The majority of the United States exert little or no direct regulation over the practice of Hypnosis or Hypnotherapy, although other laws generally affecting the operation of any business will usually apply (e.g. truth in advertising, unfair business practices, etc.).
Colorado, Connecticut, and Washington are states that require mandatory licensure or registration.California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas and Utah do not have mandatory registration, but do lay out specific regulations for the practice of hypnotism and guidelines for licensure exemption.
There are also a number of states with laws defining the practice of psychology or practice of counseling (which may require a license) that refer to terms such as “hypnosis” or “hypnotherapy.” It is unclear what the intent of such references are (for example, if hypnosis is listed as just one of many things that a psychologist may do – but that others may do as well – similar to coaching, research, interviewing, evaluating aptitudes and interests, consulting in legal decision making, vocational counseling, creative arts, and stress management). The states that we believe may fall in this category are marked with an asterisk (*). There may be additional states as well that fall in this category, in part, because laws sometimes change in between website updates and also because some states do not have online copies of their laws that we can research.
I. UNITED STATES WITH MANDATORY REGISTRATION
The following United States have explicit regulations regarding hypnosis and/or hypnotherapy:
In order to practice hypnotherapy in Colorado, you either need to be licensed, or be listed in the Unlicensed Psychotherapists Database. To apply for listing in the database, go to http://www.dora.state.co.us/registrations/, and fill out the following information...
Registration Required: In Connecticut, beginning October 1, 2006, “no person shall practice hypnosis or hold himself or herself out as a hypnotist in this state without first registering with the Department of Consumer Protection.”
Eligibility: To register as a hypnotist in Connecticut, an individual must:
Regulation: The Department of Consumer Protection shall receive and investigate complaints against individuals who are practicing or have practiced hypnosis in this state and may cause a prosecution to be instigated based on such investigation. The grounds for complaint shall include physical or sexual abuse, misappropriation of property, and fraud or deceit in obtaining or attempting to obtain registration as a hypnotist.
Definition of Hypnosis: In Connecticut, hypnosis means an artificially induced altered state of consciousness, characterized by heightened suggestibility and receptivity to direction.
License Required: In Washington State, “Hypnotherapists” and “Counselors” are required to register. Note that the “Counselor” category was eliminated in 2010 and converted into eight new categories; however the “hypnotherapy” regulations were not modified.
Eligibility: For registration, an individual must:
Regulation: Once registered, there are regulations a hypnotherapist must follow:
Note: There is pending in 2010 a proposed rule by the Department of Health to repeal WAC 246-810-030 and not require hypnotherapists to provide disclosure information to clients.
Regulatory Agency: Washington State Department of Health
Reference: Washington Administrative Code § 246-810-010 et. seq
The following United States have no hypnosis laws that require mandatory registration or special certification for hypnotists or hypnotherapists. Instead, these states lay out guidelines to lawfully practice hypnosis or hypnotherapy without a license. These laws generally require that a hypnotist not advertise or perform medical services (such as diagnosing or treating medical conditions):
Statutes: California does not have an explicit statute or regulation requiring licensure for hypnotists or hypnotherapy. California Business and Professions Code 2908 exempts “persons using hypnotic techniques” from the psychology licensing act to do “vocational or avocational self-improvement” as long as they “do not treat emotional or mental disorders.” 2908 also exempts “persons using hypnotic techniques” they are working under referral “of persons licensed to practice psychology, dentistry or medicine.”
California Business and Professions Code 2053 requires that complimentary and alternative health care providers make certain written disclosures to clients. If hypnotherapists are deemed to be covered by this provision, they must make the required disclosures:
Case Law: In People v. Cantor, a 1961 Superior Court case, the court held that the practice of hypnotism as a curative measure or mode of procedure in helping patients to lose weight, relax tension and improve nerves and bad habits by one not licensed to practice medicine amounts to the unlawful practice of medicine. People v. Cantor, 198 Cal. App. 2d Supp. 843 (App Dep't Super Ct. 1961).
“Practicing Medicine” Statute: “Any person who practices or attempts to practice, or who advertises or holds himself or herself out as practicing, any system or mode of treating the sick or afflicted in this state, or who diagnoses, treats, operates for, or prescribes for any ailment, blemish, deformity, disease, disfigurement, disorder, injury, or other physical or mental condition of any person, without having at the time of so doing a valid, unrevoked, or unsuspended certificate as provided in this chapter or without being authorized to perform the act pursuant to a certificate obtained in accordance with some other provision of law is guilty of a public offense, punishable by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), by imprisonment in the state prison, by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both the fine and either imprisonment.” California Business and Professions Code § 2052 (a).
Here, the hypnotist advertised that “Hypnosis helps lose weight...relax. Self Hypnosis... improve... nerves and bad habits.” He claimed that he had no failures, had cured bed wetting by a child, and that he could and did relieve cancer pain. The court found that from “all the evidence, it is apparent that appellant ‘advertised,' held himself out as practicing and practiced and attempted to practice a system or mode of treating the sick or afflicted, that he diagnosed, treated ‘an ailment, disease or disorder or other mental or physical condition' within the purview of the statute.”
Analysis: Care must be taken in California, at a minimum, to disclaim in advertising materials the practice of medicine and to state that the hypnotist does not diagnose, prescribe, or treat any medical condition. There appears to be no other case law in California affecting hypnosis and there is no other California case that follows/disagrees/disapproves/cites People v. Canter.
Statute: ”Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prevent a person from practicing hypnosis without a license issued under this Act provided that the person (1) does not otherwise engage in the practice of clinical psychology including, but not limited to, the independent evaluation, classification, and treatment of mental, emotional, behavioral, or nervous disorders or conditions, developmental disabilities, alcoholism and substance abuse, disorders of habit or conduct, the psychological aspects of physical illness, (2) does not otherwise engage in the practice of medicine including, but not limited to, the diagnosis or treatment of physical or mental ailments or conditions, and (3) does not hold himself or herself out to the public by a title or description stating or implying that the individual is a clinical psychologist or is licensed to practice clinical psychology.”
Definition of Clinical Psychology: “Clinical psychology” means the independent evaluation, classification and treatment of mental, emotional, behavioral or nervous disorders or conditions, developmental disabilities, alcoholism and substance abuse, disorders of habit or conduct, and the psychological aspects of physical illness. The practice of clinical psychology includes psychoeducational evaluation, therapy, remediation and consultation, the use of psychological and neuropsychological testing, assessment, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, hypnosis, biofeedback, and behavioral modification when any of these are used for the purpose of preventing or eliminating psychopathology, or for the amelioration of psychological disorders of individuals or groups. “Clinical psychology” does not include the use of hypnosis by unlicensed persons pursuant to Section 3 [225 ILCS 15/3].
Reference: 225 Illinois Compiled Statutes 15/3(h).
Note: New Jersey law does not seem to require licensure for such hypnosis activities as: (i) altering habits such as smoking and weight management, (ii) increasing client motivation in employment, the workplace and in sports activities and (iii) enhancing creative, artistic and scholastic endeavors.
See Statute: (b) Persons not requiring licensure are limited to persons engaged in the practice of hypnocounseling as well as those whose conduct and practice is exempt from licensure pursuant to this subchapter.
Reference: New Jersey Administrative Code § 13:42-1.2
Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy when performed by a licensed psychologist are subject to Board Rules. 22 Texas Administrative Code § 465.5
The practice of psychology includes hypnosis for health care purposes and hypnotherapy. Texas Occupations Code § 501.003
Office of the Attorney General, State of Texas Opinion No. DM-321 February 8, 1995: A person who, for compensation, practices psychotherapy, hypnosis for health care purposes, hypnotherapy, or biofeedback without a license under the Psychologists' Certification and Licensing Act, V.T.C.S. article 4512c, violates that act unless such practice falls within one of the exceptions set out in the act. The act authorizes the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists to take action to enjoin such violations, as well as other actions against violators authorized by law.
Certification is required for “investigative hypnosis proficiency.” 37 Texas Administrative Code § 221.7
The use of specific methods, techniques, or modalities within the practice of professional counseling is limited to professional counselors appropriately trained and competent in the use of such methods. Authorized counseling methods and modalities may include, but are not restricted to: (13) Hypnotherapy which utilizes the principles of hypnosis and post-hypnotic suggestion in the treatment of mental and emotional disorders and addictions. 22 Texas Administrative Code § 681.31.
Hypnotherapy may be provided by a marriage and family therapist. 22 Texas Administrative Code § 801.42
Court held that a hypnotist was not exempt from obtaining a medical license when he advertised hypnosis as a means of curing certain mental and physical disorders. Masters v. State, 170 Tex. Crim. 471 (1960)
Statute: Exemptions from licensure:
(5) An individual engaged in performing hypnosis who is not licensed under this title in a profession which includes hypnosis in its scope of practice,
Reference: Utah Code § 58-60-107
Statute: Unless one is licensed (e.g., as a psychologist), the title “clinical hypnotist” may not be used
As used in this chapter, “unlawful conduct” includes:...
representing oneself as or using the title of any of the following unless currently licensed in a license classification under this title:
Reference: Utah Code 58-60-109
In Alabama, the State Board of Education specifically prohibits the use of hypnosis. School personnel are prohibited from using any techniques that involve the induction of hypnotic states.
Reference: Alabama Administrative Code Regulation 290-040-0400.02
A physician may not delegate the following procedures to an unlicensed person: Psycho-therapeutic procedures, including individual and group psychotherapy, clinical hypnosis, or other behavioral health interventions subject to independent regulation in Arizona.
Reference: Arizona Administrative Code § R4-38-306
Arizona law does not provide a definition for clinical hypnosis. I believe that clinical hypnosis generally refers to therapeutic hypnosis done by medical professionals only. For example, the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis says that the requirements for certification in clinical hypnosis include:
Hypnotists are listed as one of many examples of business or practitioners of professions or occupations which may be subject to regulatory fees of local governments.
Reference: Official Code of Georgia § 48-13-9 (b)(24)
Proposed Legislation: As of right now, there is no hypnotherapy regulation in Hawaii. However, a bill has been proposed as recently as March 2006, requesting that the Legislature recognize Hypnotherapy as a legal profession subject to regulation and control. This bill would impose strict licensing requirements on the practice of hypnotherapy. The Hypnotherapists Union opposed this bill and was instrumental in its defeat.
Proposed Eligibility Requirements: Prior to eligibility for examination, the applicant shall furnish proof that the applicant has received a total of not less than one thousand five hundred hours of education and training consisting of:
Proposed Regulations: Any license to practice hypnotherapy under this chapter may be revoked or suspended by the board at any time for any cause, including but not limited to:
Reference: 2005 Bill Text HI H.B. 1695
In 2010, Indiana passed Senate Bill 0356, which among many things, repealed hypnotist and hypnotherapist licensing laws in Indiana as of July 1, 2010. Prior to this, Indiana had a licensing scheme for hypnotists and hypnotherapists under which it was very difficult to become licensed and few were licensed.
We are aware of one case in which the South Carolina Board of Examiners has taken the position that an unlicensed person advertising “hypnotherapy” or “counseling” on a website is practicing psychology without license.