I got the word hogwash into my blog title… It was that or the word Bullcrap which I started off with… Whether I use hogwash or bullcrap, or the words nonsense, fallacies, gibberish, I think you get the general sense of my sentiments on this matter.

We all see it, we read it in hypnotherapy and NLP forums, we hear inexperienced or just plain naíve hypnotherapists and NLP practitioners (in particular) say something along the lines of:

Well my teacher told me past life regression works and the man I did it with experienced a fabulous change, so that proves it works.”


My teacher worked with lots of schizophrenic clients using hypnosis and I have used the swish pattern on a lady with it and she felt much better afterwards.”


My clients always tell me they feel better after a good cry, so that shows it is a really good way of letting go of unwanted feelings and getting results in therapy.”


My friend read about the law of attraction helping a man get rid of cancer and I feel a lot happier since I used it, so that shows it works.”

I could write thousands and thousands of words of people filling up discussion forums with this kind of useless subjective, anecdotal statements.

It all goes to demonstrate that hypnotherapists need critical thinking skills, while currently they think of all scepticism as a bad, evil thing rather than a healthy way to apply common sense and examine real-life evidence.

In a nutshell, critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally. Importantly for hypnotherapists and other therapists, it includes the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Reflective practice should feature in any good quality hypnotherapy training and should form part of any hypnotherapists daily regimen when working with clients. Yet I encounter many, many hypnotherapists who could not offer up any kind of systematic process of reflective practice at all… I digress, back on to critical thinking… Someone who is a critical thinker, does the following :

– They understand logical connections between ideas. (i.e Do not agree with all complex equivalences or irrational causal relationships)
– They identify, construct and evaluate arguments. (i.e. Rather than just taking things personally, due diligence and consideration goes into how they present the information)
– They detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning. (i.e Noticing if someone offers up solely subjective anecdotal evidence to support their theory)
– They solve problems systematically.
– They identify the relevance and importance of ideas. (i.e They do not muffle creativity)
– They reflect on the justification of one’s own beliefs and values. (i.e. Don’t just carry on bloody mindedly believing in something because that is how you were taught it several years ago)

Being a critical thinker is not just about being able to regurgitate and accumulate information, not at all. A person with a good memory and who knows a lot of facts is not necessarily good at critical thinking. I mean, look at autistic savants (as seen in the film The Rain Man) for an extreme example. A critical thinker is able to deduce consequences from what he knows, and knows how to utilise information to solve problems, and to seek relevant sources of information to inform himself… Looking for proper evidence.

Many people perceive critical thinkers as being argumentative or being critical of other people, when it really is not the case. Although critical thinking skills can be used in exposing fallacies (or hogwash and bullcrap) as well as bad reasoning, critical thinking can also play an important role in cooperative reasoning and constructive tasks, particularly those employed in therapy. Critical thinking can help us acquire knowledge, improve our theories, and strengthen arguments.

In hypnotherapy, good hypnotherapists know Socratic questioning techniques and NLP practitioners tend to be taught the Meta model as a way of looking for precise information… We expose generalisations, distortions and deletions in people’s reasoning, we ask what evidence exists to support the reasoning with these kinds of questions asked of a therapy client… It is an inherent part of our work and these are the types of questions that critical thinkers apply to life and the world around us… If we apply them in therapy and see the benefits of them, why on earth do the same people not apply that sort of questioning and rationale to the principles that underpin their approaches to hypnotherapy or NLP or modern psychology?

I mean you are not going to necessarily do your client any harm if your approach to therapy is heavily punctuated with elements of the law of attraction, but you’d be far, far more effective if you knew the limitations of what you were doing, understood how your beliefs were affecting your therapeutic results and knew of empirical evidence that supported what youw ere saying rather than just having seen The Secret film or having some anecdotal evidence given to you by a group of people who all believe in the Law of Attraction.

For a hypnotherapist or any other kind of therapist, the ability to think clearly and rationally is especially important. Although critical thinking skills are not restricted to this particular field, being able to think well and solve problems systematically is an asset for any career or lifestyle.

It is more important today than ever. Just look at the modern world we live in. So much of what we do and how we learn relates to a global knowledge economy that is driven by information and technology. This modern world places increasing demands on flexible intellectual skills, and the ability to analyse information and integrate diverse sources of knowledge in solving problems.

Good critical thinking promotes such thinking skills, and is very important in the fast-changing environment. Examine the vast amount of quality research that hits the field of hypnotherapy, examine the tabloid journalism portrayal of these fields, examine the developments just in the last 10 years, let alone the last 100 years in these fields, examine key debates and underlying philosophies, examine the world of pseudoscience where people’s theories are marketed rather than peer-reviewed and whereby men in white coats posing as doctors offer up the only means of credibility… All I ask is to examine, look and apply critical thinking with all these things that are so very pertinent to the field of hypnotherapy, NLP and modern psychology.

Thinking clearly and systematically can improve the way we express our ideas. In learning how to analyse the logical structure of texts, critical thinking also improves comprehension abilities, and boy there are a LOT of texts in the field of hypnosis and hypnotherapy and so many conflicting viewpoints… Examine how those viewpoints are supported and who by and apply some critical thinking that is unbiased by your own previously held beliefs as much as is possible. Know how the beliefs you hold alters your perception of the information you are presented with.

I am offered up impotent resistance from those that say critical thinking is the opposite of being creative… More hogwash!
Critical thinking promotes creativity. To come up with a creative solution to a problem involves not just having new ideas. It must also be the case that the new ideas being generated are useful and relevant to the task at hand. Critical thinking plays a crucial role in evaluating new ideas, selecting the best ones and modifying them if necessary. Those that thrive in business are not just creative, they have a huge amount of critical thinking skills… Just watch Dragons Den on the TV for open displays of rational critical thinking in business, even when confronted with some brilliantly creative ideas.

Most importantly, as I alluded to earlier, critical thinking is crucial for self-reflection. In order to live a meaningful life and to structure our lives accordingly, we need to justify and reflect on our values and decisions. Critical thinking provides the tools for this process of self-evaluation. As a hypnotherapist, reflective practice is essential to ensure I improve and serve my clients needs the best – we do this with supervision and with our own reflective practice systems and means of examining the rationale behind the reasons for making certain decisions… This is especially important if we are not getting the absolute top results that we would like to be getting in our hypnotherapy work.

To think better or correctly and without too much imbalance or bias, we ought to have a basic knowledge of laws of logic, and the methods of scientific reasoning – which can be as simple as examining more closely the statistics that are shown in varying forms of media to support reasoning, for example.

Also, it would be useful to know something about what not to do if we want to reason correctly. This means we should have some basic knowledge of the mistakes that people make. This may well require some knowledge of typical fallacies… Go and listen to Brian Dunnings Skeptoid podcast for lists of common logical fallacies if you want to understand that more. Much research in the psychology world has shown persistent biases and limitations in human reasoning, just knowing this allows us to think critically when we hear reasoning.

Just knowing some basic principles that distinguish good and bad reasoning is not enough. We also need to practice and we need real-life examples of this. The difference between what we refer to in therapy as in vivo and in vitro. If I work with a client using hypnotherapy to overcome a phobia, it is all well and good that we work on the issue in vitro in the therapy room. We work on cognitions and imagined scenarios and target situations. At some point, that client needs to have real-life, in vivo experience that the phobia is conquered or at least improving.

Someone can attend a guitar playing class and learn about the basic theory, such as the fact that the guitar needs to be in tune, certain symbols in the sheet music mean you need to speed up the notes or play them softly. Though if we don not actually apply such theoretical knowledge through constant practice, we may never actually be able to drunkenly play Wonderwall at our friends party.

There are many ways of practicing, you can google online methods of how to apply critical thinking skills and have a good read about the subject at wikipedia and its recommended other sources. Then you can practice by not just accepting everything you have ever been taught as the truth. You can intelligently and politely question reasoning and statements your peers make in forums, you can examine the messages sent out in the media and so on and so on…

Finally, as well as developing your knowledge and practicing, we need to have an open minded approach and suitable attitude. If you look at the examples I gave at the beginning of this blog entry and those you read in forums, you’ll understand that people espousing these kinds of statements have an attitude that could be seen as inhibiting and/or limiting their critical thinking skills. You’ll see the kinds of attitudes that people have that hinder and scupper ones own ability to be a critical thinker. Take a look at these example attitudes that are quite common:

– An attitude of preferring to be given the correct answers rather than figuring them out for yourself.
– An attitude that insists on not reflecting or thinking a great deal about decisions, instead just relying on gut feelings.
– An attitude that refuses to acknowledge or review the mistakes you have made.
– An attitude that does not like to be criticised or challenged in any way.

Psychologists and philosophers learn critical thinking as an inherent part of their learning and education. If a hypnotherapist would like to be as respected and credible as those kinds of peers, then surely critical thinking needs to be a part of who and how they are and not just blind following, assumption-making and believing in anything and everything based on anecdotal evidence or pseudoscience like the stuff offered up in What The Bleep Do We Know and so on…

Have a fabulous weekend folks… I’ll be back on Monday 🙂

Ps. I am still giggling that I got a computer generated image of a shiny poo in my blog today!

If you’d like to learn more or if this has resonated with you in some way, then visit these pages:

1. Has lack of critical thinking held you back and/or is it still doing so now?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or  Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason.
2. Would you like a satisfying and meaningful career as a hypnotherapist helping others to think more effectively?
Adam Eason’s Anglo European training college.
3. Are you a hypnotherapist for whom lack of critical thinking is detrimentally effecting the success of your business?
Hypnotherapist Mentoring with Adam Eason.

Self-hypnosis is a great way to help advance positive thinking. If you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar.