“Acting responsibly is not a matter of strengthening our reason
but of deepening our feelings for the welfare of others.”
Jostein Gaarder, Sophie’s World
A short time ago there was a story aired on Australian television about a 10 year old child who had recently been certified as a hypnotherapist.
She had completed a 2 and a half day course that her parents, who are also hypnotherapists, gave her for a Christmas present and apparently is going on to do a more advanced course as she has family and school friends lining up for therapy.
The story raises several ethical concerns which were only partially addressed by the spokesperson for one of the Hypnotherapy Associations.
1. It should be noted that the training organization involved is neither a member of the Hypnotherapy Council of Australia nor the Australian Board of NLP who both list training organizations that set industry standards and hold members and training organizations accountable for their behaviour.
2. A two and a half day training course, costing just AU$119 (early bird price), is not enough hours of training to belong to a professional association, (minimum of 400 hours of training, Police check, WWC check, Level 2 First Aid, minimum of 10 hours professional supervision and 20 hours of CPE and Professional Liability Insurance) – it could not possibly equip someone, let alone a child, to deal with an abreaction.
3. A ten year old child is, if Piaget’s theory of Child Development is to be believed, in the third stage of their cognitive development. Whilst the child is able to show that they have organized, logical thought, it is not until around 12 years of age when they begin to master abstract thought. In the third development stage, (Concrete Operations) the child becomes less egocentric and more aware of others and is able to order objects in a logical sequence. As the child matures, around the age of 12, they will move into the fourth stage of cognitive development, where they develop abstract thought and the ability to reason. …..Although parents of teenagers may care to disagree on this point!….. Development in each stage is gradual, and in this fourth stage (Formal Operations), the child will move from using complex thinking in their personal decision making to more complex thinking about global concepts and idealistic views in later adolescence.
4. There is then the ethical dilemma of a child working. There are minimum age requirements in most states of Australia, except NSW where this story originated from.
5. This then raises more questions:
- Are the sessions pro bono or is there some kind of payment?
- What is the legal liability should there be any issues arise?
- Is the child supervised when working? (both for the safety of the child and the people she is seeing)
- Are adequate records of the sessions being kept?
- Have the parents of the child’s classmates (who are also minors) given permission for the hypnotherapy?
Whilst this has been discussed on private hypnotherapy forums, and a wide range of opinions have been offered, with both positive and negative responses, ultimately it is the general public’s perception that matters.
Teachers and parents that I have talked to are genuinely worried that this has been allowed to happen. There is great concern for the mental and physical safety of both the young girl and her “clients”.
At the end of the day, this reflects on the Hypnotherapy profession as a whole. Whilst there is a peak body that represents professional Hypnotherapists, the HCA and to a lesser extent, the ABNLP, (whose recognised trainers offer a component of Hypnotherapy in their courses) who are both working to preserve the integrity of this therapy, there is a small group of people operating outside the system who seek their “five minutes of fame” in the spotlight at expense of honest, hardworking and reputable therapists who hold themselves accountable by membership of an association, regular supervision and continuing education.