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What are all these hypnotherapy professional registers?

If you are searching for a hypnotherapist you will come across a confusing array of qualifications and professional registrations. Why is this? Well, the answer is simple. Although many of our healthcare professions, such as doctors, dentists and social workers are regulated by Government, many professions are not, and hypnotherapy is one of those.

Other professions that are regulated by Government include Practitioner Psychologists, such as Clinical Psychologists and Counselling Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Art Therapists.

This means that these are protected titles which can only legally be used by those with the approved level of training and experience and the correct registration.

Below is a chart (apologies for it being quite small) that shows the division of regulated and non-regulated. On the left hand side are those professions regulated and overseen by the Professional Standards Authority, a Government department.

chart showing government registration of all health and social professions

On the right hand side are professions that have elected for voluntary self regulation. That basically means that us professionals regulate ourselves mainly through specialist registers we belong to that provide not just membership benefits but also a code of ethics and professional conduct which we sign up to. Let's be clear though, on this side of the chart, breaching a code of ethics is not like breaking the law, and being thrown off the register is not the end of the world for a practitioner. Codes of ethics only apply to members, not to everyone.

A few years back the Government decided that although these professions on the right hand side did not require regulation by law, it would be a good idea to put in place some registration scheme - to register the voluntary registers if you like. They set out stringent guidelines and set up a scheme inviting voluntary registers to join the scheme to be overseen by the Professional Standards Authority as well.

Most of the well run voluntary registers with good memberships have joined - so the big counselling and psychotherapy organisations such as BACP, UKCP, NCS and BABCP are all members of the scheme. The approval process is complex and is renewed on a regular basis. The decision to allow an organisation to join the scheme rests with the Professional Standards Authority and their decision is final. This approval also involves an agreement that if a member of one register is struck off that register, then other registers under the scheme will not sign him to their register. In this way, the scheme provides a safeguard to the public that members have a certain level of training, experience, knowledge and professional code of ethics that makes them safe and appropriate to work with.

Its been a popular scheme with practitioners. I am a member of UKCP, who require Masters-level training in psychotherapy or hypno-psychotherapy, minimum hours of practice, ongoing supervision and personal therapy. Members are audited every few years to ensure that we continue to meet the requirements of the register in terms of continuing professional development and supervised practice. I am also a Fellow Registrant of the National Hypnotherapy Society (HS), which interestingly is the only Hypnotherapy register that has joined the scheme.

For whatever reason, the large hypnotherapy organisations such as National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH), General Hypnotherapy Register (GHR) and General Hypnotherapy Standards Council (GHSC) have not applied, or have not been accepted onto the scheme, even though their membership numbers are very high. Instead, they suggest that their members can separately join the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), which is on the scheme. If members decide not to do this, then they do not have the same degree of regulation of practice as the Professional Standards Authority demands. This might mean that members do not have to be in regular supervision, and may have a lower standard of required training, for example. If members do elect to join the CNHC, they are overseen by a code of ethics and professional standards of a voluntary register which practitioners across fields as diverse as aromatherapy, Bowen therapy, craniosacral therapy, healing, reflexology, reiki and yoga therapy have signed up to.

The HS views hypnotherapy as a talking therapy, as does the UKCP. As such they don't support the view that hypnotherapy a complementary therapy, but is more akin to psychotherapy and counselling. Additionally it is worth noting that the British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis (BSCAH) is only open to healthcare professionals that are mainly already government regulated such as doctors, psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, and hence those members would already be regulated by law.

I hope this helps you to decide when you are looking for a therapist. Voluntary self regulation essentially means that anyone can call ourselves a hypnotherapist, regardless of level of training, and regardless of approach we use. The scheme overseen by the Professional Standards Authority goes some way to change that, but they can only oversee those registers, and hence those members, who have elected to join it, and who have been accepted.

You can find more information about this on these websites:

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