A report ‘Untapped Resources: Accredited Registers in the Wider Workforce’ was published in 2017 by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH). The key points raised in this report are relevant for all those involved in the health of the public and has much relevance for hypnotherapists, particularly in terms of healthy conversations, signposting to other resources, and wider professional awareness.
The report recognises that there are considerable public health challenges in the UK, with over 60% of adults overweight or obese and a predicted 96,000 tobacco-related deaths each year, despite smoking rates declining. The report also notes health inequalities. With people in the most deprived areas, having a lower number of years (20!) in ‘good health’ compared to the least deprived areas.
The RSPH focus on the improvement of health and wellbeing of the public; supporting, educating and empowering individuals and communities. They recognised that ‘health and wellbeing’ has many stakeholders, including the practitioners on accredited registers (AR), almost 80,000 in number in 2017. This led to a number of studies, surveys, discussions and focus groups. Indeed, HypnoTC’s own Dr Kate Beaven-Marks, represented the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) in some of the discussions with the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) and RSPH, prior to the report’s publication.
As part of a thorough exploration of the topic, the RSPH conducted a survey of 4500 AR practitioners, to find out if or how they were already supporting the health of the public. Interestingly, 9 out of 10 respondents reported that although they considered ‘promoting the public’s health’ to be part of their role, many (75%) felt under-utilised in promoting health. Furthermore, only 15% wouldn’t want to take on a greater role in promoting public health. Interestingly, high numbers of AR practitioners said they were already having healthy conversations, relating to mental wellbeing (64%), signposting to health-related services (36%) and advice on physical activity (29%). There was also a survey of public opinion (2000 people) on how people interact with and perceive the AR workforce (more on than further on).
Having numerous health-related conversations each day, the 80,000 AR practitioners form a key role in the broader public health workforce. Practitioners on accredited registers include those in public, mental and physical health fields. They are members of professional associations that are not regulated by law, but choose to commit to high standards and engage with a professional community. Of the 79,585 practitioners on accredited registers at the time of the report publication, talking therapy and complementary therapy sectors make up 70,229 members (88%).
As hypnotherapists, we may have one of the broadest scopes of practice within the AR workforce. Practitioners may work with all ages from the young to the most senior, and across a wide range of physiological and psychological conditions, as well as wellbeing, creative and sport applications. Furthermore, we tend to consider the client holistically, and from a solution-focused perspective, rather than treating a condition in isolation. A clear example of this is the widespread use of ego strengthening; a standard component of many professional hypnotherapists’ work with clients.
So how can practitioners on accredited registers support the public’s health? The RSPH report indicates that we can do that with ‘healthy conversations’. They suggest that a healthy conversation, between practitioner and an individual, can identify and encourage small but positive and important health and lifestyle changes. This may be around healthy eating, smoking cessation, weight management, stress reduction, sleep enhancement, pain management or many other symptoms.
This might seem like nothing new to a hypnotherapist, who may, during a thorough client intake or consultation, enquire about many of these areas. However, this can generate a new debate. Should hypnotherapists enquire beyond the information directly related to the reason for the client attending the session? For example, if “John” is coming for insomnia, is clearly overweight and indicates he is a smoker. Some would argue that a broad understanding of the health and lifestyle of an individual would help focus any planned treatment more effectively. Others might argue that it is intrusive.
The report recognised that the AR workforce tend to have longer contact time with clients, with over 94% averaging over 40 minutes per appointment, and these can be successive, so building relationships and the potential to identify issues that otherwise may remain undiscovered. As hypnotherapists are particularly skilled at creating and maintaining rapport, and, it is hoped, regard their clients with ‘unconditional positive regard’, this can encourage the client to share their concerns and worries in a safe environment, perhaps without the time pressures of health-related conversations with other healthcare professionals. Furthermore, it could be considered that the very approaches of stabilisation, ego strengthening and resilience-building, can further encourage a client to discuss health-related issues.
The RSPH report suggests that a healthy conversation takes a format of ‘Cue-Conversation-Conclusion’, with the cue being the trigger for the chat, then the conversation about the health issue, and the signposting to services. For hypnotherapists, this can be incorporated seamlessly into our work. Imagine you are talking with “Julia” about her weight issues (the purpose for her visit), and she mentions that she is drinking a lot of alcohol because she feels stressed. This is the ‘cue’, which can lead to a conversation about stress management and reducing her alcohol, ‘the conversation’, and then perhaps making a subsequent booking for stress management and alcohol reduction, or signposting to suitable resources.
Context is clearly very important. The RSPH suggest the importance of brief interventions being client-led, rather than following any particular agenda. The conversations being relevant to the need of their client. This was supported by both the AR survey and the public poll. Furthermore, the public (41%) considered it important for the practitioner to have a non-judgemental approach and not rush the consultation. This fits well with the hypnotherapy approach of being client-centred and not diagnosing nor prescribing. Rather taking a goal-oriented and solution-focused approach, according to the individual needs of the client.
The Untapped Resources report suggests it would be helpful to have regularly updated lists of services bringing all local signposting information together and disseminate this to AR practitioners.
For the hypnotherapist, it can be challenging to keep up to date with local, national and even international resources. It can be easier, if the hypnotherapist is part of a formal or informal network. So, Facebook groups, supervision groups, and networking groups, all offer opportunities to share resources. This can be a better use of each hypnotherapist’s time and allow for specialist knowledge. So, if one hypnotherapist has a specialist interest in weight management, they may have a number of information and support sources to call upon. Whereas, another hypnotherapist may be more interested in pain management and be able to share those resources. Such resources may include charities that offer support, resources and information, support groups and local facilities and services. For example, the British Heart Foundation offer lots of information and news, free resources, and activities, which may be helpful for weight management clients. Anxiety UK offers a vast amount of information relating to anxiety. The NHS is also a vast resource for information and guidance on local services.
Wider professional awareness
Finally, what did also come through in the RSPH report, was that 68% of those surveyed, considered there was a lack of awareness and understanding amongst other healthcare professionals. This can result in a lack of signposting and onward referrals.
Do other healthcare professionals know what hypnotherapists do? There persists an immense range of myths and misconceptions around hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Will your local nutritional therapist understand how you work? How about the neighbourhood play therapist? Quite possibly not. So, what can you do to help? Simply by becoming more visible, you can do a lot. There are numerous opportunities for sharing information about what hypnotherapy actually is, in whatever ways you prefer to communicate with others. For some, this may be an email campaign, or targeted social media and blogs, for others in-person visits to local healthcare professionals or groups. Introduce yourself and give information about hypnotherapy. Networking meetings are great opportunities for introducing yourself as the local expert, and you will be able to increase local awareness of what you do and how hypnotherapy works. The more visible you are, the more connections you have with other healthcare professionals, the more positive perceptions of hypnotherapy can be generated and the greater your scope of influence…just by having a healthy conversation.
We hope this blog on how to support health and healthy conversations has been helpful, and if you have any questions relating to this blog, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks