Maybe I was just in need of some self-punishment, but following spending some time reviewing a big bunch of websites that offer what they refer to as “online hypnotherapy” I thought I’d offer up some thoughts today…

There are, of course, a wide variety of different things that can help an individual heal and make positive change in their life and enhance their own personal development… Quality time spent with friends, family, and lovers; exercise; mindfulness practice such as yoga or meditation; religious faith practice; service to others; gratitude work; making art and being creative; journaling…. This list could go on and on, couldn’t it? There is a vast plethora of ways people can feel better in life.

Despite these things all being different, they can all be therapeutic, meaningful, and valuable… And none of them are really considered to be therapy as we know it.

So it is with that similar notion that I carry on to say that having perused these websites offering up online hypnotherapy, I do not think it is actually therapy or hypnotherapy as we know it.

In my opinion, these online therapists have gone too far in the direction of preying on vulnerable people in need of help. I am sure to get my usual dose of unsavoury emails from people disagreeing.

Someone is boudn to email me and tell me that they benfited greatly from online therapy, I have no doubt that people have been helped here and there. But having satisfied customers does not automatically license calling new technologically-mediated practices “hypnotherapy” and thereby connecting the new practice to generations of research, clinical experience, and study. Doing so diminishes the field of hypnotherapy, in my opinion.

When you visit these sites, you encounter disclaimers all over the place stating “not the same as face-to-face hypnotherapy.” These disclaimers are just part of how the sites implicitly claim that the email, IM, and even SKYPE exchanges being sold are just another kind of psychotherapy. No need for that inconvenient travel to a therapists consulting rooms. Shy about disclosing personal material in person? No worries, get some new and improved online hypnotherapy!

I’ll openly say this to anyone interested in buying my audio programmes – they are no way near in the same league as getting face-to-face, tailored therapeutic solutions to your issues. They have to be generic to cater for the masses that invest in them.

Let me say this… “Online hypnotherapy” is not a new kind of psychotherapy, it is not a new way of getting hypnosis for therapy; it is a technologically-mediated simulation of hypnotherapy. And like any simulation it has different limitations and is built from different processes than the traditional actuality being simulated.

It is a simulation!

Think about a flight simulator. Pilots log time in flight simulators to develop skills and learn emergency procedures. They are hugely important tools. But they have different limits than actually flying; no matter how much pilots learn in simulators, they can’t be used for an actual journey.

Good quality hypnotherapy is an actual journey. Simulations always have limits, so much so that the burden of proof must be on the purveyors of the simulation that the simulation is, in fact, good enough. No one has yet offered that proof.

In order for hypnotherapy to be effective, (all my students learn this on day one!) and this is stated in various guises in varying schools, there needs to be a positive “therapeutic alliance.” Reali-life trust and rapport needs to exist, the client needs to feel safe enough to do the often difficult work.

Many schools of psychotherapy refer to a holding environment. When you are not actually in a room with the therapist, there is an artificial limit on how safe one can feel. Email or SKYPE simply do not provide the same context for the development of the therapeutic relationship.

Understanding what another human being is experiencing is not magic, nor is it purely linguistic. Even video-conference based online therapies can’t overcome the loss of physical co-presence, at least not now, because it is impossible to look someone in the eye and be looking at the camera at the same time. And the experience of empathy depends in part on such real-life eye contact and interaction. While online interactions can generate the feeling of being understood, that is fundamentally different than the real-life process of actually being understood.

The hypnosis itself is of a very different quality, the intimacy and being truly tuned in to the individual you are working with is something you simply cannot do with the same intimacy and connection online.

Those considering what on the face of it seems like a safe option of online therapy, perhaps you could just ask yourself whether it is a simulation that you want? If not, please do seek out a professional hypnotherapist that you can encounter in real-life, the experience is vastly different and far more satisfactory in my opinion.

To those looking for more income channels in these seemingly tough economic times, maybe you could consider clearly stating that what you are offering is a simulation, not the actual journey that has been subject to decades of research and rigourous study.