The Licensing Dilemma Continues

Healthcare is a burgeoning field with varied career opportunities and that fact is not lost on many who want to benefit but don’t see themselves putting in the hours or the expense needed to become appropriately licensed to practice. State governments haven’t helped in the matter as potential clients, or patients or whatever you choose to call them, seek services. There is a growing need for certain specialists all over the country and the need for relief creates more opportunity.

Not all states require health-related services to be a licensable one and even the very question of “health” or “medical” has proven to be a sticking point. Do you need a college degree? Can you get certified in an area of something related to healthcare by attending a few seminars? Who should be the gatekeeper to insure adequate preparation in the area?

In some instances, lobbyists may insure that licensure isn’t required for a service, but finding out which group has the most muscle isn’t usually something an individual does when they need help. And help is what these people are seeking. Often the person in need will turn to someone who indicates they have certification in an area of specialization and that may be okay, but what’s the problem? Are you aware that you can sit down right now, create your own certification group and begin offering whatever you want to anyone who will pay your fee?

Well, might not be all that easy, but it sure is close to it. Awhile back a group formed and offered to provide certification in a specific area and all you had to do was pay $250, take a short 10-question “test” and voila, you were a member and you were certified. Nifty certificate was shot out in the mail to you, ready for framing and up on your wall for all to see. I saw one of the certificates on a therapist’s wall and it started a process of re-evaluation in my mind.

Consider the fact that to work on someone’s hair you need a license and you have to actually pass tests to get one. You can only wash hair in a hair salon if you don’t have a license. But to work on the inside of someone’s head, say hypnotherapy, you may not need a license at all. How can that be? Ask your local licensing boards how they view this and you may get an answer that indicates it’s in a grey area that’s really not medical. But what is it?

If someone says they “induce a trance” or change your sense of perception, what does that mean? Are they doing something physical to you (more than cutting hair) or is it all smoke and mirrors? Personally, I believe that if you are going to use a technique that states it involves behavioral or perceptual change, I think there needs to be some regulation.

But, you say, what about those people who do their acts in lounges or on stage? Don’t they do the same thing and they don’t require a license, do they? No, they don’t because it’s entertainment, but should they be permitted to do this? That’s where the real question lies. If it’s a method that can cause psychological change, should they be allowed to do this at their whim? What about people who are on TV and who have specific qualifications in a medical-related field and interact with guests or the audience? Should they be licensed or is it okay because that’s entertainment, too?

I had an editorial job once and the subject of hypnosis came up while talking to another editor. It’s something that is interesting for many of us and I’ve taken seminars on it, read books and articles and had a colleague who practiced it. But before I was a psychologist and I was editing for a living, I did have a layperson’s interest.

One of the editors told me that his wife had been hypnotized by her dentist in order to help with her dental phobia. It worked extraordinarily well until he came home one day and found her smiling as she sat on the couch and watched TV. What was the problem? She was bleeding from her mouth and didn’t even know it. Somehow, the dentist hadn’t done his job quite well enough and she left the office still in a painless trance.

Are you really in an altered state of consciousness when you are hypnotized? Perhaps. Let me ask you a question. Do you take the same route to your job or some other activity on a regular basis? You may be so familiar with the route that it’s somewhat boring.

Sometimes, do you find that you’ve arrived at your destination and you had no memory of the trip? Self-hypnosis may not be all that alien to us because those trips seem to be a variant of what we call hypnosis. For some, it’s a state of mind brought about by meditation or yoga or something else. Should anyone who presents themselves as a yoga instructor be licensed? Maybe, I don’t know, but it’s something to give a bit more thought to in the future.

Mesmerizing, a word often used in relation to hypnosis, has been around for a long time and the word comes from the work of Anton Mesmer who actually theorized that there was something called animal magnetism, or an energy form found in everything. He believed that being able to effect control of this magnetic force in humans could be beneficial and he performed some rather weird experiments to check his beliefs. One involved having a woman swallow a preparation containing iron and then applying magnets to her body.

Look around and see if you can find someone right now wearing a copper bracelet or some other copper containing device that is promoted for healing purposes. Ah, Anton, your spirit lives on! Might there be something to this? Do we have energy fields that respond to metals on the outside of our bodies? There are medical miracles yet to be discovered.

Freud thought hypnosis was a wonderful way to help people with their obsessions and phobias and he studied with Janet in Paris for a time. As one of the the stories go, however, Freud suddenly ceased using the technique when a patient abruptly jumped up during a session and kissed him. The thought of such a complete release from conventional behavior frightened the Victorian gentleman and he dropped the method from his bag of tricks. He thought it might even be dangerous. It was, after all, said to be used by the reclusive and odd monk, Grigori Rasputin, who attended the Russian royal family.

Hypnosis still fascinates and, for some, it is the miraculous treatment of last resort. When more traditional approaches don’t work quickly enough to help with disturbing thoughts or behaviors, there’s always hypnosis. The reports in journals have provided information on smoking cessation, eating disorders and even sexual arousal problems, but, like everything, you have to wonder how faithfully the report actually details the results. Too many people are too eager to present positive results which bolster their support of a particular “treatment.”

Is hypnosis a treatment? If it is, then it should be regulated by a licensing body. If it’s entertainment, should it be allowed because of the inherent problems it might create? Does it truly exist at all? Ah, such disturbing questions, but we’ve got to ask them. Let the discussion begin.

Written by

Dr. Farrell is a psychologist, WebMD consultant, SAG/AFTRA member, author, interested in film, writing & health. Website:

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