PART 1: This is the first of a two-part article on Ethics in Hypnotherapy: A Case of Child Sexual Abuse. This subject matter is as vile and evil as it gets. And as Hypnotherapists we need to be prepared to deal with it. According to James Poling [56-59], there are an increasing number of adults who were abused as children and who are turning to their pastors for ethical guidance. Let me add that Hypnotherapists are being deluged with such cases. If you are not, just give it some time. This article may be upsetting to some of you. But we must confront this horrific behavior inflicted upon the innocence of children.

Tom is a single parent who has engaged in anal intercourse, as well as oral sex, with his nine-year-old son during weekend visits. There are a number of ethical issues raised by this case, as well as psycho-pathological issues. We have to ask ourselves whether or not we would be willing to take on such a task. I can tell you it would not be easy, because it will involve questions of ethical responsibility toward the son, the son's family, his mother, child protective services, and the court. And, of course, being willing to work with Tom, who is the perpetrator.

How does a Hypnotherapist do an ethical analysis on child sexual abuse? There are four types of ethical arguments that make this possible. The arguments are as follows: [1] Is it a Violation of God's law? [2] Does it have Destructive Consequences? [3] Is there a Violation of Community Character and Narrative? [4] Is there Social Injustice?

[1] Violation of God's Law. To address this, we go to the Ten Commandments and their restatement by Jesus. These are accepted as universal ethical standards. There are several laws involved in cases of child abuse, which include: Honor your father and mother; You shall not kill; You shall not covet and Love God and neighbor as self. According to Poling [60], this ethic says that there are certain standards that are put into place, so that society can have guidelines to live by. Violating this ethic sets in motion the destruction of the moral fabric of human community. Since a family lives within these community standards, they should be protected by the society. The children of this family are to honor their parents [Exodus 20:12]. But are not children human beings that need to be protected from harm from adults, even if the harm comes from their parents? Yes, children are human beings, who should be protected from adults, including their parents, if they are abusing their children. God's laws are very specific. He gave us the Ten Commandments as a guideline for conducting our lives. Parents should not "kill" [Exodus 20:13] or "covet" [Exodus 20:17] their children's innocence and liveliness, so that they can deaden the pain of their own childhood abuse. [2] Destructive Consequences: Child sexual abuse sets into motion a destructive sequence of events. Out of this we see an increase in evil, while at the same time observing a decrease in the possibility of good. With closer examination, we find that in many cases, this evil has been present for many generations. From this we can surmise that abused children sometimes become abusive parents. Parents, as well as their children, are both good. But when looking at their situation from an ethic of destructive consequences, we must consider what action will create the most good for the most people. As hypnotherapists we must always be on the alert for evidence of child sexual abuse. But we must remember that both parents and children have rights. No matter what, there must be a realistic evaluation of each situation.

[3] Violation of Community Character and Narrative: When it comes to child abuse, the community or society needs to reformulate its character in relation to families and children [Poling, 61]. Over the years there has been conflict concerning personhood as it relates to the family. There is certainly public concern about child abuse. But in order to understand this concern, we must look at the narratives that inform the relationship between parents and children. When observing an abusive situation, we need to look at a community's identity and values. Will those values cause them to look the other way, or will they step forward to protect children from abusive parents?

[4] Social Injustice [liberation ethic]: Social injustice or liberation ethic is about the violation of power. Many ignore issues of power and oppression. But in cases of childhood sexual abuse children are powerless to protect themselves against their parental perpetrators. Children are suffering at the hands of their parents who are supposed to be loving and caring, but instead we see them being oppressive to their innocent children. Hopefully, this article will help hypnotherapists understand their ethical responsibility to their clients and community. In Part II of this article, I will present an ethical method by moving from the most concrete to the most abstract. It involves the following components: [1] Decisions, [2] Rules, [3] Norms, [4] Social analysis of oppression and power, and [5] Community story and vision [Poling, 63-69].

Reference: Poling, James. "Ethics in Pastoral Care and Counseling." Stone, Howard W., ed, Clements, William M., ed. Handbook for Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling. Abingdon Press. Nashville, TN. 1991. 56-69.

PART 2  In part I, I discussed the four ethical arguments for an ethical analysis of childhood sexual abuse. I discussed the Violation of God’s Laws [the Ten Commandments], Destructive Consequences of childhood sexual abuse, the Violation of Community Character and Narrative, and Social Injustice [Liberation Ethics].

In this article, I will present an ethical method by moving from the most concrete to the most abstract. It involves the following components: [1] Decisions, [2] Rules, [3] Norms, [4] Social Analysis of Oppression and Power, and [5] Community Story and Vision [Poling, 63-69]. When doing an Ethical Analysis, a number of factors come into play. Although we are all certified hypnotherapists, we do have an ethical responsibility to our patients/clients, as well as family members and community. I hope that this article can help in giving all of us an added tool in resolving internal and external conflict.

The first ethical method/reflection is decision. There are a number of decisions that need to be made, when analyzing childhood sexual abuse. These are decisions that affect the parents, the children, the extended family, and the social services and criminal justice systems. As pastors, counselors, and/or hypnotherapists, how do we act so that we provide maximum protection for the children while at the same time help the parents meet their needs? These decisions involve ethical, as well as psychological, issues. It is the process of ethical reflection that will help resolve these issues.

The second ethical method/reflection involves following certain rules. One of the most important things a therapist must do is provide a climate of trust. If he/she does not then therapy stops. When trust is achieved, the parents can talk about the intrapsychic pain they may be feeling. What is it that is so painful that the father would sexually abuse his nine-year-old son? Regardless of what the reasons may be the hypnotherapist/counselor must provide maximum protection for the children. He/she must cooperate with the police, social services, and the courts that have the legal responsibility for making sure this child is protected.

This scenario brings up several questions for the therapist. How can he/she cooperate with the authorities and, at the same time, develop trust with the parents? How can the therapist encourage the parents to discuss their inner conflicts while, at the same time, monitor their interaction with the victim(s)? And how does the counselor avoid being manipulated by parents who are so narcissistic that they are more concerned about their right to control their children than their children’s right to avoid abuse?

This brings us to the third ethical method/reflection: the level of norms. What principles are we looking at, when dealing with childhood sexual abuse? There are several. First, no one should do injury to another. Second, just relationships are based on mutual respect. Third, the therapist is to do everything in their power to encourage the parents to treat their children better. The fourth principle may be harder than the others: because it entails the therapist’s ability to treat the parents with respect, in spite of the evil that has been perpetrated against their nine-year-old child.

The fifth principle involves the counselor setting clear limits with the parents concerning their treatment of their children. The parents need psychotherapy as well as the children, especially the nine-year-old. If any other of their children has been sexually abused, they would need individual therapy as well. As hypnotherapists we must keep in mind that the aberrant behavior found in the perpetrator will not miraculously change overnight. This is hard to deal with when encountering this kind of evil. We want this evil to go away, now, not later. But it won’t go away that quickly. This could take months, even years. This doesn’t mean that all situations, such as this, will take that long. Just don’t expect quick results every time.

The fourth ethical method/reflection is the social context surrounding this case of childhood sexual abuse. Society sets certain norms [laws] for the people of that society to abide by. When anyone living within the confines of that societal norm goes beyond those bounds they have to pay the consequences. In our case, the father crossed the line when he sexually abused his nine-year-old son. Normally, when a person or group abides by the rules set by a society they are rewarded with freedom to work, play, and travel without punishment for doing so. But when someone breaks the rules of their society they are punished. This father did just that and is being punished. Part of the punishment is court ordered counseling.

Finally, the aforementioned social issues raise questions about human nature, community, and God. Question: What are the individual and social evils disclosed in this case of childhood sexual abuse? First, we find that this father has violated God’s precious creation. His wonderful little gift He gave to this father and mother. This child was innocent of any wrong doing to this man. What he did was vile, evil? He justified his action by placing blame on his childhood pain and misery brought about by the actions of an abusive father.

Where was God during the molestation of this innocent child? A question many have asked since the horrors of the holocaust, as well as the horror America saw on September 11, 2001. Where, indeed, was God? He was there, feeling all the pain and agony of a hurting world. Where there is suffering, God is active, providing resources for new life. Although this child’s father molested him, God was there, giving him courage, as well, to live day by day, providing him with healing through a technique that has been accused of being demonic. God doesn’t see it that way. He put it here on earth, in our hearts, in our minds, so that we can use it for healing the pain and agony of a hurting world [Poling, 63-69]. I am grateful for that.

Reference: Poling, James. "Ethics in Pastoral Care and Counseling." Stone, Howard W., ed,

Clements, William M., ed. Handbook for Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling. Abingdon Press. Nashville, TN. 1991. 56-69.

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