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Our opinion: Gov. O'Bannon should appoint a more inclusive Indiana Hypnotist


Indiana, the only state to license hypnotists, has become a battleground for rival professional organizations. It's part of a regulatory nightmare that must be straightened out.

The Indiana Hypnotist Committee, which just started sending out license applications this summer, has received requests for applications from all over. Only 150 are from inside Indiana. The state's licensing program lends of legitimacy to a profession with an identity crisis.

Some hypnotists are entertainers, the ones who get people in the audience to bark like dogs or perform other amusing tricks under hypnosis. But those hypnotists are far outnumbered by professionals who would use their skills for therapy. The licensing procedure is intended for the latter, so hypnotherapists can assure patients that they have adequate training and aren't just con artists or kooks.

At least, that's the intent of the law that set up the licensing procedure. But the Indiana Hypnotist Committee is so controversial that the panel's work must be questioned.

Highland hypnotist Michael Redell said the new law has forced him to suspend his business of helping people lose weight, cope with stress and stop smoking. He and Renee Fromm of Munster, who filed a lawsuit challenging parts of the Indiana hypnotism law, are among sharp critics of the committee.

The National Guild of Hypnotists fears that the Indiana committee is unfairly using the law to stop about 200 members of the 49-year-old guild from practicing in Indiana. The licensing procedure currently requires courses from either a Los Angeles school linked to a rival organization, the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners, or an Indiana school owned by the wife of a member of the licensing committee.

Jack Mason was the committee's chairman in early 1999 when the committee recommended that the State Medical Licensing Board approve what is now called the Indiana College of Hypnosis. Three months later, Mason's wife brought the school.

Mason told The Times' William Lazarus that he tried to talk his wife out of buying the school, but she bought it anyway. So now, even though it was a different state agency that ultimately ruled on the school's status, Mason is nonetheless in a sticky ethical situation. He has served three years on the committee; Gov. Frank O'Bannon can solve this ethical problem by replacing him.

Mason also is in a feud with the National Guild of Hypnotists, one which threatens the committee's respectability. He said the guild members "want devil worship, Satanism, satanic rituals and demon repossession." Hogwash, the guild says.

Some of the controversy surrounding the committee can be attributed to the rivalry between two professional organizations. Some is likely to be the normal growing pains associated with starting a new bureaucracy. But much of it could be put to rest by the governor stepping in and replacing Mason.

The national guild is 6,000 members strong and should have a representative on the committee to prevent future criticism about partiality. The guild, according to Scot Giles, one of its directors, was promised a seat on the committee in exchange for supporting the legislation. It's time to make good on that promise and straighten out this troubled agency.