Vinny's own guidelines on picking a healer. Vinny Pinto is a spiritual healer, also sometimes known as a subtle energy healer, metaphysical healer or non-local healer. On this page, he shares his thoughts on how to pick a practitioner in almost any of the alternative healing fields. These quidelines will likely apply to picking teachers, instructors, coaches, advisers and other folks/services as well in the alternative health and spiritual realms.
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On this page I wish to share my thoughts about picking a healer or coach, whether energy, subtle energy, metaphysical, or spiritual. I realize that a lot of these suggestions, if not all, may also be applicable to picking almost any kind of "alternative" health practitioner or spiritual practitioner, and also to picking teachers, coaches, and other folks or services in the alternative health or spiritual realms. These thoughts and opinions are mine only, and are offered based upon my rather long experience in dealing with practitioners and teachers of all types, as well my own training as a crisis therapist, a clinical psychologist, an acupuncturist, my own experiences as an energy healer in the past, and more recently, as a spiritual healer and spiritual coach. These guidelines are also, frankly, based upon some of the stories which friends and clients have related to me of their own experiences, whether positive or negative. I make no claim that these guidelines are necessarily "right" for all situations or that they are absolute. Rather, these guidelines are just that -- the best guidelines that I can offer at this time. I do suspect that they may help you to steer clear of some of the worst situations and out-of-control practitioners, as well as those practitioners or organizations whose primary purpose may be to control you.
1. Trust Your Intuition and Your Higher Self/Heart -- Trust Yourself!
First, I advise: simply listen to your gut, your body, your heart, and your intuition, which are really largely one and the same. Learn to trust your inner sense of what you need and do not need, and what you want and do not want, and what feels right and what does not feel okay.
I repeat, in slightly different words: learn to trust your gut sense. Give yourself the courage to act on it.
2. Beware Those Who Try to Scare You or Control You
As a spiritual healer, I am rather extremely amazed at practitioners, including alternative health practitioners, alternative nutritionists, energy healers and spiritual healers, among others, who spend a few minutes working with or diagnosing a client and then tell them that they have some horrible disorder or illness -- in effect, that the client is far sicker than the client had thought they were. The mind is powerful, and unfortunately, the mind is also rather simple; it is essentially a recorder, analogous to a tape recorder, and such suggestions can be powerful and devastating. Even if those suggestions do not produce the named disease or disorder, they can possibly push the person into a fanatical, driven approach to a healing regimen, commitment to a healing practitioner, or a special diet, instead of an approach which might be more filled with ease, compassion, lightness and gentleness.
Unfortunately, there is also a second side-effect of the above-mentioned behavior whereby the "practitioner" tells a person that they are sicker than they thought. It is very disempowering to the client, and also tends to make them feel very dependent upon the practitioner, which may, of course, be what the practitioner really wants (unconsciously if not consciously.) In other words, it can be a way for a practitioner to try to gain control over a client by manipulating their fears.
Bottom line: The practitioner must not try to scare or manipulate the client. This means that telling the client that they are sicker or more "out of harmony" than they thought is taboo. If a practitioner of any alternative ilk tries telling you that you are sicker or more disordered than you thought, this may be an attempt to control and manipulate you, and I suggest that you walk quickly for the door and never return.
For some reason, I have encountered this phenomenon particularly in the realms of iridology (where practitioners claim to read your health status by looking at the iris of the eyes) and nutritional coaching. I have encountered numerous self-styled "iridologists" and several nutritional coaches (each with their own special nutritional regimen) who seem to specialize in looking in people's eyes and telling them that they are in very poor shape indeed, or that they have multiple chronic diseases, and intimating that only their special treatment (whether it be a special diet, acupuncture, herbs, nutritional supplements, or special brand of algae) can heal the client.
I have one kinda funny story for you here.... I once noticed an ad in the classifieds section of an alternative health journal for a man who claimed to be a very powerful distant energy healer, who claimed further that his skills were imparted to him by advanced space beings or extraterrestrials. When I contacted him, he refused to send me or read me any testimonials (not necessarily a bad sign, and perhaps a good sign -- testimonials can easily be fabricated, and are a touchy area), and refused to tell me almost anything about where and how he received his training in his energy healing method, other than that it was imparted from extraterrestrials, and very difficult to learn. His first, and "reduced price" telephone introductory session turned out to be a "hook" or "bait" session. He told me bluntly, after 10 minutes of remote "diagnosis" over the phone, which was accompanied by appropriate bouts of silence and sighs and strange sounds from his throat, that I was very ill with a fatal brain virus which had been present since birth, and that no modality I had tried up till now had helped to cure it. Further, he told me, all my other varied physical complaints were actually caused by this brain disease, and that no other modality than his could cure this brain malady. Not bad, huh? He then told me that I would die within a few years if I did not get this problem healed, and that only he could help me, but that it would take many sessions, perhaps at least 12 sessions, and up to 30 to 50 sessions. He then mailed me a contract in which I was to commit to at least 20 sessions and to agree up front to paying for these sessions, on a contract basis. Needless to say, I sent him a polite thank-you note, and never contacted him again. How and why did I set this boundary so quickly and easily? Easy! My gut sense and my heart told me that he was at best, misguided, deluded and overly zealous, and, at worst, a fraud. That same sense told me not to have anything more to do with this man, but to back away quickly and with grace, kindness and calmness, which I proceeded to do.
3. Beware Grimness, Gloom, Doom or Urgency
If a practitioner of any alternative ilk focuses too heavily on the "negative" which they claim to "see" or "sense", or seems to approach you or your presenting issue with "heaviness", gloom, doom, urgency, or despair, this may be an attempt to control and manipulate. Likewise, if your practitioner seems to become overly involved in trying to fix your "issue" or "problem", and seems to have developed a sense of urgency, desperation or struggle, this may at best indicate that your practitioner has some serious boundary issues, and may possibly indicate an attempt to control and manipulate. In any of the above cases, I suggest that you walk quickly for the door and never return. At best, it indicates a practitioner who gets overly-involved in their clients and work, and whose ego is very attached to certain outcomes, and at worst, it can indicate attempts to control you.
4. Beware Expectations, Demands and Anger (and Blame!)
Speaking as a healer, I am constantly amazed at the healers I meet in my work who appear to take their client's issues too seriously (see above item also) and seem to need to compulsively heal or fix their client, as if their reputation or sanity depended upon it. A common sign of such expectations and dependency is if your practitioner seems to grow impatient or angry with you if your presenting issues or problems do not disappear rapidly, or do not shift at all. While any practitioner is entitled to occasionally show anger or irritation at an unreasonable demand from a client, and each is entitled simply to have a bad day once in a while, what I am describing here is more serious and is more consistent and persistent, namely: your practitioner acts angry, pouty or insulted unless you report progress. To me, this is a big danger signal. This may at best indicate that your practitioner has some serious boundary issues, and the anger or blame may be an attempt to control and manipulate the client. At best, it indicates a practitioner who gets overly-involved in their clients and work, and whose ego is very attached to certain outcomes, and at worst, it can indicate attempts to control you. I suggest, if your practitioner shows this ego-centered behavior more than once in a lifetime, that you head for the door.
5. Beware Practitioners Who Tell You They Are the Only Game in Town
The practitioner must empower all beings, and especially her/his clients. This means that implying to the client, or explicitly stating to the client, that only the practitioner or their special system or method can help them to get well, or can "fix" them, is taboo. If a practitioner of any alternative ilk tries telling you that only they or their system can heal you or fix you, or that you are doomed without them, this is both a covert and an overt and aggressive attempt to control and manipulate, and I suggest you walk quickly to the door and never return. The practitioner must not try to tell you, or intimate, that only they or their system can help you, or create a sense of urgency or emergency.
If you think you are encountering this "trait" in a practitioner, coach or teacher, I suggest you go back to item number two above, and re-read it, especially my tales about nutritional counselors and my personal tale of an encounter with an energy healer "from the stars" -- this section may help to shed some light upon your current situation!
6. Beware Those Who Promise Sure Fixes and Cures
The alternative practitioner may speak of possibilities, and must never promise certain cures, healings, or fixes. If a practitioner of any alternative ilk tries telling you that they can totally fix you or heal you or your life situation, whether in the realms of health, relationships, finances, or selling a car or real estate, or if they promise or guarantee any cure or outcome, I suggest that they are trying to control and manipulate you, and that this is not in your best interest. I suggest you walk quickly to the door and never return. Even in conventional Western medicine, medical doctors usually cannot legally or ethically promise that a procedure or treatment will definitely have the desired effect. Such constrains are even more important in the "alternative" realm, and even moreso in the realms of spiritual healing and teaching/coaching, where the primary "currency" or effect is increased connection with God/Being/Spirit, and where real-world effects may be unpredictable.
Let me tell you one brief true story from my own experience which may illustrate some points about this guideline as well as some of the other guidelines on this page, as well as illustrating perhaps a few things about the expectations which some clients come thru the door with....I was once approached by a woman who told me that she had been suffering a rather severe and painful physical disorder for over 20 years. She told me that dozens of doctors, including "the Mayo Clinic" (her words), had been unable to diagnose or resolve her condition, despite her spending over $200,000 on tests and treatments. She further told me that she had then given up on the medical establishment, and that she had spent years traveling the world, seeking out psychic surgeons in the Philippines and Australia, aboriginal healers in Australia, spiritual healers in Great Britain, and even a young male "healer guru" in India who promised to completely heal her for a one-time non-refundable $10,000 fee (in brief, he took the fee, but she was not healed.) She had, she related, even gone to Ma Amachi, the famous guru/healer of India, and claimed also to have spent one month with John of God in Brazil as well, with no demonstrable results. All in all, she claimed she has spent over $200,000 on medical treatments and over $250,000 on alternative treatments over the past 20-plus years, all to no avail.I hope that the above story may have given you some idea of the pressures facing some practitioners, both conventional and unconventional, to make promises of "cures", and the demands and projections made upon them by some clients!
She now came to her point: she asked me if I could and would promise that my work would heal her, where none had healed her before. In reply, I asked her if she had read my website, where I make it abundantly clear in many places that I am simply a spiritual healer, and can promise no particular physical results. She replied in the affirmative -- she had, but added angrily that she was furious at all her previous doctors and alternative healers, and now would only work with practitioners who would promise a sure cure. I refused, again, to do so. One point I made to myself, just as a reality check, was that according to her, a number of her previous practitioners, both conventional and unconventional, and including the $10,000 male healer guru in India, had all made iron-clad promises which had proven been wrong. Despite her obvious pressure, I was not about to allow her to engineer me into a similar situation.....
Let's pause here for a moment....
In the case of this client, I saw my primary task - even before accepting her as a client -- as helping her to realize the degree and intensity and anger of her by now rather unrealistic expectations, even before I could agree to take her for just one session.
- Can you imagine the amount of anger which this woman was carrying toward herself and toward God and the world for her condition, and the fact that it would not heal?
- Can you imagine the anger and tightness and constriction with which she was now conducting her search for the one healer who could "fix" her?
- Can you imagine the intensity of her demands upon any healer whom she approached, and, in the current case, upon myself?
- Need I say more?
Ultimately, despite the fact that I had refused to make any promises of physical cures, she came back a month later (after several non-productive treatments with other healers who were more willing to make promises...) and requested treatment anyway, and I agreed to perform one and only one session. To my best knowledge, she received no physical shifts or benefits from the session, although my primary indication of this was an e-mail which she sent to me just a half-hour after I had performed the remote session. Briefly, the e-mail stated (somewhat angrily), that, as she had expected, she had "felt nothing" during the session, and that this meant that I had failed her, as had all the others. No, she never did pay the agreed-upon donation for her session!
7. Beware Those Who Try to Pressure You to Use Their Services
Many practitioners offer free mini-consultations, either in person or by phone. The practitioner must not try to pressure or manipulate the client into using her/his services, and, rather, must allow the client to make their own decisions freely, without pressure. Any pressure or attempt to convince you that they or their service are the one for you is often an attempt to control, and, at worst, may indicate a practitioner with very poor boundaries and who is "out of control" themselves.
8. Beware Those Who Try to Get You to Commit to Many Sessions or Treatments
The practitioner must not try to manipulate the client in any way into committing to any additional sessions. I have seen many alternative practitioners try to get a client to commit to many sessions, and even promise that if the client will just commit to a certain number of sessions, such as four, six, or twelve, then the practitioner can promise a cure. Again, I feel strongly that the practitioner must not try to manipulate the client in any way into committing to any additional sessions. Period. Period. End of topic. Period!
I play this one really tight and conservatively: I almost always recommend only one session up front. If the client seems overly enthusiastic about my work, or to have unrealistic expectations of my work, and seems overly-willing to commit to working with me for many sessions, then I suggest calmly that they first try just one and only one session, and then wait at least a week, to see how that felt on an inner level. This helps overly-dependent and overly-needy clients to learn to trust themselves a bit more, and also serves to wean them from projecting all their power and strength onto me or some other practitioner. On a more practical and immediate level, it also keeps the client from trying to build an-overly dependent relationship with me where I am seen as all-powerful or their only answer.
9. The Practitioner Must Usually Not Demand Payment Before Service is Rendered
This is especially true for live, in-person sessions. One very large exception that I can see, and which we have all encountered, is that when the service offered is a remote or distant service -- rendered at a distance and arranged via telephone, the Internet, or the mail. For such services, such as telephone psychotherapy, telephone coaching, remote healing or distant healing, the practitioner may need to ask for payment up front to ensure that they will be paid by the distant client whom they have never met. The Internet in particular has earned a bad reputation for "clients" who never pay distant practitioners if the service is rendered prior to treatment. Indeed, many surveys and practitioners have indicated that about 60% of Internet clients for remote services will never pay their fee or donation if allowed to pay after the service is rendered. For this reason, many practitioners who render remote or telephone-based services must often ask for fees and donations to be rendered in advance. Again, as noted before, this problem seems worst with clients who come to practitioners via the Internet. I personally hate to ask anyone to pay a fee or make a donation up front before rendering the service, but I have found that I must usually do so when offering services via the web (the Internet.)
10. Beware of Testimonials Which May be Too Glib
I feel that a practitioner should use testimonials with the utmost of sensitivity and care, and with the highest ethical standards. Among other things, I feel that a practitioner must be very careful in how they solicit testimonials. I personally am very wary of testimonials. I have worked in the past 7 years as a consultant for many individuals and companies in the nutritional field, alternative health field, and also in the spiritual realm, and I have repeatedly seen the whole issue of testimonials violated wildly. Indeed, I have encountered such issues so often that they seem to be the rule rather than the exception.
I have seen (and heard) customers and clients harangued for testimonials, and have myself been harangued and pressured for the same, by practitioners and by vendors. I have seen clients offered all kinds of benefits for giving testimonials, including free services, and I have also seen numerous fraudulent (wholly or partially fabricated) testimonials and "letters of recommendation". I have also seen testimonials offered by friends and spouses represented as third-party testimonials by disinterested and impartial clients. I have seen numerous testimonials offered which showed only a person's initials, and, upon inquiry, it appeared that the person and their testimonial did not really exist. I respect the fact that many practitioners feel that they may need testimonials to attract clients. However, I feel that this issue must be handled with the utmost discretion and care. I personally have chosen over the past several years to approach this issue in the most conservative fashion, and to refrain entirely from offering testimonials on my website and in my other outreach mediums. The fun side of this admittedly conservative approach, for me, is that it helps me be extra sure that I am not trying to convince the client to pick me and my services, since I am not offering glowing testimonials as a possible "hook".
When you are evaluating testimonials offered by a healer, teacher or coach, I suggest you keep the following guidelines in mind:
Various federal laws and state laws (NY State is one of the more strict states) strictly govern usage of testimonials, especially when sent via postal mail. I personally like very much these guidelines since they mirror very much my own sense of ethics in offering testimonials. Some are reproduced below, in my own words.
This issue of testimonials is a particularly important one for me, since I sometimes augment my income by offering information system consulting (and mail-order consulting) and website creation to individual practitioners and to small companies in the realms of alternative health, spiritual healing, and spiritual self-help. I personally am unwilling to be complicit in offering or placing questionable testimonials on a website for a client, and I also have no desire to face criminal or civil charges on their behalf as the author/editor of their website and their advertising material, if it turns out that their testimonials do not comply with the requirements of the law. Thus, I created, two years ago, a boilerplate letter which I send to any and all website clients who ask me to place testimonials on their website for them. The letter may sound a bit harsh to the uninitiated, but I suspect you will get the point:
- the testimonials were rendered by the person named
- the testimonials are true
- these people were truly customers or clients
- these people are not relatives or close friends unless that fact is fully disclosed in the testimonial or in a preface to the testimonial
- you (the practitioner) have on file the original copy of each testimonial
- you have on file the full name, address, and phone contact info for each person
- you have the customer's (or client's) permission to use their testimonial on a website
- each testimonial is on file and available for review by interested parties, by appointment, at your business officesDear [first name]:
I have received the customer testimonials you have sent to me via e-mail, and I have entered them on the prototype Testimonials page for your website as well as a few on the prototype of the revised main page. I am almost ready to upload the two pages to the website, but first I am required to ask you to sign off on the testimonials as authentic, true and available. Under federal law, any company or person engaging in commerce (selling goods or services) which uses testimonials as part of the marketing, must keep on hand the original written testimonial of each person who gave a testimonial, along with the person's full name, address, phone number, etc., and must make that original copy available for viewing and verification to anyone who wishes to make an appointment to come to the company's (or practitioner's) office and view or verify those testimonials. Anything else is felony fraud under Federal law. A few states also have laws that are even more exacting. A few of the worst stories I have heard (of prosecution for violations) come from New York State, but apparently Florida and a few other states have very strong rules regarding use of testimonials in advertising as well. These strictures are particularly strict for postal mail advertising, so-called "direct-mail". However, I choose to apply the same level of accountability and traceability to the testimonials which my website clients ask me to place on their websites as well. If nothing else, they help me to sleep more soundly at night!
The exposition above leads to my next question for you. As the person who creates your web pages and maintains your website, I need to have written (e-mail is okay) certification from you that each of the testimonials you have sent to me and asked me to show on your website meets the following criteria (below.) If you do certify that each testimonial you have sent to me meets the criteria fully, then please hit REPLY and send me an e-mail telling me so, including a copy of this entire e-mail. Only then am I allowed to publish your webpage; this is something I make any web client who wishes to publish testimonials adhere to, in order to limit my own liability. The criteria are:
-- the testimonials were indeed rendered and written by the person named
-- the testimonials are fully true
-- these people were truly customers or clients
-- these people are not relatives or close friends unless that fact is fully disclosed in the testimonial or in a preface to the testimonial
-- you have on file the original copy of each testimonial
-- you have on file the full name, address, and phone contact info for each person
-- you have the customer's (or client's) permission to use their testimonial on a website
-- at least some of these testimonial authors are willing to be contacted for verification by sincere interested parties, and you have full contact information available
-- the original copy (letter or e-mail) of each testimonial is on file and available for review by interested parties, by appointment, at your business offices during business hours
-- you have asked me to reproduce these testimonials along with first names and city/town and state, on your website or in other marketing materials, and you give me full permission to do so and attest that you have permission fro each of these clients to reproduce their testimonials
The testimonials which you have sent me so far are reproduced below:
END of sample boilerplate letter to website clients.
11. Does Your Practitioner Try to Control You or Make Your Decisions for You?
This one is self-explanatory. Such a practitioner is very needy, has poor boundaries, and needs to manipulate and control you. This is very disempowering for the client and cannot help the client.
12. Beware Practitioners or Systems which Tell You the World Consists of "Us" and "Them", and that "They" are the Enemy or the Uninitiated or the Unblessed or the Unbaptized, and that They are Therefore Fair Game
This one is pretty much self-explanatory. Briefly, I have heard stories from clients and friends who have encountered various teachers, psychotherapists, healers, systems, cults or religions which teach that the world consists of "Us" and "Them", and that "they" are fair game for lies, deceit, trickery, cheating, manipulation, or robbery, since "they" are the enemy, or uninitiated, or unblessed, or unbaptized, or simply belong to the wrong religion or government or political party. To me, this kind of teaching is not only a very extreme and basic violation of the principles and values of civility, unconditional love, divine love and acceptance, but an attempt to control you by making you complicit in performing illegal, unethical, uncivil, or unloving acts against others persons or organizations. To me, this is totally contrary to the teachings of God/Being/Spirit.
Nonetheless, I have had numerous friends and clients who have encountered such teachers, practitioners, therapists, "advisers", religions, cults or systems. In one case, I was personally advised several years ago by a friend who was a PhD-level "Christian Psychotherapist" that the principle which she ran her life by, and which she advised most of her psychotherapy clients to follow, was as follows (paraphrased in my own words to the best of my recollection):"The world is too big a place for us to love everyone all the time. Rather, know that you and the other members of your religion are those chosen by God, and they are your community. Give to them, and give only to them, and to them be true and fast. All other people who do not belong to our particular (Christian) religion are fair game, and we are free, under God's word, to lie to them, to cheat them, and to steal from them. The government is even more our enemy as it is an enemy of religion and God, and is therefore fair game."The above example is entirely true and is a perfect example of what to beware of in any practitioner, systems, religion, or teacher. My advice: run the other way if and when you encounter such stuff!
Guideline number 13 and onward... I have a few more ideas percolating up from Source and Essence on this topic, and I am sure that I will be adding a few more guidelines as the days pass! Feel free to stay tuned!
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