Brain Working Recursive Therapy (BWR T®) is a relative newcomer to the range of psychotherapeutic techniques available to professional practitioners. Despite this it is making astonishing progress towards acceptance as a mainstream therapy having already been accepted as a valid course for study by members of the British Psychological Society as a part of their continuing professional development (CPD) requirements and also in being granted true Institute status in the UK by The Secretary of State.

In this article I will compare some of the reasons for this rapid rise by comparing the process to that of one of the oldest established mainstays of psychotherapy, namely hypnotherapy. This should not to be seen as an attack on hypnotherapy, I fully expect it to be a primary form of therapy for some time to come but its longevity to this point does make for an interesting comparison.

BWRT® was granted institute status because of the innovative research and development work performed by its creator, Terence Watts. That process consisted of an in-depth review of the findings of neuroscientific research into how and why we act and behave in the ways that we do. The specific questions behind Terence’s quest were:

  • Why we sometimes can’t stop ourselves doing things.
  • Why we sometimes feel that we just cannot do something we would really like to.
  • Why we so often limit ourselves from getting on with life.
  • Why we sometimes give up on something without even trying properly to do it.
  • Why we sometimes fear something when there’s no real reason to do so.
  • Why some situations ‘trigger’ uncomfortable feelings, even though we have no idea why.
  • Why therapy doesn’t always work as we want it to.

Definition and Repeatability of the processes

BWR T® is the name given to a set of clearly defined protocols (methods of working) that are designed to maximise the chance of success in helping a client change their behaviour or response to a given situation or trigger. Each protocol consists of a number of steps that the practitioner must follow in order to ensure a high degree of correlation between practitioners.

Hypnosis is a general term to describe a state of mind in which a client is open to suggestions made by the hypnotherapist. A typical explanation of hypnosis and hypnotherapy is this one from the University of Maryland Medical Centre.

“The term “hypnosis” comes from the Greek word hypnod, meaning ‘sleep’.

Hypnotherapists use exercises that bring about deep relaxation and an altered state of consciousness, also known as a trance. A person in a deeply focused state is unusually responsive to an idea or image. But this does not mean that a hypnotist can control the person’s mind and free will. On the contrary, hypnosis can actually teach people how to master their own states of awareness. By doing so they can affect their own bodily functions and psychological responses”.

This definition, like many others, skips the fundamental question of what hypnosis is by referring to it firstly as ‘an altered state of consciousness’ and then ‘trance’ without defining what is meant by these terms. As a result of this there are many different forms of hypnosis and ways of categorising it – Traditional, Ericksonian, Problem-Focussed, Solution-Focussed, Analytical, Transformational, Cognitive, Clinical etc. While each of these defines an overall approach to hypnosis and hypnotherapy, the methods used to invoke ‘trance’ are left largely to the individual therapist. This means that there is little to no correlation in the approach taken between practitioners for a given presenting condition even if they are schooled on the same class of hypnotherapy.

Simplicity vs. Complexity

For both BWRT® and hypnotherapy a wide range of skills are required by the therapist in order to be able to assess what issues need to be dealt with and to discuss this with the client. It is not uncommon for the presenting issue only to be the one that has become too much to bear any longer and has caused the client to seek help. It is also true that many clients seek help because they ‘want someone to fix them’ and have to do as little of the work as possible. With BWRT® the solution to a particular issue will always come from the client, the skill of the therapist is in leading them through a process that overcomes any resistance or intransigence. A similar argument can be made for hypnotherapy though there are some forms and styles where possible solutions are suggested by the therapist or built into a pre-prepared script.

Because of the existence of the protocols BWR T® is a relatively straightforward process for both the therapist and the client. After the pre-treatment conversations etc. the therapist guides the client through the chosen protocol. It is true that different practitioners may choose different protocols for a given presenting condition but in real terms this should make very little difference as there are only a small number of protocols defined.

From a client’s perspective, hypnotherapy can be very confusing. As seen in the above description, it is generally considered that one of the major tasks of the hypnotherapist is to coerce the client into an altered state of consciousness or a trance state and then the change work can be undertaken in earnest. This can lead to concerns in the clients mind about whether or not they can actually go into a trance and also exactly what might happen to them if they do. This area is a minefield to even try to discuss! First of all there are conversational forms of hypnosis that do not require a formal trance induction, secondly trance is not necessarily the same as having no memory of what has happened, thirdly there are three basic types of hypnotherapist, those who will make their own suggestions as to how the client should behave in a given situation, those who use information gleaned from the client during a chat at the start of the session and those who make non-specific suggestions to the client with a view to having the sub-conscious find its own solutions. These issues have been the subjects of many articles, books, heated debates etc. as well as attempts at rationalising the process, although these have largely been to no avail. The truth is that hypnotherapy is a loosely defined process. It persists because it can be very successful indeed but it has a poor performance in terms of repeatability.

As a result of this hypnotherapy protocols have been developed for specific issues e.g. smoking cessation, weight loss and many others, but once again there are very many of each of these available so although it does go someway towards homogeneity there is still a broad variation of approaches available for a specific condition.

Continued Development

Research work into the viability of using BWRT® for a wider range of presenting conditions has been continuing since the first protocols were taught to a new generation of practitioners. Those original protocols are occasionally adjusted and clarified as more feedback from practitioners and their clients is received in order to ensure that any ambiguities or loopholes are addressed. Furthermore those original protocols now form what has come to be called Level 1.

The continued research and experimentation has led to the development and introduction of a new protocol which is referred to as Level 2. This is used to help clients with more habitual conditions such as addictions and a range of sexual issues amongst others. Level 2 reached a stable point in its development in early 2015 and is now an optional extension for Level 1 practitioners to allow them to extend the conditions they can work with.  Ongoing research is also underway into a Level 3 and this is currently at a fairly advanced stage.

While there are new ideas and new approaches to hypnotherapy occurring on a regular basis there is still nothing in sight that will unify all of the different approaches and belief sets behind those methodologies. Even if there were it is impossible to see how it could have any degree of success.

Monitoring & Oversight

All BWRT® practitioners have to complete a course of training and be registered members of the Institute in order to able to advertise themselves as such. Because BWRT® is a protected name this also helps to guarantee the integrity of the process as much as possible. The Institute of Brain Working Recursive Therapy® is run by a board of directors with Terence Watts at its head and oversees all matters relating to BWRT®. In addition all registered BWRT® practitioners are required to undertake annual mentoring in order to validate their continued membership of the Institute.

Hypnotherapists are not required to be a member of any professional organisation though in fairness all reputable practitioners are. There are many different such organisations representing Hypnotherapy in the UK and all of them require the practitioner to undergo some form of mentoring.


This article highlights how BWRT® has been established as a credible alternative to hypnotherapy in terms of the actual process involved and also the safeguards put in place to ensure that there is a consistently high standard of presentation to clients. This process will continue as BWRT® is expanded to include Level 3 and as other avenues of research regarding the use of BWRT® are investigated.

© 2016, R. Bellchambers-Wilson