I recently had a debate online with a fellow therapist who suggested that Stage Hypnotism is damaging the hypnotherapy profession and that for hypnotherapy to be taken seriously it needed to disassociate (or double disassociate) itself from stage hypnotism.
During this discussion I agreed that it did need to separate itself from the entertainment side but, in order for hypnotherapy to be accepted it really needed to be called something other than hypnotherapy. It was then suggested that changing the 'tail' as opposed to changing the 'dog' would be as effective. This is all well and good however, in this case the tail is much larger than the dog and is quite happily wagging away at the back whilst it is the dog that is wanting acceptance.
Hypnotism has been around in one form or another for many, many centuries and stage hypnosis was originally brought into the public domain for entertainment purposes during 1800's. Like it or not, stage hypnotism is always going to feature strongly in the mind of someone as soon as hypnosis or hypnotherapy are mentioned. If you were to ask 100 people what they thought hypnosis was I would bet that the majority would allude to a stage hypnosis effect either mentioning swinging pocket watches, people being turned into chickens or mind control.
I've been performing in one form or another for almost a decade now and stage hypnotism has been something that I've been performing alongside also using hypnosis as a therapeutic tool for sometime now. In the past other hypnotherapists have suggested that you shouldn't perform both as stage hypnotism invalidates your competency as a therapist and that I should either cease performing as a stage hypnotist or perform under a pseudonym instead.
I have considered either separating the two elements or quitting the performance side altogether however, it's something I really enjoy doing so I've decided to keep doing it and I believe that there are transferable skills to both sides of the art.
Whilst it could be perceived that 'stage' or 'street' hypnotists often have little or no formal training I would say that of those I have spoken with and met over time many are as passionate about the many different facets of hypnotism and are continually studying or training in the different elements of hypnotism/ hypnotherapy.
There is also the argument that if you're making people believe they're washing machines or any other household appliance one night it may be difficult to have them take hypnosis seriously.
On the contrary in my experience I have always had at least one person and often several people who have enquired about hypnosis for therapeutic purposes who I've either seen at a later date or referred onto another therapist. It's arguable that the people who come to see me after a show may never have reached out for help had they not seen a performance of hypnosis.
Of those that I have seen I can say that I've not had any question the validity of the therapy and in fact, most have experienced wonderful change be it for smoking cessation, dealing with trauma or something else entirely.
When I've carried out talks demonstrating hypnotherapy there is a lot of cross over and processes and mechanisms aren't too dis-similar to those used during a hypnotic stage show however, the outcomes are entirely different.
I don't believe that the public's perception of hypnosis will change anytime in the near future and I do think that it's our responsibility as either performers or therapists to better educate those we converse with in order to move the profession forward in a positive way.
I have felt there is a lot of snobbery from some therapists regarding stage & street hypnosis and one could argue that performing as a stage or street hypnotist better equips one for things that may be likely to unfold in the therapy room. Having said that, as with any profession you must be properly trained. Hypnotherapy is currently unregulated this is currently difficult to govern. Perhaps in the future this industry will start to move towards better regulation particularly from a therapeutic perspective.
Jason Simmons is a stage hypnotist and hypnotherapist who has been performing for almost a decade.
He has worked with the likes of Tim Vine and Arthur Smith.
Jason is also the author of the forthcoming book: The Hypnosis Handbook