Trevor Silvester – Training Director at The Quest Institute

[quote style=”boxed”]Turn up. I think consistency is the single-most important trait for business people. Most let life get in the way, but you can’t negotiate with success; you either give it what it wants or it goes to someone else.[/quote]

Trevor Silvester is a leading therapist based in Harley Street, England. He began his working life in the police force, serving on the streets for 10 years before transferring to the world-famous Hendon police training school as a recruit instructor.

While there he pioneered the use of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) in a learning environment, creating a model that brought about 10-30% exam improvement with only three hours of coaching. Through NLP he also trained as a hypnotherapist and began an evening clinic before leaving the police three years later to pursue a new career in that field in 1998.

In 2000 he and his wife launched The Quest Institute, a school dedicated to teaching his approach to therapy, Cognitive Hypnotherapy. Through his three books (Wordweaving: The Science of Suggestion, The Question is the Answer, and Cognitive Hypnotherapy: What’s that about and how can I use it?), he has become a thought leader in the field, championing a practical and pragmatic approach to personal change based on the personal uniqueness of each client.

He was the editor of the Hypnotherapy Journal for eight years, and a member of the committee of the National Council for Hypnotherapy for 14 years, serving in a number of roles, including director of ethics and supervision. He is married, has two grown-up sons and a new grandchild, and lives in Norfolk, England.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve just finishing a book called Lovebirds I’ve worked for years with couples having relationship difficulties, and in most cases, it’s not because they don’t love each other; it’s that they don’t understand each other. The book revolves around a simple premise: people show their love in different ways, and look for love from their partner in the way they give it. If different types live together, they can be demonstrating their love in ways that are invisible to each other. In the book, I show how to use your differences to bring you together.

Where did the idea for Cognitive Hypnotherapy come from?

It emerged over the course of many years, mostly in response to the thrust in therapy for people to be given labels and for treatment protocols to be connected to these labels. I feel that people are too individual to be treated in a “one-size-fits-all” way, so Cognitive Hypnotherapy developed as a framework for fitting the individual way a client experiences their issue into a way of working that enables the therapist to use any combination of techniques, from any approach, that fits the client’s mind.

The second thrust came from the insight (not my own) that trance states form part of people’s problems. Every time we experience having no control over what we’re doing–whether it’s running from a spider, smoking a cigarette, or getting nervous speaking in front of people–we count that as a trance state. It means our work involves “dehypnotising” our clients from states their brains are putting them into in order to get them to do something their brains think is beneficial. It makes trance an everyday experience–not something we’re “putting you into.” Cognitive Hypnotherapy is a world away from the traditional swinging watch idea of hypnosis.

What does your typical day look like?

Because I’m a therapist, trainer of therapists, and writer, I have three different typical days. On a writing day I get up, train, have breakfast and then sit and write 2000 words. When that’s done my wife and I take the dogs for a walk and see what’s left of the day. If I’m doing therapy I get up very early to catch the early train to London because my home is two hours from Harley Street. I start seeing clients at 9:00 a.m. and typically finish at about 5:00 p.m. If I’m running a course the following day, my wife will have traveled down and we’ll go for dinner. On a training day I get up and run in Hyde Park and then teach from 9.30 a.m. until 4.30 p.m. Then I’ll spend a quiet evening reading or going to the pictures. I like the variety; it just means I get no more than one day off per week.

How do you bring ideas to life?

By acting on them. I’m quite driven and I love to learn, so whenever I come across a new idea I’m like a dog with a bone. Luckily I have the freedom to introduce any new idea into my therapy or my training course so I can act quite quickly–and my blog is a good place to work my thoughts out. We run a Master Practitioner course every year for the more experienced members of our Cognitive Hypnotherapy Network, and every year I include what I’ve learned over the last 12 months. It’s a good focus.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

We’re beginning a research project that uses the client to assess his own progress in therapy. It’s the client’s subjective experience of his improvement that counts. I like this, because both the problem and the solution comes from the client, so they’re the only real expert on how they feel, and whether or not they’re improving.

The idea that the scientific method of double-blind randomized studies is suited to the measurement of therapeutic outcomes seems crazy to me–it involves deleting any subjective factors, like the therapist/client relationship, which all research shows is the best predictor of improvement. It’s the outcome that matters, not how it’s achieved. That’s important. We hope to show that the therapeutic experience for people seeing a Cognitive Hypnotherapist is a reliable means of getting better–whatever it is the therapist is dong to achieve that improvement. It allows us to fit the therapy to the client, not force the client into a protocol simply because it’s easier to measure the value of that protocol.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

It has to be selling classified advertising on the telephone back in the ‘80s. I was selling something that didn’t work to people who didn’t need it. I learned the importance of doing something with meaning, and the power of influential language. Therapy, to a large degree, is a job that involves getting a client to change their mind through the words you use, so the job was a good grounding.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I suppose I could say that I wish I’d found my path sooner and begun my therapy career earlier, but I don’t really regret anything I did before that, and I probably needed to be who I was at the time I began. But if I could begin my new career differently, I would have asked my wife, Bex, to work with me from the start. It’s the combination of our personalities that makes our training school, The Quest Institute, what it is today. She really has been the wind beneath my wings.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I have a Bruce Lee quote hanging in my gym: “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”

I think consistency is the single-most important trait for business people. Most let life get in the way, but you can’t negotiate with success; you either give it what it wants or it goes to someone else. And what it seems to want most is some of your time, every day.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

We launched Quest to train people in an approach that nobody had heard of at the time, and with no history as a training school. I’m not sure we overcame it using any ingenious solution, but we set it up as more of a product. We were–and I think we still are–the only school that interviews everyone who wants to do the course. That impressed the right people and put off the wrong ones, and gave us the best chance of persuading people that we were their best decision. People liked that we were the most challenging school to join. We were also early adopters of the internet, so we tended to attract people interested in a fresher approach. From there it’s been mainly word of mouth, and we have people traveling from as far away as Israel, the U.S. and Lithuania to do our training.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Give. Don’t always look for a return on everything; just trust that doing the right thing will bring you something positive. I’m not spiritual, I just think that way of doing business produces a certain feeling that people are attracted to. Also, focus on growth, not on protection. Whenever we feel uncertain about the economy, we go on a holiday.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I’d teach people how to have a better relationship with themselves. If we loved ourselves, we wouldn’t start wars, buy things we don’t need, over-consume or contribute to other people’s unhappiness. I’m going about changing it now; I see therapy as improving the world one person at a time.

Tell us a secret.

My blue cheese dip consists of equal measures of mature stilton, double cream and mayonnaise stirred together. It’s perfect for barbeques and steak.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

Nothing revolutionary, I’m afraid. We’ve just started using Dropbox because we’ve switched to a virtual office style of working, and this is perfect as a Cloud resource. It is really easy to install and use. I use for sending large files like the hypnotic downloads I send my clients. I love that it’s simple and lets me know when my client has actually downloaded something; it’s an indicator of how engaged they are in their therapy. I love Facebook, because, as an introvert, I can keep in touch with what my friends are doing without actually having to speak with them at the end of a working day.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I have two. Who moved my cheese? By Spencer Johnson is a brilliant, short book, and is a great tool for putting life in perspective. All children should have a copy. My second is a blatant plug for my third book, Cognitive Hypnotherapy: What’s that about and how should I use it? It has a theory of mind that explains why we have the problems we have, and that the solution lies within the problem. I hope it will persuade people to choose to be who they want to be.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

I rarely go on Twitter. I know I should, but I mainly don’t care that you’re having a coffee. Eddie Izzard makes me laugh, Professor Richard Wiseman makes me think. If you follow me, I’ll probably only bother you when I’ve posted something interesting on my blog.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

This morning. We have two miniature Schnauzers called Fred and Betty. It’s rare that a couple of hours go by where they don’t make us laugh.

Who is your hero?

Bruce Lee. His approach to martial arts mirrors my approach to therapy, and I aspire to his openness and flexibility.

What’s the “big problem” in therapy?

Premature certainty. People mistake their insights for the truth and turn an approach into dogma. Many therapies and counseling approaches have more in common with religion than science. We need to remain humble and open until we have an approach that works for all people all the time–for everything. I like to remember that in 100 years people will laugh at what I consider cutting edge. I want Cognitive Hypnotherapy to be a permanent revolution so those people will appreciate that we knew we were a work in progress.

Your latest book is about relationships. What have you learned from your own?

I’ve learned to never make the relationship part of an argument between us. I used to think any unhappiness my partner had with me was a threat to us as a couple. “We’re going to be together forever, but I want you to do more ironing” is a much more relaxed way of feeling.

I’ve also learned that people have reasons for everything they do; they’re just not your reasons.


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