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What are the Legal Requirements when Starting a Private Therapy Practice?

If you’ve recently qualified as a therapist, you’ve joined the profession at a particularly busy time. After the events of the last two years, the demand for therapists and counsellors is particularly high.

It means that you can be optimistic about filling up your books quickly but, before you begin looking for premises from which to base your business, you’ll need to consider the legalities involved in setting up on your own. Here, we look at what you’ll need to get started.

The paperwork

You’re setting up a business, so you’ll need to register with HMRC. You can opt to be a sole trader or a limited company and there are benefits that come with both options.

For instance, as a limited company, you’d pay less tax and would be responsible only for the amount of money that you put into the business – unlike sole traders, who are responsible for personal and business debts.

However, it’s easier to set up as a sole trader thanks to a straightforward business structure with less paperwork involved.

As well as fulfilling tax obligations, you’ll need to consider protecting your business. There are different types of cover available that could work for your practice and it’s important that you look into specific insurance for therapists so that you have everything in place before you see your first client.

Ethical issues

Your training will have taken you through the ethics of your work. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the British Psychological Society have a framework by which to abide that centres on respecting your clients and treating them with integrity.

As well as following the standards set out by these industry organisations, you must ensure that you don’t discriminate against your clients. The Equality Act 2010 covers the grounds for discrimination and, as a professional, you mustn’t treat people differently based on race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or any other protected characteristic.

Disability discrimination also falls under the Equality Act. It’s something of which you’ll need to be well aware, given that your clients are more likely to have a mental health condition that’s classed as a disability. Your duty of care insists that you consider these possibilities.

Professional standards

Clients are your primary concern, and you will be expected to provide an appropriate standard of service. This involves working as a competent therapist, taking responsibility for keeping up with training, and collaborating with other qualified individuals where appropriate.

It’s also important that you stay informed on news about your profession; any changes in legislation could affect how you do your job.

All of this is to make sure that you’re putting your client’s well-being at the heart of your practice.

Confidentiality

All therapy sessions and records must be kept confidential and locked away safely or stored securely online to satisfy GDPR laws. However, there are situations in which confidentiality can be broken – for instance, if illegalities or threats of serious harm have been committed. The client must be made aware of this and, as their therapist, you must know when it’s appropriate to break confidentiality.

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