Ethics in Hypnosis and Superivison

Ethics in Hypnosis and Supervision

Most professional organizations dealing with helping people have ethical guidelines or standards that focus on various areas of professionalism and moral and legal standards. These guidelines serve not only to protect the individual but also the organisations reputation and practitioners good standing. Ethical issues centre around setting and maintaining professional boundaries, the role of ethics in the supervisee/ supervisor relationship is an important one, the development of trust is vital in connection with ethics- the resistance that is presented within supervision sessions born out of anxiety driven behaviour linked to the ethical dilemma of breaching confidentiality for example can be soothed by the trust of an experienced supervisor who (to paraphrase Aristotle) “knows that doing the right thing, is the right thing to do.”

Ensuring that a supervisee is familiar with and adheres to an ethical framework, (BABCP, NCP, GHSC, CNHC or similar membership organisation) and understands the policies of the organisation (membership or otherwise) that they work within is very important in order to safeguard clients. If the supervisor is unfamiliar with the professional body or organisation that the supervisee is a member of or working with it is advisable that they ask for a copy their particular ethical framework to ensure that they improve their knowledge and can ensure adequate support is given 

Sweitzer and King (1999) suggest eight steps to deciding an ethical dilemma:

1.Name the problem

2.Name the focus

3.Consult the Code (i.e BABCP, NCP, etc)

4.Consult with colleagues

5.Determine the goals

6.Brainstorm the strategies

7.Consider the consequences

8.Decide with care (p. 184)


Critical Dilemmas

For dilemmas that are critical in nature; Dolgoff, Harrington and Loewenberg (1992) suggest that a hierarchy exists among various ethical principles and that practitioners should give higher priority to some than others. They refer to this as the Ethical Principles Screen:

  • Principle of protection of life
  • Principle of equality and inequality
  • Principle of autonomy and freedom
  • Principle of least harm
  • Principle of quality of life
  • Principle of privacy and confidentiality
  • Principle of truthfulness and full disclosure

Within this framework, each principle takes precedence over the ones listed below it in the hierarchy. This model suggests that when various ethical principles are in conflict, the supervisor/supervisee should identify the specific principles involved and make the decision in accordance with the issue highest in the hierarchy (Kiser, 2000, p. 131). 


Confidentiality should always be included in a working agreement and although it may be felt that a supervisee understands the meaning of confidentiality it bears repeating, on some occasions, for example when working with a trainee it may arise that the supervisor has to contact a learning provider or an organisation to clarify or discuss issues or even to raise concerns. When there is a risk to the client, or another person is at risk from the client, (particularly in cases of child protection) the need to disclose information is paramount and the appropriate authority should be informed. An astute supervisor is needed to ask the right questions and apply suitable skill when working with supervisee’s who may be working upon a dilemma. Caroll (1996) claims that acting ethically is complex and ambiguous and put forward a four stage process for ethical decision making,  the third of which, 

“Implementing an ethical decision-the need to follow through and implement the ethical decisions whilst coping with resistance both, inside and out- such as fear, self-interest, protection of a colleague”


demonstrates again the links to unconscious processes which may present resistance within supervision, there are various dilemmas that may appear for the supervisee when working with clients and that necessitate the ethical problem of confidentiality. The supervisor should be able to support the supervisee in reviewing their code of ethics, examining the legal implications, looking at their own values and beliefs that may be in conflict and most importantly considering the long term impact upon the client if the wrong decision is made.

It is important for supervisee’s to uphold their code of ethics as well as personal boundaries between client, colleagues and supervisors. Professional ethics aim to provide professionals with a standard of behaviour to which they must aspire and ultimately safeguard the client who can remain assured of professional standards.

See you at the next blog post,