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Why is Israel’s hypnosis law so strict?

CM 26/08/2021 17

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From drip irrigation to a widely successful COVID-19 vaccination campaign, Israel has long been seen as a leader in innovation. But there is one practice embraced by much of the world that Israel has been hesitant about adopting: hypnotism.
While commonly thought of as a stage act by mentalists or even associated with the occult, hypnotism has become widespread worldwide. While some relegate it to simple alternative medicine, and some of the practices could be defined as such, hypnotherapy has over the years been adopted worldwide as a legitimate medical and psychological technique.
But Israel has made the practice far less accessible than other countries have, and has arguably the strictest hypnotism law in the world.

Having been on the books since 1984, the Use of Hypnosis Law is one of the first of its kind in the world, and strictly limits the practice of hypnosis to a select few dentists, doctors and clinical psychologists. All other practitioners, be they hypnotherapists or stage hypnotists, could face severe fines and possibly even time in jail.
But why does this law exist?
According to most accounts, it all goes back to an incident in 1975. At a show he was putting on, Israeli mentalist Avishalom Drori put a 17-year-old under hypnosis. However, he was unable to wake her up, and though the hypnosis was eventually undone, it became something many feared, and just a few years later, then-health minister Eliezer Shostak proposed what would eventually become the Use of Hypnosis Law.
Under this legislation, hypnosis can be practiced only by someone with a valid medical, psychologist or dentist license and with a graduation certificate from either a recognized course or institution abroad or from an Israeli university or recognized private institution. Even then, only a select number of professionals are permitted by the Health Ministry to teach hypnosis.
The law has remained untouched since then, even as hypnotherapy becomes more widespread around the world. This is despite it gaining use outside the fields of dentistry and psychology, with institutions like the Mayo Clinic endorsing it as a means of treating pain.
To the Israel Society of Hypnosis, the organization that represents the country’s hypnotherapists, this law is a good thing.
“Hypnosis isn’t magic,” the society’s chairman, Dr. Tzahi Arnon, explained.
As detailed on its website, the society believes the law protects the public from the dangers of charlatans and irresponsible therapists.
Even Israel’s most famous psychic, Uri Geller, opposes the use of stage hypnotism, despite being a hypnotist himself.
Geller had practiced hypnotism in the army and later studied under Drori. However, he maintains that hypnosis is not something ordinary people should be able to do.
“Hypnotherapy, I think if you have a license, could be very good. But it shouldn’t be used as entertainment on the stage,” Geller told The Jerusalem Post. “The reason I think so is because I saw what I can do to people – and it was unbelievable. I put them in trances and they’d be under my command. Nobody should be under the command of anyone through hypnosis.”
BUT THERE are many, both in Israel and abroad, who think this law is overly harsh.
Part of this is due to the definition of hypnosis under the law, which they claim is overly vague.
“Under Israel’s hypnosis law, everyone is guilty of hypnosis – therapists, artists, religious leaders and even mothers who sing nursery rhymes to their children,” said Natalie Pik, a therapist with a diploma of Health Clinical Hypnosis with honors from the Academy of Hypnotic Science in Melbourne, but who was convicted of violating the Use of Hypnosis Law and impersonating a hypnotherapist in 2012.
Others have noted that hypnotherapy shouldn’t be limited to just dentists and psychologists.
In 2015, doctors at the Helen Schneider Hospital for Women at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva noted that there is also a place for hypnotherapy in obstetrics and gynecology wards as a means of relieving pain and trauma.
The power of suggestion provided by qualified hypnotists has been found to help reduce pain when fetuses are turned over in the womb to a head-down position, for reducing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy and even for restoring menstruation in women who have gone without their periods, as noted in the study published by Drs. David Rabinerson, Epi Yehoshua and Rinat Gabai- Ben-Ziv in the Hebrew-language journal Harefuah.
Hypnotherapy has also been noted as a means of treating people suffering from chronic pain. A 2012 study published in the academic periodical The Journal of Pain found that hypnosis could be used as a means of helping patients suffering from fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition that is often difficult to treat and currently has no universally accepted treatment.
Others who oppose the law claim that it essentially creates a closed market for hypnotherapy in Israel, with only a select few professionals allowed to practice, thus limiting competition.
“The professionals’ concern for their own benefits hinders the application of the [Use of Hypnosis Law] in a manner that would protect patients from the interests of said clique,” Israeli academics Marianna Ruah-Midbar Shapiro and Sharon Warshawski wrote in a 2018 paper published in the periodical The Journal of CESNUR.
Currently, a new major push is being launched to change the law.
One of the leaders of this push is Israeli mentalist Ben Cale, who is pushing in favor of opening the law to be more accessible for hypnotherapists, noting that “it is abundantly clear that Israel is behind the rest of the world.
“The society openly admits on their website that hypnosis is extremely safe and has no side effects,” Cale told the Post. “According to their website, the law’s only justification is to prevent people from choosing hypnotherapy over other treatments, giving the example of choosing pain reduction hypnosis instead of an appendix surgery. This claim doesn’t hold up to any serious scrutiny or logic. It would also apply to any over-the-counter painkillers and all alternative treatments.”
He argues that there is another possible reason for the society’s support of this law.
“Even though we know hypnosis is completely safe, we also know that bad therapy isn’t. So maybe their real motivation is they don’t want to open the hypnotist market to lead to bad therapy. We need to make sure the standard remains very high. We need to make sure it keeps the best interests of the public across the board,” he explained.
“Currently, the law only really prohibits law-abiding professionals from using hypnosis. What I want to do is to open up a path for well-intended, law-abiding professionals like physiotherapists and clinical social workers to get licensed, aligning Israel with the rest of the world.”
Part of this would mean making it easier for more Israelis to study hypnotherapy, which could mean having the society oversee curricula training more hypnotherapists.
But despite being a mentalist, Cale is not necessarily advocating for easing restrictions on stage hypnosis.
“Hypnosis is completely safe on stage, but research shows that your first encounter with hypnosis will affect your expectations and how it affects you later on,” he explained. “So, there is an argument that some forms of stage hypnosis could impact hypnotherapy.”
Cale is backed by a group of hypnotists from the US, UK, New Zealand and Australia. Some are stage hypnotists like himself, but others are licensed hypnotherapists and the heads of accredited hypnotherapy training institutions.
Backing them up in Israel is Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Abir Kara (Yamina), who has vowed to propose these new changes when the Knesset reconvenes following its recess.
“I promote legislation that eases regulatory burdens, dismantles cartels and [I] open markets wherever I can,” Kara told the Post.
“Hypnosis is an incredibly safe and effective tool for the treatment of a variety of conditions, and has a wide variety of uses in every country in the world except for Israel. There’s no reason that a safe and affordable tool should be in the hands of a closed group of a few hundred people, when it can be of value in so many fields of practice.”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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