ONE of Australia's leading hypnotists has warned that a rise of ``backyard'' hypnotherapists is putting patients in danger of sexual and financial exploitation.
Mark Anthony, a qualified hypnotherapist as well as stage hypnotist, said the relative ease of training to be a hypnotherapist was putting ``dangerous'' powers of suggestion and mind control into the wrong hands.
``There are backyard hypnotists out there working from home who don't worry about the ethics,'' Mr Anthony said.
``The only ones in the room are the hypnotist and the patient, and if the patient goes into deep trance, there is nothing to stop the therapist from doing whatever he or she likes, and then wiping the patient's memory so they have no recollection of it.
``Alternatively, they may change their perception to make them think what they are doing is the right thing - like giving them access to their bank account.
``Now, no normal person would give that away, but the patient could be told to think that everything is above board, and that any missing money is perfectly alright.
``I had a client come to see me who told me she had seen another hypnotist a couple of years ago, trying to get rid of her fear of meeting people and confidence.
``She went to that hypnotist three times. On the third time, he told her under hypnosis that as part of her new confidence she would sit on his lap and take her shirt off. She wasn't in deep hypnosis thankfully, she opened her eyes and said `no'.''
Mr Anthony said tighter regulations and controls on the hypnotherapy industry were needed as a safeguard for patients and practitioners.
``I am not saying that everybody that works from home is a backyard hypnotist and shouldn't be trusted,'' he said. ``But the problem is that anybody can take a weekend course and become a hypnotist.
``This instructor is then teaching these skills to someone they don't know, or how the person will use what he has learnt.
``After one weekend, someone with a criminal record for rape, robbery or child molestation could have the skills to hypnotise someone, and literally make them do whatever they want, and there is no way to stop them.''
Mr Anthony said he was aware of certified hypnotherapists who are on the registered sex offenders' list, and said one stage hypnotist was back doing shows only a couple of months after being release from jail.
``That sort of thing to me is appalling,'' he said. ``I know how phenomenal the power of the mind is, and it concerns me greatly that there are unethical elements of the community using that power for illegal or immoral activities.
Mr Anthony has been asked many times to train people to become hypnotists after a show and on one occasion the men said that it would make it ``easier to rape the girls''.He said it was a ``misconception'' that people under hypnosis could not be made to do things against their will.
``That's rubbish. You can make anyone do anything when they're deeply hypnotised,'' he said.
``I could make many of my deeply hypnotised volunteers rob a bank if I wanted to - it is just a matter of suggesting to them that what they are doing is right, they are doing it for the right reasons.
``You can simply alter the words you use to make them do whatever you want.
``People think hypnosis is all about shows and comedy, and it can be a good thing.
``But people need to be aware that if it is not used properly, it can also be a very dangerous thing.''
Many cults, religions and even politicians use ``hypnotic language'' and trance states for their benefit, he said.