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 Regulation of Hypnosis
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United Kingdom
445 Posts

Posted - 09/03/2009 :  09:30:52 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
For those who favor regulation, here is a newsletter from the American Psychological Association that tells the plans to put you out of business.

David J DePiano, J.D. and Frank DePiano, Ph.D.*

We continue to be intrigued by the field of hypnosis. Since the first time I (DJD) was hypnotized as a 12-year-old, felt my arm levitate without “me doing anything,” and was sure that my father (FDP) was doing some kind of trick to “get my arm to rise,” the field interested me. How could something like this happen? Despite this “hypnotic success,” as I got a bit older I also saw that many unsubstantiated claims were made about hypnosis. This caused me to become disillusioned. Nevertheless, my interest in the field has remained and while I would regard myself as skeptical about many of the broad claims made about hypnosis, the practice continues to draw my interest. More recently, as my interest and involvement in the law has grown, I have become curious as to how my profession of law currently views hypnosis.

A recent perusal of South Florida newspapers revealed no fewer than five advertisements across a single week that purported to train one how to become a hypnotist in as short as a few days. Claims are made to the effect that trainees will be able to treat eating disorders, anxiety, hypertension and help in smoking cessation. Upon completion of the course, the new practitioner will be able to both earn significant income while at the same time helping others. All this, it is promised, for just an investment of a few hours (and of course a few thousand dollars). Even larger numbers of ads from practitioners that claim to provide hypnosis treatment for smoking, over eating, habit reduction, etc. can be seen.

Indeed, a scanning of the internet reveals even more outstanding, tantalizing, and unrealistic claims. For example one ad (http://www.secretsofhypnosis.net/Index1.html, 09) states that you can learn to “easily hypnotize anyone in seconds . . . and that they will never even notice you hypnotized them.” The same ad goes on to state that you will learn “almost ‘criminal’ techniques to make people do what you want.”

On the other hand, some of the most rigorous studies in health and behavioral sciences come from the hypnosis literature. Standards established by prominent hypnosis journals such as the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis and others are of the highest level of scientific method. For example, standards in the hypnosis literature often call for controls for variables such as experimenter bias, hold back effect and more, depending on the goal of the study. Far fewer studies in general psychology consistently call for the same rigorous demands. A quick look at the website of the International Journal of Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis (IJC&EH) Instruction for Authors (http://www.ijceh.com/content/view/15/50/, 09) illustrates the field’s strong commitment to scientific rigor:

Aims and Scope: The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis publishes only original research and clinical papers dealing with hypnosis and psychology, psychiatry, the medical and mental specialties, and allied areas of science. Submissions include clinical and experimental studies, discussions of theory, significant historical and cultural material. Unsolicited commentaries on articles appearing in the journal are not accepted. It is the purpose of this journal to present in an integrated manner the best research in scientific hypnosis and to encourage support continued through inquiry.

In a similar fashion, professional qualifications as established by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) (http://asch.net/certification.htm, 09) Division 30, and other hypnosis-professional groups are among the most stringent. Most of our colleagues in Division 30 will agree that the certification requirements of ASCH, for example, while not guaranteeing a competent practitioner, certainly strive to ensure good training and appropriate credentials for all those seeking its certification. Certification hopes to ensure several things that fellow professionals, consumers, third party payers, managed care programs, hospitals and clinics are all interested in knowing about individuals who incorporate hypnosis in their practices. To that end, ASCH subscribes to the following demanding requirements before conferring a level of certification on any applicant. Certification indicates that the practitioner:

- Has undergone advanced training in his/her profession to obtain a legitimate advanced degree from an accredited institution of higher education;
- Is licensed or certified to practice in his or her state/province;
- Has had his or her education and training in clinical hypnosis that has met the minimum requirements established by a Standards of Training Committee of qualified peers;
- Has been determined to have received at least the minimum educational training that ASCH, the largest such interdisciplinary organization in North America, considers as necessary for utilizing hypnosis.
There are two (2) levels of Certification. The entry level is simply called "Certification." Another more advanced level, called "Approved Consultant," recognizes individuals who have obtained advanced training in clinical hypnosis and who have extensive experience in utilizing hypnosis within their professional practices. Approved Consultants are qualified to provide individualized training and consultation for those seeking Certification.
As the authors discussed—and sometimes debated—the large disparity in image within the field of hypnosis, we thought it would be interesting to survey selected state statutes to see how these various state legislatures addressed and viewed the profession of hypnosis. For the purpose of this survey we selected the top ten (10) most populated states, which comprised about 53% of the nation’s total population. Surprisingly, as Table I reveals, the overwhelming majority of these states do not dedicate a section of their laws to hypnosis.




Mentioned but not regulated



Further, only two of the states surveyed seek to regulate the use and practice of hypnosis. Both Florida and Texas regulate hypnosis by limiting its use and performance to appropriately trained and credentialed individuals. The Texas Code regulates the use and performance of “Investigative Hypnosis” but does not appear to make any reference to other uses of hypnosis. Even between these two states, however, only Florida seeks to regulate the use of any hypnosis. That is, Florida’s statutes warn that “[it] shall be unlawful for any person to engage in the practice of hypnosis for therapeutic purposes unless such person is a practitioner of one of the healing arts, as herein defined, or acts under the supervision, direction, prescription, and responsibility of such a person” (Fla. Stat. § 485.004, 2009 (emphasis added)). Meanwhile, Texas only seeks to limit hypnosis in one specific context. The state’s law requires that “[a] peace officer may not use a hypnotic interview technique unless the officer: (1) completes a training course approved by the commission; and (2) passes an examination administered by the commission that is designed to test the officer's knowledge of investigative hypnosis” (Tex. Code Ann. § 1701.403(b), 2009 (emphasis added)).

Unlike Florida, however, Texas does not appear to regulate the use of hypnosis in any other context. A violation of either state’s hypnosis law will constitute a criminal act. In Texas, such an act constitutes a misdemeanor that carries up to a $1,000 fine. An unlicensed hypnotist in Florida can cost a violator up to $500 and may lead to sixty days in jail!

The other eight states surveyed do not have statutes that focus solely on hypnosis. Some, however, do have laws that discuss hypnosis in one form or another. For example, a cosmetologist in Ohio, who completes some requisite postgraduate training, may offer “hypnosis for relaxation” at his/her salon (Ohio Admin. Code § 4713-8-03(H) , 2009). Also, an Attorney General’s opinion in Michigan specifically noted that, so long as it was not used for the purpose of diagnosis, hypnosis was generally an unregulated act (Op.Atty.Gen.1976, No. 4877, p. 344). Notably, neither California nor New York, two states that traditionally take the lead for liberal and extensive regulation, has statutes directly limiting the use and performance of hypnosis. The lack of statutory attention paid to hypnosis in these states may reflect a number of factors. First, the lack of a clear definition of hypnosis may discourage legislatures from attempting to regulate it. The difficulty in enforcing poorly defined activities frequently discourages legislative action. Next, a consistent lobbying effort, one that reflects a common voice in lobbying state legislatures, would increase the likelihood of enactment of effective legislation. Most of all, a strong commitment to holding the field of hypnosis to the highest professional and scientific standards will increase the field’s credibility and result in state legislatures taking the need for legislative development in hypnosis more seriously.

Where Next?

A. In The Field

It is clear that both the popularity and credibility of the field of hypnosis ebbs and flows in a cyclical manner. We have survived the discrediting eras of Mesmer and the sexualized scandals related to hypnosis of the 1960s and ‘70s.

In my (FDP) Presidential address of 2005 (DePiano, 2005) and in the President’s message in the summer edition of the bulletin, 2005 (DePiano, 2005), however, I noted concerns related to the drop off in hypnosis-related dissertations. At the time, I expressed concerns about the relative lack of hypnosis representation in areas of educational program accreditation. Are these signs of a decline in our field? I do not know that we can say for certain, but I do know that we need even greater levels of the type of legislative and professional advocacy exemplified by Melvin Gravitz.

To that end, it is important that those in the field engage in an internal educational campaign. We need to draw the young professionals, those still in their graduate training, to the field. These individuals need to understand the scientific nature of inquiry in the field of hypnosis. In educational circles, we must ensure that students are exposed to training in not only the techniques and applications of hypnosis but also in the ethical and professional scientific work we do. I have consistently urged our Division members to become active in the American Psychological Association (APA) program accreditation process; we must demand that our continuing educational efforts reflect the best science the field has to offer and to avoid supporting those anecdotal and sensationally-filled presentations. We must lobby our training programs to offer more training in hypnosis from those well trained and experienced in the field. Above all, we, those of us interested in the preservation and development of our field, must hold to the highest of standards both in our private work and in our public positions.

B. In The Law

Both authors remember how much interest was generated from the intriguing phenomena of hypnosis. While too many exaggerated claims remain, numerous interesting results have been identified and acknowledged. The current group of highly competent researchers has found many interesting results related to hypnosis in pain management, smoking cessation, physiological correlates to hypnosis, hypnotic outcomes in PTSD and as an augmenting treatment with cancer and other life- threatening illnesses. Still, as a result of the unsubstantiated claims made by so-called “hypnotists,” many questions remain and an aura of skepticism lingers. The disparity among those laws regulating the practice reflects both society’s acknowledgement of these successes and, unfortunately, its ambivalence in accepting hypnosis as a legitimate part of professionalism.

Americans today, more than ever, look to the law as a source for legitimacy. Indeed, in this context, professions must be regulated to be taken seriously. In that regard, for hypnosis to be accepted as a scientifically viable practice, it is important that it gain some recognition in both the judicial and legislative branch of the law. Unfortunately, the courts must wait for problems to arise so that they can act or, more appropriately, react. Those of us interested in the development of our field, however, can take a much more active role in the advocacy for hypnosis by contacting local state legislators. The National Conference of State Legislatures, whose website is http://www.ncsl.org/public/leglinks.cfm, provides a list of links to the home pages of all 50 states’ legislatures. There is no doubt that making sure the next generation of researchers and practitioners develop an understanding and a respect for our field and that these individuals “carry the banner” for hypnosis into the coming years is essential. Just as vital to the field’s future, however, is formal legal acknowledgement of the practice.


Cosmetology Standards, Ohio Admin. Code § 4713-8-03(H) (2009)

DePiano, F. (2005). President’s message. Psychological Hypnosis, 14 (2), 1-

DePiano, F. (2005, August). Division 30 Presidential Address. Presented at
the 113th annual meeting of the American Psychological Association,
Washington, D.C.





Hypnosis Law, Fla. Stat. § 485.004 (2009)

OAG, 1975-1976. (March 23, 1976). No. 4877, p. 344

Occupations Related to Law Enforcement and Security, Tex. Code Ann. §
1701.403(b) (2009)

Ohio Admin. Code § 4713-8-03(H) (2009)

*David J DePiano is a practicing attorney and Associate working in the Offices of Sedgwick, Deter, Moran & Arnold, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

*Frank DePiano is University Provost and Vice President Academic Affairs, Nova Southeastern University

Gil Boyne
[Gil Passed Away May 5, 2010]
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