A Tribute to Charles Tebbetts
Charles Tebbetts: 20th Century Pioneer of Client Centered Hypnosis
by C. Roy Hunter, FAPHP, Hypnosis Trainer
This is a summary of the life of Charles Tebbetts, in order to honor the memory of his accomplishments.
As the dawn of the 21st Century closed the history book on 20th Century hypnotherapy, therapists around the world looked back at the 20th Century pioneers who forever changed the course of hypnotherapy. One name shines brilliantly as a pioneer of client centered hypnosis: Charles Tebbetts.
More popularly known for his profound work with parts therapy, Charlie (as his friends called him) became a leader among hypnotherapy instructors. During the latter years of his life, he trained thousands of students in the art of hypnosis. Dr. John Hughes of the National Guild of Hypnotists respectfully referred to Charles as one of the Grand Masters among hypnotherapy instructors…but WHO WAS this man who inspired two major hypnosis associations to give awards in his name?
Charles Tebbetts was already in his teens at the close of World War One. Before attaining today's drinking age, he played saxophone in a band at a night club that also employed a stage hypnotist. Fascinated with the nightly show even after a period of several months, Charlie also noticed that the stage hypnotist seemed to have a problem with alcohol. One night when the hypnotist failed to show up, Charlie convinced the manager that he could do the show instead…and thus began the career of Charles Tebbetts!
During the next few decades, Charlie remained involved with hypnosis even though he also pursued a career in advertising and song writing. Though never receiving a college degree, he studied the work of every major pioneer involved with hypnosis (past and contemporary), including Dave Ellman and Milton Erickson. Eventually he met and befriended Gil Boyne, and studied at Gil's school. Charlie incorporated many techniques taught by Gil, yet he continued to practice his own unique style of therapy. He eventually joined the National Guild of Hypnotists.
When I was privileged to study personally at his school in Edmonds (north of Seattle) back in 1983, Charlie had already discovered the powerful PARTS THERAPY technique that he is best known for today. Some therapists believe that Charles Tebbetts originated parts therapy. That is not true; but he IS the parts therapy pioneer. One trait that I always admired about my mentor was his willingness to give credit to others. Though he gave frequent credit to Gil Boyne for numerous techniques, he was just as quick to credit Dave Ellman where credit was due. He also talked about the accomplishments of Milton Erickson and Fritz Perls (and showed videotapes of both men in the classroom).
To look at him, one would never know that Charles Tebbetts once suffered a totally immobilizing stroke. While lying in bed, unable to move anything except his eyes, he had lots of time to utilize self-hypnosis to regain his mobility. He told me that he started with one finger at a time, until he could move both hands; and then he worked on his toes and feet. Over the following weeks he gradually increased his mobility and ability to talk, becoming living proof of the power of the mind!
My late mentor spent the latter years of his life emphasizing the need for comprehensive training. He felt strongly that 3-day and 5-day programs would hurt both the profession and the clients who saw graduates of short programs. Charlie also taught the importance of fitting the technique to the client rather than vice versa, which today I call Diversified Client-Centered Hypnosis. His primary goal was to empower the client, and he insisted that his students use the philosophy that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. While people may still debate whether that is true, my own experience demonstrated the wisdom of Charlie's belief. Some years back I brought myself out of a very deep trance when I did not like the suggestions given to me. Might there have been a different result if my belief were different?
Charles Tebbetts practiced and taught hypnotherapy with a passion to the day of his death. In the fall of 1992, while attending the annual convention of the National Guild of Hypnotists, he was struck down by a heart attack. Just hours before his passing, he asked me to teach his parts therapy workshop in his behalf. His wife, sitting in on the workshop, suddenly left the room…and minutes later an NGH official informed us of his passing. Joyce Tebbetts, who did not normally believe in "psychic stuff" told me that she left the workshop suddenly because she had seen her husband standing beside me waving goodbye. Whether or not one believes in what she saw, I was moved to tears when she told me.
My two books, The Art of Hypnosis and The Art of Hypnotherapy (Crown House Publishing) were written to preserve the important teachings of the late great Charles Tebbetts. When I consider the many hundreds of students whom he personally trained, it is indeed a privilege that he asked me to carry on his work. While I certainly realize that my mentor taught a comprehensive training program that was almost before its time, he is best remembered for evolving parts therapy into such a powerful tool. I believe Parts Therapy as taught by CharlesTebbetts to be one of the most profoundly beneficial contributions to hypnotherapy in the 20th Century. Others may have borrowed variations of parts therapy, and even may call it by different names; but the true pioneer of parts therapy in the hypnotherapy profession is the man whom I believe deserves to be considered the grandfather of client centered hypnotherapy: Charles Tebbetts.
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Last updated: July 16, 2015
Originally posted: January 2, 2002