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Professionalism in Advertising

Professionalism in Advertising

This article was written many years ago and was originally published in HypnoGenesis. The sentiments are still relevant.

It’s a Sunday night in May, and I have just finished teaching in Inverness and I am now in a hotel in Luton. (I know it sounds a round about way to get to Manchester, but trust me it is the only way to fly). I have the good fortune to be able to travel both this country and the world teaching hypnosis and NLP, and I have a certain routine that I go through wherever I go.
As soon as I get to my room, I check the Yellow Pages to see what hypnotherapists are in practice in the area and if I know anyone (I am always on the scrounge for a free drink). What I have discovered, much to my disappointment, is that our colleagues are flying ever ‘closer to the wind’ with regard to their advertising. As the recent news is (here in the UK) that hypnosis would now be a subject to be considered for television advertising (for many years it has been disallowed), I feel that now is an appropriate time to write on the subject of professionalism in advertising.

Just some of the statements I have seen in print in the past few months are “One of the UK’s Premier Hypnotherapy Clinics”, “The Only UK Accredited Trainer in Therapeutic Hypnotherapy”, “UK’s Only Independent Hypnotherapy Association”, “Whatever your problem you deserve the best help around”, “Internationally Certified”, “Expert Hypnotherapist”, and “Most Qualified Hypnotherapist in Europe”.

These advertising statements, are in many cases unproveable, and in some cases probably less than honest. If we are to be treated as professionals, we must be more careful about how we describe ourselves. If we are not more careful, there are plenty of people, including the Advertising Standards Authority, that will intervene. I have identified certain phrases and words that we should be cautious about utilising.

Accredited: to utilise this term there must also be a qualification as to whom or what is doing the accrediting. Whilst it may be true that a person or organisation may be the only one accredited by the ‘Joe Shmoe Accreditation Council’, that does not mean you are the only accredited person. Accreditation takes many forms and is carried out by many organisations (including the NSHP&M and UKCP). When an organisation or person becomes accredited, this is an achievement which should be utilised, but not at the expense of downgrading other people or organisations in the field. When other professionals see this, they must surely assume that all we are doing is positioning ourselves for financial gain.

Internationally Certified: this is a phrase that I am very glad to see becoming more popular, however I think that this phrase needs clarification. To be internationally certified, in my mind, means that you hold a certification in hypnotherapy or other form of therapy awarded in a different country than your own. For example, I hold Certifications in the UK, US and Canada. I do not believe that international certification means getting a diploma or certificate from an institute with the word International in its name.

Best, Expert, Only Premier: these phrases are a veritable mine field of potential problems. The greatest of these problems is that there is no way to prove any of these statements. To claim to be the best at something, you by implication are saying that everyone else is not as good as you. This may be the case, however to state it in print show a breath taking arrogance that this field can no longer tolerate. If you are going to say you are the “Only” whatever, you had better be absolutely certain that you are in fact the “Only” whatever. I do not think that we can afford to take the chance that there is someone else in this great world doing the same thing we are currently doing. A way around this problematic situation is to say ‘one of the only’. To claim to be an expert or the premier whatever again is something that one cannot prove. We cannot take the chance nor should we as a field tolerate persons making statements that do not hold up to scrutiny.

Finally, Most Qualified, the difficulty with this phrase is what do we mean by qualified? If that means years of experience, or loads of diplomas degrees and certifications, or some combination of the lot there is not a person in the field who can state for certain that they have more of any of these things than anyone else in the field. For example, I have 2 post graduate qualifications, 16 Certifications in Hypnotherapy, NLP and Psychotherapy, 2 UKCP Accredited qualifications, 7 Fellowships and going on 26 years clinical experience. Even with all of this, I would never presume to state that I am more qualified than anyone else. I believe that you can be a specialist based purely on your life’s experience and as far as I am aware, there is no way of measuring that.

For many of my fellow members, this might seem a negative article, but I assure you that it is an article written because I want to see hypnotherapy elevate itself into true professionalism. Not the petty and unprofessional behaviour which has come to mar our great field. It is time for our professional associations to grasp the nettle on the very controversial subject of giving stronger guidance to members regarding their advertising practices.



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