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By Bill Doult

The following article first appeared in LCCH News produced by the London College of Clinical Hypnosis

Posted March 2004

Improving professional standards is clearly now the wish and goal of the vast majority of practising hypnotherapists.

There is a widespread recognition that standards must continue to rise if the profession is to gain increased acceptance and credibility.

It is part of the long, difficult path towards proper regulation

Like so much else however, it is easier to state the ambition than describe the solution.

One, standardised examination for all UK hypnotherapists is probably part of the answer, and so would a single register for the entire profession.

Neither of those is within sight at the moment however and requires a unity of purpose which has evaded hypnotherapy for decades.

However there are steps which individual therapists and associations such as the BSCH can start taking right away. One such issue is the question of professional supervision.

Too often, once a student has completed his or her training, passed the exams, nailed the diploma to the wall and started practising, the supervision experienced during tuition comes to an end.

Of course many professional hypnotherapists do undergo supervision of one form or another, recognising it as an important element in their professional life. Unfortunately however many others do not.

Though happily signing-up for master classes and weekend courses, they continue their day-to-day therapy without the oversight or help of a professional colleague.

It is a situation others, in related fields such as counselling, find unprofessional and unacceptable. Within counselling and most areas of psychotherapy there is a general obligation to receive supervision as an ongoing part of professional development.

Classically, formal supervision means planned regular meetings between the supervisor and the supervisee discussing the supervisee's work and learning progress.

This usually involves a written contract between the supervisor and the supervisee describing such issues as costs, ethics and the regularity of meetings.

There is though an alternative, informal model which hypnotherapists might consider as a first step – peer supervision. So if you are not currently receiving supervision, this could be the option for you. It does not mean simply sitting down with a friend or two for a cosy chat about case notes every so often. Instead peer or group supervision should be formalised sufficiently to offer an opportunity for hypnotherapists to work in a small group at which each member brings details of his or her work for discussion and examination by colleagues.

The group should choose a chair or moderator to oversee the sessions. Ideally members of the group should be of comparable experience and training. Inevitably though this will not always be possible.

Even when there is clear disparity within a group it will still provide a number of important benefits for the individual therapist, not least a support system, which can help ensure, he or she keeps within their area of competence.

As important it provides an added safeguard for clients that they will receive ethical treatment.

How large - or small - these groups should be will depend on local factors, particularly the availability and willingness of local colleagues to get together.

Some might object to therapists who are friends as well as colleagues or who may work together in some form of partnership being in the same group, however the author can see no compelling reason why that should be a bar. In fact, in some parts of the country, to insist on group members not having social or business links would rule out the exercise.

Whatever the size of the group, the role should include evaluating performance and conducting individual case reviews.

The overall aim - to assist each member of the group to offer their services competently in ways which meet their clients' needs. This can also mean the group considering whether a therapist is working within the limits of his or her professional training and experience.

As most readers will realise, there will be times when a hypnotherapists is confronted by difficult ethical or even moral dilemmas, when there are competing obligations. Though there may be a reluctance to bring these cases to a peer group review, those who have the courage to do so are likely to find the analysis brought to a difficult situation by colleagues is especially valuable.

There should be a spirit of mutual respect within the group so as to maintain good working relationships and systems of communication that enhance services to clients at all times.

Obviously though each member of the group must be prepared to accept critical assessments as well as offering reasoned assessments on others within the group.

So how often, and for how long, should a peer group meet? And what happens if one member constantly fails to turn up?

Ideally groups should arrange to meet once a month. In practice however this may well be more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Each meeting should last for a minimum of one hour. The benefits are likely to last throughout one's career.

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