There is so much discussion on forums and discussion boards about being professional as a hypnotherapist, much of which gravitates around ethical standards and professional image. However, whether that is actually ‘being’ professional or is just a set of standards that probably, in effect, almost all of us fall short of is the question I asked myself recently.

And the reason I asked myself that question was because I saw this issue about appearing professional rear its head in one of my CPD student’s case studies. What I saw in this reflective case study was that the student concerned wanted to uphold a professional image, even though underneath they were feeling doubtful or uncertain about something. Was that professional? To feel doubtful or uncertain? Do all professionals feel like that? And if so, how do you stop it leaking out through your energy and into the client therapist dynamic?

Is it having Qualifications?

I put it to the test. As a point of discussion in our supervision meetings I asked the open question, ‘What does it mean to be ‘Professional’?’. Predictably a discussion around qualifications and image emerged. Clearly, it was important to be qualified: even if only as a signal to our peers that we have also been through the rigours of training. However, professionally qualified as a hypnotherapist it was agreed, does not mean professionally competent. All sorts of variables affect our therapeutic outcomes which may not directly relate to our training.

Is it having boundaries?

So was it setting appropriate boundaries? We discussed the idea of keeping ourselves safe, and keeping our clients safe. What does ‘safe’ mean, we quizzed? Perhaps not building friendships nor bonding, and yet being able to build rapport, ease, trust, confidence – somehow there seems to be some potential for conflict in these requirements for being ‘professional’. It would seem to be a tightrope of getting it right so that the client gets maximum benefit, and we promote a healthy engagement that doesn’t spill over into friendship. Tricky.

Is our professionalism about being a guide?

So was it being able to be a genuine guide to our clients? Now I thought, we’re getting a bit warmer. What came up from this was that perhaps we need to be genuine, straightforward, and display a certain amount of integrity: ie: say what we mean, mean what we say. Yes, perhaps being ‘a professional’ hypnotherapist is ironically about removing the veneer and not posing as a professional….how could that possibly sit comfortably with what many are told about appearing professional in their practices?

Is it about working in the here and now and being authentic?

So what else could we possibly do to ensure a professionalism about our hypnotherapy practice? One of the requirements for my Read Your Client Foundation Diploma in Psychotherapy (NCP) designed for hypnotherapists to add talk and counselling skills to their practice is to produce reflective case studies. The case studies reveal so much about our inner dialogue and our fears about operating in the larger professional context. In our attempts to appear professional, I wonder whether we’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater….. perhaps we could do with being a bit more authentic and congruent. Where else in your client’s lives are they likely to get an honest, authentic and genuine reflection of how their behaviours affect those around them?

We need to acknowledge our fears

Perhaps being professional is about acknowledging our fears and using them with our clients. Or perhaps it’s about being in the here and now, about acknowledging our limitations to our clients, about passing a certain amount of responsibility over to our clients for their recovery. Perhaps it’s about saying what we can and can’t do, instead of biting back our fears, making claims to our clients that we just hope will be borne out by the end of the session. Perhaps the hypnotherapy profession’s insecurity of being marginalised or not being taken as a serious treatment option, has forced much of our larger than life claims about the effectiveness of hypnotherapy. And indeed perhaps we need a certain amount of bluster to work with some people.

The Open Mind Way

My experience however shows that the more congruent and straightforward you are and the more you allow the client to realise their own responsibility for their state of mind, then the more dependable and engaging you become. Once you have managed to engage your client on a very real level, your client will want to do the rest of the work from a place of taking responsibility, not from a place of consulting an expert in mind control! Well, a little bit of poetic licence there deliberately intended.

Know yourself

Being professional in my opinion, is about knowing yourselves well enough to know what you can and cannot promise. Being professional in my opinion, is about understanding that image needs to be complemented with substance. That image alone will by definition, let us all down in the world of hypnotherapy. As people who are dedicated to other people’s personal growth and development, we must be in the vanguard of that movement, constantly self improving, of plumbing the depths of our consciousness, and learning how to transform our own lives. When we transform, we convey subconsciously an energy to our clients that encourages our clients that they can too. If we haven’t walked the walk, no wonder we are worried about how professional we appear.

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