Ethical and Professional Issues
in the Practice of Clinical Hypnotherapy
by David E. Potts, M.A., Ph.D(c), C.Ht
Establishment of professional codes and standards in the practice of hypnotherapy reflects the growing trend of professional groups to respond ethically for societal protection and curtail civic distrust of professional members. However, such professional standardization often provides an ineffective measure toward professional conduct or social confidence. In recent years, public opinion polls have shown a marked decline of trust in numerous professions. Doctors, psychologists, social workers, and other clinical professionals are viewed with elevated degrees of distrust or lack public confidence and respect. These professions viewed with mistrust all maintain codes for professional and ethical standards of conduct. In fact, many of these professions were among the first to establish professional codes of conduct. Yet, despite the formation of professional codes and standards, these guidelines have been inadequate in preserving ethical conduct, integrity, and quality professional practice.
Codes of ethical and professional standards seldom establish more than a rudimentary standard for professional ethical practices. Wherein, the professional is required to declare certain principal standards of conduct in one's practice. This declaration is functionally intended to enact cohesive standards of ethical conduct within the professional group, in addition to providing the public a standard of protection. These standards are usually established by professional associations, boards, and organizations. Accordingly, professional members will adhere to guidelines of those associations or organizations to which they are duly affiliated. In the profession of hypnotherapy, numerous associations and organizations provide codes and standards for professional practice in their membership.
Have these professional hypnotherapy associations and organizations promoted and maintained the practice of hypnotherapy as a ethical profession? In general practices perhaps, but often they fail to eliminate forms of professional misconduct in the clinical process. In short, hypnotists need to abide by association or organization standards that are only minimally beyond the requirements of the law. Too much of the professional standards are directed toward legal transgressions rather than at issues pertaining directly to the practice of clinical matters and functioning. For example, many programs and organizations direct orientation of students/members with the clinical ethical emphasize on civil or criminal liability. This tends to entangle the students/members distinction between legal issues and professional ethical conduct.
Professional associations and organizations often fail to recognize that laws permit certain forms of conduct, and that conduct is ethically inappropriate in clinical practice. Moreover, these groups have little resources to regulate issues regarding clinical financial exploitation, minor grievance investigations, questionable conduct or corrupt practices. Investigation and enforcement of ethical standards that have been established leads to numerous issues that impedes review of practices; including confidential information access, clinician cooperation, and technical legal constraints.
All of the professional hypnotherapy associations and organizations have a public responsibility in upholding the ethical practices and standards of the hypnotherapy profession. Their obligation includes maintaining educational standards, ensuring professional competence, and enforcing ethical professionalism.
The devising of professional regulations and standards, based on legal qualifications, is only the first step towards confronting unethical clinical practices. Organizations need to establish broader ethical standards for clinical professionalism, in order to ensure comprehensive professional conduct and social guardianship.
Additionally, programs and educational training approved by organizations need to have a provision for training in ethical and professional development. Further, a universal membership provision for annual in-service training in ethical and professional practice review needs to be implemented. In doing so, both the hypnotherapy organizations and individual members will demonstrate their commitment to ethical professionalism in the practice of hypnotherapy.
David E. Potts M.A., Ph.D(c), C.Ht
Director: International Alliance for Ethical Therapy (IAET)
1250 Front Street, Suite 129, Binghamton New York 13901