Your hypnotherapy practice and coronavirus
Working with clientsA number of different professional bodies have shared updates about how you can continue to work safely during these uncertain times. These include: The National Hypnotherapy Society - offering useful information for trainees as well as practising hypnotherapists on their site here. As well as offering suggestions to assist with working through this period, they encourage you to: “Communicate with all clients and inform them that their sessions could be liable to postponement or disruption on a temporary basis. Where possible, offer clients the option of continuing sessions by phone or video conferencing.” If you are currently undergoing training, they also offer advice about the best sources of information at the moment, as well as warning that there may be online alternatives to face-to-face training offered. The UK Council for Psychotherapy - The UKCP have also issued a similar statement, encouraging you to think about the help and support that could be made if they are unable to see their usual therapist. They stated: “We recognise that there may be times over the coming weeks when therapists and clients are unable to meet for therapy in person because either is in isolation and/or unwell. We suggest that, if possible, the therapist and client explore this situation before it happens to discuss what psychotherapeutic support is likely to be needed and how it can be delivered safely.” The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council - The CNHC has stressed the importance of ensuring that you are practising and maintaining good hygiene practices if you are still meeting face-to-face with clients or members of the public. “Be sure you have the best information, environment and equipment to do your job. You should be ready to give clear and helpful advice to your patients, clients, and service users.” For the sake of brevity, we’ve only included the advice and guidance from three professional bodies here. On the whole, advice and guidance offered across the board seems to be fairly consistent, however, you may want to check with your own professional body’s site for any specific details we have not included here. We, and all professional bodies, are encouraging members to keep an eye on Government, NHS and Public Health England sites, as these will have the latest, most reliable updates as events continue to unfold. If in doubt, when you see advice or news and you are unsure of how accurate it may be, check these three sites. Key things to keep in mind when working with clients during the pandemic include:
- What steps can I take to minimise risk for my clients and myself? This could be something simple, such as increasing hygiene measures, or something bigger like stopping face-to-face sessions and only offering telephone, online, video, or message-based services temporarily.
- Am I able to provide hypnotherapy remotely? If you feel able and comfortable to, providing sessions remotely can allow you to continue working and seeing clients, without the added risks that may arise from face-to-face interactions and commuting to and from sessions. Consider what methods may (and may not) be suitable for both you and your clients.
- How will I tell my clients about changes or updates? Whether you are tweaking the kinds of services you offer temporarily, or are planning on what you can do if you become unwell and need to temporarily suspend sessions, it’s good to have a plan in mind for how you will let your clients know, as well as how much notice you will try to give them.
- What processes do I have, or could I need? Do you have a process in place for clients to let you know if they are unwell, or have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19? If so, have you let them know about this process and how they can best contact you? In light of recent events, it could also be worth considering if you may need to review your cancellation procedures.
- What happens if I contract COVID-19? If you do contract COVID-19, it’s good to know in advance if you need to let your clients know, as you may be asked to provide their details to the relevant authorities to try and help with contact tracing. It may be worth looking to see if this is covered by your contracts and insurance.
- Could my fees be affected? If you usually charge a cancellation fee, will you continue to do this during the pandemic? Or could this prompt clients to break self-isolation to come to a session, when it may not be in their - or your - best interest?
- How can and will I take care of my own health during this time? It’s important to consider your own health and wellbeing in the coming weeks and months. No-one knows how long we will experience disruptions for, nor the extent of an impact these events will have on our lives and economy. Increases in stress and worry are, for many, to be expected. Take time to think about how you can look after yourself.
Face to face sessions with clientsIf you are continuing to offer in-person hypnotherapy sessions, there are a number of simple steps you can take to ensure you are doing your best to minimise the risk of infection for yourself and your clients. These include:
- Practise social distancing. Keep at least one metre away from clients. If you will be with a client for longer than 10 minutes, this should ideally be at least two metres away. Avoid shaking hands or other physical contact. A number of alternatives to the handshake or hug have been suggested.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after each client. New guidelines suggest doing so for at least 20 seconds (around two rounds of ‘Happy Birthday’).
- Regularly disinfect door handles, hand-rests of chairs, computers, laptops, phones, writing implements, and other surfaces that you or someone else may have touched between clients.
- Make sure tissues are available for clients to use so they can practice “catch it, bin it, kill it”. It can help to re-divide tissues into batches so that you can provide clients with their own portion, as one central box of tissues could become contaminated.
- If you have a bin available for used tissues, ensure it is emptied between clients. Make sure you aren’t touching any of the bin's content to avoid contamination, or consider asking clients to take their tissues home with them to dispose of later.
- Between clients, try and air out waiting or consulting rooms if possible by opening windows.
- Use your own judgement. If you’re at all worried about your own health or the health and well-being of a client, take the appropriate steps. This could include self-isolating, letting clients know more about resources available, or notifying others you have been in contact with who may have been affected.
Preparing to work with clients online
Training to work onlineThere are many specific considerations to take into account when you are not in the same room as your client. Because of this, many professional bodies recommend that you undertake a specific course in training to cover online, telephone, email, or text-based sessions. Typically, these courses require you to have already undertaken regular hypnotherapy training. To find out which training organisations or specific course suggests your professional body recommends, it may be best to visit their website for the most recent, up-to-date recommendations.
Software applications for professional online useWorking with clients online means that you need a platform that you can both use to speak and, often, see each other too. It’s completely normal to feel nervous about moving from the familiarity of face to face sessions to working with clients online, particularly if you don’t feel very technically savvy. The good news is that connecting with clients online is a relatively straightforward experience. Starting a session can be as easy as sending a video link to them before your next session with them is due to begin.
Video-calling and instant messaging with clientsIf you’re not sure where to start, there are some popular video calling and instant messaging services used commonly by therapists and other online professionals. We’ve included links to three particularly popular services, so you can check out which one may be the best fit for you. Zoom - used by big household names including 21st Century Fox, Delta Airlines, and Sonos. Zoom has a free basic package which allows you unlimited one-to-one meetings. VSee - used by over 1,000+ telemedical companies and NASA. VSee offers HIPAA-approved, secure video communication. Free packages offer up to 25 video calls each month, along with unlimited secure messaging. Signal - providing end-to-end encryption on all calls and messages, Signal can be used via mobile app or desktop computer. An open-source project, Signal is free to use. While Skype may be the obvious choice for many, it is worth noting that some therapeutic organisations have expressed their concerns over the security and overall suitability of Skype for confidential sessions with clients. Used already by many members of the public, it can add a level of familiarity for clients who are familiar or experienced with using Skype. In these uncertain times, this may be worth keeping in mind. If you are considering using Skype, you may find ACTO’s guidance notes on Skype to be worth reading. Whatever platform you choose to use, it’s worth considering the potential pros and cons yourself, as well as making sure your clients familiarise themselves with the chosen platform.
Privacy and Data ProtectionAs you move to work with some or all clients online, you still have the same obligations to protect their data and privacy. It’s important to apply the same kinds of security measures you would when working in an office, now that you may be working remotely or in a new, unfamiliar way. Ask yourself:
- Who has access to my computer and/or the applications that I use to work online?
- If using third-party applications to process clients’ data, what are their security policies, and how will they protect this data?
- If using applications based outside of the EEA, do I need to update my privacy notice or contracts with clients?
Financial support for small businessesFollowing the release of the 2020 Budget, the Government has issued information about financial support for employees, benefit claimants and businesses. This includes measures to protect small businesses and self-employed people during the pandemic. A dedicated helpline for businesses and self-employed individuals in financial difficulties has been created. If you have any worries around being able to pay your taxes on time due to COVID-19, you can call the dedicated HMRC helpline on 0800 0159 559. The government will also be allocating a £10,000 cash grant to small businesses that pay little or no business rates, and are eligible for small business rate relief (SBBR). Local authorities will contact businesses who are eligible, and funding is expected to be provided to local authorities in early April. For more information, check with the official Gov website. If you have income protection included on your insurance policy, you may wish to familiarise yourself with any updates your insurer may have made or provided in light of the pandemic.
Looking after yourself during the pandemicFinally, we want to take the time to talk about you - the person who is bridging the gap between those who need help and support in these anxiety-inducing times, and your own personal life and all that it entails. We can’t stress enough how important it is to follow official guidance being made available on social distancing, hygiene, and safeguarding your own physical health. You can’t realistically look after others without first looking after yourself. When it comes to seeing clients, your own judgement is key, and this is apparent in professional body codes of conduct. It’s important to weigh up your ethical duty to protect the welfare of your clients, as well as your own responsibilities for your mental and physical health and wellbeing. Taking measures, such as working online with clients may allow you to create a balance between the two, giving you the opportunity to continue offering hypnotherapy whilst minimising the risks to your own (and clients’) physical health and wellbeing. This is only the case, however, providing you are able mentally, physically, and ethically to do so. If you find yourself unable to commit to sessions in the coming days and weeks, it’s key to ensure your clients are informed, as well as to make provisions for their ongoing support in your absence. If you need help, support, or guidance in doing this, your professional body should be able to signpost you towards the relevant resources. If you are used to working with others in a clinic or shared space, you may find the switch to working from home by yourself takes some adjustment. For example, you may miss having the regular change in environment that comes with travelling to your place of work. If you find yourself struggling, check out these expert tips for working from home during the outbreak, or try these seven steps for a better, more balanced work day. Finally, we want to take a moment to share some of the self-help literature we’ve been producing to help the public. As you know, this is something that we truly believe in here at Hypnotherapy Directory and Happiful. Sometimes, the little things really do have a big impact. Coronavirus: 8 ways to help yourself and others - As the news continues to be dominated by COVID-19, we explore how you can help yourself (and others) whilst still protecting your mental health. Worried about coronavirus? Here’s what you need to know - We outline the basics about the current pandemic, and what you need to know to ensure you are protecting yourself (mentally, and physically). Managing coronavirus: a psychotherapist’s perspective - With COVID-19 set to affect our lives in the upcoming weeks and months, Happiful share personal perspectives and professional responses to the virus in hopes of providing actionable advice - and an alternative perspective on the current events. Relevant reading:
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