Law on hypnosis is outdated and needs to be revised, says health council

Law on hypnosis is outdated and needs to be revised, says health council
Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), the forefather of hypnotism

Belgium’s law on hypnosis in healthcare is out of date and needs to be brought into the 21st century, according to an opinion published today by the High Council on Health.

The rules on the use of hypnosis in Belgium are laid down in a law from 1892. “This is no longer suited to the current professional diversification which is necessary for high-quality healthcare, and therefore requires updating,” the council says.

In addition, the general public is not sufficiently familiar with correct information on the subject, including those cases where hypnosis is indicated as a therapy, and the necessary safety conditions.

The latest opinion, which runs to 88 pages, is intended as a guide to how the necessary revision might be carried out.

While it is difficult for methodological reasons to provide a great deal of powerful evidence of effectiveness, it has been sufficiently demonstrated (especially for pain relief, for depression and anxiety) that the use of hypnosis can make many forms of therapeutic intervention more effective or more powerful, that it is effective in managing acute and chronic pain, and that it may have an impact on reducing anxiety in medical treatments and examinations,” the council says.

The council is of the opinion, the document says, “that the use of hypnosis be legally entrusted only to licensed healthcare professionals. The healthcare providers offer hypnosis as an aid within their field of competence and preferably in a multidisciplinary framework that offers opportunities for suitable referral when people encounter their own limitations.

"These requirements imply a sufficiently comprehensive hypnosis training that must be within the range of mainstream health care training.”

Finally, the opinion recommends that regulation of the use of hypnosis be adjusted to the current criteria of responsible healthcare. The council calls for the provision of thorough hypnosis training for healthcare professionals, for the promotion of research into hypnosis and for accurate information for the public.

We also recommend banning the use of the title ‘hypnotherapist,’ and the introduction of penalties for misleading advertising related to hypnosis. Finally, we propose the drawing up of a Belgian list of healthcare professionals with additional training in hypnosis.”

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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