?

  13. seem free of theory, including theories of Freud, Jung, Skinner or Marx?

  14. prove to be free of religious or theoretical clap-trap?

  15. treat all that you and his or her other patients say and do, and your identities, as confidential?

  16. try to see that any staff are pleasant, helpful and discreet?

  17. generally prove to be punctual?

  18. seem relaxed and free from obvious neurotic symptoms, such as smoking, migraine, asthma, over-eating or a stammer?

  19. prove to be free of over-simplifications, such as 'all neuroses are due to birth trauma'?

  20. understand sexual behaviour and problems?

  21. prove to be relaxed, sophisticated and knowledgeable about sex?

  22. seem free of obvious sexual hang-ups, such as prudery, sadism, satyriasis?

  23. seem free of bigotry, such as 'Arabs are homosexuals'?

  24. desist from talking much about himself or herself to you?

  25. listen to you?

  26. encourage you to speak frankly in your own words?

  27. speak straightforwardly, in language which you can understand, not using show-off jargon?

  28. seem honest?

  29. seem generally open-minded, using knowledge from a variety of sources, including own experience as a patient, but in your therapy mainly from you?

  30. avoid preaching or telling you how to run your life, even in the guise of 'friendly advice' or 'counselling'?

  31. avoid smothering you with phoney superfluous expressions like 'I am with you' or 'I do understand'?

  32. question you about your fantasies and dreams?

  33. encourage you to utilise your dreams and fantasies, but avoid interpreting your dreams or behaviour? Because interpretation tells about the interpreter rather than the patient; it's your associations with the dream that count.

  34. treat you as a whole person and never try to suppress your symptoms - whether by suggestion-therapy or videotape or audiotape or drugs or any other means?

  35. try to enable you to recognise and resolve the causes behind your symptoms - asking you questions in or out of hypnosis for this purpose?

  36. for inducing hypnosis use voice only, with no hocus-pocus of staring eyes, dangling objects etc?

  37. refrain from attempting hypnosis at your first meeting?

  38. ensure that there are rarely, or never, any interruptions to your sessions?

  39. question you in such a way that you increasingly use your own eyes and ears to perceive more clearly and accurately?

  40. seem perceptive, and voice questions arising from this?

  41. avoid giving you any burden of obligation, gratitude or indebtedness and accept the fee or salary and your co-operation as sufficient reward for helping you?

  42. question you about your behaviour so that you question it constructively yourself?

  43. refrain from advising you either to have or not to have relationships with your parents or other people, but instead, by questioning, help you to see more clearly what is involved in your relationships and to have relationships on a basis which is more satisfactory to you?

  44. help you to dissolve any mental blocks that you have, for example ones which stop you speaking or acting to your advantage?

  45. seem to respect you, and to consider that what you have to say is worthy of consideration?

  46. understand that feelings you have toward your therapist can fluctuate and be very positive or negative, and turn this to your advantage by using it as 'grist for the therapeutic mill'?

  47. never intrude his or her own sexual or social needs into the relationship with you, never proposition you socially or sexually, and never use anything that you have said in your therapy except for your therapeutic progress?

  48. encourage you to express your feelings in a constructive way to the people with whom they originated?

  49. question you to clear up obscurities and apparent contradictions in what you say?

  50. enquire into, when it is appropriate to do so, whether you have established that your birthright is assured, including arrangements for you to inherit from your parents either upon their death or sooner?

  51. continue to see you only if worthwhile results are obtained, giving good value for money and time?

  52. try to find out the long-term effects of the therapy he or she gives, on you as a whole person, including the results thirty or so years after?

The answers to all these questions should be YES. If they aren't, raise them with your therapist and seriously consider, if you don't quickly succeed in sorting the therapist out, changing to another one.


The British Hypnotherapy Association has a register of hypnotherapists who have had at least four years of training, including having thorough therapy themselves and who are required to continue to maintain a high standard of competence and ethics in their work. For referral to the nearest, and information, phone one of the numbers below, indicating the nature of your problem, stating your age and your work location. You should do this yourself, not have someone do it on your behalf. There's a shortage of properly trained hypnotherapists so you may need to travel outside what you regard as your area to see one.

 If you wish to enquire about treatment, please ring the following number:

Tel: 020 8942 3988

or, email:

Alternatively, write to us at 30 Cotsford Avenue, New Malden, Surrey, KT3 5EU,
stating your name, address, telephone numbers, problems, age and work or study area if other than where you live.

For further information about psychotherapy, please visit

British Hypnotherapy Association, 30 Cotsford Avenue New Malden Surrey KT3 5EU. Telephone: 020 8942 3988
(c) 7th November 2023
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