There is no 100% fool-proof method of selecting the right therapist, any more than there is a guaranteed way to select the right lawyer, physician, accountant, or plumber.
Major sources for finding a reputable therapist are: physicians, family or friends, the workplace, the Yellow Pages, Web search engines, and lists from professional associations, such as The International Registry of Professional Hypnotherapists.
A doctor can refer you to a well-reputed colleague or to his or her own therapist. But there can be no guarantee that the recommended therapist will be suitable for you. Personality factors, particular problems or differing ideologies may interfere with rapport. The same is true for referrals by family or friends.
Above all, do not be misled by reputation alone.
A great reputation in the therapy field is not always based on competence.
Sometimes it is fed by publicity and by professional colleagues who have a personal liking for a particular therapist, especially if he or she devotes a lot of time to their organization's interests. The colleagues may be impressed by that therapist's speeches, self-confidence and self-promotion. But do they personally know any successfully treated clients?
Trust your reaction when talking with a therapist. Shop around. Spend at least as much time to select a therapist as you would to choose a car.
The best criterion is satisfied clients. Ask the therapist for written testimonials. Any therapist who has been in business for a reasonable length of time will have letters on file from grateful clients. These will be people who have given permission for their comments to be shown to enquirers. Read and verify them.
And be sure you feel comfortable with the therapist. If you feel uneasy, it may be a sign that he or she is not good for you.
Key questions to ask yourself are:
- Does he or she seem interested in my problems?
- Do I feel welcome?
- Is the therapist on time?
- Do I feel accepted?
- Does he or she treat me with respect?
- Does he or she appear hopeful?
- Does he or she ask a lot about me?
- Is he or she genuinely interested in me?
- Does his or her office feel like a haven?
- Does the therapist really listen?
- Does he or she seem knowledgeable?
Key questions to ask the therapist are:
- Why should I see you, and not one of your competitors?
- What experience do you have with my kind of problem?
- What are your professional qualifications?
- How long have you been in practice?
- Do you have references?
- What hypnotherapy or psychotherapy associations do you belong to?
- How soon can I make an appointment?
- What are your fees?
- May I bring someone with me?
- Do you mind if I tape-record the session?
- Do you play audiotapes? [As opposed to live personal therapy]
- Will you teach me techniques such as self-hypnosis or EFT that I can use on my own?
- [For hypnotherapists] Could you treat my problem without hypnosis?
- [For hypnotherapists] Do you use hypnosis yourself?
Experience is a good criterion. Experience not just of therapy but of life, too. To ask the therapist questions relevant to his or her experience is a smart move. Has he or she written books or articles which you could read?
Respectful therapists do not snap their fingers at you, nor speak in a condescending manner. They treat you with the importance you deserve. After all, their business depends on you, and others like you, who seek a better life.
Lack of respect also applies to improper questions, suggestions or behavior. And not just about sex. Impropriety also applies to money and morals.
In a truly therapeutic relationship you are heard, accepted, understood and guided to strengthen your inner resources. The therapist is your ally. Not your friend. Not your business partner. Not your guru. And certainly not your lover.
Above-board therapists will be delighted that you bring a friend or relative with you. (Not to sit in the session however!). Similarly, they will be pleased you wish to tape-record the session because then you can use the tape at home as reinforcement.
Therapists with your interests at heart will automatically teach you self-care techniques. It is part of your becoming self-reliant. At the very least, the therapist should recommend a book like my Health and Happiness with Hypnosis, which includes hundreds of case histories and a detailed explanation of hypnosis.
Therapy should be tailored to you, the individual. No two problems, and certainly no two people, however similar, are identical. Settle for nothing less than personalized service.
That individualized approach requires a complete history-taking. It is of course impossible in the short time available for the therapist to learn everything about you. But he or she should know the details of your presenting problem, your family situation, important life events, health condition, fears, likes and dislikes, etc.
Do not be overly concerned with the per session fee. A very low fee per session may sound attractive, but, in monetary terms, it is the total number of sessions which will count in the end. In human terms, becoming well makes even a high fee seem like a bargain.
Beware of any therapist who has a one-track mind.
Some therapists continually find that the origin of all their clients' problems lies in childhood sexual abuse; others find that all their clients' problems arise from past lives; others find that all their clients' problems arise from birth trauma, etc., etc.
Not all of life's distresses arise from one trauma, or indeed, from any trauma. Human beings are far too complex and life, fortunately, is far too rich, for there to be one single cause of everyone's troubles.
Two questions that concern most people are, How many sessions will it take? and What is your success rate?
No one can know in advance how many sessions your problem will take to resolve. There are far too many variables, including: the personalities of you and the therapist, your talent for hypnosis or insight, whether you really want to shed the problem, what other issues may surface, etc.
Of course, you could specify a certain number of sessions. And some therapists do set a fixed number of sessions. (The pressure of this deadline approach sometimes helps but there can be no guarantee.)
Be assured, however, that
hypnosis usually speeds up the therapeutic process.What might take months or years of regular psychotherapy can usually be accomplished in weeks with hypnotherapy.
To ask a therapist his or her success rate is a meaningless question. Who would tell you her success rate is 3%? In any case, should the therapist's rate be 95%, this says nothing about your chances of success. For many different reasons you may fall into the 5%.
For unhealthy habits such as smoking, hypnotherapy is 100% successful for those who choose and decide to change.
A therapist using hypnosis should practice within his or her professional competence. Thus a dentist who relaxes her dental patients with hypnosis has no business engaging in psychotherapy, unless she has also been trained in that field. Conversely, a physician must be involved when a medical concern, such as pain, is being tackled.
Responsible therapists use hypnosis as a tool. Since it is not in itself a therapy, nor is it a cure-all, you are in better hands if the hypnotherapist is also able to deal with your problem without hypnosis.
Thus, if you are consulting a physician who is using hypnosis to help you control pain, presumably she will have pharmaceutical alternatives with which to help you should the hypnotherapy not work well. But if the doctor is using hypnosis to help you deal better with a disastrous relationship, she is helpless if the hypnotherapy does not work well - unless she has taken special training in couples counselling.
Licensing and governmental regulation over who is allowed to practice therapy vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Remember, to find the right therapist for yourself, first do your homework about credentials and experience and then -- trust your instincts.
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