In the State of Washington, you must be registered with the Department of Health to describe yourself as a "hypnotherapist" or to "practice hypnotherapy." You can read the law here: RCW 18.19.035. As part of the disclosure process, a hypnotherapist is required to provide you with their registration number when you first meet with them. It is not a complicated process to become registered, but it is necessary, and for your trouble, the state sends you a certificate with a matching wallet identification card. Mine looks like this. Asking to see this is a great way to make sure your hypnotherapist is legal. Keep in mind that you can look up the status of your hypnotherapist here on the Department of Health website either by name or by that registration number. The Washington State registration system exists for your protection. By registering hypnotherapists, you know that the state has conducted a background check of the hypnotherapist and you can be confident that if any disciplinary action has occurred against that hypnotherapist, you can easily find out it.
I mentioned "disclosure". As it turns out, there's a bunch of things a legal hypnotherapist needs to go over with you when you first start seeing them. You can read the law for yourself here: RCW 18.19.060. But as it turns out, the state also provides a great tri-fold handout that summarizes a lot of things you should know before you work with a hypnotherapist. I have a copy here or you can get it from the state site here.
They say you can know someone by the company they keep. Professional association memberships are a way to verify the background of your hypnotherapist, but only in so far as you know and trust the reputation of the association itself. For example, I am certified by the National Guild of Hypnotists as a Hypnotherapist. You can look them up here and discover that they have been around for 60+ years, are a virtual "who's who" of hypnosis, and they have a well established and reviewed process to vet members before they certify them. Further searching on The Guild in Google will confirm their standing and by association, that of their members and certifications. Members in good standing of The Guild get a certificate and a wallet card, ask to see it. Click here to see mine.
Sadly though, no process prevents anyone from claiming to certify anyone else. You need to check out the claims of your hypnotherapist. Because hypnotherapy is unregulated in most states, not all organizations are created equal. In some cases, people have even been known to "certify" hypnotherapists with no credentials, just as a money-making scheme. In some cases, people create certifications out of thin air, by registering a domain name, putting up an impressive site, then certifying themselves. Check out the claims. Look at who accredits the certifiers. Sadly, some people take shortcuts, and it's up to you to avoid those unethical people.
You'll find that education is a lot like associations. You are going to need to do some research. Not all schools are created equal, and some folks define the term "accredited" differently than the rest of us. You can look up my school, the Hypnosis Motivation Institute on the United States Department of Education site. There you will find that the program I graduated from is accredited. Here's a capture of the site showing what an accredited program looks like. You can look up the school of your hypnotherapist as well. Do your research; you will never regret it.
Sadly, again, people "accredit" themselves, their friends and so on. There's a lot of people advertising weekend workshops to "become accredited as a hypnotherapist." Both the education and the hypnotherapists should raise red flags in that case. In my case, the program included more than 300 hours of education, then more than 200 hours of supervised practice time before the program could consider me as a "hypnotherapist," able to practice on my own. That's more than 500 hours of supervised education in a nationally recognized and accredited program, plus the list of certification hours for my specialties list, which you can see on my "Credentials" page before I could begin working with you.
Hypnosis is all about "rapport." The better you get along with your hypnotherapist, to more likely you are to get good results. You should feel good about meeting with your hypnotherapist like you have found a "partner in crime" who is going to stick with you and take a personal interest in you. Their voice should make you want to make progress. It doesn't have to be relaxing necessarily, but if it's grating, that is going to have an adverse effect. Your hypnotherapist should make you feel comfortable and at ease. You should not feel pressured or unsupported. The conversation should be open and honest, and you should be able to talk about anything.
Think of your first meeting with a hypnotherapist as an audition. The required paperwork should be in order. The therapist should answer any and all questions you have, and if you don't have any questions, they should walk you through what to expect and give you a chance to ask questions along the way. Things should proceed on your timeline, not that of the hypnotherapist. Be suspicious of vague explanations and requests for prepayment for multiple sessions, unless you are buying a package deal of some sort.
Hypnosis is about trusting in yourself. Before you even get started, listen to that little voice in your head. Check the credentials, verify the training and associations. Be 100% sure your hypnotherapist meets your needs and that you can work with them before you ever close your eyes. It makes sense to be a little nervous, we were all nervous the first time, but you should have no doubts that your hypnotherapist can handle anything that comes up and take you through it with style.