So earlier this week was national No Smoking Day here. The BBC re-ran a TV show that I starred in a couple of years back entitled “The Smokehouse” which coincided with National No Smoking Day and as a result, I got lots and lots of enquiries from people wishing to stop smoking.
One person enquired rather forcibly “Valerie Austin used to offer up a 95% success rate for stopping smoking in one hour, what is your success rate with hypnotherapy Adam?”
Then another enquirer asked me if I offered a money-back guarantee to support my seeming confidence in my work, as displayed on the television.
Yet another asked me for a success rate and two more asked about guarantees, and I ended up repeating myself in writing and over the telephone on several occasions.
In times gone by, offering a guarantee may have been acceptable, but as of today it is considered irresponsible and disallowed by many of the top hypnotherapy associations, and for good reason in my opinion. To offer a guarantee of any kind of ‘cure’ in hypnotherapy, or any other therapy is unethical.
Despite certain popular misconceptions and myths, hypnotherapy does not involve waving magic wands around or dealing out a “shazzam” whereby the client irrefutably is made better.
There is no guarantee with any type of therapeutic or medical intervention, whether it is hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, prescribed medicine, faith healing, alcoholics anonymous and so on. Each of these interventions can work differently with different people at different times. As evidence based practitioners, we attempt to employ interventions that are supported by research to responsibly offer up what is seen as the best choice for the client and give the highest chance of that change occurring, but nothing is guaranteed.
I did guarantee something to these people. I guaranteed that I would work to the best of my abilities, applying my years of experience. I guaranteed that I had the best intentions and desire for the client to achieve the change they were requesting. I could not guarantee that they would respond the same way as many other people who had successfully stopped smoking in my consulting rooms.
What’s more, I cannot make a guarantee that essentially involves them as well. Hypnotherapy is not just about me as therapist, is it? Any therapist thinking as much is ill-informed and arrogant to think the therapeutic intervention is about them wielding their skills and powers upon the client who surrenders to it and is transformed accordingly. In order to have success, the therapist and client forge an effective therapeutic alliance, each knowing their own roles and responsibilities and based upon a solid foundation of rapport, expectation and motivation, collaboratively work to achieve the desired outcome.
How can a therapist guarantee the behaviour and conduct of the client within that therapeutic alliance? By guaranteeing success, you take all responsibility away from the client, who can potentially sit there and expect the hypnotherapist to wave the afore mentioned wand wondering why nothing is happening.
As therapists, today we learn to be client-centred and client focused whilst bringing our skills, knowledge and manner to the table and being a good motivated role-model for the change process that the client is to engage in. Each individual is different and whilst we know of certain trends as a result of the interventions we apply in a certain way due to empirical evidence supporting them, how others have reacted, does not necessarily mean that in our therapy rooms, we can guarantee that their friends will respond and react the same way. Each person has their own take on the issue at hand and a number of variables that we need to take into account before we make decisions about the therapy. That is why we have assessment processes and systems.
Then what about offering up a success rate with hypnotherapy?
When so many hypnotherapists in the past have had success rates plastered all over their advertising, I can understand why so many people still enquire about this. heck, if I knew no better, I might be inclined to ask such a thing and gauge how effective the hypnotherapist is.
Unless it is supported by empirical research, that have been triple blind tested and measured against a controlled group of some kind (compared to placebo) then no figures should be used at all. How does an individual hypnotherapist verify the figures they give?
Out of every single smoker that they worked with, did the hypnotherapist get someone to independently verify that their clients were still non-smokers after 6 months, 1 year, 18 months, or 2 years later? God forbid me saying such a thing, but less honourable hypnotherapists could potentially invent figures about their success, couldn’t they? Even Valerie Austin, on her stop smoking pages no longer makes her 95% success rate within one hour, instead she quotes some research and states that she has similar results! I guess someone had a word with her about her marketing campaign of the 1980s.
A number of years ago, I was speaking at an event and a man waited behind to speak to me following it. He kept on waiting to speak to me after everyone else has asked me sign books and answer questions etc. When he reached me, he said “do you recognise me?”
I did, sort of. But could not remember or recall his name. “I vaguely do, yes, how can I help you?”
“I just thought I’d let you know, that hypnosis doesn’t work. I hear your fancy talking today and enjoyed it very much, but hypnosis doesn’t work” he seemed quite certain in his view and then continued. “I came to see you a number of years ago to stop smoking. At first, I stopped, I am not sure if it was due to the hypnosis, I don’t think so. I stopped smoking for 2 years and never even wanted one after I had seen you. Then after two years, I had to go through a painful divorce and i started again. So the hypnosis does not work, see?”
Now to me, stopping for two years as a result of seeing me, that is a success. The hypnosis does not necessarily mean you’ll now be impervious to outside influences for the remainder of your days on this planet. it does not mean you are now permanently immune to any and every traumatic life experience.
If someone came to see me to overcome a phobia of dogs and successfully did so, then 5 years later was bitten by a ferocious dog in a park, then that person may well again become frightened and fearful of dogs. The hypnotherapy they had before is no guarantee of never being afraid ever again, is it?
So how do we gauge what is a success? Because the man at the speaking event did not consider his hypnotherapy to be successful, despite his two years of abstinence following his sessions with me.
If that man were surveyed and researched about his experience at that point, followed up two years later following hypnotherapy, he’d go down in the negative statistics according to his subjective account, yet if you asked me, I’d consider that a positive result. How do these types of occurrences affect our success rates?
Finally, I’d mention the ethics of offering success rates and guarantees, due to the effect it could have on people. If you offer a 95% success rate, how do you think a client is going to react and respond if they fail and become one of those 5% who fail? That client could end up feeling more negative about themselves and the issue at hand and may well entrench the issue further and dooming themselves to a lifetime of an unwanted habit, believing they are some kind of passive recipient of the habit.
Instead of believing that a different approach or therapist could be what was needed, they now think that they are one of the very few who fail. Is that a responsible thing to do?
All hypnotherapists trained by an NCH approved school with their qualification matching national occupational standards has to write up their rationale on this subject and explore and investigate the notion of guarantees and success rates. Anyone offering such could well be contravening a code of ethics, at least if they belong to a reputable organisation.
So I have a weekend off before I am working for the next 3! I plan on making the most of it and have some shenanigans planned, I hope you enjoy yours too, I’ll be back next week.
I’ve just checked out Valerie Austin and contrary to your article, she is using her 95% success rate claim and does not offer any guarantees…. I personally do mention research where success rates are published (just as you do in your stop smoking individual therapy page), because I believe that it is responsible to make potential clients aware that how they choose to quit determines their chances of giving up. I doubt that any hypnotherapist would deny that hypnotherapy enjoys a better success rate for smoking cessation than willpower or the mainstream NRT/counselling based treatments available on the NHS. Surely the public should be made aware of this?
Thank you for your contribution here. Please do let me know which page you are referring to about the success rate claim and I am happy to stand corrected. I was referring to this page on her site: http://www.stopsmokinginonehour.com/research where she quotes a rather dated 1968 study by Von Dedenroth who demonstrated a success rate of 94% over an 18-month period with no less than a 1,000 smokers. She then quotes:
“Valerie was very pleased to find that that her Stop Smoking In One Hour technique has similarities to Dedenroth’s work and not surprisingly has been able to reach a comparably high success-rate using advanced techniques and a very concentrated hour of therapy.”
Rather than claiming the same 94% success rate as she did some years ago, she now claims to have similar results but does not commit to it outright. She indeed does not offer guarantees, but as you can read from this site, she used to.
I am certainly not suggesting that everyone needs to believe the exact same theory as myself and the organisations that I belong to, not at all Marie, I welcome other viewpoints and indeed reckon it wise at times to point out valid, peer reviewed, quality research to help clients make an informed choice.
That said, there are a bunch of reasons not to do so, that I think I have highlighted without need for repeating, in my blog entry here.
Good to hear from you, best wishes, A.
We talked a lot about many of the things you’ve raised in this blog post on my course and I am really glad we did.
There’s an old Pagan thing (well, I may be merging together a lot of sources here and adding my own flavour to things) that goes a little something like this:
You have two people facing each other over an open chasm. Both want to get past this chasm and meet each other and enjoy some happy times. But there is no bridge. And at that moment, one person says “I am the bridge”. Or perhaps they don’t even need to say it but they show it in their body and in their expressions. And the other person recognises this and replies: “I am the bridge”. And these two people ground themselves like a tree digging its roots into the soil. They each become secure in who they are as people right now. So secure that they call to and embrace each other despite the physical distance between them.
For a few moments, the agreement is made and the bridge is formed. Two people working together to move each other beyond something and into new experiences. Two people being a bridge to a better place for both of them.
That’s how I like to see the therapy relationship.
Just been listening to your Adam Up newsletter and heard you mention a forthcoming audio programme about anxiety. Well, I spend a lot of my time on forums about anxiety, social anxiety etc and working with people with anxiety issues so if I can be of any assistance in helping you market the programme when it is released, let me know.
Marty, thank you for sharing that analogy and for your contribution here.
I’ll certainly be advising one and all as soon as I release the new audio programme about anxiety relief.
Best wishes, A.
Your remark about the ‘dated’ 1968 study for stop smoking research is invalid criticism because there has been no new scientific research that has yielded better results than Von Dedenroth methodology. The problem is there is a lack of funding for hypnosis for stop smoking cessation. If it was a new type of drug then it could get all kind of funding from the pharmaceutical companies!
I trained with Valerie in the early 90’s and still visit her workshops from time to time. She has always been a strong advocate of not giving a guarantee. She believes that it could create a conflict of interest with the subconscious in some cases and therefore reduce the success rate overall. You will find this if you read her books and I couldn’t find anything to state otherwise in her various websites.
Marie, I do not think it invalid, there has been a lot of research into hypnosis and smoking cessation that shows a much lesser success rate, some may even think (myself included) “more realistic.”
You do a good job of being an advocate of Valerie’s work.
Best wishes, A.