How to implement protection from Covid 19 for therapists.

The environment for holding a therapy session needs to be sensitive to the needs of the person undergoing therapy/ treatment, whilst also meeting the requirements of the counsellor / specialist.  Professionally accredited therapists will be sensitive to the needs of their clients, ensuring that the furniture and surrounding area provide a feeling of safety and security for the client to be comfortable to discuss their issues.

However, the arrival of Covid 19 has dramatically changed the dynamics of this environment.  In particular, the introduction of social distancing guidelines and steps to minimise the risk of spreading the infection.   Of consideration is that the overall social and workplace challenges that this pandemic has presented, has for many people created an even greater need to get treatment and support.

Therefore, how can a therapist ensure that they support clients at this critical time. and do so in a manner that minimises the risk of further spread of this disease? 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states

You have a legal duty to assess the risks to the health and safety of your employees (and risks to the health and safety of persons not in your employment) to which they are exposed while they are at work.

Any previous work on risk assessments in your business need reviewing as the hazards presented by COVID 19 are new. The hazards associated with the various means of transmission will form the large part of your risk assessment and the list below will hopefully assist you with the control measures you will need to put in place to protect you and your clients whilst satisfying your legal obligations during this difficult time.

  • Social distancing – the 2 metre rule.  For some this may mean that chairs and couches are further apart.  Discreet floor signage and tape may also give clients’ assurance that this distance is being maintained.  Many treatments such as osteopathy, chiropody and podiatry by necessity involve close contact with the patient.  Here social distancing will need to be maintained by any reception staff with solely the person applying treatment being in close contact.
  • Face masks – psychotherapy counselling itself requires the client to talk through their issues with the counsellor listening and verbally responding accordingly.  Face masks by their nature are not easy to talk through and be clearly understood.  However, through judicious use before and end of sessions, and maintaining distance, risks can be mitigated.  More crucially for those treatments that require direct contact with patients, the use of FFP2 and Surgical Type II R mask can play a critical role.
    The FFP2 mask protects the user from the virus and a single mask will last a day of use. This standard is the minimum specified by the WHO in effective PPE. The Type II R surgical mask is the one commonly seen in use and this mask is actually intended to protect others from the wearer who may be infected. The R signifies the water resistance which is necessary to prevent the COVID 19 spread. The surgical mask it likely to need replacing two or three times a day.
  • Face shields and eye protection – there is evidence that viruses can be spread through the eyes.  In which case face shields and eye-glasses can be a significant additional PPE item.  Indeed, the use of face shields could also help sessions requiring verbal communications with their advantage of being able to speak without a facemask. 
  • Desk and Reception Screens – Many sites are now setting up screens in their reception and consultation areas.  These screens can be lightly coloured so visible yet unobtrusive through being highly see through.  The screen affords both parties assurance of protection and act as a barrier to airborne particles.
  • Aprons – disposable protective LDPE aprons are invaluable for treatments requiring physical contact through shielding both parties.  They are quick to apply and readily replace with a new one for each consultation.
  • Hand sanitiser – there is a perception that this must be alcohol based to kill germs. This need not be the case, so long as the sanitiser itself is verified to perform against the spread of infection.  The benefit of non-alcohol sanitiser is that it’s kinder to hands if it’s required to be used frequently.  Whilst alcohol-based sanitisers give a re-assuring cold feeling when applied. We always recommend people use hand sanitiser rather than gloves on the grounds of comfort and a lesser risk of transmission.
  • Signage – clear signs will help give guidance to clients about the steps that are being applied for their safety.  Used effectively, signs not only inform but can also nudge behaviour in applying social distance and hygiene practices.  Repeated visual messages of “wash your hands”, “use hand sanitiser” and “ keep your distance” will help greatly.

Each therapist and practitioner will need to look at their own workplace and evaluate how to use these equipment and PPE items to maintain their safety and those of their patients.   At time of writing this, current guidelines allow professional support to be provided to Key Workers and at-risk groups.  Plus, for some professions serving the wider public.  Although given the fluidity of the current crises, this article cannot give direct advice to comply with legal requirements that are themselves in a state of flux.  Despite this, from reviewing what the parameters are in any given period, the use of this range of Covid 19 protection items can enable many therapists to fulfil their duties and help clients through the extreme situation we now face – and together, will eventually overcome.

Reece Safety have responded to their customer requests to provide a range of products to protect against Covid 19.  This has involved working closely with existing supply partners to source from manufacturers quality items of accredited PPE.  Also, Reece Safety have further invested in print and equipment to print signs, stencils and directly manufacture desk screens.  Through bulk buying and direct manufacturer prices to customers have been kept competitive.  For key partner organisations there is an affiliate discount coupon to further support key industries at this time.