I should have known that somewhere along the way bureaucracy would stick its oar in and give it all a good stirring up.
Fortunately my alter ego is extremely well adapted to living in a heavily regulated world so it’s not going to cause me too much hassle. Nevertheless it would have been nice, (cue subterranean groan from erstwhile Witchfinding English teacher), to be able say what I wanted to say simply because I believe it to be true and because I believe it would have encouraged potential clients to call up and seek help. Which I believe I can give, (as in provide, rather than as in gift – I have to earn a living after all).
Of course in our relatively comfortable and over-safe environment, centralised protection and oversight is the order of the day so we have to abide by rules, (if only they were more like guidelines a la Black Pearl), designed to reign in those of an over-persuasive nature and whose primary belief is that your money should only be temporarily described as such whilst sliding gracefully into its rightful place in their pockets.
The downside of all this is that I had, by now, written the drafts for my web pages and have to say, thought that were taking shape pretty well. They said what I wanted them to say, in ways that would encourage potential clients to act but at the same time discourage those who wanted a quick fix whilst someone else solved all their problems for them. Unless of course they realised that this was indeed their problem and it was this belief in dis-empowering externalised solutions which they wanted to solve.
I had deliberately set about writing in a somewhat forward style, telling it how it is so that those who find themselves dealing with the issues I am intending to focus on are encouraged to come along and see me. And then, helpful soul that he is, Sean, (good Cognitive Hypnotherapist by the way), made us aware of the requirements of the ASA, (that’s the Advertising Standards Authority not the Amateur Swimming Association even though they use the same T.L.A. and who may be even more interested in the benefits of cognitive hypnotherapy than those advertising chappies, you never know, call me if you are), as regards what you can and more to the point can’t say about such areas as hypnotherapy. On first reading I was not happy.
So, after a mild bout of swearing, most unlike me, I gave it some thought. And once I’d thought, I realised that I wasn’t actually angry about the restrictive nature of their requirements after all. I was just peeved that my carefully crafted words, whilst saying pretty much exactly what I wanted to say, were not up to standard. Bugger.
I’d have to start again and I wasn’t looking forward to it. First off there’s the need to promote my skills to potential customers, ensuring that this meets with the ethical standards of the National Council for Hypnotherapy, then there’s the need to make sure that the web pages get read at all, (enter good old SEO), and now overlaid onto that is the need to do so both in the letter and spirit of advertising regulation.
At this point my alter ego stepped up to the mark, told me not to be such a child and damn well get on with it. Annoying as it might be, the ASA’s requirements are a flea bite compared with the leviathan that is the soon to metamorph Financial Services Authority in whose delightful shadow (warming glow?) I have basked for many a year.
So I began the task of re crafting my words. Much as I hate to say it, it’s been really useful. I’ve had to call on much of my skill in sales training, coaching, NLP and hypnotherapy. After all, words matter. Ideas and how they are organised allow people to follow your route towards a point where they can make an informed decision about whether they want to get in touch and take steps to improve where they are in life. Equally importantly, those same words and ideas lead those for whom I am less likely to be the best next step to the conclusion that it is best to log off and search elsewhere.
Much as I’d like to be all things to all men, (and women, let’s not be sexist here especially if one of my prime focusses is fertility), I’m not daft enough to believe I can help everyone nor is it likely that I or my style of therapy is going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Web pages can do a great job of helping potential clients work out whether they think there could be a good fit in terms of both style and content. If so, hopefully they’ll get in touch. Equally, if not, then I hope they find someone who’s better positioned to help them.
The basic premise of the ASA position is that if you can’t prove it, you can’t advertise it. And they’re quite rigorous. They even pulled up the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine recently for promoting Hypnotherapy in a leaflet The ASA decided that the hospital’s own evidential studies weren’t robust enough to allow them to make the claims they were making. Interestingly, they did concede that the evidence showed that hypnotherapy can help people cope with the effects of chronic pain. Cool.
So with all this flowing around inside that grey matter that fills my head, I found myself discussing my new hypnotherapy venture with a financial services colleague, sceptic that he is. When I recounted the outcome of a couple of my volunteer clients, (a complete reduction in severe hayfever symptoms and also alleviating chronic back pain to the point where the client no longer uses any pain relief at all), he simply asked how did I know that it was Cognitive Hypnotherapy which did the trick. Couldn’t it just have happened anyway? Could they still have hayfever and a bad back but were effectively just ignoring them? Interesting.
The short answer, I suppose, with my regulatory head in place, is that I don’t know, not for sure. As a Cognitive Hypnotherapist, I’m well versed in the tendency of the human brain to see co-incidence and perceive it as cause and effect. It’s the basis of many a distorted reality tunnel at the end of which lurk phobia, anxiety and all manner of normal everyday terrors. All I know for certain is that clients have come to me, I have treated them, showed them how to treat themselves, and then they have left feeling better.
There’s even another part of me which doesn’t really care how it works. Does it really matter whether there has been substantive change in their physical situation or whether it is simply a change in perception. If you get even vaguely existential about it, what’s the difference? I mean, if you have a bad back and currently need pain medication, does it make any difference whether your back is actually less bad and therefore doesn’t hurt, or whether your back is unchanged but you’ve just stopped thinking it hurts?
Either way, it doesn’t hurt any more, eh Morpheus?
In many ways what I believe is unimportant. In reality, it’s what you believe that matters. I haven’t had anyone come and see me as a volunteer or paying client who has not had some degree of scepticism about the whole hypnotherapy thing. Hell, I was sceptical myself at the start of the course. But if by the time we finish, you find yourself living in a world which you perceive to be better than when we first began working together, then that is a decent enough measure of success to be going on with, isn’t it?
Of course it does help if I really do believe in what I’m doing, otherwise I’d just be a charlatan.
I do believe, by the way. Just for the record.
Here’s the exiting bit. Evidence is being gathered. Proper, scientifically robust, evidence-based research. It takes time to do this well. Time to gather sufficient evidence to be meaningful, whatever the result. Time to get it analysed. Time to get it assessed and published. Time to get it accepted.
Unfortunately, I can’t travel in time to find out how it all went.
But one of the key trance phenomena is Time Distortion. I’ll just have to wait.
After all, I’m a Cognitive Hypnotherapist. Not a Time Lord.
Watch this space.
Who’s watching who?
© Tony Burkinshaw 2013