We have put together a series of practical suggestions to support our members – particularly lone workers – in keeping themselves safe.

The suggestions, which are published below, are part of a number of steps we are taking to encourage members to consider their own safety and the implications of lone working.

Working with the personal safety charity the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, we surveyed 694 members about their experience of violence and aggression in the workplace.

105 respondents (15 per cent) admitted experiencing violence and/or aggression while practising, above the national average.

79 per cent of respondents stated they worked alone, either from home or another location, and 63 per cent reported incidents of verbal abuse, and other behaviours included threats, sexual harassment and stalking. 15 per cent said they had experienced stalking

Some 92 per cent of violent or aggressive incidents were carried out by clients or ex-clients, 22 per cent of respondents said they had not reported incidents, with some members unclear about the evidence required and some concerned about patient confidentiality.

Jo Langston, our Ethics Services Manager, said: “We recognised from the calls we received through our ethics hub that our members were at risk of abusive behaviours from clients.

“The concern is that members may not be aware of the risk or what to do in these situations and are struggling to cope with the impact on their own.

“We have taken a series of steps to support our members and to offer them practical suggestions.”

Jo added: “The message must be that no kind of violence or aggression is ever acceptable and must not be endured or perceived as part of the job.”

We have put together a key findings article to share the findings from the survey and to provide initial advice to support our members.

We are sharing the information listed below, which has been suggested by our Private Practice executive committee, and are producing a new resource which will offer more detailed guidance on assessing risk, safety planning and signpost to specialist services. This will be available in the ethics hub in September.

  • As far as possible, try to establish the genuineness of each new client before you agree to meet them. For example by taking their full address or asking them how they heard about you.
  • Be clear from the outset that the first session or two will be assessment sessions, before committing yourself to ongoing counselling sessions.
  • Be prepared to say ‘no’ to offering counselling if you feel overly uncomfortable, and don’t succumb to financial (or any other) pressure to take on every potential client.
  • Set up a system of phoning a colleague or friend to check-in and out at the beginning and end of every session.
  • Make sure someone else is in the building, especially for first appointments with a new client; for your own safety, and to make the client aware that you’re not alone.
  • Carry a personal alarm and/or mobile phone.
  • Think about where you are sitting, for example within reach of the door.
  • Avoid having personally identifiable material on display like family photos.
  • Be careful about disclosing personal information like local organisations you belong to, favourite restaurants, or regular activities; for example, “I walk my dog every morning before breakfast”.
  • Clearly establish the boundaries such as contact between sessions, contact with others in the client’s life, how/whether to acknowledge each other if you happen to meet elsewhere.
  • Be closely supervised, especially if you’re new to lone working.
  • Pay close attention to transference phenomena.
  • Be clear and unambiguous about endings.

If you need immediate support relating to any issues in this article, there is information available through the Suzy Lamplugh Trust website.

Members are also reminded of the Good Practice in Action clinical reflections resource Safe working in the context of the counselling professions.