By its very nature, the work you do as a therapist or complementary practitioner with your clients is personal. Occasionally, what is a kind gesture or comment from you, could get misconstrued and potentially lead to complications.
The vast majority of clients you work with will be respectful of the therapeutic relationship. There is however a very slim chance, someone may not be. I don’t want to frighten you, but especially if you are working alone, you need to be aware of ways to maximise your safety.
Your home address
If you work from somewhere other than your home, use your practice address on all correspondence and marketing. If this is not an option, you could use a PO Box number which you can get easily from the Post Office (in the UK). This way, your home address is kept private and will provide you with a layer of anonymity.
Working from home
Try and separate your working area from the rest of your house. This will help you to separate your life from work, but also keep your personal living space private.
If you intend working from home on a regular basis, you could consider getting an alarm or CCTV camera fitted. There are a number of options available, contact your local crime prevention officer for guidance or the Metropolitan Police website.
If you work on your own or are doing house calls, make sure you tell someone you have clients, and let them know when you are done.
When working in any room, always position yourself nearest to the door and never put your client between you and the door. This will stop you from being blocked from exiting the room if you wish to.
Have a ‘need assistance’ text that you can send someone if you feel you need help. This can also be done by phone with a code word or sentence which raises the alarm.
My husband has worked as an estate agent for many years and he uses this technique for his staff who are out at different houses. They will call the office with a “please can you pick up the dog from the vets” or something which sounds ‘normal’ or ‘reasonable’ to the person listening in, but to their colleagues, they know something is wrong.
If you’re out on a call, it is a great idea to put a tracker on your phone so someone can access your location if necessary. My friend did this with her teenager but it would work just as well as a safety measure.
If you are working from an office building or similar, only see clients during hours when there are others around. If you don’t have a choice about this, make sure you follow the advice of checking in with someone and keep your safety a priority.
Keep a personal alarm close, even no one is in earshot will be a great deterrent for someone not behaving appropriately.
Trust your instinct
If you feel unsure or unhappy with someone, or a situation, trust your instinct, it is trying to tell you something. You have the right to say no to working with someone, or to end a session if you feel that there is a potential problem.
All new clients are strangers until you get to know them, and build a professional relationship with them. Start your relationship with setting clear boundaries, so they know what is or isn’t acceptable. This will help you to maintain a professional relationship and avoid any grey areas in the long term.
Knowing you have taken steps to keep yourself safe will help you to relax with your clients, and be able do your best work.