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COVID-19: In-Person Counselling Safety Plan

Be Safe, Be Healthy!

Office Environment

Cleaning and Hygiene
• Deep cleaning of the entire office … (add frequency) …
• Wipe down all surfaces, paying particular attention to high-touch surfaces. These include door handles, door knobs, arms of chairs, light switches, taps, table tops, water glasses (to be washed thoroughly), etc.
• Wipe down with disinfectant wipes (with a minimum 60% alcohol).
• Hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol will be made available in the office, the waiting room and in each therapy room, whenever these are available.
• Counsellors are encouraged to bring their own drinkware to the office. No liquids will be served to clients at this time.

Room Arrangement
• A maximum of 6 persons are allowed at any one time in the office.
• Room design, including the waiting area, will be re-configured to maintain a minimum 2m (or 6 feet) distance between seats.
• Where the minimum distance cannot be achieved, a plexiglass barrier will be erected.
• All non-essential items will be removed from the waiting area.

Office Supplies and Maintenance
Counsellors will bring in their own office supplies such as pens, staplers, etc, to avoid touching shared supplies.
Common areas and shared equipment will be cleaned and maintained on a regular basis.

Counsellor Guidelines

Determine whether an in-person visit is necessary
Some clients may request, or even insist, on seeing you in person, but that does not professionally or ethically obligate you to offer services face-to-face.

To determine whether telehealth is a good option for the client, consider these factors:
• Does the client have access to a telehealth platform, and is he or she able to use it?
• If this is ongoing treatment, is the client making progress? Is there decline?
• Is the next phase in treatment feasible for continuing remotely, or does it require face-to-face contact?

Documentation is key, especially if the client insists on seeing you in person and you don’t believe it is safe yet to do so. Record clients’ clinical progress, discussions about the benefits of telehealth, plans for next steps and rationale for why you believe providing services via telehealth is clinically appropriate (e.g., there is no history or indication of suicidality or other crisis).

Keep in mind that counsellors can refuse to see patients face-to-face, especially if they are older or have health conditions, or live with family members who have heightened risk factors. Do not unnecessarily jeopardize your health, or the health of your family, your colleagues or your clients.

Before and After Each Session
• Ensure clients have read and signed your Informed Consent for In-Person Counselling during a Pandemic, and understands and accepts the risks of in-person counselling. If clients have not signed this form, discuss and review with client. Consider rescheduling the session.
• Wipe down all surfaces, paying particular attention to high-touch surfaces, including the waiting area. These include door handles, door knobs, arms of chairs, light switches, table tops, water glasses (to be washed thoroughly), etc. At the end of each session, empty room bins into the large bin in the back office.
• Check on your own health – physical, mental and emotional.

Scheduling
It is mandatory that counsellors schedule their clients such that there is a minimum 15-minute gap in between clients. This is to ensure that we minimise contact with others.

Clients are to be advised to enter our premises just before their appointment start time, to minimise the number of people in our waiting room. Clients may wait outside, or in their vehicles, and wait to be texted before entering our office.

For couples or families, ensure that individuals are from the same household.

Client Interface

Prior to Session
• Clients must inform their counsellor prior to leaving their homes if they have a fever, shortness of breath or a cough, or have been exposed to someone who shows signs of COVID-19.
• Clients should bring along a hand sanitizer and mask.
• If client’s appointment is not within the next five minutes, they should remain outside the office, or in their vehicles.
• Inform clients where their session will take place so that single-person access can be maintained, to maintain social distancing in the narrow hallway.

Arrival and Check In
• A mandatory social distance of a minimum of 2m (6 feet) is to be maintained at all times. Therefore, there will be no hugging, handshaking, or touching of any kind.
• Counsellor will conduct a pre-session check/screening in the waiting room:
o Does client have symptoms, or been exposed to a person tested positive for COVID-19?
o Does client have a mask or use a hand sanitizer?
• If clients have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, they are to be sent home and utilise the eCounselling option to have sessions by phone or video. There will be no cancellation fee charged.
• Clients are to be reminded to wash their hands and not to touch their faces.

In Session
• If clients show symptoms for COVID-19 while in session, they are to be sent home immediately. There will be no cancellation fee charged.
• If clients are apprehensive or nervous about their in-person session, this should be addressed sufficiently.

At End of Session
• Determine client’s suitability and appropriateness of in-person counselling when making client’s next session.
• To avoid use of credit card stations or portables, clients are encouraged to read out their CC details for counsellor’s input, have their CC information saved on our secure platform, or send an etransfer. There will be no cash transactions.
• There will be no printed invoices or receipts. All invoices or receipts are to be emailed to clients.
• All homework or resources are to be sent to clients via email. No printed documents will be shared.
• Escort clients out of the office, while adhering to minimum social distancing rules.