It’s funny how sometimes people sat on a hobby horse miss the fact that the world has raced past them on a rocket. When I was Director of Ethics for the National Council for Hypnotherapy I worked with other like-minded people for about four years to rescind the rule that banned therapists from using client testimonials. To me the reasoning didn’t make sense. Most common was that clients were vulnerable and couldn’t be trusted to give informed consent for their words to be used. Whenever a client left to get back to raising their children, running their company, doing their job or coping with their illness it struck me as strange that I let them go off and do that, but wasn’t able to trust whether they were mentally competent to write an opinion about our work together of their own free will. The next most common was that testimonials were falsifiable. And so they are, but any dishonest act was catered for within our code of ethics. It reminded me of when my gym banned all children from the waiting area after my children had sat quietly and read there for years while I trained because two children had misbehaved. I hate lazy management as much as I hate organisations restricting the freedom of its members by failing to trust the integrity of the majority. So we worked to change it and, against a background of sometimes hysterical opposition, we won the day.
I thought that was the end of it, until I heard the other day that someone is trying to reinstate the ban. They’ve missed something: A ban on clients providing feedback to the public about the quality of our service has been taken out of our hands; they’re doing it anyway for themselves. An excellent example is a blogger called the Moiderer. She tells me that moidering means to whitter on endlessly about nothing in particular – which you’ll see if you read her is far from what she does. She flew from Scotland and has seen me three times for issues that many would believe required long-term therapy. Her blog seems to put the lie to that. If you read back through her entries I think you get a wonderfully inspiring and honest account from someone who did what I need for therapy to succeed – she engaged with me. She gave it everything and applied the theory of my approach to her problem. It wasn’t easy, but she proved it was possible to leave behind traumas from childhood and reinvent herself as a happier person. And she blogged and tweeted every step of the way, so it was a very public bit of therapy. Does it strike you as a bit bonkers that a ban on testimonials would have her account in the blogosphere but me unable to link to it? And if I am allowed to, why couldn’t she write it for me to put on my wall if I so wished? What would be the difference?
Another example is the extraordinary Darin McCloud. I had the honour of running with him in the Great South Run in October in support of Diabetes UK. Why that charity? Because when he came to see me diabetes was just one of his issues, and at the core of them was his obesity. He was 21 stone and had been lambasted in the press for bringing their attention to the fact that he was putting on weight in order to qualify for a gastric bypass – a known cure for diabetes. He was abused for pointing out the anomaly that six miles up the road he was fat enough to qualify, but in his home town he had to gorge himself to reach his PTC’s weight criteria. Madness. So Sandra at Thinking Slimmer got in touch and invited him to come to see me. I’ve seen him twice, once in my office and once in a park. He listens to a Slimpod (a 10 minute recording) every night. He’s lost 5 stone since our first meeting s nearly a year ago AND his insulin levels are now within normal range. i.e. to all intents and purposes at this moment in time he doesn’t have diabetes. And, because this is the kind of man he is, he’s signed up to run to help others. His next race is the London marathon. Like the Moiderer, he did what I asked. He engaged and took responsibility for his side of the therapy journey. It doesn’t matter how good I may be, if a client wants to block me they can, and sometimes do. He also blogged about it, as you can read here. In fact Thinking Slimmer have just filmed him, so you can even see him (a lot less of him, obviously) speaking about his incredible transformation. The testimonial door cannot be closed again with so many horses able to jump it, tunnel under it, or just ignore it. My point, other than to highlight the fact that people have within them what they need to achieve amazing transformations – and often quite quickly – is that time has moved on and therapy needs to move with it. I can’t pretend it’s always comfortable for clients to be blogging about their latest session, but it’s not about my comfort, it’s about their improvement, and if blogging helps them, more power to their keyboard.
In Cognitive Hypnotherapy we see therapy as simply a particular form of personal development – a normal part of the life of anyone who has a desire to change themselves. We don’t see clients as victims of anything, and we believe they have everything they need to be who they want to be. Therapy unlocks that potential – but it’s the clients who have the key, we just hold the torch while they find it. Personally I think the more light is shed on the process of therapy the more the public can have confidence in who they go to see. People inspire people, and psychology has proven that the opinion of our peers is one of the strongest convincers for us of the right action to take. What better way to sort the therapy wheat from the therapy chaff than to hear from people who’ve experienced it? Which is obviously one potent reason why some therapists would be against it.