Back to work tips for counsellors and therapists returning after Covid-19

Anxiety specialist Susie Lawrence, whose runs a series of therapy clinics in the UK, shares her tips for a safe return to work – steered by health and safety regulations and the Covid-19 rules applied by the Government – for when it’s appropriate to do so in Scotland

Anxiety specialist Susie Lawrence
  • Do a risk assessment to understand what is required of you and how you can adapt your practice to protect the client and yourself. You can download a ‘Risk Assessment’ form on the government site.
  • Communication with your client prior to arriving is essential. They need to understand what their role will be and what provisions you have made to maintain a safe environment. This would be better sent as an e-mail rather than discussing it on the telephone.
  • You should have a contract signed before the client arrives (usually done by e-mail or can be via posting). This needs to include your cancellation policy in terms of a client having a temperature, cough or other symptoms of Covid-19 that will prevent you from treating them on the appointment day until it is safe to do so. You need to decide if you will charge for this missed session or if it will roll over until they are well and virus free.
  • Payment for your services would be better by bank transfer or a PayPal type of transaction to prevent touching notes and coins. Card payment can be useful but remember to sanitise your machine after use.
  • Ask the client to bring and use their own sanitiser before opening the door and entering the building. Alternatively, if you can purchase a hand sanitising dispenser and attach to a wall outside of the building.
  • You may have hand washing facilities and would like the client to wash their hands thoroughly too. There are some automatic hand washing soap dispensers that you can attach to the wall to release soap to prevent contamination, but you need to have disposable towels in a pedal bin to dispose of them. If you are only seeing a couple of clients per day, you can use separate hand towels, but they will need to be placed in a bag after use and boil-washed afterwards. Please wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after touching towels, bags, rail, surfaces and the area where the bag is placed. You will be preventing cross contamination of any of the virus.
  • The toilet- you may ask your client to ensure they have used the bathroom before arriving as yours isn’t available at this present time or I’m afraid it is a deep clean and sanitise between each client.
  • Appointments need to be scheduled so you have time between clients to clean. It would be sensible not to have people waiting in the waiting room as again, this will need cleaning. From a confidentiality point, you are more likely after lockdown to have more local people visit you for help and it’s always easier if you leave time between clients to prevent an overlap and people knowing one another. Some therapists may not have an issue with this and its entirely up to them how they run their business.
  • One of my peer group had been informed by their regulatory body (massage therapy) to ask clients to remove their footwear, but I think this may be controversial personally. If you want to go to great lengths, it would be best to consult your governing body and see what they advise.
  • Masks- if a client wants me to wear a mask then I will but I have to admit I find it hard to communicate and hear what people are saying with them on. There have been a few home-made masks with a transparent piece showing the mouth which may be handy if you find it difficult to hear like myself. Some therapists may want to wear a visor and again, its your choice but please inform the client prior to their arrival.
  • Therapy room- everywhere needs to be cleaned with alcohol solution. You may wish to use a paper roll to pop on the client’s chair but remember to dispose of it safely and cleaning the chair afterwards. If you use headphones, you can buy covers for over the ears, but you will still need to sanitise them after the client has left your room. Anything at all the client touches in any way needs to be sanitised once they leave the building.
  • Always maintain social distancing.
  • For ventilation you may open a window or have the door ajar.
  • There are room sanitisers that you can use which report they kill ‘all viruses and bacteria’ in fifteen minutes you can also be used between clients. Obviously, this will be an added expense and you must take into consideration if the client has any allergies, asthma or other breathing issues before considering this option.
  • After your client has gone, you need to thoroughly sanitise your room, wash door handle, furniture, chair, anything they have touched etc.
  • Protect yourself and wash your hands thoroughly. Stay safe!
  • Consult your governing body and insurance company for guidance.

Susie, who is one of the UK’s leading anxiety specialists, runs Piece of Minds consultancy and has co-written an anxiety workbook for fellow counsellors and therapists to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week.

Please note this advice will not apply or be suitable for all therapists and depends on the nature of the business.

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Lynda Hamilton Parker is a Scottish PR expert and independent publisher

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