Hypnotherapy is a lot like the “Wild West” made famous by “Western” movies, the laws vary from country to country and even state to state. In a lot of places, there’s no regulation at all. In other places, hypnosis is prohibited unless you are a doctor or even prohibited completely.
Around the United States, the laws range from hypnotherapy being unregulated to it being banned. That makes it interesting to practice, but for most of us, unless we live in a border town, we need only worry about the regulations of where we happen to be.*
*Don’t get me started on the concerns about performing hypnosis online. Do the laws of the location of the therapist or the client apply and so on… (a blog for another day perhaps)
But it does make it interesting even for those of us in the industry to discuss what we do. Some things one hypnotherapist may do might be completely illegal for another to do, based upon where each of us is located. For example, in California, a hypnotherapist can only address things related to “vocational and avocational” issues. In Washington, those terms are not mentioned in any context related to hypnotherapy, or any other relevant capacity. If you are so inclined, you can search for yourself. In California, hypnosis must occur in ever hypnotherapist/client meeting. Again, no such concept exists in Washington. Another one is that in California, hypnotherapists cannot work with couples. Once more, that is a prohibition that doesn’t exist in Washington. The list goes on and on and that is just between two states. Other states have other laws. You can imagine how confusing this makes our conferences.
In Washington, hypnotherapists are considered to be counselors and are subject to all the same laws. Below is a definition of what a “counselor” is, what we can do and the laws the definition comes from. (Italics in both are mine)
Washington Counselor: An individual, practitioner, therapist, or analyst who engages in the practice of counseling to the public for a fee, including hypnotherapists. Counselors, for a fee, offer, assist or attempt to assist an individual or individuals in the amelioration or adjustment of mental, emotional, or behavioral problems, including therapeutic techniques to achieve sensitivity and awareness of self and others and the development of human potential.
Revised Code of Washington RCW-18.19.020
(6) “Counseling” means employing any therapeutic techniques, including but not limited to social work, mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, and hypnotherapy, for a fee that offer, assist or attempt to assist an individual or individuals in the amelioration or adjustment of mental, emotional, or behavioral problems, and includes therapeutic techniques to achieve sensitivity and awareness of self and others and the development of human potential. For the purposes of this chapter, nothing may be construed to imply that the practice of hypnotherapy is necessarily limited to counseling.
(7) “Counselor” means an individual, practitioner, therapist, or analyst who engages in the practice of counseling to the public for a fee, including for the purposes of this chapter, hypnotherapists.
(9) “Hypnotherapist” means a person registered under this chapter who is practicing hypnosis as a modality.
Anyway, this topic came up, again, in a conversation I was part of and once again I got to hear about how the laws of some other place were “the law of the land”. I’m a detail-oriented guy, so I like to know where I stand and I find the clients I work best with do too, so there you go, a bit more about the law here in Washington.
You can read more about the Washington laws governing hypnotherapy on my “Choosing a Hypnotherapist” page.