For all hypnotherapists, the ability to experience and convey empathy is essential. A diploma level course in hypnotherapy should teach you so much more than the tricks and tools of hypnosis (certainly, these days, if you do a GHSC accredited diploma level course you will cover how to work with clients in an empathic and ethical manner).
Why is empathy so important? People often come for hypnotherapy when they are experiencing real problems and hypnotherapy clients may approach you with a range of deep and difficult issues. You may be the first person they have approached and your clients may feel embarrassed or ashamed about the problems they are having. As a hypnotherapist, you never know what clients are going to approach you and it is important to remain non-judgemental and empathic at all times.
Empathy is crucial to creating a good therapeutic environment which, in turn, will make the work you do with your client under hypnosis more effective. Empathy refers to your ability, as a hypnotherapist, to be able to convey to your client that you have an understanding of what they are experiencing. You can never know exactly how someone is feeling, but as a human being you will have experienced similar issues to your client, including bereavement, anxiety and loss of confidence. Displaying your humanity and shared experience shows your client that you have an understanding of what they are going through which helps to foster an environment of trust. Displaying empathy also helps your client feel listened to and valued.
Empathy is different from sympathy, which involves feeling sorry for your client, rather than sharing in their experience. Clients may experience sympathy in a way which keeps them trapped and disempowered – people’s sympathy may make them feel they lack the resources to make the changes required in their lives. As a hypnotherapist, feeling empathy towards your clients helps them create their own positive changes in a state of hypnosis. Just feeling sorry for someone can have the opposite effect.
During my training courses in hypnotherapy, many students find it difficult to understand the difference between empathy and sympathy and to be empathic in a way which is useful to both themselves and their clients. I recently had a hypnotherapy CPD student who was finding it very hard to maintain clear boundaries between herself and her clients and was feeling so sorry for her clients that it left her drained and meant that she was not providing her hypnotherapy clients with the right type of support. If you are experiencing excessive sympathy towards your clients, or are being empathic to the point of feeling raw and drained from their experiences, you need to seek out supervision to deal with these issues. There will be stuff that’s coming up from you – perhaps from your own childhood and earlier experiences – which makes it hard to separate yourself emotionally from your clients. It’s very important for your hypnotherapy clients to experience clear and professional boundaries between you and them and you’re not doing them any favours by becoming overly upset during or after your sessions together. If you are ‘too sorry’ for a client, you may avoid encouraging them in the right direction and ensuring they are empowered for those times when you’re not around.
On the other hand, a lack of empathy will be clearly apparent to your hypnotherapy clients. I have had hypnotherapy clients who have clearly experienced this and who have felt devalued and as if they have not been listened to. Feeling judged, bossed about and even an inconvenience is very damaging. Luckily, the majority of people who want to become hypnotherapists feel drawn to the profession because they want to help and are empathic by nature.
If you want to find out more about hypnotherapy supervision or CPD courses which can help you develop your empathic skills please just get in touch.