Summary of this policy
This policy describes what to do if you become concerned about a client or a vulnerable person while working in Unmind Talk.
This policy is reviewed quarterly. If you have a question about this policy or want to share feedback, please get in touch with Unmind here.
- Risk before you meet the client
- Risk at session 1
- Planning ahead
- Loss of internet connection
- At-risk client missing a session
- Emergency hotlines
Your relationship with this policy
Everyone is required to read this policy before they start working as a practitioner with Unmind Talk, and if we notify you of any significant changes to it. We recommend that you bookmark this policy for easy reference.
This policy is an aid to decision-making only, and does not replace clinical judgement or consultations with clinical supervisors. All Unmind Talk practitioners are expected to use clinical supervision to discuss risk and safeguarding issues.
This policy does not replace guidelines laid down by practitioners’ regulatory authorities and professional bodies. This policy (and any other policies provided by Unmind) is in addition to such guidelines.
When in doubt, Unmind Talk practitioners should consult with the policies laid down by their regulatory bodies, and their clinical supervisor.
Risk: Any risk of harm to the client, including risk of suicide, serious self-harm or neglect.
Risk management: Taking actions to prevent harm, or minimize the impact of risks to the client.
Safeguarding: Taking actions to protect people’s health, wellbeing and human rights, and enabling them to live free from harm, abuse and neglect.
As a practitioner, you are responsible for assessing and managing risk. It’s important that you remain suitably qualified to work with risk and follow the procedures laid down by your regulatory body.
It’s your responsibility to familiarize yourself with crisis services and signposting resources in the locale(s) in which you’re seeing clients. We encourage you to keep crisis details to hand so it’s easy to share them when needed.
This policy details scenarios in which risk might arise, but it’s not exhaustive. It is expected that you use your own clinical judgement to determine the most appropriate action in the case of any situations not covered in this policy.
1. Risk before you meet the client
When a client requests a session, they have the opportunity to input some free text with the prompt, “What topics or issues would you like to address during your session?”. This is sent to the practitioner along with the other details of the booking request, and is designed to help practitioners prepare for the initial session. Note that staff at Unmind don’t see the content of the client’s message.
In the unlikely event that you receive a message that causes you immediate concern over a client’s safety, it’s important that you act in line with your duty of care.
If a client’s message causes you concern that they’re unsafe, we urge you to make contact with the client stating the following:
- Let them know that you are concerned by the content of their message
- Urge them to stay safe, or to get to a place of safety, such as their local hospital
- Provide them with an emergency number to call (see our list of emergency hotlines)
- Arrange a session as soon as you can. Contact us here if you cannot see the client within 24 hours of their message.
2. Assessing risk at session 1
It’s important to conduct a brief risk assessment as part of your first meeting with the client. We encourage you to follow your own risk assessment protocol, but you must include:
- Whether the client is having thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- Whether the client is at risk of harm from anyone else
- Whether the client is at risk of harming someone else
If the client discloses risk to themselves, you must conduct a full risk assessment to assess:
- Means to act on thoughts
- Triggers to escalation of risk
- Protective factors
We also recommend you create a safety plan collaboratively with the client (template here), outlining:
- What steps they can take to reduce their risk of acting on suicidal thoughts
- Warning signs and triggers
- What has helped in the past/ways of coping and soothing
- Helpful self-talk
- How others can help
Who they can contact
- Crisis helplines
- Places of safety
- Reminder of local emergency services and how to contact them
If you believe that client is at risk of serious self-harm or suicide, or in need of urgent support, it’s important to connect them with crisis services to support.
We also recommend you ask the client for details of an emergency contact, and seek permission to get in touch with them to alert them to the risk.
We also encourage you to notify the client’s doctor or other healthcare provider to alert them to your concerns.
We encourage you to continue to assess risk during the course of therapy, and to use clinical supervision to discuss risk.
3. Planning Ahead
At your initial meeting, it’s important to discuss how you’ll communicate with your client between sessions, if you or the client is late to a session, or after any missed sessions, including what you will do if you become concerned about them.
Unmind provides practitioners with each client's name and email address, but we don’t collect telephone numbers or emergency contact information. We encourage you to collect emergency contact information and to discuss with the client the circumstances under which you’d contact their named person.
4. Loss of internet connection
If the session ends abruptly due to a poor internet connection, and you believe the client is in distress or danger, it’s important to make contact with them to follow up on risk management. This can be done via email or any other pre-agreed means of contact.
If you are unable to make contact, you may use your own judgement as to whether to contact the client's emergency contact or designated healthcare professional.
5. At-risk client missing a session
If you are in therapy with a client who you deem to be at risk and they do not attend their scheduled session with you, it’s important to follow the below steps to protect their welfare:
- Try to get in touch with the client via email or any other pre-agreed method of contact.
- If you can’t get hold of the client, try their emergency contact.
- If you can’t reach the named contact person, and you are concerned for their immediate safety, consider contacting emergency services.
It’s important you take appropriate action if you believe a vulnerable person is at risk of being harmed, neglected or abused.
Issues of concern could include any of the following (but are not limited to):
- Harm, abuse or neglect of a child or vulnerable adult
- Financial abuse
- Domestic violence
- Elder abuse or neglect
- Sexual exploitation
If you suspect a safeguarding issue, you must follow the guidance laid down by your regulatory body, and consult with your clinical supervisor to determine the appropriate course of action. You may be required to follow local reporting guidelines, and this will vary depending on your location.
7. Refer to Unmind's list of emergency hotlines
Unmind has a list of numbers that you can share with clients if you feel they need urgent support.
You may also wish to signpost clients to the Mental Health Resources section of the Unmind app - it contains crisis information and helplines. They’ll find it in the top right part of the screen, with the lifebuoy icon.
If you have any questions, you can get in touch with us here.