A safety plan is a clinical document that a mental health provider creates to help a client maintain safety. Some clients may never require a safety plan, but you should always be prepared to develop one if safety concerns arise.
In this article, we’ll go over:
A safety plan is a collaboration between a client and therapist. It is a clinical document that outlines strategies for helping a client maintain safety. Sometimes individuals such as a parent, guardian, or partner may participate in the development of the document, as they may play an active part in the plan. A copy of the plan should always be dated and given to the client. The original should be kept in your records.
A safety plan is helpful for a client because it reminds them of their coping skills and support system when experiencing unsafe thoughts or behaviors. Examples of unsafe thoughts or behaviors can include:
A safety plan acknowledges what risk factors a client is experiencing, what they can do on their own to maintain safety, who to contact for help, and where to go if they cannot be safe. It also provides a client with resources if they are unable to maintain safety on their own.
If you are aware of a client experiencing unsafe thoughts or behaviors, and a client engages in such behaviors that cause injury or death, you could be held responsible. While a safety plan does not guarantee a client will be safe, it demonstrates that a provider has assessed for risk and addressed the concern to the best of their ability. This is helpful for a provider because it can protect you from potential legal action.
Situations, people, or things that make a client feel upset, angry, sad, anxious, or uncomfortable.
Thoughts, images, situations, behaviors that indicate a client is experiencing or about to experience unsafe thoughts or behaviors.
Things a client has identified that they can do on their own to self-soothe.
Someone a client has identified that they can ask for help.
Resources a client can use if they are unable to maintain their safety on their own.
A copy of the plan is dated and given to the client. The original is kept in your records.
Completing a safety plan for a client deemed as high-risk is a best clinical practice. Examples of a high-risk client include, but are not limited to:
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