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Online training – pros and cons

Prior to the pandemic I would have maintained that hypnosis training really needed physical face to face sessions for the practical aspects of hypnosis to be adequately taught but I have to say that recent experience has caused me to re-consider this.

I have been involved with three online trainings so far this year where we have introduced forty-five health professionals to hypnosis. Two trainings involved the full three module Foundation course and one just the Module One.

Before the training begins, we need emergency contact numbers for each participant and for an emergency contact, preferably living with or near the participant, who was aware that they were training in hypnosis and who were willing to be contacted in the unlikely event of an emergency where the participant needed help. This might appear bureaucratic but is an insurance requirement and a good safety net – hopefully never needed. We also needed to check that the participants had no past history of psychosis or severe mental health problems and were not on any medication that could affect their levels of concentration or awareness. Chasing these forms up was a bit of a nightmare but a combination of texts and emails always worked!

Google Classrooms was used for the trainees to access all the material relevant to the course and this seemed to work well. It was a bit confusing at first as there is a large quantity of material posted but we developed an essential reading list and signposted the trainees to where to find the most important information. We also needed to detail what scripts we suggested they print out in hard copy for the practical sessions and Charlotte Davies also produced a handbook for the students which helped guide them through online etiquette and procedures.

We had two zoom sessions each day with a good break in between of at least an hour and a half.

At the start we discovered we needed a good half an hour for introductions and housekeeping, and I think the best way of running this was for the training lead to go round to each participant in turn and ask them to say a few words.

 Because we directed the trainees to pre-reading on various topics, we found we could cut down presentation time on different aspects and maximise the time spent on practice in breakout rooms. Demonstrations were a bit more difficult in that one could usually only see the head and shoulders of the subject, but web cams can be angled to give maximum view. If something like ideomotor signals were being demonstrated then the subject could be asked to cross their arms, placing a hand on each shoulder. The ‘pin’ function on zoom was also useful so that the subject was the focus of peoples’ screens.

I think that four trainees to one tutor is a good ratio and with an hour in a breakout room there is time for some discussion as well as for each participant to practice a technique. The advantage of this online practice in breakout rooms is that each trainee observes the others and so is exposed to the technique on four occasions and the tutor can give feedback after each one as they go along. If I go back to teaching physically face to face in the future, I will suggest that we run our practical sessions this way even though it may mean needing more tutors. On previous trainings pre-pandemic the trainees paired up to practice and the tutor might have to oversee several pairs and so could not fully attend all the time to each one.

I am still a bit hesitant on doing any in depth training on resolving negative memories and PTSD without everyone being physically present but I can see online training in the form of module one, covering the basics of hypnosis and its use in anxiety, and then various specialist modules covering a variety of topics such as pain, functional disorders, addictions, phobias, dental uses and so on being the way forward.

I suspect online training is here to stay.

Ann Williamson