Things used to be simple when you had a question about your health. If you weren’t feeling well you called your family doctor. You may be old enough to remember when he would then make a house call with his doctor’s bag right to your home to check on you. When I had my appendicitis attack in fourth grade our physician showed up around midnight and made my parents rush me right to the hospital. But the days of Dr. Quinn and Marcus Welby are long past.

Health care decisions are now as complex as choosing what kind of coffee to order at Starbucks. Not only has the family doctor gone the way of your local pharmacist who used to call you by name when you walked in and served you a soda while he filled your prescription—caring for you has been taken out of the hands of the people who knew you since birth and replaced by a system of health care that no longer knows you as much more than a number.

Managed health care runs on the premise of specialization, and has you divided up by parts of your body. Just like the butcher who carves up the carcass of a cow into individually plastic wrapped sections in the meat department, our bodies have been divvied up by specialists who are trained to see us as a foot or a shoulder or a heart or a brain and we get carted off to different doctors as pains pop up in various parts of us. Physicians may consult with colleagues on our case in our presence without ever looking up from their charts to look us in the eye.

Yet even with the security our health insurance buys us, there are definite signs that we are no longer so comfortable with the manner in which we are channeled into this system. Despite the deep discount that insurance co-pays afford us, millions of Americans are forking out their hard earned dollars to pay the full price of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) practitioners as their primary care givers.

According to a National Institute of Health (NIH) survey in 2009, U.S. adults made an estimated 354.2 million visits to CAM practitioners such as acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists, etc. and spent approximately $11.9 billion on them, equivalent to approximately one-quarter of total out-of-pocket spending on physician visits. As the billions of dollars that go to these alternative healers attest, the public may be rebelling against the system that is doing its darndest to manage us in the way they deem best (for them).

However, just as the barista asks us to choose from a plethora of coffee drinks as we step up to the counter, the question still remains in this case, who will we decide to go to out of the overwhelming choices in the field of alternative medicine? We have an alphabet soup of healing modalities from acupuncture to watsu, including such menu items as reflexology, rebirthing, massage, shiatsu, Reiki, hypnotherapy, psychic surgeons, colonics and so much more. Not only that—once we have made our choice, now how can we determine which practitioner is the best?

Some fields, such as Massage Therapy, are regulated and licensed very strictly by most states in America. That is obviously based on the fact that those clients will generally be disrobed during their session and their protection is of the utmost importance when choosing someone to see. Of course the ranks of Chiropractors and Acupuncturists are filled by Doctors who have undergone extensive educations, although still outside of the mainstream medicine curriculums.

However, if we examine the unlicensed fields of hypnotherapy and Reiki respectively, certification requirements vary greatly from just a few hours over one weekend, to hundreds of hours of education. The fact is that the title of Certified Reiki Master, or Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist may be applied to practitioners across the board without any accountability of the amount of training it took to receive it.

In the almost thirty years I have been a Certified Hypnotherapist, I have watched while the industry has continuously battled over disputes between different hypnosis schools concerning certification requirements, as well as with state legislatures, the medical profession and the counseling profession to preserve its right to help people with habit control and behavioral changes.

Hypnotherapy has long been known for its success in helping people to quit smoking, but the word hypnosis also conjures up images that range from silly to disturbing in people’s minds that have been reinforced by the media and Las Vegas stage shows. The truth is that we are only beginning to understand the untapped potential of the brain and the subconscious mind, and for those people who wish to find a reputable practitioner, it is difficult to know who to trust.

For instance, there are some schools which require at least 400 hours of training to be allowed to use the term, “Clinical Hypnotherapist.” Yet there are other teachers who travel around the United States doing weekend workshops and bestow the same title in less than one tenth the time. There are some certifying boards who will not certify anyone who is not a nurse or doctor, yet when have you had an appointment with a doctor who has given you the liberty of taking up an hour or more of his time?

The truth is that one’s status within the medical community has very little relevance to one’s ability to be a good hypnotherapist. In fact the bedside manners of some doctors could be detrimental to the rapport that is necessary when delving into such an intimate journey with someone. When I see clients I am generally with them for three hours, since the exploration through the subconscious mind is a profound inner journey that can’t be rushed. Giving a doctor a weekend of training in hypnosis would not give him or her any better understanding of the workings of the subconscious mind than anyone else because medical training has little to do with its effectiveness.

I find it difficult to describe myself with the same term, “Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist,” that is bantered about by so many others who have little in common with my twenty-seven years experience seeing thousands of clients. My experience includes studying for over 1500 classroom hours, spending another 5000 hours training others for their certification, writing a textbook on the subject and creating a therapy game based on the work I do which I have been playing with people for ten years to help them heal and grow outside of the traditional therapeutic environment.

Since the particular form of hypnotherapy I utilize is called Alchemical Hypnotherapy or Alchemy, I have been differentiating myself for the last fifteen years by calling myself a Master Alchemist. In July 2010 the Alchemy Institute officially recognized me for my contributions to the field as the first Certified Master Alchemist.

As a profession, Reiki is very similar. It is a form of energy healing that has been around forever, but it has been in the form it is now with this name and certain general principles that go along with the modality for about the last century. It has been passed down in a particular format that can be traced back to one man named Dr. Usui, who taught one woman in Hawaii, who taught 20 Reiki Masters before her death in the middle of the 20th century.

The principle it’s based on is actually quite simple, yet incredibly powerful, because it utilizes the unlimited chi energy that is available to every living being on the earth. Practitioners are taught how to channel this energy into their clients so it can be utilized to fortify and heal clients physically and emotionally. Students can attend classes that take them through three levels and at the third level they have learned enough so they can then be called a Reiki Master and begin to take on students of their own.

Because of how delicious the Reiki energy feels, many people are drawn to learn this modality and the number of “Masters” or teachers grows exponentially as more and more practitioners graduate from Reiki III classes. In fact, there are times that I am in a room and over half the people in the room seem to be Reiki Masters. As wonderful as it is for there to be such a great availability of people spreading the Light around the planet at this time, the question still remains: how do you decide who would be the best person to get a session from if that is what you are seeking? Or if you are serious about getting certified yourself, then how do you choose which Reiki Master to learn from?

I want to tell you about one woman I would highly recommend. She is a profoundly gifted Reiki Master Teacher named Wendy Lipson who is well established as an Energy Healer and Mentor ( Just as cream rises to the top, so too does Wendy’s ability to transmit Reiki energy rise above the sea of available practitioners. As I explained previously, as soon as someone completes Reiki III they are in the pool of teachers with no differentiation in status. One important thing to look for is someone who is highly experienced and a well-grounded conduit for the unlimited healing energy. Wendy has been working with energy in various forms for the last thirty-five years beginning with Therapeutic Touch in 1975. Her innate ability to touch the hearts and minds of her clients creates long lasting and visible results.

She is the founder of Reiki Reaching Out, an organization formed to bring Reiki to the community, and one of her duties is to run a meeting for local Reiki practitioners in the Brooklyn area the first Thursday of every month. This group has been meeting monthly for the last thirteen years. That shows steadfast dedication for her to mentor practitioners so generously, yet the true indication of her status in this field is the following of people she attracts to these meetings by the power of her own personal charisma and energy. They are busy professionals— physicians, nurses, architects, psychotherapists, teachers, Ph.D.’s artists, writers and performers—about half of whom are her own students, who keep coming back to hear her and be in her presence.

These are some typical comments Wendy receives almost every day in her inbox as people attempt to explain what she means in their lives. “I have not felt this calm in years and I know I have you to thank! You are my light through this dark period in my life! Thank you soooo much!” “Wendy, after receiving my first attunement from you I knew there was a real awakening in me. Something happened that was absent when I received attunements previously from another very well-respected teacher. I would love it if you attuned me for second degree and Master Reiki as a tune up!” “You are the most powerful energy healer that I have ever met. I have had chronic health problems for twenty years so I have been to many ‘healers,’ but never before experienced such strong results that really lasted. I am a Reiki Master myself so once I had a session with you, I knew I had found someone who is the real deal.”

Remember when seeking someone to care for your body, mind or emotions that it is a decision you need to put some time into. Do some research on the different modalities out there until you find one that feels right for you. Then put a little bit more time into researching the person you feel that you really connect with. When you call them do they understand your questions on the phone and give responses that are intelligent and resonate with your inner being? How long have they been in practice? Can they tell you details on working with someone else who was going through something similar to you? You may want to speak to someone they have worked with, and can ask for a referral, but that may not be necessary or possible because of confidentiality.

Do the amount of research that makes you feel like you’ve done your homework and then trust your gut. Perhaps you can get a referral from someone you know who can tell you about someone they trust. But the most important thing to trust is your intuition. If you’ve covered all your bases, yet you show up to an appointment and feel uncomfortable in any way, then trust your gut again, only with one caveat. It could be that “your stuff” is coming up. Be sure you are not just feeling uncomfortable because you’d rather run from your issues.

A little discernment will go a long way. Check in to see, for instance, if it is just a case of butterflies in your stomach, like before going onstage. Or is it something they did or said that you don’t feel right about? You can even ask in advance what will happen if you arrive and change your mind. I have a policy that anyone can come meet me and leave after a half hour with no charge if we both don’t feel right about working together for any reason. Once you have made a connection I hope it is a match made in heaven, because that person will then be able to take you to the next level in your journey. In fact, my vision is that my Higher Self and that of my clients have actually made the introductions to each other before we ever met.

Author's Bio: 

In her practice over the last twenty-five years, Debbie Unterman has seen thousands of clients, and taught hundreds of students in the techniques of Alchemical Hypnotherapy. She describes herself as a private eye for the soul, helping people find themselves and restore lost dreams. She is well known for her work with survivors of childhood abuse or neglect, her innovative cure for co-dependency, and her skillful style in dealing with sub-personalities, all of which she has written a self-help book about, called Talking to My Selves: Learning to Love the Voices in Your Head. She is also skilled in helping couples relate better through cutting edge communication techniques. (

Her education began with a degree in Interpersonal Communications from the State University of New York, which included a minor in Theatre and a semester abroad in Paris. She received her certifications in Hypnotherapy and Jin Shin Do Acupressure from Heartwood College of the Healing Arts in Northern California. She is also certified by the State of Georgia as a Mediator through the Conflict Resolution Academy in Atlanta.

She is the creator of two therapy-based board games, Clarity: The Game of Your Life ( and Satori: The Game of Radical Forgiveness ( Her expertise, authenticity and insights are inspiring, while her enthusiasm is contagious. A skilled communicator, she has presented workshops at venues such as Hypnosis Conferences, Mind/Body/Spirit Expos, and AT&T; been a guest on various radio and cable television shows; and hosted her own weekly radio talk show on health in Northern California. Debbie Unterman is a dedicated healer whose compassion, listening skills and spiritual clarity motivate her students and clients.