Certain people are impressed by the credentials issued by professional organizations like state bars, medical boards, and other professional licensing boards. By "certain people," I mean "people not particularly familiar with how professional credentialing agencies work." Certainly professional credentialing agencies do some good. They occasionally manage to kick the most egregious wrongdoers out of their respective professions, and they enact standards of practice that are not entirely lobbyist-written and that are sometimes even enforced. For the most part, though, they are guilds, formed and operated to perpetuate themselves and to squelch competition. That's why state bars (for instance) devote a disproportionate amount of their time and resources going after a few schlubs who try to practice law without a license.
Yet people tend to look at a certificate from a fancy-sounding professional organization and conclude that (1) the service that this person is offering me must be worthwhile, because it is backed by a licensing organization, and (2) this person must really be qualified. Add to that our susceptibility to junk science, and you've got a potent marketing tool for snake-oil salesmen.
Trust someone just because they have a professional license? You might as well trust the cat.
And here I mean that quite literally.
BBC journalist Chris Jackson decided to investigate the various entities that offer credentials to "hypnotherapists." Oh, he didn't apply himself. That would be silly and embarrassing. He applied in the name of his cat, George.
In the UK, George was registered with the British Board of Neuro Linguistic Programming (BBNLP), the United Fellowship of Hypnotherapists (UFH) and the Professional Hypnotherapy Practitioner Association (PHPA).
In fact, believe it or not, George was not technically eligible to be a hypnotherapist under the regulations promulgated by any of these entities. For one thing, he has not been spayed. And he's a cat.
The entities have said they are sorry, and it won't happen again:
A PHPA spokesman said the organisation makes great effort to ensure every applicant is a fully-qualified hypnotherapist.
Well, that explanation is a bit regrettable. What great effort did they make here? I can see the examination report now. "Cons: tends to lick own anus, is a cat. Pros: v. mesmerizing eyes and purr, good manner with patients."
By the way, Chris Jackson and George are not breaking new ground here. Dr. Steve Eichel did the same thing nearly 20 years ago in America with Dr. Zoe D. Katze, Ph.D., C.Ht., DAPA:
Dr. Katze's credentials look impressive. She is certified by three major hypnotherapy associations, having met their "strict training requirements" and having had her background thoroughly reviewed. She holds a Diplomate in psychotherapy from an association that claims to promote the highest standards among psychotherapists.
Zoe the Cat's qualifications appeared so impressive that she was eventually solicited to write a journal article.
Dr. Eichel's thoughts about credentialing as a business are well worth reading. And the tales of George and Zoe illustrate the peril of relying on credentials. There are people out there who make money by credentialing people. They make money credentialing people whether or not the people are qualified to do the work they are credentialed for, and whether or not the thing they are credentialed for has any worth to consumers. Caveat emptor. When you are considering paying for a service, there's no excuse for not Googling the service-provider's credentials, and for exploring whether the service is genuine or junk science to begin with.
If you don't, don't blame us when you shell out $150 per hour to be stared at by a cat.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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