Are you a mental health professional who works online, often from different locations? Maintaining client privacy can be challenging when you don’t have a dedicated office space at home. And it gets even more complicated when you’re moving around and working from a small apartment or hotel room, possibly with your partner or family there too. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore some practical tips and solutions to help you ensure client privacy, even when you’re on the road. 

How to Maintain Client Privacy During Your Client Calls

Creating a safe and private space for our clients is critical for all mental health professionals, whether you’re working with your clients online or in person. Their confidentiality should always be of the greatest concern, not to mention that it’s also a matter of abiding by the laws and regulations. 

So, here are some tips you should keep in mind if you’re conducting client sessions when you’re away from home. They also apply if you don’t have a home base and are travelling full-time.

Maintaining client privacy can take a bit more work when you’re connecting from a different location each time – but it’s not impossible. So, take some time to work out how you’ll manage privacy and confidentiality, no matter where you are. 

Create a Dedicated, Private Space for Client Calls

One crucial aspect of maintaining client privacy is having a designated space for client calls. You will need a quiet, private room where you won’t be interrupted or disturbed during your sessions.

However, that can be tricky if you’re working from a hotel room, campervan, or small AirBnB. In that case, you might need to get creative about how you use the space. 

Designate an area in your current location that you can transform into a private workspace during client sessions. It could be a corner in your accommodation, a specific room, or even a temporary setup like a folding screen or curtain (as long as no one is sharing the same space during your sessions). This physical boundary helps create a professional atmosphere and signals to others that you are engaged in confidential work.

Photo by Curtis Adams on Pexels

Open and honest communication is key to establishing boundaries and maintaining client privacy. It’s important that your partner, family members, or anyone else you’re staying with knows how crucial it is for you to have a private, confidential space for your client sessions.

Explain that you shouldn’t be interrupted for any reason during your client sessions and they shouldn’t be able to overhear anything that’s said, even if they’re in another room. You could use a white noise machine (or an app on your phone) to create background noise and block out any possibility of others overhearing y our conversation inadvertently. 

If you’re in a small space, you might need to coordinate with your family members to be running errands, on an outing or working from a cafe or coworking space during your calls. If they know your schedule, they can make sure they are elsewhere and don’t come in halfway through a session. 

Clear Communication with Your Clients

You should also address the issue openly with your clients to let them know you take their confidentiality seriously. Take the time to explain to your clients how you’re ensuring their privacy even when you’re on the road. You might want to describe your workspace and share any other measures you’ve taken to protect their privacy and ensure their comfort. 

It can also be helpful to show them your setup during video calls, demonstrating that you’re in a private space without any other individuals present. This can be reassuring when they can only see a small, rectangular window of your space. 

If there are any potential background noises that could arise during the session, such as street sounds or noisy neighbours, give your clients a heads-up so they aren’t caught off guard. When you’re in a remote session, your clients won’t be able to tell the source of off-camera noise and might think someone else is nearby.

You can also encourage your clients to ask questions or express any concerns they may have about privacy, and let them know they can bring this topic up at any time. By addressing their queries openly and honestly, you show your commitment to maintaining client confidentiality and allow your clients to feel more comfortable opening up with you. 

Wear Headphones for Privacy

Photo by prostock-studio

Headphones are essential for any mental health professional working online! It’s a practical and effective way to enhance client privacy and confidentiality. Here’s why it can make a difference:

  • By using headphones, you can prevent others around you from inadvertently hearing your client’s voice or the content of your conversation. Headphones act as a physical barrier, ensuring that only you can hear the conversation while minimizing the risk of unintentional disclosure. And as they are a visual cue, your clients will know they can’t be overheard.

  • It also allows you to concentrate better on your client’s voice and the nuances of their communication. You also might consider noise-canceling headphones since they eliminate any background noise and distractions around you, so you can focus better, be more present, and actively engage in the conversation. This way, your clients will know they have your full attention.

  • If you’re in a space where you could potentially be overheard – e.g. through thin walls – you could request that anyone nearby also wears headphones themselves. This extra precaution ensures that other people nearby won’t accidentally overhear anything, including your side of the conversation. You might also want to let your clients know about this setup from the beginning. 

Headphones act as an extra physical barrier to protect your clients’ confidentiality, no matter where you are. Even so, you still need a private space to conduct your sessions. 

Beyond Client Calls: Protecting Privacy in Online Work

Maintaining client privacy extends beyond the actual client calls. As mental health professionals working online, here are some additional steps you can take to safeguard sensitive information and adhere to privacy regulations.

Using a VPN for Secure Connections: 

When working remotely from different locations, it’s essential to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to ensure a safe and encrypted network connection. A VPN adds an extra layer of security, protecting your data and client information from potential threats. 

By using a VPN, you can safeguard your client’s personal information, maintain the integrity of your communication, and minimize the risk of unauthorized access to your network.

Photo by Melpomenem

In addition to securing your internet connection, a VPN also enables you to bypass potential restrictions or censorship imposed by certain regions. This can be particularly beneficial if you’re providing online therapy services to clients located in countries with varying internet regulations.

 

Compliance with Regulations

As mental health professionals, we must comply with relevant privacy regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States or the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the UK. Familiarize yourself with the specific regulations applicable to your practice and ensure that the tools and platforms you use adhere to these standards.

When selecting platforms or software for client sessions or data processing, opt for those that offer robust security features and comply with industry standards for data protection. Look for end-to-end encryption, secure data storage, and privacy controls that give you full control over client information. By using compliant tools, you can maintain client privacy while meeting legal requirements.

Also, check with your local regulations to learn if they have any specific requirements in regards to maintaining privacy in client sessions. Some may require sessions to be behind a door that locks, or ask that you ask your client if anyone else is present in the room. These regulations can vary widely so it’s always a good idea to confirm what your own licensing board requires. 

Secure Note-Taking and Documentation

Whether you prefer electronic or handwritten note-taking, it’s essential to ensure that your client’s sensitive information is securely stored. If you choose to take electronic notes, use a secure note-taking tool that encrypts data and offers password protection. 

If you prefer to handwrite your notes, you could consider scanning and storing them in an encrypted digital format to add an extra layer of security. Then, make sure you securely dispose of the physical copies to avoid any potential breaches of privacy. And don’t forget to back up your digital records regularly and ensure that all backups are also password-protected

Photo by instaphotos

Screen Privacy in Public Spaces 

Working from public spaces such as cafes or co-working areas can be convenient when you don’t have any client sessions scheduled. However, it can pose additional challenges when it comes to maintaining client privacy. 

If you choose to work from a public space, make sure you think about your screen visibility. You don’t want your clients’ names or any personal details to be visible in a way that they could be seen by anyone else around you. One way around this is to position yourself in a way that prevents others from seeing your screen, especially when handling client emails. Or you might prefer to save any work where you need to review sensitive information for when you’re in a private space. You could also consider adding a privacy screen to your laptop. 

Make sure you’re aware of your surroundings at all times and take proactive steps to maintain client privacy and confidentiality. For example, don’t leave your laptop alone while you pay for your coffee or go to the bathroom. 

Outsourcing and Privacy Concerns

Outsourcing can be a real help to solopreneurs, as it means you don’t have to do all the work yourself. But if you delegate tasks to a virtual assistant or team member that involve client data, make sure they are also aware of the privacy regulations and concerns associated with handling client information. Establish clear guidelines and protocols on how to handle client information and emphasise the importance of confidentiality. 

When outsourcing tasks, consider signing confidentiality agreements or non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with the individuals or companies you work with. These legal agreements can provide an additional layer of protection for client privacy, setting clear expectations and consequences for any breaches.

Beyond that, regularly communicate with your outsourced team members to address any privacy concerns, answer questions, and reinforce the significance of client confidentiality. By maintaining open lines of communication and ensuring everyone is on the same page, you can safeguard client privacy throughout the outsourcing process.

How to Maintain Client Privacy: A Summary

As mental health professionals in the digital age, it is essential to prioritize and maintain client privacy, even when working remotely or while on the road. By creating dedicated spaces, using headphones, communicating with clients, and following best practices for online work, you can ensure the confidentiality and trust of your clients. 

Remember, maintaining client privacy is not just a professional obligation; it’s a fundamental aspect of providing quality mental health care in the online space.

Do you have additional tips or solutions that have worked for you while you were travelling or working from a small space? We would love to hear from you! Share your insights in the comments below. 

Photos by juststock on Getty Images, Stefan Coders on Pexels, and Valerii Honcharuk

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