By Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D.
Roy Hunter is a well-known author and sought-after speaker who diligently continues the work of the late Charles Tebbetts, often regarded as a grand master of hypnotherapy. Hunter is also a practicing hypnotherapist who, from 1987 to 2010, taught Diversified Client-Centered Hypnosis at Tacoma Community College, in Washington. He is a Life Fellow in the International Medical & Dental Hypnotherapy Association (IMDHA).
Honored by national and international hypnotherapy organizations, Roy was inducted into the International Hypnosis Hall of Fame in 2000. His book, Hypnosis for Inner Conflict Resolution sets the standard for parts therapy, a certification which he has taught in Europe. His books are required reading at hypnosis schools around the world. He recently released new editions of The Art of Hypnosis, The Art of Hypnotherapy, and Mastering the Power of Self-Hypnosis.
When I posted an online review of Roy's three new releases in August 2011, I decided to interview him about his career, writing, and teaching. I found in him a warm and congenial individual, who speaks openly about his values, beliefs, and Christian faith. In short, we had a fantastic conversation!
People who teach and practice hypnotherapy usually have a spellbinding story about how they got started. Roy is no exception. I asked him how he became a hypnotherapist:
Roy: I love answering that question. It's a three-chapter answer. When I was a stressed-out sales manager for a major insurance company, one of my clients, a cardiologist, told me I would see him under different circumstances unless I dealt with my stress. In other words, I would see him from a hospital bed. That got my attention. An acquaintance recommended that I learn self-hypnosis for stress management. Within a month, my blood pressure went down to normal. The hypnotherapist who worked with me never even knew I had high blood pressure! So that made a believer out of me in what the mind can do.
The second chapter came in 1981, when I injured my back and had a disk fragment sticking into my spinal chord. I had a horrible prognosis. The doctor told me I needed surgery and would be in bed for two to three months (this was before today's laser technology), that I would be six to nine months disabled, and a chronic pain patient on pain meds for the rest of my life. I didn't like that prognosis.
Before they wheeled me down for the final MRI before surgery...I was lying in bed doing some prayer, meditation, and self-hypnosis. When they did the MRI, something strange happened. The doctor said there was no medical explanation. It was as though Scotty from Star Trek had teleported the fragment out of my spinal chord. Somehow that fragment had been absorbed by my body and the surgery was no longer necessary. But the doctor still told me I would be a chronic pain patient for life and I'd never be able to lift over 25 pounds. That wasn't acceptable to me. Thanks to self-hypnosis and a little help from a higher power, I live a normal life, instead of having to take pain meds daily.
The third chapter happened in 1983 when I attended a group hypnosis session. I learned about Charles Tebbetts. I started studying under him that same year. I was fascinated to learn that Charlie had used self-hypnosis to overcome a crippling stroke that left him paralyzed except his eyes...That was a profound example, because I would never have known he even had a stroke, if he hadn't told me about it.
Roy attended the Charles Tebbetts Hypnotism Training Institute, a state-licensed vocational school for hypnotherapy certification training in Edmonds, Washington, about 40 miles from Tacoma. He excelled. Upon completing certification, Roy started his practice. Four years later, Tebbetts asked him to teach the course in Tacoma. Here's how Roy decided:
Roy: I said, "Charlie, I don't feel qualified to teach. I've been in practice only about four years." He said, "Hunter, I know a good teacher when I see one." I kept resisting. I finally said, "OK, I won't say yes, but I won't say no. I need time to do some prayer and meditation." At the time I was teaching self-hypnosis at Tacoma Community College and some stop-smoking and weight-loss classes.
I went home and did something most Christians don't do. I decided to test God. I said "OK, God, if I'm supposed to teach, make it possible for me to sell my department chair on the idea of a professional certification course at the college." Less than a week later, my department chair called and said, "Before you teach your self-hypnosis course on Tuesday night, I'd like to discuss something with you." I, of course, thought, "Oh-oh! I wonder if someone said something [negative] on one of my [teacher] evaluations?" So here we are...before my class that night, and she says, "Have you ever considered teaching a professional hypnosis training class at the college?"
How's that for a sign from the universe that I was supposed to teach? ...The following fall, I taught my first professional hypnosis course there. I saw that Charlie got 10% because I was teaching his course. He was very supportive of me, up until the time he passed away. Prior to his passing, he asked me to continue his work with parts therapy.
In 1987, Roy was the first in the country to teach hypnotherapy certification at a community college, so far as we both know. When it comes to teaching hypnotherapy, Roy uses the analogy of swimming. You can't learn to swim unless you get in the water. Roy's course was highly experiential. He also asserts, and I agree, that one cannot rightly learn hypnotherapy in a weekend course, as some have claimed. Tebbetts and Hunter were at the forefront of a continuing movement within the hypnotherapy profession to have more credible certification courses, with longer, more intensive trainings.
The nine-month course consisted of three levels, one quarter (three months) each: Basic (Hypnosis), Intermediate (Hypnotherapy), and Advanced (Advanced Hypnotherapy). Roy's three books (mentioned at the start of this article) describe the content. Classes were held one night a week, three hours a night, plus several lab nights, for the Basic Level. Roy also held a one-day workshop each quarter. Each quarter constituted 50 classroom hours. Term papers and exams were required.
The course was taught under the department of continuing education (versus a degree program). There were no prerequisites other than students had to be at least 18 years of age and hold a high school degree or general education equivalent. Graduates (those completing all three levels) did not earn a grade nor receive academic credits. Instead they received a certification endorsed by several hypnosis associations including the Association of Professional Hypnosis and Psychotherapy (APHP) in the UK. Hunter stopped teaching last year, because of time constraints from other professional activities. Tacoma Community College no longer offers his course. Two of his graduates formed their own school. Three teach the course at other community colleges.
Despite the rapid growth of hypnotherapy as a profession, most certification training programs are taught through professional organizations and private firms. Very few U.S. community colleges offer even a self-hypnosis course, let alone hypnotherapy certification. I asked Roy about this, given his own success.
Roy: Years ago, Charlie and I dreamed of getting our course (I say "our" course because I'd made some updates with his permission) into community colleges across the country. With Charlie's passing, I took the idea to a major hypnosis association. I will not say publicly which one. At first, they said they would promote the Charles Tebbetts training course to colleges around the country. Then they decided to offer a shorter course that was more profitable. Mine was put on the back burner...My dream got put on the shelf for years, although I did get the course into three or four colleges. But it could have been a lot more, if I'd had marketing assistance. It wasn't that my course wasn't good; it was a lack of marketing assistance.
Roy's example is instructive for other hypnotherapy practitioners and trainers who would like to use community college teaching to enhance their reputations as hypnosis experts, reach a wider audience, promote their writing, and create an additional income steam to supplement their practices. I asked Roy what advice he would give to others.
Roy: First, pay your dues. You need at least two years full-time experience or four years part-time...I feel strongly about this, because I've encountered far too many instructors...who learned hypnosis within a few months or only a few weeks, who set themselves up as trainers...Then find a good course that has width and depth. Your course should cover the essentials. The basic level should incorporate several different induction techniques, methods of deepening, the importance of hypnotic convincers (which some call "challenge suggestions"), and how to teach self-hypnosis to clients. On an intermediate level, it should include regression therapy...how to do it safely and properly...A really good hypnotherapy course should teach parts therapy (or a variation, such as ego state therapy, subpersonalities therapy, voice dialog, or conference room therapy). Have your syllabus in hand. Have a basic outline of your content and what hypnosis organizations will credential the course. IMDHA will get you in the door – see Linda Otto. The APHP and ACHE [American Council of Hypnotist Examiners] are others. If more than one is willing, you'll go further than if it's approved by only one.
Since both of us practice hypnotherapy and write about it, we shifted to a discussion about how one finds time to do both. Roy divulged the secret behind his ability to write so prolifically: He often writes in trance, allowing the words and ideas to flow from his subconscious mind, while he consciously guides his fingers!!
I said I'd met another author who uses a similar method for journaling, in the belief that he receives communication from spirit guides.
Roy: When I wrote The Art of Hypnotherapy, I asked for God's help and any inspiration I could get from Charlie as well. Apparently, it worked. Many professionals have told me the book is their "bible of hypnosis."... I feel if Charlie were around he would be pleased.
Viewing Roy's career and his contribution to the profession, oh yes...Charlie would be pleased, indeed!
Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist, writer, hypnotherapist, and NLP Trainer in Springfield, Virginia. She is also Director for the National Board of Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists. Her book, The Weight, Hypnotherapy and You Weight Reduction Program manual has received international acclaim. Her book on self-hypnosis, NLP, and habits, Why Do I Keep Doing This!?! will be available in early 2012. Her web site is www.EngageThePower.com.