A therapy agreement is the understanding between a therapist and their client. Regardless of whether a written document is provided, some form of contract always exists with clients, as even a verbal commitment constitutes a binding agreement. As a therapist in private practice, it’s important to have a solid foundation of trust and respect with your clients. One way to achieve this is by having a GDPR-compliant therapy agreement in place. This agreement sets the terms and conditions of the therapy, and it’s your client’s right to know them. But, creating and enforcing a therapy agreement can be intimidating, so where do you start?
In this blog post, I’ll guide you through the process of creating a therapy agreement for your private practice. From understanding the regulations to creating your own agreement or using a template, I’ll provide you with the information and resources you need to get started. So, keep reading to find out more.
Or use our handy ‘done for you’ template HERE
What is a Therapy Agreement?
A Therapy Agreement is a contract of sorts that outlines relevant rights and responsibilities for both yourself and the client to abide by throughout therapy sessions. It defines how you will work together within the therapeutic alliance and ensures clients have given ‘informed consent and agreement’.
A Therapy Agreement establishes clear guidelines, rights, and responsibilities that both parties must adhere to during therapy sessions. It acts as a framework for the therapeutic alliance and ensures that clients have provided informed consent and agreement to engage in therapy.
By having a Therapy Agreement in place, misunderstandings and miscommunications can be minimized. The agreement sets forth essential aspects such as session duration, confidentiality policies, payment terms, cancellation policies, and the therapeutic approach used. It helps manage expectations and provides a transparent understanding of the therapeutic process for both the therapist and the client.
Without a Therapy Agreement, potential misunderstandings and disputes may arise, which can negatively impact the therapeutic relationship. Having a clear and documented contract helps to prevent misunderstandings by establishing a shared understanding of the therapeutic boundaries, expectations, and limitations. Clients can refer to it as a reference point throughout the therapy journey, promoting a sense of clarity and trust.
A Therapy Agreement can help protect therapists from unfounded complaints or grievances. By clearly outlining the terms of engagement, clients are made aware of the therapist’s professional boundaries and the scope of their practice. This reduces the likelihood of clients having unrealistic expectations or feeling dissatisfied with the therapy process.
What Should It Include?
Although it does not need to be a lengthy document, writing a Therapy Agreement for your private practice can be tricky and time-consuming. After GDPR compliance, you need to ensure it outlines all the important aspects of what the client can expect.
Here are a few things you should consider including:
Therapy sessions length, cost and cancellation policy – Outline how they can rearrange or cancel an appointment and where it will take place (i.e. online or in-person).
Personal information – When you request personal information (such as any medication the client uses and their GP surgery details), the client has a right to know why this information is needed, under what circumstances it may be used, and how it will be securely stored.
The Data Protection Act 2018 sets out the legal requirements for anyone who processes data about people in the UK. We also need to abide by GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), the European regulation setting out the main principles of data protection and the responsibilities organisations and practitioners have when handling personal data. Therefore, you must be clear about why you are asking for clients’ information and how you will protect it.
Record keeping – Clients should understand therapists may find it helpful to take notes during sessions. Explain these tend to be brief and designed to help them keep track of topics/themes covered in therapy. Highlight the fact notes are kept in a locked cabinet or in password-protected documents on practitioner computers in accordance with the data protection act and GDPR.
Communication – Outline your preferred communication methods (e.g., phone, email) and response times for non-emergency situations. Include any boundaries around communication outside of scheduled sessions.
Emergency procedures – Provide instructions for clients to follow in case of a mental health crisis or emergency, including relevant contact information for crisis support services.
Details of supervision – You should explain that therapists must have regular supervision sessions to discuss aspects of their clinical work. Emphasise that they do not reveal individual identities during these sessions and supervision itself is confidential between therapist and supervisor.
How to make a complaint – Give details of your professional body, their code of ethics and the process for submitting a complaint.
Confidentiality – You should explain confidentiality will be maintained within the codes of ethics and legal requirements. You should also state when confidentiality rules do not apply, for example, where it would mean you might break the law or withholding information would breach the code of ethics.
Done For You Therapy Agreement
This is by no means an exhaustive list, so I think you’ll agree there’s a lot to think about! If the prospect of figuring this out on your own is overwhelming, you might be interested in Pocketsite’s ‘done for you’ GDPR-compliant Therapy Agreement. Like all Pocketsite products, it’s designed to take the stress out of an essential business task so you can concentrate on supporting your clients.
As well as full guidance and notes, it also comes with the following:
– Advice on getting consent via email
– Advice on getting consent for children
– A template for consent to share information with a third party
A Therapy Agreement is a valuable tool to promote effective and ethical therapeutic practice. It establishes a mutual understanding between the therapist and client, enhances transparency, and helps prevent potential sources of conflict or misunderstandings. By ensuring that both parties are on the same page from the outset, the Therapy Agreement fosters a strong therapeutic alliance and paves the way for a productive and successful therapy journey.
If you have found this information helpful and want to connect with like-minded professionals, we invite you to join us in Therapist Corner, a vibrant community designed explicitly for therapists in private practice. By joining Therapist Corner, you can engage in meaningful discussions, share insights and experiences, and seek support from fellow therapists who understand the unique challenges and rewards of running a private practice. Together, we can foster a supportive and collaborative environment that promotes personal and professional growth. Come and be a part of Therapist Corner, where you can connect with a community of therapists dedicated to thriving in their private practices.