Fences clearly establish where an area begins and ends in a way everyone can understand. They also keep out dangerous creatures and protect inhabitants. Personal boundaries work the same way, creating emotional fences that let everyone know what to expect and establishing rules that make everyone safe and comfortable.
As a hypnotist, setting clear boundaries is critical. It will ensure you maintain your own mental health while also letting your clients know what they can expect from you and what you require of them. Let’s look at some of the areas where you will want to establish thoughtful boundaries.
This is one of the more obvious places to set a boundary. Just as you respect your clients’ time, you need them to respect yours. When developing your specific policy, consider whether missed sessions incur actual costs for you. If you rent space and have to provide notice to avoid fees, ensure your cancellation policy allows you time to cancel your reservation without paying fees.
One common boundary is a 24-hour notice requirement. A longer or shorter notice period may work for you, but whatever you decide, clearly convey that information to your client. Not only does this prevent your time from being wasted, but it also subtly reminds clients that you are a professional care provider. Your time is valuable, and your schedule should be respected.
Make sure your policy also addresses late arrivals. Will you simply use the remaining time? Is there a point when you won’t begin a session at all? If a client shows up 25 minutes late, can you effectively use the remaining time, or will you need to cancel the session, and if so, is that treated the same as a missed appointment?
Try to think through all the possible scenarios and address them in your policies. The less you leave up to interpretation or figuring out on the fly, the better.
Discussing money makes many people uncomfortable. While laying out this boundary might feel awkward, remember that it protects both you and your client. They likely feel at least as uncomfortable as you do bring up the topic of payment. Ensuring that everything is explained at the outset of your relationship means they shouldn’t need to broach the subject. If they do, there is already a clearly outlined policy on which you can fall back.
Your policy should include specifics. When, in relation to the sessions, is payment required? One common policy is to require payment 48 hours before a session. What will you do if you have yet to receive your fee at that point? Will you cancel the session or proceed and allow them to pay later? If they show up for the appointment and still don’t have payment, you can refer back to your policy when outlining what will happen.
Making your policy as specific as possible and considering all eventualities will save everyone from stress and discomfort down the road. Whatever you decide, clearly convey the boundary to your clients and stick with it, even if that feels uncomfortable.
Some hypnotists follow the example of other care providers by having a suggested or required dress code. This helps establish a professional environment and reminds clients that their sessions should be taken seriously.
Other hypnotherapists want their clients to do what makes them feel most comfortable, whatever that looks like to them. If a client shows up in a bikini or a shirt with profanity on it, so be it.
Whatever you decide, make sure to communicate your policy to your clients before it becomes an issue. The clear expectation will prevent uncomfortable and embarrassing conversations later on and relieve the client’s anxiety about what might be considered appropriate.
Your own attire also helps establish a boundary. By dressing professionally, you show that you are to be treated respectfully and convey respect for your clients.
You may encounter highly emotional and sensitive topics, including abuse and trauma. Naturally, clients may become emotional or reactive as these things are addressed. However, anything that crosses the line into verbal or physical abuse should not be tolerated. Including this in your code of conduct makes it easier to address on the rare occasion it might arise.
Confidentiality also falls under the umbrella of conduct. Your clients need to feel comfortable disclosing sensitive and personal information. Ensuring they are aware you take confidentiality seriously can help them open up. If there are any conditions under which you would feel compelled to breach confidentiality, convey that information beforehand. That prevents disappointment or feelings of betrayal.
When establishing this policy, you should also consider where to set boundaries for revealing your personal life to clients. Will you discuss your life? Will you share your own life experiences if it might help a client see a success story or feel you can relate? Or do you prefer to be more of a mirror to your client and their experiences, keeping your self-disclosures to a minimum?
Whatever you ultimately decide on, establishing that boundary for yourself will give you something to fall back on when the issue comes up in a session and you are unsure of what to share.
This boundary likely won’t be part of any code of conduct you share with clients, but it is critical to decide for your practice. Will you only work with certain types of clients? Under what circumstances might you ‘fire’ a client? You are not obligated to work with everyone who seeks your help. In fact, it may be necessary to step away from problematic clients for your own well-being. Allow yourself to have a boundary regarding patient selection and retention.
How to Present your Boundaries
Some professional hypnotists have a written Code of Conduct, which they provide to new clients, usually before their first session. Others opt for a more informal approach, outlining key points during an initial session and bringing up specific boundaries as relevant.
Don’t be shy or apologetic about your boundaries; they help protect yourself and your clients. And remember: your boundaries are a fence, not an imaginary border. If you repeatedly stray from your policy, you invite future disrespect. While your boundaries may change over time, don’t stray from them simply because it is uncomfortable.
Boundaries will be a critical part of your hypnosis business. They will improve outcomes and create better client interaction. Establishing appropriate boundaries will make you and your clients more comfortable and ensure everyone is on the same page, allowing you to focus on the healing process.