How to set up a safe and secure therapy office
Reviewed by Susan Radzilowski, MSW, LMSW, ACSW
Written bytherapist.com team
Last updated: 11/13/2023
The space where you provide therapy is one of the most important aspects of your practice. A secure, comfortable environment can help your clients feel safer sharing their thoughts and emotions—and help you provide the best possible care.
Being a therapist can be emotionally challenging and demanding, and a physical environment that helps you control your sessions protects everyone’s safety. These tips can help you create a supportive and secure care setting.
Prioritize privacy and confidentiality
Ensure the space offers enough privacy for uninterrupted sessions. Consider factors like soundproofing, distance between neighboring offices, and wall thickness.
Establish a separate entrance and waiting area. This minimizes the chances of clients running into each other or overhearing sensitive information when you’re in a session.
Secure the space. Make sure your space has controlled access and security features like door locks, an alarm system, or video surveillance.
Secure all confidential information. Always lock up client information using securable filing cabinets, encryption, password protection, and/or HIPAA-compliant secure cloud storage.
Be mindful of layout
Position seating strategically. Avoid setting up furniture in ways that create a sense of power imbalance, such as blocking the exit with your seat or sitting in a higher chair than your clients. In addition, make sure that your seating doesn’t leave you cornered in the rare chance that a client becomes aggressive or an intruder enters your office space.
Consider furniture weight and size. Lighter chairs, for example, can be moved and adjusted easily according to client preferences. Heavier furniture, on the other hand, may be safer with clients who have a history of physical aggression. Also keep in mind that clients of all sizes should have access to seating where they feel comfortable.
Ensure the client can see the door from their seat to help them feel secure.1
Place a small table next to the client’s seating area so they can put down belongings like keys or bags.
Avoid glass tabletops and sharp corners, especially if you work with children.
Keep things professional
Display your credentials and certifications somewhere easy to see. This can help reassure clients that they’re receiving quality care.2
Avoid clutter. Store office supplies and other distracting items out of sight.
Place tissue boxes in strategic locations for clients to use during difficult moments. Having them within reach shows you care about clients’ well-being.
Have a visible clock. Placing it behind the client’s seat means you won’t have to shift your gaze frequently to check the time.
Create a calm atmosphere
Choose neutral and comfortable furniture. Opt for ergonomically designed, supportive seating. Chairs with a shoulder-height back may help people feel protected.3
Take inspiration from nature. Natural elements like plants and hardwood floors can bring pleasing color, texture, and a sense of calm to the room.
Add soft elements. Soft rugs, cushions, and blankets can convey peace and relaxation.
Pick welcoming colors. Neutral colors, in particular, are less distracting and can help clients feel at ease.
Take safety precautions
Have a first aid kit readily available. A well-stocked kit can be useful in case of accidents. Make sure it’s easy to find and up to date.
Ensure all exits are accessible and well marked. Keep them free from obstructions and have signs that are easy to see in case of an emergency.
Remove anything that could be used as a weapon. Make sure items like letter openers or scissors are put away or out of reach.
Secure your technology
If you’re a teletherapy provider or use a computer for recordkeeping, here’s how to make your online system more secure.
Use a secure Wi-Fi network. This means making sure your router is set up with a strong password and encryption protocols like WPA2 or WPA3.
Use a reliable videoconferencing platform. Choose a platform that’s HIPAA-compliant and offers encryption to protect client data.
Set strong, unique passwords for all devices and accounts. Update these passwords regularly, and consider using a password manager to help you keep track of them.
Encrypt sensitive data when storing it on your devices or transferring it over the internet. This adds an additional layer of security in case an unauthorized party gains access.
Conduct regular backups of your data, either on external hard drives or secure cloud storage. In the event of a device failure or data breach, you’ll have access to your backed-up records.
Update software and devices regularly to make sure you’re using the latest security features.
Use a dedicated work device for teletherapy sessions to minimize the risk of accidental data sharing.
Keep these tips in mind as you design or update your office, and you’ll be on your way to creating a safe, professional, and welcoming environment for your clients.
About the author
The editorial team at therapist.com works with the world’s leading clinical experts to bring you accessible, insightful information about mental health topics and trends.
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