by Jacqui Gerritsen, LMFTJacqui has been licensed since 2007. She joined the SCV-CAMFT board in 2015, initially as the Communication and Technology Director. She has a private practice in Palo Alto and San Mateo and is certified in TEAM-CBT level 2. She works with teens and adults and uses both a family systems model as well as a supportive, humanistic approach.
Happy Summer! I hope you are all taking time for yourselves and doing some self care before things pick back up in the fall. Personally, I took some time and went to Alaska, which I highly recommend. It is very quiet and tranquil there. The glaciers, mountains, and wildlife are majestic and awe-inspiring. Alaska really is the last wild, untamed part of this country. Because it is untamed, risks from the environment are very different than here. The tour guides have good advice like “if you don’t want to get eaten by a bear, don’t go where there are bears.” Which made me chuckle, but got me thinking about my personal safety in other areas, like my office.
I have been in this field since 2001 and have had to call 911 for an issue in the office twice in my career, both within the last 4 months. The first was an insurance referral, where the client neglected to tell me during the intake phone interview she was bringing an adult child in the middle of a psychotic break. Within 15 seconds of walking in, he attempted to get physical, started to rage and began swearing and screaming. He ultimately vandalized the office by violently breaking the window in the door. I was quite shaken by this but kept it together until the landlord, having seen the man acting erratically, came to check and make sure we were all ok.
The second was an aggressive process server attempting to serve a subpoena to an office mate who wasn’t in the office at the time. He refused to leave after being asked multiple times, and began opening the doors of treatment rooms with other therapists already in session. The officers showed up and escorted him out of the building.
After the first incident we, as an office, reviewed safety procedures with the Palo Alto Police and made changes they recommended. The first is a fingerprint/code lock which was installed on the office door that automatically locks every time someone goes thru. The second, we have air horns and pepper spray in each room. We also have our cell phones in session so we have a way to call for help if needed. Third, we will be installing a closed circuit camera so we can see directly from the office into the waiting room.
Have you thought about how safe you are in your office? What safety procedures do you have in place? Do you have an exit strategy for the unlikely event that a psychotic person shows up at your office? I don’t mean to frighten you with my stories. Just like insurance, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. And I know we all have insurance.