In the grand scheme of things, you know something might have gone wrong when you’re heating something up in a microwave and there’s a sudden loud bang, a shower of sparks and the house is plunged into sudden darkness.

Like most ordinary people, I know what electricity does, but not how it does it. I can change a lightbulb and, if the circumstances are right and there’s a diagram to work from, a plug. When there’s a normal power cut – in other words, the sort that isn’t accompanied by loud noises and sudden fireworks in the kitchen – I also know where to look to see if a fuse has blown (though what to do next would elude me).

But that’s pretty much as far as my expertise goes and you’ll probably agree that when the Fourth of July is going on in the middle of your kitchen, that probably isn’t quite far enough.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was fairly reluctant to investigate whatever electrical mayhem had suddenly befallen my kitchen and robbed me of a bag of popcorn. I did, however, manage deduce two key facts:

First, the loud explosion was not, as you may have been thinking, the dying moments of an implausibly large popcorn kernel; and second, the circuit breaker steadfastly refused to be reset, giving rise to a suspicion that this was an electrical problem of a magnitude several times larger than the one caused a few months back by a pair of overheated hair straighteners.

This, I quickly realised, was the domestic equivalent of a Defcon 1 situation and fully deserving of a bonafide Expert, with, as you will note, a capital E.

So I called my butcher, David, to come and have a look at it.

I know there are some of you now thinking that this is a strange course of action to take, given the mysterious and quite possibly lethal situation in which I found myself and I have a certain sympathy with your point of view, if I’m being completely honest.

But you need to understand that David has been on – and passed – a 20-week electrician’s course held every Saturday and so holds a recognised and certified electrical engineering qualification. Crucially, he’s also really, really cheap, charging me £30 an hour rather than the £90 an hour plus £125 call out charge that an electrician registered with the Electrical Contractors Association would charge!

It’s a no-brainer, right?

Wrong. A decision so far wrong it couldn’t be more wrong if it marched up your garden path and knocked on your door brandishing an enormous piece of card with the word WRONG printed on it.

If my microwave really had blown up my kitchen and taken the entire electrical supply to the house with it, I would obviously have called out the best-qualified electrician I could possibly find and the cost be damned, because why would anyone cut corners with their personal safety?

Yet people do, all the time. Perhaps the circumstances aren’t always as spectacular, but the false economy of scrimping on cost is common in all areas of life. Sometimes saving money is a good thing but there are sometimes in our lives where a perceived saving actually costs you more.

I’ve long worried that my own profession doesn’t do enough to offer protection from people like David the Butcher. Well-meaning though the Davids of this world undoubtedly are – often to the point of fundamentally believing they are perfectly qualified to offer treatment for even the most acute problems – the fact is they are likely to do more harm than good, especially when it comes to vulnerable patients who have experienced serious trauma.

Just as David the Butcher can get an electrical engineering qualification in what amounts to no more than four weeks, so it is also possible for someone to get some form of recognised hypnotherapy qualification in a fortnight.

At Zoe Clews & Associates, I and my colleagues have spent years training in hypnotherapy methods and then practising them and I’d argue that the best and most qualified therapists are those who, like us, have practised first on themselves.

So, what do I mean by that? Well, for me that’s about having done the necessary processing work on our own emotional state to ensure we’re not taking any of our own ‘stuff’ into client sessions. 

Unfortunately hypnotherapy is still an unregulated industry. If you look at psychotherapists, they not only have to train for five years but they also have to have five years of their own psychotherapy too. And there are good reasons for that. It means they are, for want of a better phrase, emotionally ‘clean’ and therefore highly unlikely to transfer their own issues or agendas onto the clients. They’re also less likely to be triggered emotionally themselves by the client’s presenting issue.

So at its heart, the reason why psychotherapists and other practitioners working in the field of mental health have such rigorous training is safety – for their clients, and for themselves.

This isn’t currently the case in hypnotherapy, which means that there are a lot of unprocessed – often well meaning and well intentioned, but nevertheless unprocessed – people working as hypnotherapists who haven’t worked through their own issues and are consequently way out of their depth.

The concern I have over the prevalence of practitioners who don’t have a high level of training and who aren’t what I might describe as ‘therapied’ themselves has nothing to do with the added competition in the industry, either. It’s a concern about the potential to cause greater emotional damage to someone rather than to heal them.

There are a great number of examples where inadequate training and practice conspire together to have a shocking effect on a patient.

I have beef with much of the public promotion and advertising around hypnotherapy, but the one that fills me with cold dread is the promise that all issues will be resolved in one session. That’s a massive over-promise which no credible hypnotherapist would ever make.

Smoking or nailbiting cessation? Yes,  and depending on the client and the underlying issues, they can be resolved with a single session. But serious and complex trauma? Quite apart from the ethics involved here – and they are at best seriously flawed – what is the impact on the client when they are not miraculously fixed in one session from something that was never going to be fixed in one session?

The legacy of that is a client who is even more despondent than ever that they are incurable or beyond help – and having had to do a lot of fixing around people who’ve had this experience, I know only too well the damage it causes. 

What really gets my goat, though, is the current vogue to peddle a ‘bish-bash-bosh’ Del Boy-style of hypnotherapy that proudly claims not to delve into the past or dig up old memories, all gift-wrapped in a wafer-thin veneer of ‘we’re-serious-therapists-and-we-don’t-do-fluffy stuff’ packaging.

It’s as if talking about the past and honouring and acknowledging the deep impact it’s often had on the client is somehow harmful.   

There are some issues, such as weight loss, smoking, habits and stress, where laying bare the past is unnecessary; but for other, serious issues, true healing – by which I mean real, long-term freedom from the issue and not just feeling good after the session (which is easy, because we all feel good after hypnosis) – the past absolutely has to be acknowledged, grieved for and released.

One of the worst horror story techniques I’ve experienced came from a client who had been abused as a child. Her previous hypnotherapist’s solution? To put it into a box marked the ‘past’ and ‘shove it away’.   

Another client came to see me after her child suffered a severe injury because of a drunk driver. Her previous hypnotherapist had told her in her first session that she needed to ‘forgive’ the driver. We never ask anyone to forgive and no hypnotherapist ever should. Forgiveness is the choice and prerogative of the client and I have a serious issue with hypnotherapists who push for what I call the ‘forgiveness bypass’ 

That’s not to say there isn’t a place for some sort of ‘lite’ version of hypnotherapy – though I absolutely believe there should be restrictions and regulations in place that prevent such a service being available to all.

But care certainly needs to be taken when choosing a hypnotherapist to work through your issues with you. At Zoe Clews & Associates we are always very pleased to share details of all our associates’ training so you can be sure of receiving the very best care from us.

None of us is perfect. I doubt there’s a person alive who can honestly say they’re totally without their own issues. But at the very, very least any hypnotherapist who wants to be considered credible should have gone through a some sort of meaningful process of self-healing and discovery.

Just as you wouldn’t ask someone with a month’s training to rewire your house, neither should you give responsibility for your mental and emotional well-being – your psyche – to someone who hasn’t extensively trained and practised – on themselves as well as others.


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About Zoë Clews

Zoë Clews is the founder of Zoë Clews & Associates and is one of the most successful and sought-after hypnotherapists working in the UK today. She has spent the last 17 years providing exclusive, highly-effective hypnotherapy treatment to a clientele that includes figures in the public eye, high net worth individuals and professionals at the top of their careers. An expert in all forms of hypnotherapy treatment, Zoë is a specialist in issues relating to anxiety, trauma, self-esteem and confidence. She works with nine Associates who are experts in their own fields and handpicked for their experience and track records of success, providing treatment for an extensive range of conditions that include addiction, weight loss, eating disorders, relationships, love and sex, children’s issues, fertility problems, phobias, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders and sleep issues.  She takes inspiration from her own emotional journey and works with both individuals and blue-chip corporates who want to provide mindfulness support for their people either on a regular or occasional basis, or as part of an employee benefit scheme.