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Ethics: Honesty of Hypnotherapists

Here is an inquiry I received from a woman this year (2012). It expresses the wish to control the hurtful behavior of another person.

"Can you tell me if there is a way to hypnotize my husband into never wanting to cheat on me . . .? I am desperate . . . I am not too sure he would like to be hypnotized knowing why. Is there a way I could just say it is to stop smoking?"

First and foremost, I see this woman's pain. (I wrote to her about this, first.) Yet, I had to tell her that the answer to her question is, "No." The only way to treat her husband for infidelity is if the desire to change comes from him. Imposed from the outside, an attempt to change his behavior with hypnosis is a violation of him. It is unethical for a hypnotherapist to attempt such a change as she requests. Furthermore, such an attempt would not be effective. The husband has his own reason for his behavior, despite the fact that it is causing her pain and desperation. His own reasons for unfaithful behavior cannot be overcome by sneaking suggestions into a session ostensibly intended to change something else.

In my reply to this woman I asked her how she would feel if he wanted to use hypnosis to change her into a wife who easily tolerated his infidelities. Then I mentioned her inevitable loss of self-value in her present environment and urged her to find hypnosis help or other therapy help for herself.

Because hypnosis does not diagnose, the hypnotherapist should listen to and use the presenting problem as the center of the treatment. Even though it crossed my mind, I would have been out of place to write to this suffering woman that her husband might be sex-addicted or even that it sounds to me like he is searching for something he has not defined and using sex as a substitute.

Another request I received was to improve the behavior of a couple's adolescent son. This request was mentioned in good humor, half-serious and half-joking. "If hypnosis can do all you say, can it make our 14-year old . . . ???" This couple was aware that their son was trying to grow up and giving them some frustration and worry as he struggled with this process.

For more information about ethics in hypnosis, see the FAQ section of this website.