In today’s hypnotherapy industry (in the UK) there can be a lot of confusion about terms such as ‘accreditation’, ‘validation’ and ‘regulation’ and there are a huge variety of different professional hypnotherapy associations / organisations / bodies that offer these services. As such, when looking into this topic there are a vast number of acronyms to become familiar with, such as those related to hypnotherapy associations, who may also offer or approve courses (e.g. NGH, GHR, BACP, BPS, BIH, UKCP, HA, FHT) and other (non-hypnotherapy-specific) organisations who approve courses (e.g. NCFE, OCN). Also, to add to the mix, there is the government-initiated route for ‘voluntary regulation’ with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) too… But don’t worry too much about all of these acronyms and companies just yet, because I’ll give you some more information in a moment that will help you to figure out which route / hypnotherapy association will be best for you.
Professional Hypnotherapy Associations
As we know, in the UK, being a member of a group of like-minded individuals is an accepted and common practice, whether for networking, peer and / or professional support, education or simply for social purposes. There are a vast number of societies and associations (that are not chartered, nor do they offer a ‘licence to practice’) and these range from Golf Greenkeepers, businesspeople, Bloggers, and advertisers, to a broad range of talking therapies, including counselling and psychotherapy. As well as these, there are also Trade Associations, Governing Bodies and Institutes / Institutions, but with hypnotherapy, we tend to join groups known as ‘professional associations’, of which there are a diverse range.
A common question in the hypnotherapy field, is what exactly is a professional association? What does it do? Well, a professional association (‘PA’ – yes I know, another acronym, but it’ll shorten your reading time and it’s an easy one to remember), also known as a ‘professional organisation’ or ‘professional body’, tends to be focused on furthering the profession they represent, together with the interests of those within the profession and to safeguard the public interest (clients).
As well as the examples mentioned above, there are plenty more reasons that a hypnotherapist will register with a PA… They can offer a source of information and support, and can be reassuring to potential clients that your training has been assessed to be of a good standard to practice. Also, it can show that you are committed to a professional code of conduct and ethics, and are subject to a complaints procedure (and many clients will appreciate that ‘security’ and professionalism when booking a service). Though not mandatory for any hypnotherapist, even the National Health Service (NHS) recommends choosing a hypnotherapist who belongs to a professional hypnotherapy association (one that is regulated by the CNHC – see the NHS hypnotherapy page).
As well as the enhancement of client perceptions of professionalism, there is also the marketing aspect to consider. Most PAs maintain a register where the public can search for a local or specialist hypnotherapist. Furthermore, many PAs invest in a range of advertising and marketing campaigns that may not be financially viable (nor practical) for an individual practitioner. Thus, when searching for a hypnotherapist, a prospective client may initially find the PA first and then find the hypnotherapist through the PA’s own website / register.
For some professions, membership of professional bodies can be a legal requirement and result in a ‘license to practice’. However, this is not a requirement for hypnotherapists in the UK.
As mentioned previously, there are a great number of professional hypnotherapy associations in the UK, and this may be partly due to the vast number and range of psychotherapies, which may influence the diversity and breadth of the hypnotherapy profession as a whole.
Some PAs are very small and associated with just one branch of therapy / one training school, for example, the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis (BSCH) focus on supporting primarily the members of one training school. However, other PAs are much broader, with a range of schools feeding into their membership, such as the British Institute of Hypnotherapy and NLP (BIH). There are also organisations who set their own standard ‘course syllabus’ (and training programmes) with their allied training schools providing that specific model of training, such as with the National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH). In addition, there are some organisations who are independent of any particular training providers, such as the General Hypnotherapy Register (GHR), who assess membership solely based on the content of the qualification completed. The GHR and other ‘independent’ PAs (such as the BIH and FHT) tend to observe the UK Core Curriculum as the industry standard for hypnotherapy training (but more on that shortly).
Some PAs, who accept prospective members from a variety of routes of entry into the profession, may take on a ‘Credentialing’ role, assessing the students’ credentials by considering the evidence they have supplied, often in a portfolio which evidences the individual’s suitability for engaging in the profession. When you study to be a hypnotherapist, your training institution, school or mentor may be aligned to one or more of these PAs. Here, the course contents (syllabus) will have been assessed and accepted by the PA as sufficient for membership of that association. This can be useful, as often you will simply give the name of the school where you trained when you apply to join the PA, rather than have to supply evidence (e.g. course transcript, portfolio, certificates etc.,) of having been trained to a certain level. This PA assessment will often be skills and knowledge related as many PAs do not require specific ‘academic levels’ of training, recognising that hypnotherapists come from a broad range of academic and non-academic backgrounds.
Those PAs who adopt a minimum standard of training to be eligible for membership may be regarded as ‘Gatekeepers’ with a role of limiting access only to those meeting the standards of the organisation or profession. Often, as new standards gradually evolve, those already within a PA tend to retain their membership, with the new standards being applied to new members.
As there are no legal obligations upon a PA to perform a specific function, what they do and how they work can vary considerably. Some are little more than a register of names, others have a number of specialist divisions, hold training and conference events and are much more active and visible within the profession. There are a range of roles that a PA may adopt, including:
- Setting a syllabus or professional examination
- Setting standards for Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
- Producing professional journals or publications
- Providing a network for professionals to communicate within
- Producing a Code of Conduct and holding members’ professional behaviour accountable
- Addressing complaints about members and initiating / enforcing disciplinary protocols
Where PAs take on the role of ‘enforcers’ they adopt a monitoring role, with the ability to impose sanctions or ultimately expel an individual for breaches of their codes of conduct. The potential for these sanctions are part of the terms of an individual’s membership of a PA. However, given the significant number of hypnotherapy PAs in the UK, such sanctions may be seen to offer little as a deterrent, as an individual may simply apply to join another PA.
Course accreditation / self-accreditation
Where UK and International PAs recognise UK hypnotherapy training schools, these schools will have been assessed and then ‘accredited’ or ‘validated’ by those PAs, often very thoroughly and on an ongoing basis. Training schools can seek approval from PAs to confirm that they are providing the right type of training and education to equip their students to be able to work as hypnotherapists. Some PAs operate a ‘Course Accreditation’ programme, with defined criteria that a training school needs to meet for their course to be deemed suitable as professional hypnotherapy training. Most commonly, these criteria are associated with the Hypnotherapy Core Curriculum as mentioned previously. This core curriculum addresses the practical and theoretical aspects that a hypnotherapist would need to meet the requirements of the Hypnotherapy National Occupational Standards (H.NOS). There are National Occupational Standards (NOS) for a vast range of occupations within the UK, ranging from environmental conservation, to sports, healthcare to hospitality (again, will go into more detail on these shortly).
Where a hypnotherapy training course is accredited, this relates only to the course. So, when you complete the course, it does not mean that you, as an individual, are then accredited by default. When qualified, you will then need to go and apply to your chosen PA(s) for membership.
You may notice that whilst many professional hypnotherapy training schools are accredited by one or more professional associations, other schools are ‘self-accredited’. As there is no national or international organisation that is solely responsible for hypnotherapy accreditation, some schools / hypnotherapy trainers, rather than go to the expense and work of obtaining external accreditation, will ‘self-accredit’ either under their own school name or under a different company name that they invent themselves.
As an example, ‘The Mega Excellent Hypnotherapy School’ may issue their own certificates or provide them from a ‘different organisation’ such as, ‘The Mega Excellent Hypnotherapy Association’. Sometimes however, it’s harder to spot, because these fictional PAs can be created with completely unrelated titles, such as ‘The International Clinical Hypnosis Association’. This can make the school sound more ‘official’ than it actually is. Using the example above, this school could advertise that; “Our training is fully accredited with the ICHA”, and though the ‘accreditation’ / PA is in-house and made up, it is currently perfectly legal for trainers to do this (though it is rather unethical from an advertising / professional perspective). So, whilst the training could potentially be of good quality, it may also be a case that it is not sufficient to meet the core curriculum and hence a reason for not applying for external recognition.
Validation is a term for a process conducted by academic bodies, by which a course of study leading to a specific title award is approved for delivery. The term can also be used in relation to government standards, previously called the Qualification and Credit Framework and National Qualifications Framework which have now been replaced by the Regulated Qualifications Framework in October 2015. These set out the requirements for different levels of training from level 1 to 8.
Two aspects relate to these qualifications: level and size. The level (1-8) indicates the difficulty and complexity of the skills and knowledge required for the qualification. The size relates to the total study time, called the ‘Total Qualification Time’ (from hours to years) and includes both directly taught (e.g. in a classroom), called ‘Guided Learning Hours’ and time spent studying or practicing outside of the classroom. Whilst there are currently no set levels relating to hypnotherapy (as hypnotherapy is not a regulated qualification in the UK), it would seem that courses unsupported by theory are more at ‘entry level’ and those courses with minimal or a little theory tend to be at around level 1 or 2 (O level/GCSE), whilst those that provide more supporting theoretical background and understanding tend to be at levels 3 (A level) and 4 (Certificate of Higher Education range).
The Core Curriculum & H.NOS
Many PAs and the voluntary regulator (the CNHC, which will be covered shortly) observe the requirements of the Hypnotherapy National Occupational Standards (H.NOS) and the Core Curriculum. The H.NOS were developed by Skills for Health, a government funded organisation, alongside consultations with the hypnotherapy profession (who were consulted prior to and during their development and their subsequent revisions). These standards outline the knowledge, skills and understanding required for an individual to be deemed to be competent to do a job.
There is a specific NOS (CNH23) entitled ‘Provide Hypnotherapy to Clients’ [DOWNLOAD PDF] and two further standards related to therapies providing ‘complementary and natural healthcare’ (being CNH1 ‘Explore and establish client needs’ [DOWNLOAD PDF] and CNH2 ‘Develop and agree plans’ [DOWNLOAD PDF]), together with hypnotherapy ‘Principles of Good Practice’ [DOWNLOAD PDF].
The Core Curriculum [DOWNLOAD PDF] outlines what is required, in terms of theoretical knowledge and understanding and practical skills, that a hypnotherapist would need, to meet the standards of the H.NOS. The Core Curriculum is subject to review every few years. It has requirements in terms of theory and practical content, together with means of assessment and both classroom hours (120) and total learning hours (450).
Regulation and the CNHC
In the UK, some professions are regulated, with a ‘licence to practice’, such as for doctors, who are required to maintain registration with a regulatory body, the General Medical Council (GMC). The GMC regulate all stages of a doctor’s training and professional development and set standards for doctors’ abilities in relation to scholarly and scientific aspects as well as practitioner and professional responsibilities. They also set standards for ‘fitness to practice’. However, hypnotherapy is currently not a regulated profession and there is no ‘licence to practice’ required to work as a hypnotherapist. Whilst hypnotherapy is not subject to ‘statutory regulation’ is does fall within the CNHC’s voluntary regulation scheme which is overseen by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA).
The UK voluntary regulator for hypnotherapy is the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). The CNHC regulates a number of complementary therapies, including reflexology, aromatherapy and indeed, hypnotherapy. To ‘volunteer’ yourself to be regulated by the CNHC, you must already be a member of an appropriate PA (such as the GHR, BIH, FHT, NCH, BHSC, etc.). Whilst the CNHC themselves do not have specialist therapists on staff, they are supported by Profession Specific Boards (PSBs) for each profession that they regulate. These PSBs all have defined roles, terms of reference and membership criteria. Appointment to the PSB is by election, with any registered practitioner (of that profession) eligible to stand for election and to vote. The PSB has several roles:
- Set and review profession-specific training and practice standards, in accordance with the Core Curriculum and National Occupational Standards)
- Liaise with the CNHC Board, Executive and PAs
- Provide profession-specific expertise and advice to the Board and Executive
The CNHC itself is regulated by the PSA, who have several roles; they oversee regulators within the health and social care industry, they review decisions made by these regulators relating to practitioners ‘fitness to practice, and accredit voluntary registers that meet their standards. Their role is to protect the public and help ensure their health and wellbeing. They are overseen by parliament.
In addition to overseeing the statutory regulators, such as the GMC, the PSA also oversee a number of voluntary registers, which they call ‘Accredited Registers’ and this includes the CNHC. Whilst hypnotherapy, as a profession, is not subject to statutory regulation in the way that other talking therapies, such as psychology are, it is within the scope of the CNHC and voluntary regulation. Several talking therapies, such as counselling (BACP) and psychotherapy (UKCP) maintain voluntary registers which are also overseen by the PSA.
To add to the complexity, some professional associations also have their register directly overseen by the PSA, including the National Hypnotherapy Society and the Federation of Holistic Therapists (whilst still being linked with the CNHC). Here the PSA require a separation between an organisation’s regulatory aspects from their professional membership aspects.
For hypnotherapists who have invested their time and energy into their training, have selected wisely and studied to a level accepted by professional associations, be willing to be held accountable for their professional conduct and committed to engage in Continuing Professional Development, being a member of a reputable professional association can be a clear message to their potential clients that they are a professional practitioner. They will be part of an organisation with aims broader than an individual, working towards the greater development of the field of professional hypnotherapy practice.
We hope this blog has been helpful, but if you have any more questions on hypnotherapy associations, accreditation and regulation do get in touch because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks