Professional and Ethical Issues Raised in the Trance Movie

In my previous blog post I wrote about Trance – a Danny Boyle film that I thoroughly enjoyed being involved with. Movies and television shows have a habit of portraying hypnosis as scary and people tend to think a trance is some sort of dangerous or controlling state of mind. I believe the word trance has negative connotations and as such it’s not a word I use when describing the state of hypnosis. That’s a topic for another day, because I want to explore some of the professional and ethical issues raised in the Trance movie.

In the real world, professional and ethical situations are rarely discussed openly between therapist and client, although many dilemmas can and do arise. At the forefront of people’s mind when seeking therapy is whether the person they are looking for can help them with a particular issue. It is usually taken for granted that the therapist will be ethical and professional.

In any professional ethical relationship between a therapist and a client, complete confidentiality should be in place. In Trance, the therapist shares revelations with other members of the heist gang. In real life, this would not happen. A professional and ethical therapist would not work with the other members of the group. The therapist’s role is just that, ‘a therapist’. They should not be a friend, a personal confident or someone to be socialized with outside the therapeutic setting.

In Trance, the hypnotherapist gets particularly intimate with the fine art auctioneer as well as the heist gang leader – understandably, this brings with it an amount of intensity and drama and is very effective in the make believe world of ‘the movies’. However, in the real world, an unethical therapist is rightly frowned upon because anything other than behaving ethically and professionally is manipulative and potentially dangerous. Any therapist who leads a development other than a client/therapist relationship is lacking true self-awareness and is unaware of the bigger picture. Such relationships can cause complications and are not in the client’s best interest.

The idea of working with a professional hypnotherapist is to promote independence within the client, having clear boundaries in place so that each party know exactly where they stand. Without clear boundaries, the relationships can become messy, unclear and unhealthy. Quality change work cannot be expected if boundaries are not in place – a client should always be a client to promote their personal change and  be fully independent. The last thing the hypnotherapist should do is provide a need for their help outside of the professional setting.

Despite the ethical and professional indiscretions, Trance is a fantastic dramatization of a robbery, client / therapist relationships, killings, car crashes and violence and so far as an action movie and psychological thriller is concerned, it proved to be very successful. I certainly congratulate its writers and producers in making a film well worth watching.