Walk into any of the big three fast food restaurants these days and the chances are the emphasis will be on getting you in and out as quickly as possible.

The technology is designed to allow you to order your food, pay for it and then collect it from a collection point when it’s ready.

In possibly the only instance where it was actually ahead of the curve when it came to retail trends, this ‘convenience’ approach to buying was originally pioneered by catalogue store Argos.

On the surface, this ‘hit and run’ approach is a good thing when it comes to the fast food industry because in principle – and the words in principle are the kicker here – it serves both ends of the sale process: you want your food quickly, the restaurant wants to move you on so it can sell its tasty burgers someone else.

And in principle, that should work regardless of what is being traded. A cheap and cheerful piece of furniture from a catalogue, a dress in M&S or trauma therapy from your hypnotherapist.

Except, we’re talking about principle rather than reality and reality and principle are a long way from being the same thing. Especially when it comes to how you treat and manage mental health.

How often, for example, have you walked into a Kentucky Fried McBurger King and your food turns out at best lukewarm and at worst downright cold? Why is that? The answer’s pretty simple: on average Kentucky Fried McBurger King has worked out it sells a certain amount of Tower King MacWhoppers every hour and so, to speed up the process of selling them to you – and to ensure you get your meal as fast as possible so the next person in line gets their Tower King MacWhopper as fast as possible – the food is cooked not to order but to an artificial expectation of what the next person in line is likely to order.

The result? Lots of people get what they ordered at the right temperature, many people get what they ordered at the wrong temperature and some people get something they never ordered in the first place.

Now apply those principles to the world of hypnotherapy and what you get are too many hypontherapists who make it their business to offer a quick fix to whatever ails you.

These are the people who completely dismiss regression therapy as slow and old-fashioned, requiring unnecessary time and – they would argue – heartache in unpicking the past to identify what’s causing the problem today.

It’s the equivalent of walking into a restaurant and having the wine waiter thrust a bottle of Blue Nun at you with the words: “You’ll like this. Everyone does.”

Regression therapy was the first thing I was trained in and many years and many clients later I’m even more convinced than ever that it’s simply impossible to treat complex, multi-layered issues such as abandonment trauma, narcissistic wounding, abuse, neglect, repetition compulsion and severe and complex trauma without first acknowledging the past and the impact it has on the psyche. 

At their very best, superficial techniques will only ever paper over the psychological cracks. Beyond the critical issue of whether the patient or client receives the treatment they actually need, there’s also a question of ethics here.

We live in a world where everyone wants a quick fix to everything and so when someone claims they can heal you in one session, the temptation to sign up immediately is enormous. But I think we have a duty of care that requires us to be brutally honest.

Masking symptoms is not the same as curing or healing and if you want to be a good hypnotherapist with a career that has longevity, you’re going to need to properly learn how to navigate a client through the shark-infested emotional waters of severe and complex trauma.

There is – and always has been – a slew of superficial techniques that are peddled by those looking to make a quick return. It’s the therapy equivalent of a gastric bypass. And for mild conditions and issues like nail biting, mild to moderate phobias and some anxieties, they can be fantastic.

Complex trauma is different.

It’s common to see clients who haven’t acknowledged the underlying trauma which is manifesting as the issue. But it’s the therapist’s job and responsibility to guide them to understand why the issue has manifested as it is.

People are great apologists for how they feel – “Yeah, but there are people out there with much worse childhoods than mine” – but this is a coping mechanism that helps them to avoid acknowledging their own emotions. As therapists we’re there to help them to recognise and deal with their own pain, which is the only route to good mental health. What other people experience is more irrelevant than they could possibly imagine.

By unlocking the emotions that are locked into us at the time of the event, we are able to then deal with their presenting issue.

But if the hypnotherapist involved is uncomfortable talking about the past or sees it as an unnecessary or dirty process, that release simply can’t happen. Worse, it’s tantamount to colluding with the patient in minimising and denying the past and helping to unconsciously reinforce the sense of shame they feel.

That in turn leads to further compartmentalisation – which ultimately is what the client is already presenting with. The result? The client feels temporarily better, but the real issue goes unacknowledged, untreated and, at worst, becomes further entrenched. 

It might be inconvenient to you to have a client who finds it difficult talking about painful things, but the answer is to give them time and build trust. The current, worrying trend of promising to resolve all trauma, regardless of severity, in one session isn’t just a joke, it’s a dangerous and irresponsible joke. 

If you’re in any doubt as to just how insidious this disingenuity has become, how about this: the other day I saw a practice advertising its services with the line Come and have therapy – it’s FUN!

There are great many things in this big wide world of ours that are undoubtedly fun, but whilst therapy doesn’t have to be unpleasant, it certainly isn’t one of them.

Here’s the thing. If you offer therapy-lite sessions, your results will also be lite. Plain and simple. It doesn’t work any other way.

I’ve lost track of the number of therapists boasting on online forums about resolving major trauma issues only to admit, when questioned further, that they had only just finished the first session. The poor client probably hadn’t even got back to their car before their therapist was jumping online to share the ‘good’ news.

The goal for any therapist shouldn’t be speed or the creation of great marketing material, it should be thoroughness. To know the job has been done properly and with the client’s best interests at heart. It should be about a process that’s owned not by the hypnotherapist but by the client. That’s not the stuff of one-session fixes.

I’m bored by hypnotherapists who make it their business to pour scorn on talking therapy and make out their speed-dating equivalent is the only way forward. I’m bored by hypnotherapists who have done a 2-week course and think they’ve earned the right to trash-talk psychotherapy and other really solid therapies when all they really seem to be qualified in is supreme ignorance.

Everywhere I look it’s about speed and an aversion to exploring the past. These people don’t seem to recognise that the subconscious has no concept of time.

Quick hypnosis has its place, but no client I’ve had in 15 years has been concerned about how quickly they are hypnotised. Yet now it’s become a unique and questionable selling point for therapists and some course providers.

Guess what? Regression really works. Inner child work really works. They’re game-changers in a game a lot of the players don’t seem to have the right equipment to play.

Is regression therapy everything?  No, absolutely not – just as the Tower King MacBurger isn’t the only burger. But being prepared to spend the time needed to choose the right therapy will always be the difference between success and failure.

Healing is messy and uncomfortable, which means therapy is messy and uncomfortable and recovery from trauma and addiction is definitely messy and uncomfortable – until it isn’t. Then comes relief and true freedom.

But if you’re uncomfortable dealing with a client’s emotions or hearing about traumatic events, or you get freaked out when a client breaks down and grieves, or you don’t have the time to provide the right care then the chances are that some day, somewhere, someone is going to choke on the Tower King MacBurger you just served them.

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About Zoë Clews

Zoë is a Senior Qualified Hypnotist registered with the General Hypnotherapy Standards Council, an Advanced EFT Practitioner & Trainer and NLP Practitioner. Zoë first obtained her Hypnotherapy diploma from the European College of Hypnotherapy over 10 years ago, however her training continues as she consistently acquires new knowledge and the latest cutting-edge techniques in order to help her clients free themselves of 'old baggage'. Zoë has been running a thriving practice in Harley Street for over a decade now, and during that time has helped thousands of clients get what they want. Whether that is losing weight, freedom from anxiety, panic attacks, depression, trauma or eating disorders, she is super passionate about what she does and considers it a vocation to help people feel good. The majority of her clients arrive as word-of-mouth referrals and she is proud to have established a solid reputation as one of the most recommended Hypnotists in London. Zoë's work has been featured in Marie-Claire, Elle, Health & Fitness, Spirit & Destiny and Prediction magazine.