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This is a content/trigger warning for this article: Stalking, violence, homophobia.


2020 was a challenging and life changing year. The UK went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of people had to stop going to work, stop seeing family and friends, and stay at home. Many more had to switch to online working. It was a time of change and a time of challenge for a lot of people.


Looking back on that period, the lockdowns and general impact of the pandemic was the least of my worries and I adapted to those conditions very quickly. Under the mental health exemption, I was able to continue working face to face with my clients, although there were strict safety measures in place, and I limited that to people who needed in-person appointments. It was going well until June of that year.


A new client booked a consultation and required it to be in person. I scheduled their appointment and looked forward to welcoming them and exploring how we could work together. The consultation got off to a relatively normal start. However, it soon became more sinister.


The client stated that they had been following me for some time. I thought they meant seeing my advertising and eventually deciding to have therapy. I was wrong in that assumption, as the client started to quote my website word for word, told me what my home address is, and disclosed following me around the streets of the local area.

This was obviously concerning to me, and I wondered where the session was heading. The client then started to say they loved me and wanted to be intimate with me. However, in the next breath they stated that gay people need to be killed and that as I am a gay person I need to be killed.


Growing increasingly worried at this development, I started to use de-escalation techniques. Unfortunately, that did not work. The client exposed their genitals to me and then made a lunge at me. Their plan was to assault and kill me.


Although the situation made me feel vulnerable, I feel generally able to defend myself if the need arises. While I am anti-violence, I will do what I need to in order to protect myself. I managed to fend the client off me and started shouting in case anyone else was in the building and could help me. I told the client to leave and pointed out the CCTV cameras in the waiting room and at the entrance to the clinic.


The client left and I tried to digest what happened. I made an emergency appointment with my supervisor and saw them a couple of hours later. I also reported the incident to the Police and to the owner of the clinic where I practice.


As well as being a counsellor, I’m also a hypnotherapist. The client was interviewed by the Police and their defence was that I hypnotised them into doing everything they had done. If you have awareness of how hypnotherapy works, you will know that’s not possible, never mind it being highly unlikely that a hypnotherapist would choose to hypnotise a client into doing something that was very traumatic.


After a lengthy process, the legal proceedings ended and there was a satisfactory outcome from my perspective. The client eventually admitted to everything, and the relevant punishment was delivered.


However, I was left to live with what happened to me. It took a while until I felt safe again, and I’m not ashamed to admit I had counselling myself. But from something horrific came a learning opportunity. It prompted me to review my safety when working alone with clients. I had not given it adequate consideration previously and now felt forced to give my safety more time and thought, which was absolutely the right thing to do.


With that in mind, I considered some key safety points for myself that I feel other therapists may benefit from considering too. So, here are my top tips.

  1. Think about what environment is going to be the best and safest option for you – working in a clinic, working from home, working online, or doing home visits.

  2. If you decide to work from home, don’t advertise publicly that your practice is at your home.

  3. If you are working in a clinic, check that other people will be in the building at the same time as you in case you need to call for help.

  4. If working in a clinic, consider whether CCTV in communal spaces is a possibility.

  5. If working in a clinic, consider whether it may be useful to have a panic alarm in your room.

  6. Whatever setting you are working in, sit closest to the door in case you need to escape. Of course, you may work with vulnerable clients who for their own reasons need to sit closest to the door. Do consider your safety too though.

  7. Tell someone what times you are seeing clients and when you expect to be home. If working from home or doing home visits, do the same but perhaps say you will check in with that person when you have finished.

  8. If someone is seeing you in your home or you are doing home visits, ask your clients to show photo ID so you know they are who they say they are.

  9. Make sure you have your client’s contact details. Get their home address, email address and a phone number.

  10. Keep your room as professional as possible. Don’t have personal items in it. Keep it client focused.

  11. If nobody else is in the building, whether a clinic or your home, give the impression that there is someone else around. This could act as a deterrent.

  12. Don’t take risks and trust your gut instinct.

  13. Have an escape route. If something happens, what is your way out?

  14. Be clear about boundaries in your marketing, when you book your client in, and during the consultation.

  15. Keep your records/notes clear, concise and factual. Document every session.

  16. Carry out a risk assessment covering every aspect of your work.

  17. Be mindful that the earlier you pick up on a problem, the sooner you can deal with it.

  18. Remain calm.

  19. Remove yourself from the situation if you feel uncomfortable at any point.

  20. Be aware of your communication and body language. Think about what you say, how you say it, and how your body language could be perceived.


Something I don’t want is for therapists reading this to become overly concerned that something like what happened to me is going to happen to you. What I experienced is pretty extreme and I’m sure not common. I had been working as a therapist for over 10 years when that happened and there had not been any type of incident previously. I just believe in supporting therapists to consider their safety and hope that nobody goes through something similar.

If you are affected by this blog, please contact me if you need to talk. If you have been affected by stalking, there is also information and support available from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

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