Four common insurance claims against counsellors
Counsellors play a vital role in helping people cope with a variety of issues but, for people working in this role, the delicate nature of their work also carries risks.
Counsellors need to be aware of these potential problems so that they can guard against legal action, something that can be distressing for all involved, and costly in both a financial and reputational sense.
So, what common scenarios could a counsellor encounter?
A question of judgement where your notes cannot support your case. Talking through sensitive issues with clients is, inevitably, going to lead to difficult discussions. There might be occasions in which a client interprets advice in a way you had not intended or claims that you said something that you didn’t. Good recordkeeping will help support your case if a client alleges that your advice was negligent. If you have a record of what you said, and when, you’ll be able to defend yourself against such claims. If you don’t, your case may not be seen in such a positive light.
A lack of training that leads you to a mistake. While some issues can be helped by talking them through with your client, some people might require medical support if they have a mental health condition. It’s important to know what you can and can’t do as a counsellor – and to make sure you have the training needed to handle a particular client’s needs, or are able to signpost them to who else can help. Trying to tackle a subject or issue that is beyond your capabilities could serve to make someone’s condition worse and leave you open to legal action further down the line for any damage you have caused.
If you breach confidentiality. People might well share things with a counsellor that they’re not prepared to say to anyone else – and it’s vital that this information is kept private. If a counsellor breaks this trust and reveals confidential information spoken during a session, this might well constitute a breach of their duty of care. In instances where the breach is unintentional, professional indemnity insurance can cover the legal costs in defending the claim as well as any compensation due to your client. There may be cases in which it is necessary to breach this confidentiality, but these are rare. They’re covered by the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapy’s Ethical Framework – which is worth keeping to hand for reference whenever you are unsure about an aspect of your role.
If someone has an accident on your premises. Counselling often involves inviting clients to your premises for consultation sessions. Aside from the work itself, it’s important to realise the risks involved in this. If someone were to trip and fall in your office, they might be able to make a compensation claim against you, especially if they felt a stray cable or loose rug was responsible. This is why, when considering counsellors insurance, it’s important to think about these physical risks that you need cover for, as well as some of the other risks above that are associated with the role itself.
By addressing these issues and having the right kind of coverage against unexpected events, you can operate as a counsellor with greater confidence.