Your hypnotherapy practice and coronavirus

With current headlines focusing on the pandemic and its effects worldwide, it’s important to know what steps are available to keep supporting your practice, clients, and your own physical and mental health and well-being during this stressful period of uncertainty.

Media coverage surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is at an all-time high, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing. To help you understand more about what you can do to minimise the risk to yourself and your clients without closing your practice, we’ve gathered some of the latest, relevant current advice and guidance we could find as of March 19 to help you begin enacting best-practices during the pandemic. 

Along with general advice and guidance, we’ve also included information about how you can prepare to work online with clients. Ranging from training you can take, to the different video, messaging, and email applications you may want to consider, we’ve also covered the privacy implications and concerns that can arise from this way of working. 

Working with clients

A 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 clients

If 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.

These are just a few ideas worth considering. You may want to discuss further ideas using our Member Notice Board, or in other online hypnotherapist groups that you are involved with.

Read Managing Coronavirus: A Psychotherapist’s Perspective on Happiful.

Providing hypnotherapy online or via telephone

To make things easier, we will refer to all of these methods as “online hypnotherapy” throughout this article unless otherwise specified.

Online hypnotherapy can provide a good alternative to face to face sessions during the pandemic. It can also help you to keep working with clients who may otherwise be unable to continue or start attending sessions with you.

Online hypnotherapy is currently unregulated, and there are no specific qualifications required to conduct sessions online instead of face to face. You should be mindful of your professional body’s code of ethics and any specific competency frameworks in place. You can normally find this information on their website.

However you hold your hypnotherapy sessions, you’re naturally expected to adhere to your professional body’s code of ethics, continuing to only offer services that you are competent to deliver.

It may also be worth updating your main profile text to include specific references to online and/or telephone hypnotherapy sessions and how you conduct these. Over the coming months, we’re expecting to see higher levels of interest in this from visitors. As this is likely to be an area that they are unfamiliar with, giving them a little more idea of what to expect may be helpful.

Working with clients online can be a very different experience. You may need to adjust the ways in which you typically work, as well as to be able to assess your own ability to deliver hypnotherapy effectively online – and your client’s receptiveness to this different approach.

There are certain steps it may be worth taking before you start to offer online hypnotherapy, to make sure you are prepared. These may include:

Insurance – does your insurance cover you for online and remote hypnotherapy? You may need to contact your insurance company (or employer) to amend your policy and make sure that you have the correct coverage for any new services you may be offering.

Contracts – you may already have clauses for unexpected cancellations or missed appointments, such as if a client is ill, however it could be a good idea to review your contracts and offer new contracts to clients if needed. You may particularly want to consider adding or amending any clauses around online or telephone hypnotherapy, as well as additional security or privacy considerations. This may need to be reflected in individual clients and your overall privacy policy.

Client payments – if you haven’t already, it may be worth investigating electronic ways you can be paid, such as via bank transfer, PayPal, or online invoicing. Many of these options are quick and easy to set up.

Working remotely has the potential to bring up new challenges and opportunities for stress. When you make the transition from seeing people in-person each day, it’s important to give yourself time and space to look after yourself during this period of transition. If you’re struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance, try these 7 Steps for a Better Work Day from Home.

Preparing to work with clients online

Training to work online

There 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 use

Working 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 clients

If 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.

Zoomused 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.

VSeeused 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.

Signalproviding 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.

Email

If you’re planning to host hypnotherapy sessions via email, it’s worth considering how secure your email provider is, as well as the implications of transmitting personal data via this platform. No matter which platform you use, it’s important to be open and honest with your clients about how you process their data; make sure this is clear in your company’s privacy policy.

The following email providers are just a few out there that offer enhanced privacy. If you are planning to conduct hypnotherapy sessions or offer support to clients by email, it could be worth considering trying one of these or a similar service.

Hushmail – designed for the healthcare industry, Hushmail provides encrypted email and secure webforms for clients to contact you. Fees start at $5.99 per month per user (a small business will typically only require one email address), and a one-off setup fee of $9.99. Hushmail does offer a 60-day cooling-off period, during which you can get a full refund if you change your mind or are unhappy with the service provided.

ProtonMail – Switzerland-based ProtonMail offers end-to-end email encryption, and is open-source – meaning it’s free to use.

Privacy and Data Protection

As 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?

For more general advice and information on privacy and your obligation to protect the data you process, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) Guide to Data Protection is the place to go. If you still have questions after reading the information available, you can contact the ICO directly for further clarification.

The ICO have recently published a statement on data protection and coronavirus, with specific information for data controllers (organisations). Within this, they have confirmed that communicating updates to your clients about public health, for example, if you keep your clients informed about new measures your practice is taking to help lower the risks, are not considered to be direct marketing. These messages are not restricted by data protection laws, meaning you have a way to communicate quickly and easily with your clients so that they can get the latest, up-to-date information they need to help them keep making informed decisions.

Additionally, public bodies may require “additional collection and sharing of personal data to protect against serious threats to public health.” Make sure you keep clients informed about the possible implications contact tracing may have on your confidentiality clauses. You may be asked to provide information about individuals’ health to the authorities, though it is unlikely.

ICO have stated that they “recognise the unprecedented challenges we are all facing during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” and are happy to answer questions. You can contact them on 0303 123 1113.

Financial support for small businesses

Following 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 pandemic

Finally, 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:

Please note: Hypnotherapy Directory and Happiful are not affiliated with any of the organisations referenced in this article, and this article has not been sponsored by any third parties. We strongly recommend that you carry out your own research to make sure that you can make an informed choice that best suits your business. While we hope that this information is useful, we cannot be held responsible for any business decisions you make based on this article, or for the information published on third party sites.

All information correct as of 19/03/2020.

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Bonnie Gifford

Written by Bonnie Gifford

Bonnie Evie Gifford is a Senior Writer at Happiful.

Written by Bonnie Gifford

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