15 October 2018
Most hypnotherapists, at least in the UK, are self-employed. This means that not only are they responsible for the hypnotherapy work they do, but they are also business owners. As a result, there won’t be a manager whose job it is to ensure that they take appropriate breaks, follow health and safety rules, and do all that is necessary to complete their working day in at least as good a condition as when they started. This blog offers some tips and suggestions about what you can do to keep yourself well at work, wherever it is that you are working.
You may have several locations that you consider as your workplace, perhaps a couple of consulting rooms that you use to see clients. Maybe also using a room in an allied health practice (e.g. physio) or an ad-hoc arrangement with a dentist or doctors’ surgery. Even, occasionally, visiting a client in their workplace or home, or them visiting you in yours. However, your ‘workplace’ refers to your ‘place of work’ and thus can also include your sofa, if this is where you type up your therapy notes, the local coffee shop, when escaping the noise/disruption of working at home, even your car if you regularly find yourself parking and sending lengthy emails or making calls. It can be useful to assess each of your workplaces on a regular basis. Notice if anything is causing stress or discomfort and identify measures to address it promptly.
You may be surprised at how much work-related travelling you engage in during a week. Perhaps you see a client at a therapy room in the morning, drive home for lunch, pop off to the accountant before seeing another client in the evening. Maybe you are driving to your appointments. Alternatively, you could be using public transport. Is your vehicle comfortable? Safe? Reliable? If using public transport, is it regular? Frequent? (One bus an hour could be a lot of time lost if you miss it by a couple of seconds). Is it safe to use this transport during all the hours that you work, or might you need to take a taxi later at night? If you are working long hours and have a long drive of an evening, what you do you do to stay alert whilst driving? All things worth considering for your overall health and wellbeing at work (or on the way to/from work).
Is your therapy environment safe for you to work with clients? Is there anyone else in the building you could call for if there was a problem? Do people know where you are? Particularly when visiting clients in their own home, do let someone know where you will be and what time you expect to finish and send them a message or call them when you have left the client.
Taking care of your voice
As a talking therapist, your voice is like a fragile and valuable instrument, yet so often it can be harshly treated or simply taken for granted. It is something to take care of and nurture, rather than abuse (e.g. yelling / screaming a lot during a lively game of football). If you are going to be talking for a while, then consider using some warm-up exercises:
Also, drink plenty of water during your session. Avoid overly milky drinks if you find this makes you produce more mucous. Consider whether it would help if you stopped smoking (if you do), or reduced your coffee intake (if you have a lot). Also, if you are at all ‘coldy’ avoid repeatedly clearing your throat, as this can irritate your throat. So, sip water instead. As well as the above video on vocal warm-up exercises, check out this video for other tips on the hypnotist’s use of voice…
Protecting your posture
If you are working in an office type set up at home, it can be good to set up your workstation as though you were in a corporate situation. There is a lot of information about ‘Display Screen Equipment’ (DSE) Regulations and it can be useful to do some research and find out more about how to set up your PC / laptop in a way that is least stressful for your body.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK offer a helpful DSE assessment checklist that encourages you to consider your keyboard, mouse, trackball, screen, software, furniture and work environment (e.g. lighting). Remember, if you are curled up on your sofa with your laptop or tablet, this may not be the best posture for you to work in.
Also, when you are working with clients, many therapists get into a habit of leaning forward or slumping in their chair. This can be unhelpful as you may develop pain, stiffness or soreness from working in a less than balanced and supported manner. Ensure that you can sit up in your chair, with your back supported, your chest and shoulders open, and your ears above your shoulders (e.g. good posture).
Recognising and addressing stress
Something that can have a huge impact on your posture, without you even really being aware of it, is stress; which can result in muscle tension, aches and pains, even poor sleep. A useful way of defining stress is where the demands placed upon us, exceed our ability to cope. It can be good to spend a few moments each morning assessing your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Notice if there are any psychological (mental and emotional) pressures, worries or concerns. Consider what action you can take to address these. Also, become aware of what you body is telling you. Do you feel refreshed and alert? Or is there some lingering fatigue, muscle tension or aching? Assess what the cause of this may be and how you can reduce the likelihood of this becoming a ‘norm’. It can be useful to repeat this exercise at the end of your day, learn any lessons and identify any necessary changes that will reduce their impact on your stress levels.
Considering your own health
If you are your own manager, then it is up to you to manage your own health. If you don’t look after yourself, there will be little of the ‘effective’ you remaining to be able to help others. Whilst, as a business owner, there will likely be some times when you need to work longer hours or more frequently, do also take advantage of the quieter times to gain some balance in your life. Developing resilience and creating a work-life balance is important for your long-term health, effectiveness and business longevity.
There are many sources of help available to you as a hypnotherapist. If business-related, it may be that you can get some useful business or financial advice from some of the enterprise organisations (even banks can be very helpful). For personal matters, friends and family can be wonderful sources of support or encouragement. For something more hypnotherapy-focused, engaging in regular supervision, whether peer, group or individual (1-2-1) supervision (or all three), can help you gain new perspectives and develop new tools that will help you both in your hypnotherapy practice and as a business owner.
We hope that this blog on wellbeing at work for hypnotherapists has been helpful to you. If you have any more questions about this topic or anything else for that matter, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks