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Supervision for hypnotherapists treating people for drug and alcohol addiction

This article is for clinical hypnotherapists only.

One of the things I always talk about when I present to hypnotherapists is supervision, not only the value of supervision but also the absolute necessity of it when you are in practice.

To be honest, there is a lot of fluffy information out there about supervision.

Many hypnotherapy courses do not want to frighten students with the cost of supervision in case it puts them off studying or not completing the courses. Students themselves complain about the cost of supervision when they are just starting out as therapists.

There are of course many unregulated therapists who do not belong to associations who have no supervision.

Let’s go back to why we have regular supervision:

  • Review our learning processes
  • Guide us towards new learnings and techniques
  • Gain perspective on the cases we are working with at this time
  • Keep us honest in recognising our limitations and the limitations of therapy and ethical guidelines
  • Challenge us to broaden our therapeutic capabilities
  • Hold us legally accountable for the work with which we are engaged

The best therapists are ones that are always learning. In the field of drug and alcohol addiction I can honestly say I am still learning new information all the time, after decades in practice. To reflect on those learnings during supervision helps me consider the effectiveness of those learnings.

I have had a large variety of supervisors over my career who have suggested many different directions for my learning and helped me find ways to attain those learnings and new techniques. Since we are all exposed to a variety of other therapists it is fascinating to learn what other therapists know that we might learn.

When we work with drug and alcohol addiction clients they come in many different shapes and forms. Their addictions, mindsets and co-pathologies are all different and we really have to think on the spot in the therapy session.

It is challenging work and since we as therapists are also human beings we have our great successes as well as sessions where we may reflect and consider that we might have perhaps led the client in a different direction. Gaining perspective by reflection and objectively with a supervisor helps us consider how we might take clients forward in the future sessions.

Drug and alcohol addiction clients do not always follow our instructions or comply with treatment. We have to be careful about the goals we set them and the goals we set ourselves as therapists. It is just as important to recognise the limitations of clients, therapy and us as therapists as it is to recognise a client’s abilities and potential.

In practice we can never be complacent or arrogant that we are competent. When we say we are in practice, that is exactly what we are, practising our abilities as therapists. The job of supervision is to also challenge us to broaden our abilities as therapists so that we practise to become more competent.

In doing this a supervisor also needs to be excited about the work we, they and the clients are doing. A good supervisor is also your cheerleader as a therapist to bolster your confidence so that you can become a better therapist.

Legally as therapists you show that you are being held accountable for your work by your peers. Should there ever be a clinical accident when psychotic decompression takes place with a client or they commit suicide or sue you, you have to show from your records that you have been clinically responsible. Supervision is part of this process, which is why you should keep evidence of your supervision for your entire career.

Working with people addicted to drugs and alcohol, in my mind, requires therapists to undergo individual supervision, not group supervision. Whilst I understand that many therapists only work part time or are just getting started in their practice, working in the addiction field is working with people who are perhaps faced with the option of life or death.

Addiction to drugs and alcohol is a medical emergency where patients may die suddenly without warning so we must become highly skilled as hypnotherapists and that can only happen when we have individual supervision. The more skilled you become, the more successful your practice will become and you will be able to help many more people overcome their addictions.

Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, BHSc, is an approved supervisor with the Australian Society of Clinical Hypnotherapists, specialising in the supervision of hypnotherapists working with clients who are experiencing drug and alcohol addiction. She offers one-to-one supervision by Skype, phone or face-to-face at her Surry Hills, Sydney clinic. Call 02 8021 6429 for details.


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