To offer the safest and most useful hypnotherapy for your clients, you need to understand the scope of practice suitable for a Hypnotherapist who is not licensed. Unless you are a licensed psychologist, medical doctor, dentist, social worker, or marriage, family and child counsellor, you should limit the scope of your practice to stress reduction, performance enhancement, and habit control issues such as smoking and weight loss. If you have a written referral from a medical doctor or you are working in cooperation with a psychiatrist or psychologist, it is appropriate to do additional kinds of work. This is especially important in the United States, where we face fairly heavy restrictions on what Hypnotherapists can do.
There are five instances in which hypnosis is specifically contra-indicated:
• First, when the client's personal history suggests that they may be dangerous to themselves or others, the client is beyond the scope of treatment of an unlicensed Hypnotherapist. In most states of the US, even a psychologist, MFCC or MSW will refer a client who is dangerous to self or others to a psychiatrist or a medical doctor.
• Second, if the client is dealing with highly repressed or traumatic issues, you may want to refer them to someone who has been trained to deal with those issues. Hypnosis alone may not be a sufficient intervention. Time-Line Therapy® could be indicated; if you are not trained in it, you can refer the client to a certified practitioner of Time-Line Therapy®. In addition, it may be appropriate to have a psychiatrist or a psychologist work with the client.
• Third, if a client is dealing with cancer or another life-threatening disease, you should advise them that hypnosis is a controversial form of treatment and insist that they get a diagnosis and a written referral from a medical doctor before proceeding. Currently in the US, it is not illegal to use hypnosis to help alleviate the symptoms of a disease. It is illegal to claim to cure disease by means of hypnosis. In most parts of the world, it is inappropriate to say that you will use hypnosis to cure cancer. Here is what I say to the client: "What is important here is that I am not going to heal you, you are going to heal yourself. Whether or not that happens is going to depend on how well you can communicate with your Unconscious Mind." That is a very important framework for your intervention. You will never regret referring someone out if you have any question on whether you should be working with them.
Fourth, if a client is suffering from psychiatric or neurological disorders such as multiple personality, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders (manic-depressive), hysteria or epileptic seizures, it is appropriate for you to require a written referral from an MD or psychiatrist before you even consider working with the client.
Fifth, you should only hypnotize a member of the opposite sex when there is a reliable witness present. Erickson, for example, would not hypnotize women unless his wife was present. An alternate safeguard is to tape all your sessions.
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