There are times in your life when you really need an expert. Computer crashed, and all your important files disappeared? Expert. Getting tax audited and your income/outgoing system is a draw of crumpled notebooks and receipts? Expert. Finding a way to keep the population safe from a pandemic whilst not tanking the economy… one could argue there’s not enough experts in the land for that one, but maybe that’s a bit too close to home for an analogy this week!
But when it comes to looking for support with mental health; trauma, addition, anxiety and depression, do we really need an expert to ‘fix’ us? Our brains being the most important and complex bit of kit we own, it can be tempting to say yes we do, and go out and find the most experty expert in the field of psychotherapy, counselling, hypnotherapy or psychiatry there is! but does that guarantee that they will be the best ones to ‘fix us’? I am not entirely sure that’s true, and here are some reasons why…
What is an ‘expert’?
Firstly, yes psychiatry and psychology is regulated and indeed there are experts in these fields who are highly qualified and trained to PhD level and beyond. Many have worked in research and written books. Knowing the difference can be really useful here; a psychiatrist is medically trained, can diagnose a mental illness or neurodiverse condition and is allowed to prescribe medication; whereas a psychologist delivers therapeutic interventions for those diagnoses (such as psychotherapy, which takes on many forms). But even within these ‘expert’ fields, it is still good to find the right one for you. Staying in control of who you see keeps you empowered. Even if referred through the NHS, if you don’t feel a doctor is right for you, please ask to be referred on. They are experts in their fields, they are not experts in your life.
Beware the ‘expert’ hypnotherapist!
Hypnotherapy, which is what I do, has less regulations and while we have official qualifications, associations and training schools that require supervision and continued professional development; it is still, unregulated in many ways. This means anyone can call themselves an ‘expert’ in something, even if they are not. It is sadly an often used marketing trick to use the word ‘expert’, ‘master’ ‘world-class’ etc. Ego is not expertise! They may have done more training in a certain area or had more clients, but beware the self-identified ‘expert hypnotherapist’ or worse ‘master hypnotherapist!’.
Do, instead, look for words such as ‘experienced, niche, special interest, passion, focus; and if available, past clients stories* (or better yet a personal recommendation from someone you trust), to get an idea if a hypnotherapist is for you and if you would feel comfortable with them – just to note: some hypnotherapists are also qualified psychologists or doctors, but this is something that will be stated on their literature. You can also check out associations such as the NCH for lists of hypnotherapists that have met their qualification requirements.
A good hypnotherapist will also offer at least a phone call for a chat first, so you can ask any questions you may have. You can ask what qualifications they have done and what CPD (continued professional development) they have undertaken (especially if they have done CPDs around diversity, ethics, safeguarding and duties of care, something medical professionals all have to do); or any areas they particularly enjoy working with, but again, beware of being told of “expertise” unless there is some serious experience and accolades to back it up.
So who is the expert here?
We may be good at what we do, be highly skilled and trained, but when it comes to getting you back on track in life, there is only one expert in the room and that is YOU. Our job is to help support you in being that expert. Think of it like this: when it comes to the process of getting you where you are going, we are the laboratory manager, you are the expert working on the alchemy of change!
Therapy should feel empowering, and there is nothing empowering about a therapist sat across from you telling you they know more about your life and mental health than you do. We don’t do that. We can share information about how the brain works, we can ask solution-focused questions, but it is up to you to use the information, and use the questions to think about things differently and, expertly apply it to your situation.
Compassion vs empathy
There is a lovely Youtube animation about the difference between sympathy, empathy and compassion. Sympathy seems kind, but is not empowering, and while empathy is better, it still involves keeping the person disempowered even if they feel more heard. Compassion means we listen, but we support you come up with solutions. Even if a hypnotherapist has had a similar experience to you, then them sharing it as an act of empathy is still not them being an expert in what you are going through. Your experience is yours, theirs is theirs and has no bearing on the current situation. It may be a comfort to know your therapist has an understanding of what you are telling them about your experience, but you are still the expert. A good hypnotherapist will be compassionate, and their skill will lie in helping you recognise the expertise you have to cope with your experience and move towards where you want to get to.
Experience is not necessarily expertise
Every client is unique. Event those who arrive with very similar issues are distinctive cases. Therefore we treat every client as an individual and so, rather than us becoming experts in anxiety from seeing 100 clients with anxiety, the skill we strive to hone is meeting every anxiety client as if they were our first; not letting past experiences or client relationships encroach on this one. So if you see a hypnotherapist boast of helping x amount of people get over a particular phobia or stopping smoking for example (I’m not even sure how they can validate that), that doesn’t necessarily mean they are an expert. They haven’t seen you. I can imagine going to see a hypnotherapist who claims to have helped 5,000 people stop smoking seems tempting, but then if, for whatever reason, the hypnotherapy doesn’t work for you (or hypnotherapist is not right for you), you may think “why did it not work for me, and for the other 5000, I must be a difficult case!”. If a hypnotherapist explains how they works and helps you draw on your own resources and skills, they are once again, giving the expertise back to you, and as I’ve said before, YOU are the expert in your own life.
A good hypnotherapist will focus on your situation and yours alone and leave past clients out of it. We may tell anecdotes and stories, but always in the abstract and without detail, but this is because the brain likes metaphors and they can help, not because we are showing off what experts we are.
I am not an expert!
So, if you are reading this, looking for a hypnotherapist, I have to confess I am not an expert hypnotherapist. I am a qualified, experienced and conscientious hypnotherapist, I am a passionate hypnotherapist and a compassionate hypnotherapist and a total geek about learning
… but the skills I constantly work on is how to help you feel back in control and back on track. I want you to feel comfortable with working with me, enjoy sessions, enjoy applying stuff you have come up with to your life, and basically watching you become the expert. Because when it comes to you and how to be your best self, you really are the only one who can do that.
I am an expert at making roast potatoes, mind. That I will admit.
*Testimonials should only be freely offered by clients and not asked for (they can write their own on Google or FB if you like), especially if a client has come for help with something personal, we NEVER share what clients have seen us for or even if they have been to see us at all.