Resources for Practitioners


Safe Practice Risk Management: Best Practices with Client Mental Health Issues

By Mary Ann Mace

You are in the business of helping people, and likely, it is your motivating factor as an energy practitioner. As a healer, you might feel the administrative aspects of your practice a bit of a nuisance and steal precious time away from clients. Take the client intake form for example. The reasons for maintaining a client paper trail go beyond documenting the practitioner-client relationship and scope of services, documentation offers several risk management purposes. Understanding your client goes beyond the physical, it also extends to the mental and emotional aspects of knowing your clients. For that reason, you want to make sure that you capture personal mental health history when bringing on new clients. There are certain liability issues connected with mental health, and you want to avoid exposure to them. One way in which to decrease risk exposure is through sufficient documentation.

Your Client Intake Form

If you do not have a specific document for this, you can use the sample provided by Energy Medicine Professional Association and adjust it to your practice. If you have been using a form, is it comprehensive? Does it include questions geared to a client’s mental health? Typically, health related questions, including mental health, appear under the heading “Relevant Health History” and are worded in the following ways:

1. Mental health issues or diagnoses

2. Mental/emotional traumas (condition/date/ year)

3. To what do you attribute your current situation, symptoms or health or mental health issue?

You should add any additional relevant questions such as whether the person is taking medication for a diagnosed mental health condition. After you’ve had a chance to review the client’s intake form, if they have a history of mental health issues, you might want to consider requesting the name of the client’s psychologist or therapist, provided the client is comfortable with this. In instances where you would like more background information about a client’s mental health history, you might want to speak with the treating psychologist. There could be some information that the client considers embarrassing and is too self-conscious to describe. For example, maybe the individual has personal preferences about being touched that, while not out of place, could cause the client to feel overly self-conscious when discussing it. For emotionally sensitive individuals, you want to ensure a stress free and safe environment where they feel secure. Often, your role is to help them through a difficult time and ease their concerns through restorative energy medicine treatments.

People who have challenges with emotional stability could also have behavioral issues ranging in severity from mild to severe. This is where mental health questions as part of your client intake become invaluable; so always check this section of the form for omissions. If a new client leaves the section blank, don’t ignore it by assuming there aren’t any issues. While it might be a little awkward for you, ask the client about his or her mental health just in case. As you know, body language can tell you a lot about how the client feels about this topic, so when discussing the matter, observe your client’s behavior and replies.

It’s likely a proportion of clients with mental health issues would not be disruptive. For instance, a person could have some challenges with physical contact, which can be challenging for an energy medicine practitioner. However, the rapport you create with a client helps a person’s healing process and may offer results that are better than any prescribed medication. In many cases, a compassionate demeanor and safe environment is sufficiently healing.

Yet, it is important to exercise caution when assessing a client’s mental state. You want to look for any indications of an individual’s emotional and physical boundaries. Individuals who manifest as internally chaotic could very well have distorted boundary issues. In these cases, the limits which you try to set on the relationship might not be accepted by the client and demands are placed on you for special treatment. Additionally, a person with boundary issues could be overly sensitive to physical contact. So, you would want to exercise caution around this type of individual.
There are some additional actions that you can consider as part of your risk management efforts to protect yourself, clients, and your practice. If you suspect a client is not suitable for your practice, consider the following actions:

  • ​Seek help in getting a referral from a mental health professional. An experienced mental health therapist can help identify signs of mental illness and judge whether or your work would be beneficial to the client.
  • ​Obtain a release from the client so you can speak with his/her doctor
  • ​Refuse to treat individual if you suspect an extreme issue exists especially when it is not within your scope of practice

In most cases, you would be able to manage clients in a firm and consistent manner which helps to keep the client at ease. Support like this creates an emotionally safe and trusting environment that complements your energy work.

The steps you take as part of a risk management component to your practice are just a couple of actions that protect you, your clients and business. Asking mental health questions on your intake form and having an action plan for problematic clients are pro-active measures to help minimize risk. Another positive step to managing liability for your practice is insurance. We are limited in second guessing the unknown, we can neither plan nor prepare for something unforeseen. Clients with mental illnesses may feel harmed and make invented claims even when a practitioner is ethical and careful. However, we can protect ourselves using liability insurance, which is in place for circumstances such as these.

A policy’s scope of coverage can include protection for professional, general, and personal liability. Keep in mind, not all policies are alike, so whether you’ve decided to review your current coverage or consider getting a new one, make sure the policy suits your needs. Insurance should be your “safety net” for those unanticipated and unexpected incidences that you never imagined. As it concerns an insurance policy, make sure you obtain your insurance through a trusted source to ensure getting a policy that fits you and your practice. Energy medicine is a unique field and not all policies offer coverage specific to this type of business. Therefore, relying on a trusted source can add an extra layer of confidence that the best decision has been made.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for educational purposes only and is not legal advice or opinion. This general information is meant to raise questions, educate, create discussion and dialogue around the ethical and legal issues of teaching, learning, studying or practicing alternative and complementary energy healing modalities. You are advised to seek an attorney for any of your professional legal issues, concerns or needs.

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