Tim Brunson DCH

Welcome to The International Hypnosis Research Institute Web site. Our intention is to support and promote the further worldwide integration of comprehensive evidence-based research and clinical hypnotherapy with mainstream mental health, medicine, and coaching. We do so by disseminating, supporting, and conducting research, providing professional level education, advocating increased level of practitioner competency, and supporting the viability and success of clinical practitioners. Although currently over 80% of our membership is comprised of mental health practitioners, we fully recognize the role, support, involvement, and needs of those in the medical and coaching fields. This site is not intended as a source of medical or psychological advice. Tim Brunson, PhD

Hypnotherapy Education or Training

by Tim Brunson PhD

A chief characteristic of any highly civilized society requires that its members be capable of an elevated level of discernment regarding the prevailing language and symbols. If we are to consider that the wide acceptance of hypnotherapy as an evolutionary force, we must likewise become more sensitive to how clearly we communicate. Thus, we must be able to make distinctions between various concepts – such as the difference between education and training as it applies to our field.

The more primitive mind frequently blurs the distinction between the two concepts. Yet, they are radically different. Education, which implies that the subject's transformation is achieved in a manner, which involves an increased level of intuition and creativity, is far different than the alternative, which involves installing patterns of meaning, beliefs, and values as a form of acculturation within an identifiable group. Unfortunately, many entities mislabel themselves as being education institutions – and routinely receive acknowledgement by recognized accreditation groups and hand out copious degrees to include PhD's – while serving little purpose other than to impart skills and set limits on what they consider to be acceptable modes of thought. For instance, I once served as a chief of training for 40,000 federal employees and was closely aligned with an agency that properly had the terms "training and doctrine" in their name. Clearly, in that capacity I was in charge of a training agency rather than an educational one. On the other hand, while spending almost ten years as an instructor at two different regionally accredited universities, as I normally taught lower-level courses, I've come to the conclusion that my role was likewise more of that of a trainer than an educator (despite the misapplication of the latter term by my supervisors and colleagues).

So, this leads me to the question as to whether the hypnotherapy field needs to be focused on training or education. Or, should we present a model using a hybrid of methods, which addresses both. If our goal is only to impart skills and techniques while indoctrinating students as to the values, requirements, and boundaries involved with their employment, then all we are doing is training (and indoctrinating). However, if we are to go beyond that and emphasize that our students need to be adequately inquisitive, use intuition, and perhaps contribute back to the field, then we need to focus on developing the attributes that are more related to what is called education.

Although there is no pure alternative – as all training may create somewhat of a limited educational environment and visa versa – the difference between the two is their goals. If it is our intention for the field to be populated by competent and experienced technicians, who are required to routinely apply very specific skills with little need to handle the unexpected or adapt their methods to newly discovered findings in this and related fields, then all we need to have is a system of trade schools, which are dedicated to programming such knowledge into the minds and bodies of our students. Conversely, however, if we are continually required to adapt our ways to new technologies and knowledge that exponentially become available, it appears that our field also needs those who can not only mechanistically perform the routine rituals of our trade, but also who can think, create, and develop.

It is obvious to me that the world in which we live requires hypnotherapists who can both do and think at the same time. This revelation admits that there is a need for a trade-level segment – which achieves a basic level of certification – while being open for the need for producing educated practitioners, who possess quality post secondary education degrees. Like medicine, which has both trained technicians and educated professionals, the hypnotherapy field should have those who are qualified at both levels.

The methods used to train and educate are somewhat different. Training and indoctrination involves the student acquiring a specific set of skills and other information, which they must master. Using the task, conditions, and standards model employed by the US military is a quite sufficient approach. Education on the other hand typically involves an initial training requirement that eventually morphs into something far different.

As I often say, this requires initially extensive development involving one area of the brain, shifting eventually to a much more complex set of brain functions. Almost always it requires that the student receive extensive training so that their mind may be populated with a sizeable amount of meaning-based patterns (e.g. knowledge) as a prerequisite. This is data, which is normally stored in one's parietal lobes, and provides the raw material needed for the next phase, which I will liberally call the thinking and creativity stage. This phase, which requires a fully developed set of frontal lobes in the brain, employs numerous more attributes other than rote memorization and mimicry, which is the focus of training and indoctrination.

If the education process is to draw out ideas within the student (i.e. achieve some level of enlightenment), it should initially provide methods of analysis such as proofs involved in Euclidian geometry, differential diagnosis methods taught to MD's, and/or the many quick algorithms imparted to military leaders who must rapidly access and react in critical situations. These "how to think" skills, however, should not serve to intellectually box in the student. They should, however, get the student used to evaluating, critiquing, and creatively deriving new hypotheses. One should note that the modes and techniques of thinking are initially imparted using training methodologies as a prerequisite for starting a student's education.

Education is often best achieved either through self-discovery or through the process of mentorship. Immediately, this brings to mind the Socratic discussion method, the debate rituals of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, and some of the small group seminars that I encountered during upper level courses of my undergraduate years and during the latter part of my graduate programs. Indeed, the best example was during my frequent close communication with my dissertation advisor and during my defense of the final product in front of a doctoral review committee. The dissertation experience served as a capstone to my education and shaped the future direction of my practice as a hypnotherapist. When it comes to methods, due to the advent in technology, we have numerous alternatives at our disposal for both training and education. As training requires systems that quickly and thoroughly impart information, facilitate repetition, and aid in mastery achievement, Computer-Based Instruction installed on a local PC or made available through the Internet often are far superior to the age-old tradition of lecture and homework, which frequently fail to address the various learning rates of individual students and may even present material at a rather retarded pace while leaving little emphasis on content aptitude. Thus, a variety of Internet-based alternatives – such as used by the Khan Academy – are very well suited for training and frequently superior to traditional methods. As Salman Khan, the academy's founder, discovered, self-paced information can be effectively imparted leaving instructors the valuable role of tutoring. Therefore, for most skills that do not require that an evaluator personally view a student's performance, various distance learning techniques are more efficient and effective. For those skills that require personal observations by an instructor, often this can be accomplished by using computer cameras for live observation or recorded videos for later viewing.

Provided that education needs more than individual self-study, which must not be ruled out for the adult learner, student-mentor communication is vital. As the purpose is to encourage students to come up with new ideas and associations, education by writing is extremely effective. Like essay exams, which are normally associated with higher level courses and many graduate degree distance learning programs, requiring students to digest a high volume of information and express their analysis and conclusions in this format is very effective. However, the instructor at this level should be looking beyond a mere requirement for the student to express a training-like knowledge of the material. What must be expressed is an ability to form new ideas. Again, the mentoring process should assure that this is happening. (This is why I insist that PhD dissertations should represent the candidate's contribution back to their field rather than being a mere demonstration of an awareness of how dissertations are written. The former method is indicative of a candidate receiving an education; the former is more characteristic of a training and indoctrination process. Unfortunately, many "fully accredited" universities employ the latter as part of a mass production of doctoral-level degrees.)

As education phase more so should relate to an adult learner – since the requisite cognitive parts of the brain do not fully develop until age 25 – methods used should emphasize self-study as much as possible thus leaving mentoring to be judiciously and effectively applied. This means that various distance learning formats are far superior to the old lecture and text methods employed by most universities and colleges. The mentoring process can therefore be adequately applied through the use of phone calls, Skype, e-mail, and student on-line forums. This does not mean that personal one-on-one, face-to-face meetings between a student and a mentor are not valuable. However, the added value is far overrated in a world where people regularly maintain relationships through social media venues.

When trying to differentiate the need for training versus education, I immediately think of the saying in the Christian Bible when Jesus said, "Give unto Caesar, what is Caesars. And, give unto God, what is God's." Likewise, to be effective in creating both technicians and educated practitioners, we must master the art and science both of being superior trainers AND becoming a superb educators. This requires us to become adept at developing and using effective methods of training, as well as with competent education systems. While cognitively rigid commentators have difficulty getting away from age-old (and increasingly obsolete) one-size-fits all lecture methods, innovators are effectively producing results using a variety of new fangled methods. Essentially, we must get away from using the club to hammer nails when we live in the age of quantum physics. Frankly, those who are tenaciously holding on to the ancient ways are still malignantly infecting the opinions of accreditation authorities, who rarely demonstrate that they understand the difference between training and education.

Those of us within the hypnotherapy field who believe in the efficacy of our skills, talents, and ideas, and who have a vision that our society will soon see the value that we provide need to realize that the emergence of our field is moving in concert with a revolution in the world of training and education theory and practice. By taking advantage of this correlation, we have an opportunity. This is especially true as hypnotherapists are specifically talented when it comes to understanding the relationship between the mind, the body, and the process of transformation. Who is better qualified to likewise become innovators when it comes to training and education? Shame on us if we continue to insist that we train and educate our own with archaic methods and views.

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