By Susie Ekberg
I’m straying from my usual question and answer format this week because I have been asked to address a very important issue, not only for the F-M community, and not only for the holistic community, but for all businesses and relationships. It’s about ethics, folks. We talk about them, think about them, but what ARE they and why should anyone care?
In my own life, I strive to maintain high integrity and ethics not only in my work, but with my family, friends and the rest of the world. The components of integrity (let’s start there) are honesty, compassion, understanding, love, and trust. A person of integrity works always to be honest with herself and the rest of the world. She has compassion, again, not only for herself but for the rest of the world. She understands that we are all doing the best we can, and because she loves everyone she trusts that she will be supported for her Work. The word “integrity” comes from the word meaning “whole.” We’re not disjointed parts, some honest and some dishonest. We don’t just work to love some people and hate others. That is part of what integrity means to me. Wholeness inside and out.
The concept of ethics walks hand in hand with integrity. It comes from the Greek word meaning “character.” When you walk into a medical doctor’s office, you see all of her degrees framed and hanging on the wall. If you read them you can see exactly where she got her training, when, and how long she’s been practicing. It’s all right there. Same with your counselor or your lawyer or your massage therapist.
Can you say the same thing for your holistic practitioner? Is her certification for past life regression hanging on the wall? Do you know what training she had to consider her certified? Do you know how many other people she’s worked on? Has that Reiki Master gotten a free training over the internet? How is he qualified to teach? How many hours of training and work has he had? Where has your life coach gotten her training? When? What qualifies any of these people to work with you?
Honestly, you just don’t know, because most don’t have any kind of certification proof, nor do they disclose it to the general public. In our community of niceness, it’s almost assumed that “of course you’re qualified to be doing what you’re doing –- otherwise, why would you be doing it?” It’s a naïve, trusting perspective, swayed by persuasive and slick sales techniques. “This will help catapult you forward in your life!” this class promises. Only the sweet teacher has just gotten back from a weekend class and has no idea what she’s doing. She hasn’t integrated any information – she’s only just learned it. I’m sure doctors are excited after witnessing their first operation, but they sure as heck aren’t going to hang out their shingle after that to do their own operations on people! Why would we expect anything less from the alternative, New Age community?
I had a talk with a licensed massage therapist a few months ago. She was upset that so many alternative healing modalities are unregulated and unlegislated. I don’t know if she was expecting a fight from me, but I think I surprised her by agreeing with her. Yes, there are many credible, dedicated, hardworking and talented workers here in the area, but there are probably far more “fly-by-night” workers (as she called them), who are potentially harmful to the public AND to the other practitioners’ good names. I have personally heard horror stories of other psychics who have been so destructive they have been banned.
One person’s poor ethics and amateur professionalism gives everybody a bad name, and it should not be tolerated. But it HAS to be tolerated if there are no parameters or guidelines for the general public, so I humbly offer you some questions to consider for yourself, and other questions to ask anybody you are thinking of going to for any class, workshop or training.
Questions to ask yourself: how did I hear about this person, how valid is someone’s referral (is this person a friend of the referring person, do they work together), why am I drawn to this person, what do I hope to gain from this encounter (if you’re promised the sun, the moon and the stars you’d better put your sneakers on because you should start running), what is attracting me about their sales pitch (brochure, advertisement, commercial, flyer).
Questions to ask the practitioner: where do you receive your training? When did you receive your training? How many hours was your training? How long have you been in practice? How many hours have you actively worked in your field? How many classes/attendees have you had? Research the modality or the particular teacher if at all possible. Google and Bing are wonderful things. One workshop I attended turned out to be a stolen offshoot of a viable meditation group! Had I researched a little beforehand I might’ve found that out before I’d invested the $1000.
As I was speaking to someone in the general public, I mentioned some of these things to her. She was shocked. She had never thought of any of these things. She didn’t know, just as I hadn’t known when I was just starting out. We assume, and I won’t say that pithy little quote that defines “assume” but I assure you, there ARE asses involved in the whole process!
Do people mean to be misleading and misrepresentative? Not necessarily. If it’s a question of a weekend course, they may really believe they’re getting quality training, and have been misled by THAT instructor. I’ve heard several practitioners tell me they don’t need training because they’re just naturally able to teach these courses. I understand that, of course I do. I believe we’re all natural healers and teachers. We all know these incredible things that we can (and want to) share with the rest of the world. That’s just fine. But then, TELL EVERYBODY THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE DOING. Be honest and tell them you have no formal training and you’re simply teaching what comes naturally to you: full disclosure, so others can make an informed decision as to whether or not that kind of training resonates with them.
I’ve also heard practitioners explain to me that while they attended a class, say, in tai chi, they now are leading the classes for others because this information is too valuable to keep to themselves and the rest of the world DESERVES to get it.
Yes, I understand that concept, too. Someone once told me they loved my meditations CDs so much they burned 20 copies for all of their friends. I quietly told them they just stole $400 from me. They looked confused. They had just wanted to share my meditations with the rest of the world. Isn’t that what I wanted? Yes, but this work originated from me, I paid the $5000 to produce the CDs, so when you take my meditations as my own and speak them in YOUR classes (as I’ve also heard of people doing), you are stealing from me. If you burn my CDs and give them away, you are stealing from me. Now, on the other hand, if you ASK my permission, we’ll see what happens. That’s another part of ethics. NEVER steal someone else’s material. Never ever ever ever. Bad bad all around. Bad juju, bad karma, bad feelings.
If you teach tai chi without being a certified tai chi instructor, you are stealing from Justin Stone (the originator of tai chi chih) and bastardizing the discipline, watering it down, changing it. If you tell everyone you lead tai chi classes, chances are that nobody will think to ask if you’re qualified or certified to teach . It’s just a given. . Or is it? You don’t know unless you ask. We tend to ASSUME everyone’s ethical. Sadly, that is not always the case.
Some other warning signs that someone might not be adequately qualified to do what they’re doing is the fact that they keep switching offerings, or offer several different things. Now, granted, I offer several different services, but have been in practice for 20 years, and all services are related to healing and intuition. If someone offers say psychic readings, astrology charts, past life regressions, feng shui clearings, acupressure, aromatherapy AND dream interpretation, I can almost guarantee you they are jacks-of-all-trades, master of NONE.
Another warning sign is if someone is offering psychic readings this month, space clearing next month, and palm reading the next month, they are jumpers. They chase after each new shiny thing, get excited, teach it and attract a few clients, then when they’ve exhausted their little bit of knowledge, abandon the work and move on to the next shiny thing. I’ve seen that over and over and over again. I watch the practitioners come and go, while the steady, solid ones just stay, doing their Work, day in and day out, getting more knowledgeable in their craft.
See if that resonates with you. Do you want someone who practices what they preach? Do you want someone who’s been down in the trenches, has a wealth of experience and expertise to offer you? Do you want someone who’s done a lot of past life regressions so they can confidently guide you through those precarious steps? An ill-trained (or no trained) person can do some serious damage to you if they don’t know what they’re doing.
Be warned: it seems to be the new practitioners who are the most excited, who market themselves the most aggressively, offer the shiniest and best promises to you. The seasoned professionals are calmer, mellower. They rely a lot on word-of-mouth because they have the reputation. They don’t have the time to be running around telling everyone how wonderful they are because they’re busy actually DOING their Work. Enthusiasm is great, but it’s no substitute for quality work.
We are all doing the best that we can. We are all operating out of what we think is right and good. I understand this. I also love humanity. I love us sweet humans. We’re just so… sweet. But this current question of ethics is up bigtime in the whole state of North Dakota and around the world. It is something we need to think about for ourselves and for the people we pay to help us. It IS a personal thing, but it is also a public thing. We are accountable for our actions and for how we present ourselves to the world.
As a holistic practitioner, I am willing to do the hard work of standing up and saying that my field is not the paragon of virtue and ethics that I would hope and pray it would be, so I am willing to say the difficult words that may lead us more into the daylight and out of the darkness of assumptions and empty promises. I don’t like it in the rest of my life, and I certainly won’t abide it in my own community.
If any of you holistic practitioners are reading this, and any of it has angered you, you may want to look deep inside your life and see if anything I have written pertains to you. If any general readers are angered by any of my words, again realize I am owning my viewpoint. This is just my opinion, based on years of practice in the field, observations by myself and stories from others. It certainly isn’t black and white – it’s all shades of gray and purple and yellow and orange and fuschia.
But I think it’s important to start a discussion about it, start some thinking going, start asking the real questions, and expect some real answers. You have a right to know what our training is, you have a right to know what qualifies us to do what we’re doing. If we don’t have the certificates hanging up on the wall, maybe it’s time for the public to start demanding it.
Again, if there’s no certificate to be had, then be honest and upfront about it. Full disclosure. If you aren’t willing to vouch for your credibility, then why should anyone trust you? Hopefully this is a good start on the road to more honorable ethics.
- Members only features
- Members can email articles, add articles as favorites, add tags to articles and more. Register now to unlock additional features.