Is the client dangerous to you?

Therapists are as vulnerable to becoming victims of violence as others are. Nearly half of all the psychotherapists included in a recent study had been harassed, threatened, or physically attacked during their careers. They cited such violent client behaviors as verbal threats, destruction of the contents of their office, physical attacks on the therapist or on their loved ones, threats against their loved ones, and destruction of their homes.

There are many measures you can systematically and routinely take that can significantly limit your vulnerability to violence. Consider each of the following recommendations and implement some of them before trouble strikes:

  • Refuse to disclose personal data to clients.

  • Have emergency telephone numbers readily available.

  • Develop a contingency plan for summoning help of associates in your building.

  • Do not list your home address in the phone book.

  • Locate your office in a “safe” building. Important safety measures include an alarm system and/or a security guard.

  • Avoid seeing clients when you are likely to be alone in the building.

  • Clearly specify intolerable behavior.

  • Sit near the door.

  • Obtain training in management of assaultive behaviors and in self-defense.

  • Develop a contingency plan for family members if a client appears at your home.

If ever you are threatened by a client:

  • Leave your office door open.

  • Seek immediate support of others in your office or building.

  • Excuse yourself (coffee or bathroom) and call 911.

  • Seriously determine whether or not you should terminate the client.

NOTE: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by is accurate and up-to-date, however, it is important to remember that laws vary from state to state and local legislation can add further variations. We strongly urge you to stay current with your state and local laws.