My father once told me that he only assumed a leadership role after he realized that “everyone else was incompetent”. Although this is obviously a generalization, I relate a lot to this sentiment – to the degree that I’m a leader, I’m a reluctant one. I’d much rather someone else save the real world why I save another planet in a video game.
From the youngest age, the paradoxes of the world have always rubbed me the wrong way – how the people who talk the big talk usually don’t know how to walk the walk, while conversely the talented people don’t know how to market themselves (you only get one of those two skills, apparently).
How the sensationalist, simplistic gurus appeal to the masses with watered down pseudo-psychology, while the more intense, less appealing approaches get sidelines because they are not as pretty and they take more work.
I’ve spent years railing against religion. But don’t worry, there are other things that bother me too, in the field of psychology. And yes, as usual I acknowledge that it’s much easier to identify problems than to come up with solutions; I do offer solutions to some things, but not others.
We can do better with therapy
So much of therapy is done the way it is just because that’s the way it’s always been done. Who says that 50-60 minutes weekly is the ideal amount of time to work with someone? Maybe it’s two hours every two weeks? I wrote a separate post about some basic ideas that I believe can be implemented into therapy to make it more effective.
But it goes further. How many therapists just spend the time talking with clients about their week, or their day? I understand that sometimes that serves as a jump-off point. But how much of therapy is the therapist just being a well-paid empathic friend? Is there no more proactivity we can pursue here? A gentle drive towards change on both a mental, emotional and physiological level?
And let’s talk about therapists themselves. I’ve met some really unqualified therapists in my life, personality wise. Yes, maybe they’ve spent 10 years studying and have 14 letters after their name. They still lack humanity, or the emotional skills, or the experience, or the courage, or whatever else it is that it takes to be a good therapist.
Better Screening, Better Schooling
Like with teachers, schools need to do a better job at letting people into programs than just taking anyone who shows an interest and manages to get decent grades and pass a practicum. This can’t be just about money, it’s too important.
There needs to be far more interpersonal and experiential learning as part of the program, and therapists should be required to experience months of multiple different therapy modalities so that they a. experience them firsthand, and b. grow as people.
My therapy training program back in the day got some of this right – they did require several experiential personal growth workshops as part of the curriculum, and they did screen people for emotional intelligence before admission. They did not require one to be in therapy, but they strongly recommended it.
I tried avoiding being in therapy myself, ironically because I stigmatized it and thought it was beneath me, until my life fell apart around me and I was forced into it. So much of the techniques I incorporate have been ones I’ve experienced firsthand.
I still think one of the best ways to screen for character is to look people in the eye. Can they maintain eye contact? Can they sustain the vulnerability of seeing and being seen? And what do you see there, when you look? I look for depth, for empathy, for “I know firsthand what human suffering looks like”.
I think this is a better prerequisite for a basic therapeutic and healing prerequisite than any amount of “clinical hours” one has clocked.
We can do better with Hypnosis
Hypnosis in general is a double edged sword. It has a mystique to it, when I mention to people that I’m a hypnotherapist, it usually grabs their attention.
But then there are the assumptions and associations in there, usually fostered by stage hypnosis shows. “is it mind control? Will you make me dance like a chicken?” these are fair concerns, since this is all people have seen. I’d love for people to see what a hypnosis session looks like, although it’s a let less exciting to watch.
But even in the world of hypnotherapy, I think we can do a lot better than therapist-led, scripted experience where people lie in a chair and are “reprogrammed” for half an hour.
I don’t know, I a big believer in the subconscious and hypnosis (obviously) but surely we humans are more sophisticated and complicated than that? And really, ask yourself, “if I’m just being read-to, (or at) can’t I just do this in the comfort of my own home, with recordings?”
A Hypnotic Adventure
Obviously it’s much easier to become a hypnotherapist if all you need to do is lean to pick the right induction and the right script for the job. But we’re missing out the most valuable part of two minds sharing the same space – the ability to dance.
Pushing, pulling supporting, leading, following, a client-led hypnotherapist follows behind the client like two children on an adventure through a forest, sometimes it’s scary, sometimes neither of us knows where the next step will lead, sometimes I help you climb a rock that seems to high, sometimes I ask “what do you think is down that path” and “doesn’t that cloud look like god?”
Personal growth and self discover is an adventure. And it’s theirs.
We can do better with Regression
And then there’s regression hypnosis. To me, already, this is a good start, because we’re going back in time, and I believe all the shit has happened back in time. So we’re already doing a better job fixing it then, where it started.
But here too, we can do better.
Firstly, there are cases when it’s therapist-led. This has resulted in the biggest condemnation from mainstream therapy, against supposed false-memories, where clients “recall” things that never happened.
I don’t think false-memories are as big a problem as they are made out to be. But still, this could easily be avoided if we kept our questions more open minded and ended: “Is anyone else there with you?” is a much better question than “Who else is there with you?”
I also strive to work within people’s existing world views – some hypnotists are insistent on instilling more spirituality or religion into the experience than the clients asked for, and I think this is very unnecessary. Work within their existing belief system.
But wait, there’s more. Regression hypnosis has become almost synonymous with “past life regression” (google it and see what comes up) which has resulted in it being sidelined as hocus pocus hippy talk by mainstream rationalist psychology. This is a shame, because you can easily spend session after session regressing to your childhood, your teens, or even last week.
Even if you regress into the womb, or a “past life”, my personal philosophy is to make of it whatever you’d like. If it works better for you to read a ton into it, great. If you prefer a rationalist approach that this is all a fantasy, that’s fine too.
Our mind makes us dream every night to help us process and make sense our experiences. This can be at least as impactful as that.
Finally, regression has become its own one trick pony. “That’s what I do, I’m a past life regression therapist”. To me, regression is one technique among many that I choose to use when working with a client, depending on what comes up. Similar to hypnosis scripts, humans are more complicated than a single technique working on all people, all the time.
So yes, I’m passionate about regression, and to those who say that “it’s less common, because it requires more skill” I say, let’s acquire those skills. There’s brains surgery, and there is memory surgery. If we can train people to replace a malfunctioning heart valve with an artificial alternative, we can train someone to replace a memory of abandonment with one of healing and safety.
Let’s expand regression beyond religion or new-age, let’s bring it back from past lives into this one, and let’s use it as a powerful tool in an arsenal of options.
Let’s do better.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk.