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Practical Protection for Practitioners

by Kay Zega(more info)

listed in clinical practice, originally published in issue 149 - July 2008

This column concentrates on helping practitioners practise in a professional manner that protects them as well as their clients.

The majority of holistic therapists are kindly, dedicated to deploying their therapy in a loving manner,[1] and may perceive ‘professional’ in a wellness context as clinical coldness, detachment and red tape.

What is Professional Practice?

In general, the term is considered to represent the spectrum of knowledge, skills, competence and fitness to practise, personal conduct, responsibility, professional activities and actual performance of duties related to provision of the therapy practised.

The demands of ‘professionalism’ are many, and in order to meet these, practitioners need to be adequately informed about Conduct, Ethics, Confidentiality and Standards of Professional Practice in Holistic Healing; The Healing Environment; Legislative Aspects and Insurance; Health, Safety and Comfort of and Respect for the Client; Client Assessment, Contracts and Record Keeping; Communication Skills and Professional Interpersonal Transactions; Dealing with Healing Crises; Aftercare Advice and Support; Additional Skills to Enhance Professional Practice; Practice Management; Critical Self Evaluation; Importance of Continuing Professional Development; and Regulation of Complementary Therapies.

Hopefully, the practitioner course (or additional module) you studied will have covered these, and impressed upon you that professional practice involves operating with due diligence and staying within the limits of your own personal, academic and professional competence at all times.

Personal Wellbeing

Most people involved in healing professions tend to put their own needs last and fail to achieve a balance of therapeutic giving and receiving. They may also experience degrees of isolation unless they work with other therapists, or network with other professionals.

As a therapist you have a duty of care towards your clients/patients, so you owe it to them as well as to yourself to take really good care of your own health and wellbeing. If you are not fully fit (medically, physically or psychologically) to conduct a treatment, re-arrange the appointment.

Establish boundaries appropriate to the therapist-client relationship, and enforce them pleasantly but firmly.

Take care not to over-extend yourself. Many therapists are self-employed, and in addition to practising their therapy(ies) – sometimes from more than one location – they perform all the roles that in larger organizations would be carried out by different professionals, i.e. sales and marketing, administration, finance, etc. Finding the balance between doing everything yourself and outsourcing aspects where you don’t have specific skills will enable you to concentrate on providing professional care for your clients/patients. It will also help avoid compromising your wellbeing, and possibly the reputation of your service, and the therapy you practise.

Membership of Professional Bodies

It is advisable to join an association that recognizes the therapy(ies) you practise. Choose one whose ethos is to support, advance and protect the character, status and interests of therapists, as well as aiming to establish and maintain high standards of treatment by holistic therapists for the protection and benefit of the public.[2]

Membership involves agreeing to be bound by a Code of Ethics/Standard of Professional Practice. Some codes[3] are more extensive than others and familiarizing yourself with the one you’ve signed up to is not only sensible, it is educative. Legal limitations on what you can do, and legislative requirements, are explained. One important example is that the law prohibits offering cures, and advertising to treat cancer (although you can offer palliative care).

All professional associations provide an information resource (although some are staffed by part-timers and not easy to contact) and most offer block insurance schemes with reduced rates.


Professional practice involves holding appropriate professional indemnity and public liability insurance. When choosing insurance, check what is not covered as well as what is. Familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of your policy – don’t wait until a complaint is made against you. Some therapy insurer websites[4] provide very useful guidelines regarding appropriate steps on request for a refund; allegation of malpractice or professional negligence; and potential or actual disciplinary complaint.

Records and Consultation Notes

Keep accurate, clear, factual and purposive records of therapy sessions, contemporaneously signed and dated. These constitute legal documents available to clients on request, and in the case of any dispute may have to be produced. Store them securely for seven years from the date of the final treatment/consultation (seven years from 21st birthday in the case of a child), then shred them.

Practice Management

Manage your practice professionally, including correct handling of accounts, NI and tax returns.

Continuing Professional Development

CPD not only facilitates growth of a practitioner in meeting the care, needs and interests of clients/patients, it also helps protect and maintain your own credibility and identity as well as that of your profession. As a professional practitioner it is your responsibility to keep your knowledge of your own discipline (and the wider field of holistic healing) up-to-date. Any weak areas can be addressed through research, relevant literature, liaison with other practitioners, networking, attendance at development events, further training, etc.

Essential Steps if Things Go Wrong

•    Re-familiarize yourself with the Code of Practice you have agreed to be bound by, and with your insurance policy, since ignorance is no excuse or defence;
•    Complaints often arise from miscommunication or misunderstanding and if judiciously handled can enhance goodwill;
•    Delay can seriously exacerbate an already delicate situation, so don’t ignore a complaint hoping the situation, will ‘blow over’;
•    If you believe a complaint is about to be raised, or a client/patient formally complains and requests either reimbursement or an explanation, contact your insurance company for guidance before replying, admitting fault or refunding any fees. Such reporting will be logged as an ‘incident’ and may not progress to an actual claim;
•    In the case of allegations of malpractice or professional negligence, the insurers will require all paperwork regarding the complaint, including copies of the case history record and treatment notes. They will advise you on the appropriate course of action, and will become involved to defend you, up to and including court if necessary;
•    Your professional association will also provide advice and support.

In conclusion, as ever increasing numbers of people seek complementary therapy treatments, the need to maintain high professional standards increases too – and minimizes risk. By taking sensible precautions you protect yourself as well as the public.


1.    Siegel BS. Love, Medicine & Miracles. Rider & Co. 1999.
2.    UK Reiki Federation.
3.    BCMA: Association of Natural Medicine.
4. ;

Further Information

The certificated Professional Practice course evidences commitment to operating as a Professional Practitioner as well as to Continuing Professional Development. Successful completion, which includes demonstration of required level of understanding and application via achievement of set tasks, including case studies and an assessed healing treatment, merits award of Certificate in Professional Practice of Holistic Healing and a CPD certificate.


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About Kay Zega

Kay Zega MA DMS CertEd Adv Dip (Couns) MCS (Acc) MBACP is a registered Angelic Reiki teacher, accredited counsellor, registered holistic multi-therapist, wellness and positive life change specialist and lecturer. She has a gentle motivational approach and a track record helping others to achieve empowering positive life change. She offers a range of wellness boosting workshops for individuals and organizations and assists companies to integrate counselling and complementary therapies into their wellbeing programmes and occupational therapy provision. Kay practises and teaches a number of holistic therapies (including Angelic Reiki®), in the UK and abroad, offers Retreats in Worcester, Glastonbury, The Netherlands and South West France, and has her own private practice in Worcester. She can be contacted on Tel: +44 (0)1905 26002;


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