In 2002, a young lady from Delaware named Zoe D. Katze reached some measure of academic celebrity status by earning several advanced degrees, and becoming a highly-credentialed doctor, in the fields of both Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy.
Zoe racked up quite an impressive list of degrees and certifications, prestigious designations, and recognition from renowned associations across both academic disciplines. It seemed Zoe was on a fast track to becoming a scholastic superstar.
In a surprisingly short time, Zoe became Dr. Zoe D Katze, Ph.D., C.Ht., DAPA.
How short a time, you ask? Less than one year.
Impressive, isn’t it? It most certainly is.
However, it’s not nearly as impressive as the young lady’s age when she earned all these academic qualifications.
Zoe D. Katze was only 7 years old when she became a doctor!
We’re talking child prodigy here, folks. You know what’s even harder to believe?
Zoe couldn’t even hold a pen.
Watch the following quick video to see world-famous British celebrity Stephen Fry introduce Dr. Zoe and her remarkable story to the world (scroll down after you finish the video):
Meet Doctor Zoe
Now, any of you who know some basic German are probably having a bit of a laugh right now.
“Zoe D. Katze” when you say it out loud is pronounced the same as Zoe Die Katze….which means “Zoe the Cat” in German. Yes, Doctor Zoe is your average, adorable house cat.
She is also a Certified Hypnotherapist, and a Board Certified Psychotherapist.
Now, before you go thinking that Zoe is some super-genius feline prodigy who learned to read and write while coughing up hairballs between lesson plans, she was a lovable but otherwise ordinary household pet.
The truth is, Zoe rose to scholarly stardom by virtue of a very disturbing reality; the academic world of hypnotherapy appears to be highly unregulated, and filled with scammers and frauds.
I know, you’re just as shocked as I am.
Doctor Eichel’s “Cat Certification Project”
Completely legitimate psychologist Dr. Steve Eichel describes his experiment, and what prompted him to certify his housecat:
“Dr. Katze’s credentials look impressive. She is certified by three major hypnotherapy associations, having met their “strict training requirements” and having had her background thoroughly reviewed.
I was motivated to credential my cat by two circumstances. First, I have become increasingly heedful of all the questionable credentials out there, and I’ve grown tired of sounding defensive to therapist-shopping clients who confront me with something along the order of: “I found somebody with all these certifications and diplomas and he/she charges half of what you psychologists charge.”
The last straw (and my moment of inspiration) came during an internet search for a colleague. I accidentally came upon the website of another “psychotherapist” who listed a doctoral degree from an infamous diploma mill. Along with his degrees, he listed a veritable alphabet soup of impressive-looking letters after his name, corresponding to various “board certifications” and his status as a “Diplomat [sic] and Fellow” of the “largest professional hypnosis association in the world.”
I decided to credential my cat.
This was a surprisingly easy thing to do. First, since so many financial transactions are conducted by credit card, I had to get Zoe some credit. No problem; I just added her as an “authorized user” of one of my own credit cards. (The credit card agent asked for Zoe’s social security number, but then cheerfully relented when I told him it would take me some time to search for it.)
The rest was equally as easy. In the nefarious world of quasi-credentialing and diploma scams, money talks. Or at least it meows. All I had to do was get Zoe her first credential, which I did by filling out an “application for certification” on a lay hypnosis association’s website. I charged her application fee, and within a few weeks, Zoe had her first piece of paper. Since most lay hypnosis associations have a reciprocity agreement respecting each others’ certifications, it was a snap to obtain additional (and very impressive sounding) certificates.
Zoe is (or was, since I doubt I will pay certification maintenance fees) certified by the National Guild of Hypnotists, the American Board of Hypnotherapy, and the International Medical & Dental Hypnotherapy Association. She is a Professional Member of the American Association of Professional Hypnotherapists.
Not bad for a cat who’s not even purebred.”
Boy, something about that impressive-sounding list of certifications and guild associations really looks familiar, doesn’t it?
You Too Can Be a Doctor….by Next Monday
Now, let’s be clear here. I’m sure someone out there can make the argument that the field of hypnotherapy itself may be respectable, and even beneficial to those involved in it. That’s not the issue – we’re talking credentialing here.
When it comes to degrees and certification programs, it’s apparently the wild west out there. The process of obtaining the credentials that clients put their faith in, and are inherently lead to believe represents a certain level of professional and academic expertise, is alarmingly non-standardized. The field is rife with “diploma mills”; institutions that sell degrees for little or no coursework in return.
As far as I can tell, there are no accredited masters or doctorate degrees for hypnosis offered anywhere in the entire world.
I know, it’s simply-mind boggling to think that there are actually no legitimate post-graduate degree programs in softly suggesting people do things they are already willing to do, while they relax in a big comfy chair.
Anyway, the title of “Doctor” is arguably the most coveted and prestigious title in any academic discipline, representing years of intense study and hard work. In the field of hypnotherapy, becoming a doctor is as easy as whipping out a credit card.
A quick Google search led me to this completely-not-creepy-looking gentleman who is willing to sell you a Doctorate in Clinical Hypnotherapy (DCH) for the low price of $790.
He also conveniently works “on the honor system”. So, if you tell him you already did the 200 hours of coursework and met the rather loose requirements, Bingo! You’ll be a doctor as soon as his inkjet printer spits out a certificate. What a swell guy.
Just pray that nobody comes along and calls you out on your fake doctorate for, I guess, the rest of your career?
Sounds like a solid plan. Moving on…
Before You Go Tossing That Title Around
In some states, it’s considered a crime to boast having a doctorate from an unaccredited program.
Why yes, I’m glad you asked! I just happen to have New Jersey’s stance on the subject right here:
New Jersey Statutes and Regulations Regarding Academic Degrees (unfortunately the link is now dead)
In short, it’s probably a bad idea to go around calling yourself a “Doctor”, if your school, your program of study, and your degree are not even recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, nor any one of its authorized regional accrediting organizations.
Further, to do so is a slap in the face to the thousands of men and women who spend years of their lives working hard at intensive study and research, at great personal sacrifice, to complete a legitimate doctorate, and earn the prestigious title of “Doctor” in their respective fields.
If your doctorate is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, your doctorate does not exist in this country. It’s really that simple. You’re about as much of a doctor as Zoe The Cat was.
The difference is, Zoe didn’t feel the need to misrepresent herself, or her credentials.
For further reading:
Blog – People Who Have Fake Doctorates (in the search bar in the top left corner of their website, just for kicks, try searching for “DCH”)
More on Zoe the Cat: