THE RISE OF THE HYPNOTHERAPY PROFESSION IN THE UNITED KINGDOM (1950-1997)
This is an article I published shortly after being awarded my Masters Degree in Education Studies from Liverpool John Moores University. My dissertation was (I believe) the first university research into the dynamics of hypnotherapy training in the UK. I hope you find it interesting, if not a little out of date.
1998 has seen great developments in the profession of hypnotherapy, the most recent of these is the development of National Occupational Standards for hypnotherapy. Many ask “How has the profession developed to date?”. I have taken the past 5 decades and catalogued the major issues. The main headings are Growth of Associations, Training, Quality Assurance, and Politics and Culture. It is my hope that by analysing these headings since the 1950’s it will give hypnotherapists a better understanding of our past, with the aim of securing a better future.
The 1950’s and 1960’s
Growth of Associations: In 1953, the Psychological Medicine Group Committee of the British Medical Association looked at the viability of hypnosis as a therapeutic modality (Waxman 1989). The report, published in 1955, concluded that:
“A description of hypnosis and of its psychotherapeutic possibilities, limitations and dangers, be given to medical undergraduates, and instruction in its clinical use be given to all postgraduate psychiatric trainees and possibly to trainee anaesthetists and obstetricians.” (Br.Med.J.(Supplement), 1955 p190)
The above recommendation became a recognition by the British Medical Association of the validity of hypnosis as a therapeutic discipline.
In 1952 , the British Society of Dental Hypnosis was founded. This was to become in 1955, the Dental and Medical Society for the Study of Hypnosis. Finally in 1961, after an amalgamation the Society for Medical and Dental Hypnosis was formed.
The Society changed its name in 1968 to the British Society of Medical and Dental Hypnosis. (Waxman 1989). The BSMDH still exists in this form today. There is even a Section of Medical and Dental Hypnosis in the Royal Society of Medicine.
In the 1950’s and 60’s this was the only hypnosis association of any kind in the UK. Many psychologists who practised hypnotherapy joined the International Society for Experimental and Clinical Hypnosis in the United States. There was no organisation in existence for the lay practitioner of hypnosis. This is largely down to the fact that there were very few lay practitioners around at this time.
Training: Even though the BMA recognised the validity of hypnosis, the subject was largely ignored by Medical Schools and Universities. (Heap & Dryden 1991). So the private sector became the provider of hypnosis training. This leads to a very interesting state of affairs. With so few physicians and dentists being able to train others in hypnosis, the private, lay hypnotherapy school was born. In the late 1960’s Peter Blythe, a lay hypnotist, founded the Blythe College of Hypnosis and Psychotherapy. This school in a new incarnation, The National College of Hypnosis and Psychotherapy still exists today.
Quality Assurance: In the 1950’s and 60’s quality assurance did not exist. However, it was insured in so much as the fact that only physicians and dentists tended to practise hypnosis. Therefore, by implication, the medical and dental professions looked after the practise of hypnosis through parliamentary statute. For the few non medically trained hypnotherapists there was no validation of training or monitoring of practise at all.
Politics and Culture: As far as the 1950’s and 60’s went there was only one interest in hypnosis by the general public. That was the practise of hypnosis for entertainment purposes, stage hypnotism. In 1952, the practise of stage hypnosis came under parliamentary scrutiny, in the form of a court case Rains-Bath v Slater. (Waxman 1989)
Ralph Slater was an American Hypnotist who performed in Brighton in 1948. During this performance, a lady accused Slater of assault and professional negligence. The case allowed for the professional negligence but did not find that an assault occurred. (Singleton, Lord Justice 1952). This incident led to a private member’s bill to be passed in parliament. In August 1952, the Hypnotism Act was placed on the statute book. The Act conferred power to any local authority which granted licenses for the regulation of places used for public entertainment, to attach conditions to that license in relation to the demonstration or performance of hypnosis. (HMSO 1952).
Growth of Associations: From the late 1960’s there was a growing interest in hypnosis by both the lay and psychological communities. Until now, there was no organisation for the lay practitioner in the UK. The publication of the Foster Report in 1971, changed that.
Though the report was initiated by alleged abuse in the Scientology Sect, it became apparent that the practise of psychotherapeutic techniques by those not qualified in medicine or psychology would also be reviewed. Â The main hypnotherapy school of the day had a professional association linked directly to it, but in the early 1970’s there was no independent body for non-medically and non psychological qualified practitioners of hypnosis. In reply to the recommendations of Foster, a letter was written to the Daily Telegraph newspaper stating:
I would welcome the establishment of an Association of Ethical Psychotherapists with whom the Government could deal and which could set and apply standards of practice, thus increasing the benefits of the service we render to the community. This letter is, therefore, to ask all interested hypnotherapists whose livelihood is endangered by the Report to contact me by phone or letter. I would indeed be grateful if people who have been aided by hypnotherapy (or indeed feel they have a complaint) contact me.” (As cited in Cousins, 1995 p3)
This letter became the start of the National Council of Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapy Register. This eventually split and became the National Council of Psychotherapists and the National Council for Hypnotherapy. This organisation is still in existence today.
A few years later, in 1978, the British Society of Experimental and Clinical Hypnosis was founded. (Heap & Dryden 1991). This organisation was established to represent psychologists, primarily, and physicians and dentists in the experimental and clinical uses of hypnosis. This organisation is still in existence today.
Training: In the 1970’s there was a significant increase in the number of hypnosis training providers (Berg & O’Sullivan 1997). These schools, like Blythe College (Renamed to the National College of Hypnosis and Psychotherapy in 1980) before them, trained not only recognised health professionals, but also lay people with various degrees of skills and abilities. One could say that this was a good thing, bringing fresh ideas into a fledgling field. Others say that the lack of public accountability of these courses and those they graduate means:
“the public has little or no protection against a variety of potential dangers.” (Heap & Dryden 1991 p197)
With the advent of the British Society of Experimental and Clinical Hypnosis (BSECH), there has been a greater attempt to get universities involved with training professionals in hypnosis.
Quality Assurance: As in the 1950’s and 60’s there was no quality assurance as such. However, with the advent of bodies like the NCP&HR and BSCEH, there was more self regulation beginning to emerge. By self regulation it is meant that these organisations had an embryonic system relating to code of practice, minimum training requirements, and complaints and disciplinary procedures. As the field grew in the 1970’s there were increasing calls for some form of statutory regulation (Waxman 1989).
Politics and Culture: The general public were still fairly ignorant to the applications of hypnosis. Stage hypnosis still had a high profile in this period, but because of the techniques of indoctrination employed by the Scientologists the public became concerned about the practice of psychotherapeutic techniques by those unaccountable to the law. (Heap & Dryden 1991).
The Growth of Associations: The 1980’s saw an explosion in not only the popularity in hypnotherapy, but also in the other so called Complementary Therapies (Boye-Thompson 1996). Several organisations were founded in the 1980’s. Many did not last more than a few years, some others, like the Association for Professional Therapists (APT) and the Institute for Complementary Medicine (ICM) still exist today. This explosion was due to the growing demand of complementary therapies and the losing of faith in conventional forms of treatment. (Boye-Thompson 1996). Many of the hypnotherapy associations that were founded in the 1980’s were directly tied to a training organisation. This use of “associated professional bodies” helped to add credibility to courses that could not or would not get validation from other sources (Brookhouse 1995). Â As far as the medical and psychological societies of hypnosis went, there was very little happening. The exception was the beginning of a campaign to legislate against lay practitioners (Heap & Dryden 1991). In fact, some published statements that lay hypnotherapists were not qualified to practise (Waxman 1989).
Training: The growth of training courses went hand in hand with the growth of associations. From a relatively small number in 1980, the field of course providers grew to over 70 by 1989 (Berg & O’Sullivan 1997). Also, there was a increase in the 1980’s of correspondence courses in hypnotherapy. The multitude of possible courses made many in the BSMDH and the BSECH uneasy.
In fact, it led to some making statements as false as some claimed in various hypnotherapy prospectuses.
“It must be understood that there is no authentic degree or diploma in hypnosis issued in either Great Britain nor in any other country in the world. There is no such thing as a “qualified” hypnotherapist.” (Waxman, 1989 p480)
Because of this, now, open hostility between various sections of the medical and psychological communities with the lay hypnosis community the need for a recognised course structure began to be recognised in the late 1980s.
Quality Assurance: Similar to the previous three decades, there was no formal quality assurance for hypnotherapy courses in the 1980’s. Â However, the need for it, especially in the lay community, began to become desirable. In the mid 1980’s the ICM began to accredit training courses in complementary therapies. The first division to be established by the ICM was the hypnotherapy division. Four courses achieved accredited status with the ICM by the late 1980s (Boye-Thompson 1996). Lay associations began to develop complex codes of practice and accreditation procedures. Complaints procedures at this stage became less idiosyncratic with written procedures and set time scales. Despite these attempts to self regulate the field, there was still open hostility from the BSMDH and the BSECH.
Politics and Culture: The 1980’s began with an attempt to strengthen the 1952 Hypnotism Act. Though the Act primarily dealt with stage hypnosis, the proposed strengthening of the act would have practically eliminated the scope lay practitioners to practice (Kinnoull 1979). The amendments to the Hypnotism Act has the support of the BMA, BDA, The Law Society and a variety of Royal Colleges. However, it did not get past a second reading in the House (Waxman 1989).
“One need only consult the classified telephone directories of cities throughout the country to realise that the medical profession is assisting this new crop of pseudo medical victimisers of the general public by all too often shutting its eyes to hypnosis…..” (Erickson, 1980 p537)
The lay hypnotherapy profession were far too fragmented at this time to mount any kind of campaign to lobby Parliament for favourable legislation. In fact, at this stage the field was not even sure if legislation was the course to follow.
The 1990s Â The Growth of Associations: From the explosion of new associations in the 1980’s, the situation seems to have stabilised in the 1990s. Though the hostility still exists in certain sections of the medical and psychological communities, the 1990s were started with a more conciliatory tone by the British Medical Association. The BMA approached several non conventional therapies and approached the main bodies representing them (BMA 1993). There seemed to be some common ground among the main players in the debate on the importance of associations.
“There appears to be a general drift among therapists, parliamentarians, and others away from umbrella bodies toward single registering bodies for each therapy.” (BMA, 1993 p70)
It was during the 1990s that the NCH grew from 210 members to 847. Through the main independent associations, there seemed to be a recognition that some form of accreditation to ensure the public good was now necessary. Also, the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy launched its first National Register of Psychotherapists in 1993.
Hypnotherapy has its own Section within the Council, which has since been renamed to the Hypno-Psychotherapy Section. Though this is a relatively small Section within UKCP, it does allow hynotherapists to look towards being trained to European Standards through UKCP’s membership of the European Association for Psychotherapy.
The BMA Report led to a few skirmishes between associations to get the favour of hypnotherapists who were undecided as to who to align themselves with. At present, there are now only three major independent hypnotherapy associations in the UK, the National Council for Hypnotherapy, the Hypnotherapy Research Society, and the Association for Professional Therapists.
Training: Training in hypnotherapy continues to be very popular in the 1990s. As of 1997, there are some 130 organisations that offer training in hypnotherapy (Berg & O’Sullivan 1997). However, the quality and length of training vary considerably. Both the NCH and APT have published guidelines of what is considered to be adequate training in clinical hypnosis. However, because of the legal system in this country, there are still those schools training hypnotherapists through suspect means of instruction as well as making exaggerated claims as to their recognition (Heap & Dryden 1991).
Since the early 1990s two UK Universities have sanctioned degree programmes in hypnosis. The Universities are Sheffield and University College London. However, these courses are restricted to those who are either medically, dentally, or psychologically qualified (Centre for Psychotherapeutic Studies 1997).
Quality Assurance: This issue has become far more important in the 1990s than in the last 4 decades. This issue has effected the entire profession. No longer is it enough to claim that you are the best, a training provider must prove his or her merits. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to participate in an accreditation programme. These programs vary widely. City and Guilds have been employed to accredit a training programme in hypnotherapy and counselling (UK Training College 1997). There is a profession wide programme of trying to secure National Vocational Qualifications for hypnotherapy (Care Sector Consortium 1997). Still other providers have entered into negotiations with universities. The most common form of accreditation at this time is through one or more of the independent associations: NCH, APT, ICM, etc. There are still a significant number of training organisations that have no form of external accreditation for their courses (Berg & O’Sullivan 1997)
With training providers attempting a variety of ways of accreditation, it would appear that the single best way to ensure quality is a properly accountable registration scheme.
The maintenance of a single register of suitably qualified practitioners, which is accessible to the public, provides the greatest safeguard against possible harm to the individual” (BMA, 1993 p130-131)
Politics and Culture: In the 1990s there seems to be a greater feeling among practitioner, both medical psychological and lay, that there is a need for co-operation.
The publication of the 1993 BMA report on complementary medicine, seems to have been a watershed in internal and external relationships. Â The general public still seek out the services of hypnotherapists. Perhaps in greater numbers than at any time before. The public will expect the profession of hypnotherapy to put its own house in order, so that people can consult a hypnotherapist in the knowledge that the person who they are seeing is competent. It seems likely that any form of restrictive legislation will not find enough interest in parliament (Morgan 1995).
“…there would be no interest anywhere in introducing such legislation until and unless adequate evidence is offered that abuse does take place and the public does suffer.” (Heap & Dryden, 1991 p193)
In 1997, the Prince of Wales, a long time advocate of complementary medicine, made a speech for the Kings Trust, that has serious implications for the field of hypnotherapy. This speech was directed at having an integrated health service which embraces the best of the orthodox and complementary medicine. It was determined in the report that was conducted by Exeter University which was also presented at this speech, hypnotherapy had a long way to go because of the variety of associations and training schools offering hypnotherapy and training. (Mills & Peacock 1997) With this new spirit of integration it would seem that the views of Heap & Dryden regarding the lack of interest in legislative issues regarding hypnotherapy would be no longer the case.
To summarise, there has been a growth in the appearance of professional associations regarding hypnotherapy practitioners. This growth was slow during the 1950’s and 60’s. In the 1970’s there was a gradual increase of bodies. While the 1980’s saw a huge surge in new bodies which still carries on, although not quite to the same extreme in the 1990s. Training has developed from physicians only being trained in hypnosis to the situation today which is that many mental health professionals and lay people have been trained in the clinical applications of hypnosis. Quality assurance has developed rather slowly over the first three decades we looked at. In the 1980s it became more relevant. While in the 1990s there has been a general acceptance from trainers that some form of quality assurance would be desired, but the form this would take is till highly debated. Finally, hypnotherapy seems to have mirrored the political and social norms of the day. In the 1950’s and 60’s a more conservative approach was in existence, in that only physicians and dentists practised hypnosis. While things became more flexible in the 1970’s. With the desire to let market forces rule the decision making processes of the 1980s many associations and training establishments competed for the interested student and practitioner of hypnosis. Now in the 1990s we see a more integrated and more co-operative stance on both society and hypnosis practice and training.
Hypnotherapy survived and got stronger, and now enjoys AVR through the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council, National Occupational Standards, and even University Partnerships. To quote a song from the 1990’s “The future’s so bright, I have to wear shades”