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Scope of practice - An important concept in clinical practice
Practitioners should understand and abide by their scope of practice, to ensure they provide safe and effective care to their clients and abide by any regulations set by relevant regulatory bodies.
Scope of practice describes the specific skills, training, knowledge, responsibilities, and services that a practitioner is authorised to perform in keeping with the terms of their profession. It is the boundaries within which a practitioner can work safely and competently. It is essential for practitioners to understand and abide by their scope of practice to provide safe and effective care for their clients.
Typically, scope of practice is considered to have three components:
1. Professional scope of practice is grounded in the unique body of knowledge of a profession, supported by education and training, based on a body of evidence, and linked to existing or emerging practice frameworks.
2. Jurisdictional (legal) scope of practice is established by the code of ethics of the practitioner’s association or peak body, and/or a federal or state act governing the therapist’s license to practice, and the rules adopted pursuant to that act. Practitioner licensing and oversight varies from country to country.
3. Personal scope of practice consists of activities for which an individual therapist is educated and trained, and that he or she is competent to perform.
When considering professional scope of practice, the practitioner’s education and training equips them for working with specific conditions. However, when it comes to psychological, spiritual, and energetic dis-ease, the line is not always as clear as it appears to be with physiological ailments.
Professional licensing and accreditation boards, such as those covering psychologists and marriage and family therapists, attempt to make clear distinctions regarding scope by focusing on mental health disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM). Coaches, healers, and even psychotherapists are not licensed to treat recognised mental health disorders – and may not claim to do so – but are permitted to treat certain symptoms attributed to such disorders. Coaches, healers and therapists may provide ‘alternative’ or complementary services, focused on empowering the client to develop and achieve their goals, but are not allowed to diagnose conditions, prescribe treatments, or provide psychological therapeutic interventions. They can however, guide clients to use insight; access and mobilise personal strengths and resources; and develop self-management strategies to make changes according to their self-determined goals.
The professional scope of practice for complementary health providers in Australia – such as Reiki practitioners and kinesiologists – may not be regulated by the same professional bodies as allied health practitioners. Instead, alternative health providers may be governed by different regulatory bodies or may not be regulated at all.
Formal education and training are important components of a practitioner’s professional scope of practice – for example, a Reiki healer would be expected to have completed a course of study in Reiki and to have a good understanding of the principles and techniques of energy healing.
Examples of skillsets needed for holistic and complementary services
Following are some examples of the skillsets needed to provide different holistic and complementary services, notwithstanding registration/license requirements:
1. A practitioner who offers inner child healing. This type of practitioner may be a therapist or counsellor, who specialises in helping clients heal from childhood traumas and emotional wounds.
Their scope of practice may include techniques such as talk therapy, guided imagery and journalling to help clients access and process their emotions. The practitioner would be required to have studied the psychological and emotional development of children and have experience working with trauma. A trauma-qualified certification in trauma healing and resolution would meet this requirement.
2. A practitioner who offers past life regression hypnosis. This type of practitioner may be a hypnotherapist or counsellor, who specialises in helping clients explore their past lives.
Their scope of practice may include techniques such as hypnosis and guided imagery to help clients gain insight into their current issues by accessing their past lives. They would be expected to be qualified in the principles of hypnosis and have specifically studied past life regression therapy. An awareness of acute trauma presentations would be a minimum requirement to support extreme emotional distress; education in trauma-informed principles would provide a safe container for their client.
3. A practitioner who offers Reiki healing. This type of practitioner must be qualified in Reiki and may also be a healer, massage therapist, or somatic therapist who uses Reiki healing techniques, which may facilitate various health conditions.
4. A practitioner who offers kinesiology. This type of practitioner may be a qualified kinesiologist who uses muscle testing and other techniques to assess and correct imbalances in the body’s energy systems to help with various health conditions or energetic blocks connected to experiences in different lifetimes/timelines.
Because these types of skillsets are not necessarily associated with regulated professions, it is important for practitioners to communicate clearly with clients about their services (what to expect) and the limits of their practice (what they can/cannot do), as well as any limitations of the services they offer (alternative treatments).
Expanding the definition of Scope of Practice
When considering personal scope of practice, thinking about expanding the definition of scope to include ‘capacity’ provides more safety for practitioner and client, as well as better treatment outcomes. A practitioner who has personally healed from a specific emotional wound may be particularly well-suited to facilitate others struggling with similar issues. Or someone who has spent years working with a certain population or condition may have a depth of knowledge not reflected in their formal education and training. Conversely, a practitioner who has completed formal training, but has no personal experience and limited casework experience of how it feels to struggle with a particular condition or emotional concern may be found lacking by a client.
Nonetheless, it is important to note that just because a practitioner has personally experienced and healed from a wound, it does not mean they are equipped to help others with the same wound. Healing is a complex and personal process, and the methods and techniques that worked for one person may not work for another. Healing is not a one-size-fits-all process, and it should be expected that different clients respond differently to different techniques. Healing isn’t linear and can be triggered by different events and emotions, so it’s important for practitioners to be aware of their own limitations and open to learning new techniques. The practitioner may not be fully aware of the underlying issues and dynamics that contributed to their own healing and may not be able to replicate the same process with their clients using their existing skillset.
Whilst life experience and particular interest in a certain field are valuable, official qualifications, education and training are required. Continual education will also increase the practitioner’s scope of practice and improve their competence and ability to provide effective care for their clients. Practitioners are encouraged to stay up to date with their latest industry standards and requirements.
Look for professionally recognised Training Providers
IICT provides a range of Training Providers, with over 1,100 modalities to help with continued education and training. IICT ensures that courses provided by IICT-approved Training Providers meet the current professional industry standards.
IICT is a professional industry body that also provides membership, access to insurance, resources, tools, and support to grow your complementary therapy practice. Visit www.myiict.com to learn more about becoming a member and receiving professional industry support and credibility, no matter where you are on your journey.
Scope of practice for complementary therapy practitioners is a complex and multi-faceted concept that encompasses:
- Formal education and training plays a crucial role in determining the scope of practice for alternative wellness providers.
- Practitioners need to have the necessary clinical skills and experience for working with clients and be familiar with the various techniques and approaches used in their field.
- The legal limitations and responsibilities can vary depending on the location and jurisdiction. It's essential to be familiar with the laws and regulations that govern your practice, as well as any relevant code of conduct that may apply.
- Continued education and training will also increase the practitioner’s scope of practice and improve their competence and ability to provide effective care for their clients. Practitioners are encouraged to stay up to date with their latest industry standards and requirements.
- A practitioner’s life experience, whether related to their field of practice or not, can provide valuable insights and understanding that can assist in providing effective care to their clients. However, it does not qualify them to help others with the same wound. It's important for practitioners to be aware of their own limitations and refer clients to other practitioners when necessary.
- It is important for practitioners to be aware of their emotional capacity and to manage their emotional wellbeing. Practitioners should have a good understanding of their own boundaries and be able to manage the therapeutic relationship in a professional and ethical way.
Practitioners should understand and abide by their scope of practice, to ensure they provide safe and effective care to their clients and abide by any regulations set by relevant regulatory bodies, if any. Providers should communicate clearly with their clients about the services they offer and always refer clients to other practitioners when necessary.
Knowledge and experience can provide a practitioner with valuable insights and understanding that can help them provide effective care to their clients, in addition to their education and training. Practitioners should always strive to expand their knowledge and skills through continuing education and professional development and be aware of their own limitations and refer clients to other practitioners when necessary. Additionally, they should be transparent with their clients about their qualifications, experience, and knowledge and how they may apply to the services they are providing.
Article written by: Raquel Dubois
About the Author:
Raquel Dubois is the creator of Expansion Oracle cards, an evolution in nervous system healing. A qualified mental health practitioner, bodyworker, and energy healer, Raquel's approach is Polyvagal-informed, attachment focused, and thoroughly embedded in somatic psychology. Her professional passion is translating complex psycho-biological concepts into simple concepts and designing practices for holistic practitioners to use with their clients, safely guiding them to embodiment and fulfilment of their potential.