16 Tips for a Safe Therapy Office: COVID edition

May 14, 2020

Whether you're considering returning to the office, have already been, or will reconsider having an office full-time, we can all agree that seeing clients face to face will be different for the foreseeable future.

Consideration for safety will be extremely important while we continue to provide care for our clients.

Keep in mind: this is not a comprehensive list, does not guarantee safety, and the only known way to eliminate risk 100% is to stay home. For more information about safety in the workplace, check out the CDC’s guidelines here. Not every suggestion will be practical or appropriate for every situation, your discretion towards safety can help slow the spread while our cities and towns open back up. **For brainstorming only, none of the information in this list should be considered medical or expert advice**

Here are 16 tips to reduce the risk when returning to your therapy office.

  1. Cancellation fees:  Reconsider cancellation fees. Whether this means not enforcing them for the time being or something else, you don’t want to incentivize clients to come in if they are sick because they’ll incur a financial penalty.
  1. Teletherapy: Maintain some degree of an online practice, especially for vulnerable populations - even if you decide to go to the office, teletherapy sessions may continue to be prudent for the foreseeable future.
              - If you are in need of free HIPAA compliant Zoom Healthcare for teletherapy during the transition back to the office, drop your email here.
  1. Hand Washing: Wash hands as soon as soon as you get to the office and encourage your clients to the same. Even if you washed before you left the house, there are many points of contact between home and the office, steering wheels, door nobs, elevator buttons, etc.  
  1. Waiting room: Have your clients wait outdoors or in their car until appointment time - limit or close your waiting room for now. You can call them when it’s time to come in.
  1. Tissues: Have a box of tissues or wipes and a garbage can on each side, use them to open any door so no hands are touching doorknobs.  Same for faucets (although, limiting access to the bathroom by your clients would be preferred.)  
  1. Contact: No physical contact, handshakes and hugs are cancelled until further notice.
  1. Distance: Maintain 6 feet of distance at all times. Make sure the distance between your chair and where your clients will sit is enough.
  1. Thermometer: Consider temperature checks at the beginning of each session, especially if client exhibits symptoms.  Of course this is something that may not be appropriate for your clients or practice, discretion is strongly advised and ethical considerations need to be known.
  1. Informed consent:  Have clients sign that they are aware that the extra precautions you’ve taken make no claim to risk and they assume liability if they were to become sick.
              - The APA has an article that goes into further detail here.  You can also download an Informed Consent template here.

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  1. Hand Sanitizer: Client and therapist both use hand sanitizer upon entering the office.  

           - Touchland has upped the hand sanitizer game by offering scents like citrus, mint & watermelon.  

  1. Pens: Buy a pack of pens that the client can keep or dispose of after the session.  
  1. Face shields: So much communication is lost with full face masks, a face shield is an option that offers protection without limiting communication and expression.

           - Michael's has a DIY pattern here or you can purchase a pack of 10 here.

  1. Furniture covering: Consider having a disposable covering on any furniture that is used by clients.  Again, this might not be ideal or appropriate in every situation but might help minimize surface contact.

           - You can find them here

  1. Barrier: You may need to get creative here, but using some type of non porous, clear barrier between you nad the client may offer more protection.  Think clear vinyl or acrylic.

           - You can purchase industrial ones here and here although they’re pretty pricey.

  1. Credit Cards: keep a credit card on file so no transfer of money or physical card is exchanged.
  1. Clorox Wipes: Wipe down any door handles, faucets or any other surface touched by you or the client.

We all hope that these extra precautions are temporary.  If you have any other ideas, please let us know so we can add to the list.

Be well.


Meet the author

Kristen Jackson

Kristen Jackson is the founder of rēcenter. She believes mental health is the corner stone of overall health and is working to increase the visibility and success of therapists in private practice.

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