Hypnosis for Cancer Patients

Master Hypnotist Gary Coles on Hypno-Oncology

By Susanna Sweeney, MSC, MBACP, CHT

Master hypnotist Gary Coles specializes in hypnosis for cancer patients. I had the pleasure to chat with him, about his creation Hypno-Oncology as well as his take on the hypnosis field.

Watch the fully close captioned video or read the interview in the article.

Susanna Sweeney:  Hello, Gary, you're very welcome Gary Coles ain Farnham in the UK, joining me for a chat here today about your engagement with the whole hypnosis world hypnosis field shall we say. And Gary, my first question to you is, how did you get into hypnosis in the first place?

Gary Coles: Well hello and thanks for inviting me to come on.

Strangely I probably had a different journey to a lot of people coming into hypnotherapy because I speak to a lot of people and they tell me what they always wanted to help people or it was an ambition or they could see themselves going in this direction. And mine never was. I've got to say I'm probably an accidental hypnotherapist or an accidental hypnotist.

If somebody told me six months before I became a hypnotherapist, this is what I'd be doing for a living. I think I'd have just laughed at them and said, there's no way on earth because that was probably- there was nothing further from my mind as a career than hypnotherapy.

The way I got into it, and the way that I've got to where I am now, was- it started off with- my background, I I originally I studied maths and computer science. I was an IT consultant in the oil industry for many years. And one day due to lots of consolidation in industry I was in a position where I got made redundant.

Now, it was it wasn't a bad position to be in because at that time, there was a lot of money in the oil industry. I'd seen it coming so I had insured against being made redundant and so on. And so I was in a situation where I was capable of taking a couple of years off and just deciding what I wanted to do. And my original idea was I thought, well, I don't I wanted to work for myself. That was the only thing that I decided, nothing further than that.

hypnosis for cancer patientsMaster hypnotist Gary Coles, creator of Hypno-Oncology.

Gary Coles: I just automatically assumed it would still be in the world of IT, because that was all that I knew. But I then set up- it was, I remember it's coming around Christmas time. And so I decided to set up a webstore, selling things for Christmas. It was mainly books and so on. I was selling for Christmas.

Christmas came and went. And I thought, what do I sell online in January, you know, when nobody's buying Christmas presents, and out of the blue, somebody offered me a job, lot of hypnotherapy CDs for quit smoking, weight loss and anxiety. And I was surprised at how well they sold. And that piqued my interest in it a little bit.

And, and typical, I guess a lot of people I had books going back from teenage years and lots of subjects. So I sort of went back to the hypnosis books that I had, and read those and I thought this is interesting, but I'm not convinced it's real. I'm not convinced there's anything real in there because I've got a very analytical scientific mind.

And I thought why not? I don't know. It's interesting. And then out of the blue I saw a psycho-, a local doctor. Psychology offering an introductory course. So I thought, well, I've got nothing to lose. I've got plenty of time, I'll go down and have a look. I'm just curious. And one of the thing that this guy said was it was that everybody on my course, I'm going to work with and deal with an issue.

And he said to me, right, what do you want to work with? As far as I'm concerned I haven't got an issue. I think I'm quite rounded. I don't have a real issue. He said, We must have something. And the only thing that, that to me wasn't an issue, but I guess probably was the two other people was I always suffered from nightmares or my life. And I would wake up three or four nights a week, punching, kicking, shouting, whatever, but it never bothered me. I just got used to it. That happened. I'd wake up, I go back to sleep. So to me, it was normal.

And he said, Okay, well, we'll work with that. We'll spend a whole afternoon working on it. He likes doing things in one session. And we spent hours working on this. And I was even more skeptical when we'd actually finished because he told me all the things that we'd experienced, all the things we'd do. He was talking about ideo-motor responses and parts work and all sorts of things. That to my mind didn't happen.

I'm not very good at visualizing. I didn't experience anything that he said I would experience and we finished the session. He said, there you go, what do you think? And I said, to be totally honest, I said, I was skeptical at the beginning, I'm now even more skeptical because I said, as far as I'm concerned, I've been sitting there for hours with my eyes shut out of respect for who you are and what you were trying to do.

And he just said, okay, let's see what happens. And it was probably about three or four weeks later, I was just sitting at home thinking, I've actually had a nightmare since I've had that session. And that was sort of like the light bulb moment- thinking, okay, there must be something in this if I'm that skeptical and something's happened, it's made this big shift, there must be something in it.

So I thought, okay, I will do a proper diploma. And then I will perhaps look at- perhaps look at doing it, possibly, as a part time living. So I did, did, did a diploma in it, became qualified, and then thought, okay, I'll do a little bit part time. And then lots of things happened to me which were quite strange.

I ended up being invited to then go and practice in a hospital, then got involved in oncology work. I was then invited by one of the TV doctors to do some work with him and ended up with me having a practice in Harley Street in London. And just things escalated from there. So so really that's how I became involved in it. Not the usual route, I don't think. I always tell people it was that obvious move between- IT consultant to hypnotherapist. You know, one quick obvious switch.

Susanna Sweeney:  Hmm, interesting story, fascinating thank you for sharing that. And so tell us more about hypno-oncology. What, what is that? What do you do?

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Hypnosis for Cancer Patients- Gary Coles in Interview continued

Gary Coles: Yeah. hypno oncology is is something that I've really gravitated to over the years and hypno-oncology essentially is, is hypnotic interventions for the cancer journey. It's the technical term for using hypnosis with people going through the cancer journey.

Now, obviously, we don't work with the cancer itself. And in a lot of countries like the UK, it would be illegal anyway because there's a 1939 contract on what you can do and what you can't do. But it started off- the way I got into that originally was when I first qualified people said that the hardest part now being a hypnotherapist is getting experience.

Now out of the blue, I had a phone call from the oncology unit at a local hospital said, well, we've just heard you've qualified as a hypnotherapist. We found that it's really useful with cancer patients. We used to have a hypnotherapist, they've gone. Could you donate some time to us and come and help out in the oncology unit.

And at the time, I was feeling a little bit mercenary, and I thought, well, yes, I can because I can see eight patients a day that will build up my experience very, very quickly. And then I can disappear again being very experienced and go off and make lots of money and whatever as a hypnotherapist. So I went down there I'd see eight patients a day, and nearly 15 years later, I still haven't managed to leave yet. So I'm still there.

I've worked with several thousand cancer patients over the years. And then without realizing it-because I then went down the route of, the scientific route of studying for a master's degree in clinical hypnotherapy and then got involved in doing medical research with hypnosis and cancer over the years, I now realize that I'm one of the world's authorities in that area, which is now sort of had the knock on effect that I now- that now go around the world teaching doctors and psychologists and hypnotherapists on how to do the approaches to work with cancer patients.

Susanna Sweeney:  Wonderful. And so, just we will talk about all that, but I want to rewind a little bit to how you actually work with clients then when you see eight clients a day, what does that involve? Are they all one to one sessions? Do you groups?

Gary Coles: At the hospital, at the hospital? Yes, they are now, they didn't used to be. What I used to do at the hospital, which was very nice is that quite often with a cancer patient because they're a cog going through a journey, if you like, their day in the hospital might often be that they're coming in to see their oncologist, they might be having a blood test, they might be having a scan, they might be having some chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

So they'll probably be there for the day by the time they've sat around and and that doesn't put them in a particularly good place anyway, despite- in addition to what they're going through. And so quite often, just having some me time some attention, some relaxation time can be very, very nice for them going through that journey.

So at that stage, what I used to do was it was, we did- I do one to one sessions, but for a while, we actually did group sessions, which was very nice. But what we did with that was, where- I actually did that in conjunction with a music therapist. So what we did was we started off with them, giving them things like gongs and music bowls and things and percussive instruments that they could perhaps get rid of some stresses and anxieties on.

And then we used to immerse themselves in the music but then introduce a hypnotic induction, put them under and then give them a journey going with the music and sort of give them a nice relaxing time. Unfortunately, the music therapist left and they haven't replaced them. And unfortunately, there's so many people that need my time on one to one therapy that we've never really gone back to having time to do the group sessions again.

Susanna Sweeney:  And are you, are you volunteering your time?

Gary Coles: I do. I see both private patients and NHS patients. So I see a number of private patients, which obviously are paid for. But what I still do at the hospital- I do half a day a week minimum there. So I always see three patients, a minimum of three patients a week, which are totally free of charge. Yeah.

Susanna Sweeney:  Have you any success stories to share?

Gary Coles: Lots and lots. I mean, I've worked with several thousand cancer patients. So over the years.

And it's rewarding in different ways, I mean, that you unfortunately, you know, because of the very nature of the disease, you do lose, lose an awful lot of patients that you work with, and you're taken from their journey, unfortunately, from diagnosis up until death, some of them but you have others where yes, you can make quite a difference to their life, even for their treatment.

I mean, there's hypnotherapists we're very used to dealing with fears and phobias, for example, and there's a lot of that involved with cancer. And it's not just the obvious things that you'd think of, you know, as soon as people diagnosed with cancer, that- that is very emotive, that tends to cause panic attacks and freaking out- anxiety. So, so we're dealing with those sort of things.

But it's the other things that people don't necessarily think of- claustrophobia is a very big one with cancer patients because they've got to go into scanners and things like that. But probably the biggest fear area, as far as claustrophobia is concerned that I deal with is people with head-neck cancers that are undergoing radiotherapy. And they're not allowed to move because of the accuracy of the treatment.

And so the only way they can do that is, they actually cast a mask to their face. And it's a very tight fitting mask with a couple of eye holes, couple of nostril holes, this is actually cast to their face, and then they're actually bolted to the table to actually have their treatment. And as you can imagine, that freaks an awful lot of people out. So again, you know, it's a common success story actually just dealing with that.

But as far as I think probably the nicest story that I've had on successes is- sometimes your work with people from their cancer journey and beyond because some people make life changes or see changes in their life. And I worked with one particular lady a few years ago, and it started off she was in her early 30s. She had a very active lifestyle. She was into things like free fall parachuting and stuff like that.

She was diagnosed with a specific type of cancer and was told that it was going to be keyhole surgery. And anyway, she had- went in for surgery, they found that it had spread an awful lot more than they had expected. And she ended up having major surgery. She had a colostomy bag fitted, she had her colon removed, all sorts of things removed, they had to break all our ribs on one side to get everything out. So obviously she was a huge amount of pain.

She then reacted to the chemotherapy and actually died three times and had to be resuscitated. So the first time I saw her was actually as an inpatient in the hospital after she'd been resuscitated for the third time, she was in a huge amount of pain. So I did some, some work with her for pain, because she couldn't sleep because of the pain and so on.

So we did some work with that. And then, then she was then, sort of not an inpatient anymore, she'd improved enough and but she was still coming back to me for work on it working on sleep and emotions and various other things.

And she contacted me again a few months ago for some treatment- and the treatment she'd come to me now for or the reasons she consulted me- she wanted help on improving her triathlon performances, but also to reign her back to ensure that she didn't overdo her triathlon performances.

So I thought- things like that a very rewarding seeing people going from basically, being resuscitated to the third time to now one to now wanting to improve triathlon performances, that's quite inspiring.

Susanna Sweeney:  And I'm sure you made a huge difference there with the work on pain, because if you're in pain that really impacts on your healing, wouldn't it...

Gary Coles: Absolutely, yeah.

Susanna Sweeney:  It can set up a whole cycle of pain, fear...

Gary Coles: It does and the fear and that side of it is quite- so part of my research that I did, I actually did a research project as part of my master's degree. And that also got me much further forward actually in the hospital because again, being in- being in a hospital, again, we know that certainly with the medical industry they are not great fans.

You know, some are a little bit skeptical with it, but they're more and more on side. But when I did my master's degree, we had to do a dissertation, thesis, research and so on. And I decided I wanted to make it really difficult for myself that I wanted to do medical research. It caused me a lot of problems with the NHS and ethics committees and various things.

Because I remember I had three ethics committees to go to and one of them was the hospital. And I remember the look on their faces that I went into them and I said, look I've been working here for the last, sort of 10 years, or eight years or whatever it was then.

And I said, I want to do some research. And they said, yeah, we love research. Oh yeah yeah yeah, research is the way forward. Fantastic. Fantastic. Yeah. And you work with us, we will support you, we'll support you, what would you like to do? And then I said, you know, I want to do hypnosis with your cancer patients. And they sort of went, woahoo you know, you could see them going white and everything other than the breath drawing out, sort of a look of sheer panic on their faces.

And, and I sort of explained what I wanted to do. And then in the end, I was involved for a year in the breast cancer multi disciplinary surgery team, which was quite hard to start with because I was interviewed by the head surgeon who gave the sort of impression about I'm a famous teaching surgeon, why are you wasting my time, sort of attitude, and I then got invited to go to all the weekly meeting.

So I was part of the diagnosis meetings, the surgery meetings, the clinical planning meetings, which mean I learned a lot anyway, about that sort of thing. But then I was then working with patients to do pre-surgical hypnosis as part of my research. And it was very lovely.

And not only did I have a lot of success with it, but the surgeons were also seeing the changes in their patients and seeing the results. And they knew that I was seeing them and what I was doing, and ended up with this person, this- this teaching surgeon that had given me such a hard time in the beginning, actually came to me and said, I'm seeing the results that you're making with my patients. And if you get the list of people that you want to work with, if you have any problems come and see me and I'll move my elective lists around to accommodate you, which was unheard of. 

Susanna Sweeney:  Unheard of yes.

Gary Coles: That just showed you know, it was a great success and, and having done that and then obviously getting awarded my master's degree as well. That gave me a lot...

Susanna Sweeney:  Talk a bit more about the research, Gary, before you move on to the award side, but what what you...I assume it was a piece of qualitative research, and like, what were your findings?

Gary Coles: What I actually did, the research itself was, I did research into looking at pre surgical hypnosis, and the effect, the effect that it had on recovery quality in breast cancer operations.

That's what I was looking at. And the way we looked at it was that we did something called an SF36 questionnaire, which is a gold standard clinical research questionnaire, which, which then goes through a lot of software. And the idea of that is it looks at the psychological, psychological aspects of a person. So it looks to, it looks at different aspects of them, but the way it's carefully engineered, you can work out a profile for the person, sort of, whether they're depressed and what their social sort of constraints are, and lots of different psychological aspects.

And the idea...essentially what we did was we looked- we did a psychological profile of patients. And then we had one group that we did, we used with pre surgical hypnosis, and then we did the same questionnaire a week after their surgery. We wanted to do it before they had results from surgery because obviously that would give them different ways of thinking depending on what the results were.

And the idea, essentially, it was it was we did the original questionnaire, just before they had the pre-med on the day of their operation. And the results of that weren't surprising at all. Everybody was borderline depressive. I mean we analyzed a lot of other things, but essentially the person was borderline depressive.

Now if you're having an operation for breast cancer, I would say that's not a particular surprise to me. But then what we did is, we had one group that we did hypnosis with. And again, it was hypnosis based on the script, it was script based, because again, we had to get rid of all the variables to make it a decent piece of research. And I looked at lots of previous research to get ideas of where, what we should use what we shouldn't use what I didn't think had been tested correctly. So I put a script based approach.

Susanna Sweeney:  A lot of that, may I just say because I've looked through all the hypnosis research and the standardization piece is so difficult to get, because really every hypno practitioner does something different.

Gary Coles: Yeah. Well, the biggest surprise that I found if you actually look at all the scientific hypnosis research, the biggest surprise I found is that in the majority of hypnosis research pieces, have you noticed that the hypnosis itself is generally never done by hypnotherapist.

Susanna Sweeney:  Right.

Gary Coles: Generally in most research pieces, they're either done by the psychologist who isn't isn't a hypnotherapist. But in most cases hypnotherapy research is carried out by a research assistant or a student or, or a nurse, who have generally been given anything between one hour and half the day of tuition. If you actually had to actually analyze most of the research that is the case, it's quite rare....

Susanna Sweeney:  As you say that there's a few pieces coming back to me where it's nurses and...

Gary Coles: Yeah, yeah, and I think if we argue that part of the point is, you know, our rapport and our intent and lots of other things that we put into what we do.

How is that going to come across with somebody who's had basically an hour's situation on how to read a script? You know, it's not necessarily. So that was one of the things that I was raising in my research. But essentially, what we found was, yeah, people are borderline depressed, we gave one group, the pre-surgical hypnosis.

So again, it was script based, it was carried out by me at the same time, same place and everything, to get rid of all variables. And then we followed them up a week later with the same questionnaire and then actually put it through all the software testing, etc, etc.

What we found was, was the control group was still exactly the same psychologically. They were still borderline depressive, exactly the same. But the group they had the hypnotherapy, apart from a certain aspect of social interaction, which is another thing entirely- psychologically they were back to normal, what you would call normal, the population norm after the same...

Susanna Sweeney:  Baseline or something like that...

Gary Coles: Yeah, yeah, so, so a pretty big difference. But we also found a further side effect was, we did some other questionnaires with them. And the other side effect that we found, if you want to call it a side effect, was we also did some pain testing with them.

And we found that the group that had the hypnotherapy, after a week, they seemed to perceive that they were feeling less pain than the other group. And when we actually delved down a little bit further, we also found that generally, the hypnosis group that were feeling less pain, were actually on less pain medication than the other group. So they were perceiving less pain, but they were actually taking less pain medication as well. So that was from two sides. You know, they were taking less medication to alleviate the pain, but they thought they were feeling less anyway. So so it was...

Susanna Sweeney:  And the intervention was really just one group session.

Gary Coles: Yeah, I wanted to do quite a lot of other things. I wanted to do one group session I wanted to do three group sessions. I wanted some time, audios and so on, but the amount of aggravation you get with ethics committees, time and advertising and recruitment. It just wasn't possible.

Susanna Sweeney:  It's amazing though that when you look at the finding that the intervention of just one session made that difference that you found, that's quite remarkable.

Gary Coles: But yeah, yeah. And again, yeah. And again, what- the good part was that it was it was peer reviewed by the university. It was using gold standard research methods. It was reproducible. It was scripted. It was fully documented. So, so the findings were considered to be valid, because we demonstrated it fully, rather than just a case study or something. 

Susanna Sweeney:  Wonderful, fantastic work. Absolutely amazing. And so, so tell us a little bit more about when you work with clients privately, how do you approach the work with them? Is it all cancer patients you see?

Gary Coles: No, I obviously I've got a reputation for cancer patients because that's the area that's built up from the hospital and, and because of the amount of people that know me and doctors and so on that I've taught hypnotherapy for cancer patient, I do see a lot of cancer patients from around the world.

And I'm actually working, working with somebody from Adelaide at the moment in Australia, just again on reputation, this person had come through somebody else who knew me, you know a hypnotherapist who knew me that I taught in Australia.

So, I would work with a lot of cancer patients, but no, my private background is, is a general hypnotherapist, so I will work with just about everything. Now, I would say on the other side of that, because I've been lucky, or because I've done the master's degree, one of my practices is in a GP surgery anyway, so I get a lot of referrals from GP's, and because of my hospital background, I think having done the master's degree, you go into things in, with far more depth when you're looking at issues that you're going to deal with. So although I'm a general...

Susanna Sweeney:  With research experience under your belt, you have a totally different angle on what you're doing and you have more credibility to going in there. 

Gary Coles: Yeah.

Susanna Sweeney:  Fantastic for the entire hypnosis field to get the boost and credibility. 

Gary Coles: Yeah. And that is useful in a lot of ways because I work in a GP surgery, the doctors send me people there, on a private basis. And I also get a few other GP's that have sent me, or now send me patients because in the past they've had, you know, a patient of theirs as asked to see me.

And obviously I've got on with them, as they were quite happy to that they work with me. And I remember one particular one. And it was in my fairly early days, I had a patient contacting me for borderline personality disorder. And I'd not, I'd, it was something I had not worked with before.

So I actually spoke to one of my mentors at the time, who was a psychologist and I said, look, should I be working with this? And he said, yeah, yeah, fine. I'll support you but work with it, but you know, we get approval from the GP obviously.

So I went to the GP and said, look, one of your patients has asked for me to work with their borderline personality disorder, are you quite happy? And I remember the GP being rather dismissive at the time- and this was before I'd done my master's degree, being rather dismissive at the times, and oh, yes, yes, you won't cause any harm. That that was the attitude.

And anyway, I worked with this particular patient, and she wrote me a beautiful letter. And I think she must have copied it to her doctor, but she sent me this beautiful letter of how I transformed her life from existing to living and explained that she got a job, she'd been on holidays, you know, goes out and all these other things.

And the doctor admitted she, the doctor came back to me and admitted that I'd made more difference in five sessions than anything they'd send it to in 15 years. 

Susanna Sweeney:  Wow. 

Gary Coles: And, and since then, the doctor sends me a steady stream of borderline personality disorder clients because they've seen the results. So those sort of things obviously will give you the credibility. And I find because of having that credibility and because of other hypnotherapists and psychologists, and they all know me from training,

I do get referrals of cases that people- that other people might think are a little bit difficult. So I will get other hypnotherapist referring to me saying, oh, you know, I don't want to touch this, I think it's too difficult for me, would you see them.

And I've even had a couple of instances, interesting enough, where I've had some psychiatrists actually referring clients- their own patients to me, and, you know, in areas that I wouldn't have expected to be involved in. And we know one of the areas that sort of heavily contraindicated is psychotic issues, things like, obviously, you know, schizophrenia and things like that.

Now, I have experience in working with those issues that have actually been referred to me and overseen by by their psychiatrists. So you know, so, that those- things like that, I think, are really encouraging for the industry. The fact that we are being trusted to work with those types of things in those areas. But I think again, it's having the credibility of working in a hospital, working in a GP surgery and having the cacademic qualifications behind me to better do that?

Susanna Sweeney:  And when so when you work with these clients, right? What do you think what their experience be in working with you? Are you kind of the gentle type or are you authoritarian? Are you? somewhere in the middle?

Gary Coles: Yeah, I tend to sort of tailor obviously to each particular person. I do have a sort of, if you like, a rough protocol that I would use, and yeah, firstly, I like to be very, very thorough, I think. I think the biggest problem with a lot of hypnotherapist is they don't educate the client or the patient.

And you know, you see so many people that say, I went to a hypnotherapist, they were no good. They didn't put me under and what did they do? And what did they tell you you should expect? Well, they didn't say anything. They just sat there talking to me.

So the biggest thing is, is getting the client, so that the client knows what to expect and educating them. I think that is the first thing and my first session is normally half an hour longer than my other sessions and probably 40 minutes of that, 30 to 40 minutes of that is explanations, I like to be very thorough on what hypnosis is, what it isn't what we can do, what we can't do, how we do it, why we do it, my background, the industry background, because that gives them a lot of confidence in you as well.

Susanna Sweeney:  Are you Elman or Ericksonian or are you both both? Or NLP?

Gary Coles: Both, again, having, having done the master's degree, we were expected to do just about everything, so, so I've had to learn NLP, EMDR, I had to do eight months of CBT. So I do CBH as well, l we had to do Ericksonian, we had to do- so pretty much everything, analytical, solution focused, ACT therapy, REBT with pretty much everything.

So I've had to study everything as part of it, and have basically come up with my own way of doing things and, and which was another interesting thing is because I- quite often when I'm teaching my oncology stuff to hypnotherapists, I'll throw in a technique or something and they'll say, oh, that's that's brilliant. I could use that for this, this and this. And I said, Well, yeah, I always use it for this.

And over the years again, I found so many people have what basically everybody does it their own way. But I know of no other hypnotherapist that works, how I do. And I've actually ended up having people asking me for mentoring. And I actually did a course together in the states last year, which wasn't oncology, but was just teaching people how I work. And I had a lot of people interested in that.

So yeah, my first session would be very gentle on the explanation side, very gentle, very thorough. And then it's always a gentle session that I would just use hypnotic, post-hypnotic suggestion at a first session, give them some homework and so on.

And quite often a second session- I'm quite a fan of parts therapy. But again, not standard part, not a standard parts therapy. And I came across a version of parts therapy that was sort of a slight hybrid of ego state therapy and parts therapy.And I've since developed that and it's quiet authoritarian. And I use that with my cancer patients. But I actually use that with most people.

Because, the idea being, to me parts therapy can be very long winded, it can be hard work, there's lots of negotiation, and you can lose track, and it can take forever. Whereas I've got this hybrid version that is very authoritarian, that basically the patient of the client doesn't get any wiggle room, you know, where you need to go, you know, where you're starting, you know, where you need to go. And you're going to make damn well, sure they get there, and they're going to do it in the time frame that I want them to get there into.

So that, I would use that, that version of it for most people, and combine that with some NLP techniques and so on. And then if required, and I know it's not everybody's cup of tea, but depending on the issue that I'm working with, I do like regression to cause that sort of approach. I think it can be very powerful. And then sort of tying up from there really, you know, whether, depending on what you find, whether that needs sort of inner child work done or sub modality work done or whatever, you know, really is required from there.

And then I would tend to just sort of tie things up with with some testing and NLP work to finish things off, that would be a typical way. But saying that I tailor what I do for each person sitting in front of me.

Susanna Sweeney:  Yeah, everybody is different, aren't they? 

Gary Coles: Yeah. 

Susanna Sweeney:  And so, do you want to talk a little bit more about your masters? Maybe because, you know, it's quite unusual to actually have a Master's qualification in the field.

Gary Coles: It is, yeah. And sadly, there's not much of it about at the moment. I think there was money issues involved with the university and things. So I'm not not sure that there is a pure clinical hypnotherapy masters currently available. I was actually on the first cohort.

And, again, I'd always come along the line where I wanted to see hypnotherapy being taken more seriously by the medical fraternity and so on, instead of being seen as quackery. Like it quite often is. And unfortunately, I don't think we help ourselves on that front.

Because the there are so many people making- that I see on Facebook and social media, making so many wild claims about things that I don't think we help ourselves. But I was doing my hospital work. And then I just happened to see somebody offering their postgraduate qualifications that were actually accredited by a UK University, a proper university with the University of West London.

And I saw that was happening. And if you actually went through the full, full sort of part of it, it started off with a posthypnotic certificate than diploma, but you could actually go on and do research modules and then actually go on through the university to do a masters.

And I was actually in the first cohort of six people to actually get the masters. I don't know how many I ended up with, I think it may only be even now about 11- 11 or 12. But certainly I was in first cohort. And again, I thought that that would just give me great credibility moving forward.

And it is because yeah, you know, you, you argue, you know, people argue about well, I've got this certificate or I'm on master hypnotist and I am this, that and the other, you know, and then you get the arguments. Well, you know, mine was done by this school and that school and which one it will this is this is an advanced certificate and you know it's only a certificate, etc, etc.

Whereas I think if you come away from a university, you know, master's degree- and people worldwide that, you know, people know what that is, and that holds credibility.

Susanna Sweeney:  Absolutely. And Gary, that brings me to my concluding question to you, which is my magic wand question. If you had a magic wand, what changes would you make in the hypnosis world going into the future?

Gary Coles: Yeah, this is an interesting conversation. I mean, in some ways, I would like to see more regulation, but I know a lot of people are anti, anti regulation. And- but the problem being is if it becomes regulated, I think it would be stifled too much on what we could do and the approaches that we could do and, and then I think it would lose some of the techniques and approaches, you know, that we've got.

I think I still think the national curriculums and things are a little bit low, I think people should study more and have more of a background in issues that they're actually going to work with. I mean, the biggest thing I found on the master's degree was that if you were introduced to a particular issue, whether that would be anxiety, for example, you would be expected to have a full understanding on the psychological aspects of it, the pharmaceutical aspects of it, and so on.

So you'd have a very good thorough background to treatments, traditional treatments and formation, you know, clinician's guide, diagnostics and so on. And I feel by having all that, it gives me far better ways of treating a thing or working with things because I understand all the background and what, what's going on as opposed to somebody who's done a very short course and says, oh, with everybody I see I've been taught to do this, you know, read this script.

So certainly I would like to see more education. I mean, the national curriculum, things like the CNHC is a good start. And I've got to support that to an extent because I was one of the team of three that actually formulated it in the UK, for the CNHC.

But we were a little bit sort of constrained by off-qual and things like that on what we could do and what we could have in there. I mean, I don't see any reason why we couldn't argue and say, right, you know, because this- if we argue that it is a mental health area, I don't think it would be unreasonable with things like osteopath or podiatrist, for example, to say, well, you've got to have a degree in the subject if you're going to be a practitioner.

I know that's going to upset an awful lot of people. But I, and obviously then I'm coming from a position where, where I'm quite happy, but in some ways I would like to see perhaps not, not as in certain states and some of Europe where it's only medical people that can do it.

But perhaps we could have something like they do in the States where it becomes a reserved word. So for example, you could be a consulting hypnotist, where you've done any training, but to be a hypnotherapist, for example, or a clinical hypnotherapist. You've got to have a degree in this subject, for example, I mean, that I think would be where where I would go with it. I know that's not gonna be a hugely popular opinion, but that's what I think  I'd say.

Susanna Sweeney:  The reality is the probably our opinions in the end of the day are gonna make little difference.

Gary Coles: No.

Susanna Sweeney:  My sense is, regulation is going to come in some way or another. 

Gary Coles: Yeah, I don't know. I mean, they keep trying and it keeps stopping. You know, I mean, even to the extent where we've got the complimentary natural health care council, I mean, that started off with- prior to them they were- the idea was to have that regulation and at that stage because obviously we've got all the hypnotherapy societies and you know, self governing bodies and so on.

And the and they've all got their own vested interests, you know, they don't really want to get together because they're the, you know, for various political reasons. But originally they tried to oversee that and having- it was still voluntary regulation, but it was set up by the Department of Health and that was through the Prince's Trust and I thought that was going in the right direction.

And then unfortunately, that sort of disbanded because I believe there was fraud involved or something like that, there was some issues- that pretty much disbanded. And then the complimentary natural health care council was set up by the Department of Health to do a similar role, which was a good idea.

But then with changes in governments and so on, that's gone down the same route was, oh well it's voluntary regulation and we're not putting money into it. They've now got to be self funding etc, etc. So although they are obviously a professional standards authority register, which is fantastic- you know, and they do have a say with the Department of Health and other things like that- they are still only a voluntary regulator, which has no more say than anyone else.

And there are no plans afoot from, you know, to change that in any way as- as yet.

Susanna Sweeney:  So see for me, I am in the European Union, you're not going to be in the European Union very soon. But I think in the European Union, it's going to come. 

Gary Coles: Yeah, well, it's because I think in France, I think in France and again, but it's so different in each country because I'm in France, for example, I believe in France, you have to be medically qualified to be able to be a hypnotherapist.

Whereas I was teaching doctors in Belgium, it was the last one I did before the lockdown. And in Belgium, you can't even get liability insurance as a hypnotherapist because hypnosis isn't recognized. So that's how different is even just in two neighboring countries.

Susanna Sweeney:  The Germans usually set the standard. I mean, so in the European Union. And I have a sense that things are changing in Germany on that front, or going to change very soon.

Gary Coles: Yeah, be interesting to see which which way it goes. You know, I mean in the States, it's fragmented in some, some states, you've got to be medically qualified, other states, you know, anybody can do it. Again, it's all over the place there.

And now, we'll see how it goes. And then, yeah, other places. It's, you know, it's even even further adrift. I mean, before, before Belgium the last course I did, I was invited to do a private course for psychologists in Bahrain at the end of last year.

And I was astounded that over there that hypnosis and hypnotherapy is not recognized at all. And over there, they couldn't even get liability insurance as psychologists and psychotherapists, because that's only just started being recognized. And you know so I was quite shocked to sort of, you know, how it's seen in some some places like that.

Susanna Sweeney:  Well it's very much a Western thing. 

Gary Coles: Yeah, well, it is. It's very big in Malaysia and Iran. It's quite recognized in both those places. But, but yeah.

Susanna Sweeney:  So overall, am I hearing that your wish for the hypnosis field is for more credibility?

Gary Coles: Yeah, I'd like to see it be more credible with the medical fraternity in particular, and therefore the public. I mean, despite the fact that we now have professional standards, authorities and, and the GMC are allowed to refer people to us, most of them still don't know and most of them are still reluctant to, I mean, even the GP surgery that I work out of.

I say they refer to me- they don't, they recommend that this person might be a good person to see, but they won't use the word refer. You know, it's just all, you know,  'you might be interested in'- because they don't like to be seen to refer because we're not, still not medical people, despite the fact they're allowed to. So that's a little bit of a shame, and I'd like to see that change. Yes. It is a big thing about getting....

And even the professional standards authorities, although we're in there, I was looking at that recently when going through the COVID thing, because again, with the mental health issues, we could be really, really useful. Going through the COVID stuff. And I know the CNHC contacted the department of health and you know, in the NHS, etc, etc, to see what we could do how we could be of help.

And eventually, there was a document sent back to us saying, well, you know, you could get involved in all these areas. And when I actually went through the document, again, there was a whole list of things on there that- oh to do this, you need to be, you know, you need to be a doctor to do this, you need to be a dentist to do this. So everything was regulated industries.

And when you got down to the things that you could do unless you're in a regulated industry, it was basically you could, go and you know, work in social functions or help out as a porter or a cleaner or something like that. They... nothing great, you know, we spent all this time and money doing all these qualifications and basically you're telling me I can you know, I can go and get social support and you know, basically...anything that anyone else can do.

Susanna Sweeney:  You see another inroad is through psychotherapy. So that's me. 

Gary Coles: Yeah. 

Susanna Sweeney:  Because I came from the psychotherapy world. But again, you have the same tension where I think a lot of psychotherapy is very heady and very talk.... And then this- this is a totally different way of working and what kind of hypnotist would that produce? I don't know.

Gary Coles: Yeah, and again, that's another area because that's another area that is not very regulated or not regulated.

I mean, you know that there's arguments about what is a psychotherapist and what is a hypnotherapist because one could argue that hypnotherapist if you're a pure hypnotherapist, then all is you actually do is use hypnosis, which is your delivery method. Because that is the only technique a hypnotherapist as traditionally is is the state of hypnosis, and you use that as a unique delivery method.

To me psychotherapy- you obviously use lots of other tools. I mean, I must admit, I quite often call myself a psychotherapist and people say, or argue, well how come and I'll say, well what is a psychotherapist?

What is- what are psychotherapy tools and I'll say, you know, I'm taught things like, you know, ACT, REBT, CBT, CBH, EMDR, NLP- to me those are psychotherapy- psychotherapeutic tools, you know. And so again it's another one of these arguments and semantics about what is it and what isn't it?

Susanna Sweeney:  Hmm. Well and a lot of it boils down to regulation. Yeah, yeah. So Gary, listen, thank you so much for your time today. I've really enjoyed chatting to you and we wish you all the best for all your upcoming trainings.

Gary Coles: I need to be allowed to fly again that's....

Susanna Sweeney:  That's like we're all hoping for...

Gary Coles: Yeah, but ya know, it's been a lovely, lovely talking to you.

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