Practising psychotherapy in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

[As at 19 March 2020]

Although community spread of the virus has not yet happened in Aotearoa NZ, and therefore the current risk of virus transmission between ourselves and clients is extremely low, NZAP advises our members to keep informed and prepared for the possibility that COVID-19 may spread in the community.

  • Check the Ministry of Health link for updates: https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus
  • Talk to clients and supervisees about COVID-19, your hygiene measures & precautions.
  • Make contingency plans for meeting remotely if needed – online, by phone or by email.
  • If clients or supervises are at all unwell, even with a minor cough or sore throat, or if they have returned from overseas within the last 14 days, ask that they cancel or meet remotely.
  • If you are at all unwell, even with a minor cough or sore throat, or if you have contact with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19, cancel your appointments or meet remotely.
  • If you work remotely from home, ensure client confidentiality (such as for storage of notes), the appropriateness of the view into your home, and that the client has access to a private space from which to talk.
  • Put a poster on your door and in your waiting room:

https://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/pages/protect_yourself_against_coronavirus-poster-english-3march2020.pdf

  • Review your incapacity plan and ensure your supervisor is aware of it.
  • Ensure your supervisor or another trusted colleague can access a list and contact details of current clients.

Make hygiene changes:

  • Stay 2 metres from clients in the therapy hour.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or by covering your mouth and nose with tissues.
  • Put used tissues in the bin or a bag immediately.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently (for at least 20 seconds).
  • Check soap supplies regularly.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
  • Remove magazines from your waiting room.
  • Consider washing arrangements for cups and glasses or use paper ones.
  • Wipe surfaces such as door handles and arm rests regularly with antiseptic solution.
  • Replace shared hand towels with disposable ones in bathrooms.
  • Use bank transfers rather than handle money.
  • Maintain physical distance (at least one metre).
  • Use ‘one metre greetings’ as alternatives to handshakes and hugs, e.g. hand on heart, elbow hongi.

Suggestions made by members in other forums:

  • Prepare for the possibility of isolation, for example form a COVID-19 support circle with friends and/or neighbours.
  • If you have underlying health conditions, talk with your doctor about the appropriateness of a pneumonia and/or flu vaccination.
  • Consider avoiding crowds if you are over 60 or have underlying medical conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer) which leave you more vulnerable to COVID-19 than the general population.

NZAP Council