When I was studying music therapy at university we didn't have direct instruction in Ethics of therapy. When accepting to become a registered Music Therapist back in the 80s I have a slight recall that the association had a list of ethics. All I remember was: don't have sex with your clients! Well that is a biiiiig help. Scared me to death (actually, that statement tells me that perhaps it really did scare me to death and has effected some related areas very much...hmmmm, soul loss perhaps?) There was no exploration of boundaries: what is mine, theirs, ours. How or what do I do when issues arise? Where do they come from? How do I deal with them as well as those who come to me? Many many questions.
Whilst in Tuva, as well as some other places not so remote, I have come across shamans, shamanic practioners, healers who I have labeled as ethical. They have not used their own Ego; they have not used power (macht, valta, võim) over their client/patient...for example. One time while in Düngür, back in 94 or 95, I was in a treatment room with Nadeszhda (shamanka) and one couple. The shamanka who was to treat the couple arrived late. She walked in, walked around to the other side of the desk, opposite of the couple and stated: You have an evil spirit (demon) behind you!" The couple's mouth dropped open. Fright, I suppose. She continued: It is behind you. It is big, dark, with horns. It will eat you up." She arose from the desk and walked out the door yelling at us that we take care of it and she was not doing it.
Examining this incident from several angles. Nadeshda is experienced Tuvan shamanka. I am accepted as Tuvan shamanka. Was this a test? Was this other lady-shaman just handing the ball over to us because she couldn't deal with the demon? Similar to me telling a patient for shamanic healing that he needs to visit the GP doctor because I "see" a lump or that he has unusually very very strong body odour and needs a specialist? That would be ethical to admit she couldn't deal with the demon. On the other hand, if it was a test, who is she to test us cause we had never heard nor seen her before-nor after. Or was it that she couldn't deal with it cause she didn't have Spirit to help her-and she saw Nadja there and thought-oops, big time shaman here-best get out of here and stop playing shaman?"
All these perspectives are from the healer's point of view. What about the patients? How does it feel to be told that you have a big, dark horned demon behind you and its gonna eat you up? Cultural context needs to be taken into account. In Tuva (won't address about the whole world) there are evil or malicious spirits (not gonna get into who, who who!). They are a part of everyday existence. They are in the Tuvan language, their folk stories, the shamanic algyshtar, the yellow religion---everywhere.
I asked them how they felt about the demon spirit. "Can you take it away?" is the question they ask. Who talks about feelings? Get the thing outta here!!! They are visibly upset. The woman says she is afraid. What is the orginal healers responsibility in announcing this? What was the point? A demonstration of her almighty power? A case of I want to scare the daylight out of people? Never will we know. Was her behaviour ethical by announcing this and leaving?
But the clean-up. Nadja and I dealt with the demon-spirit, did some work with the couple. Looks of relief on their faces. Gratefulness. I am interested in that gratefulness-only because it tells me that this other human being feels better, gotten better. Spirit does the work. The whole event made me think about integrity. About ethics of shamanic healers, energy healers, etc etc etc.
We like to think we have integrity, that we are ethical. How does one measure this-define it-identify it? Especially when one is working with others in a non-ordinary reality state. Creative Arts Therapists, body workers, massage, Reiki, breathworkers, the list goes on and on of who works with patients/clients in an altered state. It is not just the healer but also the patient/client who is in this state also. How do we all know when we are working with integrity, ethically? Self-examination, me thinks, is the key. A large, very large dose of truthfulness, of honesty...and throwing Ego out the window is a good start.
I totally, whole-heartedly recommend The Ethics of Caring by Kylea Taylor. In her book she deals with Us, those who work in non-ordinary states of consciousness. A side note: talk therapy is not non-ordinary. I attach a review of the book I did for my breathwork therapist training.
So I am writing my ethical standards - and do you know!? It is ridiculous that I write these. As though written text is going to change anything? If I lived in a small community which I had to truly rely on for my and their survival there would be no need for such texts. They would help keep me in line perhaps. Community. Always having to face self through the eyes of your neighbor. Geez have I got work to do! Having to live for my self and have integrity. Having to live with others and keep my integrity. Integrity and Pride are different bedfellows-definitely twin beds. Being too proud gets you into trouble. Can a person be too integral? Is there such a word?!
But if I write them out, others can then measure me and what I do, say---in my work. Perhaps they ought to be My Life's Ethical Standards. Why just work which for me is my life? Play ethics also?
Sex ethics? We all have them-just maybe not so clear and Out There for others to read.
Below is The Society of Shamanic Practioner's ethics...principles of integrity. Pretty good start.
PRINCIPLES OF INTEGRITY
To help individual practitioners be effective in service and healing in the world, and to help shift global consciousness, the Society of Shamanic Practitioners believes the following pledges represent the core principles of integrity in this pursuit:
1. I pledge to work in sacred alliance with Spirit, and to be informed and guided by that Source, and not my own ego, in offering service to others.
2. I pledge to recognize the wholeness inherent in every person or group or circumstance that comes for healing and to honor whatever form in which its pain is presented to me.
3. I pledge to be mindful of speech, thought, and action and their impact on building relationships both in the present and through time into future and past.
4. I pledge to be respectful of others, even in their differences.
5. I pledge to work with compassion and non-judgment.
6. I pledge to do no harm and to avoid any sexual misconduct in my work with clients.
7. I pledge to maintain clients’ privacy.
8. I pledge to be honest with clients and other practitioners, and to be truthful in the manner in which I present myself in public relations and advertising.
9. I pledge to offer fair and appropriate fees.