Hello, Gloria. Great to hear from you. Back in the day, I used to work for Vocational Rehab in Chicago’s Welfare Department, and I take my hat off to you for doing this important work.
I'm not so familiar with the ins and outs of the hypnotherapy world, but I do know that there is some tension between the licensed clinicians who do hypnosis as part of their practice and those who are certified as hypnotherapists but not identified with a profession (e.g., trained in nursing, psychology or social work..) who do a lot of work with smoking, weight loss and other targeted goals. (It's kind of like the tension between the personal coaches and the psychotherapist-coaches, I suspect).
I wouldn't worry about that right now - probably more important for you to just check out the terrain, see what there is to see, maybe ask people who are part of this network what they think - and see if you feel sympatica with them and the work that they do.
For this, I'd recommend the free forum and discussion boards on Hypnothoughts, which you can find by clicking here.
In addition, The American Hypnosis Association is the most inclusive group. They describe themselves as a comprehensive group of hypnotherapists, other professionals and private people interested in hypnosis and related fields, so anyone with an interest in hypnotherapy can join. And they do offer online courses, here.
There's another kind of hypnotherapy that has a lot of similarities with guided imagery, after the style of Milton Erickson (and thus called Ericksonian Hypnosis) - that is complex and nuanced, and which might interest you. I know there's an online conference that these folks are hosting that starts this summer here.
I’m not sure if you have a terminal social work degree or not. If you find yourself liking doing the work and wanting to be able to expand your clinical range and get insurance to reimburse for your work, you might want to consider doing graduate school for 2 years – I’m thinking social work because you’ve already been doing it and it’s 2 years to a terminal degree. You could also consider a counseling degree or a masters or PhD in psychology, too, of course, but social work seems the most logical, given your background.
Certainly 50 is not even close to being too old to do this (one of my dearest friends went back to school at around 60 and now, at age 71, loves her work with her clients with a passion)… and certainly the world can never have too many African-American goddesses with great hair providing treatment!
Hope this is a place to start, in any case. Please keep me informed of what you decide!