Safeguarding in your Therapy Private Practice


Is this an area you feel competent and confident in?

Do you often feel out of your depth and confused about legislation and law?

Maybe you aren’t sure about when you might or might not break client confidentiality?

Psychotherapists and Counsellors and Counsellors working in private practice have a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of their clients. Safeguarding refers to the measures taken to protect individuals, particularly vulnerable adults and children from harm, abuse or exploitation. In the context of psychotherapy, safeguarding is crucial in maintaining ethical practice, promoting the dignity and rights of clients’ and preventing any form of harm.

There are several reasons why Psychotherapists and Counsellors need to understand how to safeguard their clients when working in private practice in the UK:

  • Ethical responsibility: Psychotherapists and Counsellors have an ethical duty to ensure that their clients are safe and not exposed to harm. This includes protecting clients from harm caused by themselves or others, as well as ensuring confidentiality and informed consent.
  • Protection from exploitation: Clients may be vulnerable due to their mental health issues, and therefore may be at risk of being exploited or abused. Psychotherapists and Counsellors need to be aware of the signs of exploitation and take steps to protect their clients from it.
  • Risk assessment: Psychotherapists and Counsellors need to assess the risks that their clients may be exposed to, particularly if they have a history of self-harm or suicidal thoughts. Appropriate measures need to be taken to ensure that the clients are protected from harm.
  • Continuing professional development: Psychotherapists and Counsellors need to keep up-to-date with the latest safeguarding policies and procedures, as well as attend regular training to enhance their knowledge and skills.


Legal requirements: In England, Psychotherapists and Counsellors in private practice are not required by law to report suspicions of child abuse, neglect or harm to vulnerable adults. However, there is always an ethical duty of care to consider the risks and take safeguarding steps where needed.  This is a complex area of therapy work and those in private practice can feel particularly on their own and confused about what is expected of them. Elsewhere, in the UK there are legal mandates in place and each person must be aware of their local law. This is also true if you work for certain statutory services such as the NHS.

Many practitioners did not get robust training in this area during their core training and do feel overly confident in how to manage safeguarding matters, especially if they trained to work with adults. Usually, training is more comprehensive when working with children and young people.

While delivering training in safeguarding, I often get asked about what steps to take in various situations and often there is no one answer. Always consult with your supervisor before making any safeguarding decisions unless someone’s life is at immediate risk then you always have your 999 emergency services available.

While not in place of high-quality training and support, I have included a flow chart to help those working 1:1 with adults in private practice in England understand what to do if they have a concern about a client.

Specialist safeguarding supervision and consultancy is also available – please email me at [email protected]

If anyone is wanting a comprehensive training which covers the above, plus working with Domestic Abuse and much more, please click the button below to see the latest event hosted by The Link Centre and register there for our upcoming June/July 2 day safeguarding workshop.