What Risks Do Psychologists Face?

It can sometimes be easy to think that psychologists and other medical professionals are invulnerable and unaffected by the work they do and the conditions they treat for their patients. They need to remain objective in order to assess, diagnose, and ultimately improve the outlook for their patients.

But it’s important to remember that medical and health professionals are mere humans just like the rest of us. And just like the rest of us they may be exposed to certain workplace risks that can lead to very serious and traumatic experiences. In fact, psychologists may be exposed to more risks than some other white-collar professionals, given the nature of their work.

Due to the type of work that psychologists perform day in day out, there’s no denying that they are at risk of mounting occupational stress. Throughout a psychologist’s career, the regular interactions with patients and counselling patients through traumatic experiences can certainly impact the psychologist treating the patient.

In severe cases it may even lead to impairments that may impact their own health and their ability to perform their work. But it’s critical to note that a psychologist’s vulnerability to stress is not a reflection of pathology in the psychologist. It is simply a reality of the challenge of the essential work they do for patients in need.

Occupational hazards for psychologists

There are certain occupational hazards that all psychologists will invariably come up against during their career as a practicing psychologist that may pose risks to their health. These can include the following.

  • The stress and challenge of working with people who are distressed.
  • The varied and quickly changing demands of the role.
  • Feeling isolated in the context of their work.
  • The constant and important demands of clinical and professional responsibility.
  • Feelings of vulnerability to traumatisation from empathisng with traumatised patients.
  • The constant stress of successfully managing and sustaining a small business.
  • Challenges involved in managing the confidential, intimate, and nonreciprocal relationships with their clients.
  • The risk of burnout that comes with feeling responsible for other people and their quality of life.
  • The changing standards in the profession.
  • Coping with personal stress and the demands of the job.


How psychologists can address and manage job risks and stress

While psychologists may never be able to completely eliminate all occupational hazards and risks, there are proactive strategies for managing risks when they rear their head, as follows.

Look out for the warning signs

Stress is a condition that builds up over time, so it’s important to be able to recognise the warning signs before they build up into something too big to manage. Be on the lookout for the following symptoms:

  • No longer enjoying your work.
  • Difficulties in maintaining focus.
  • Less socialising with colleagues.
  • Frequent clinical errors.
  • Compulsive behaviors to cope with stress.
  • Feeling compelled to work long hours.
  • Persistently thinking about clients’ conditions outside of office hours.
  • Increased cynicism and negative thinking.
  • Increased isolation from your significant other.
  • Chronic impatience and irritability.
  • Loss of objectivity and perspective in work.

How psychologists can manage occupational risks and stress

Once you are aware of the warning signs of occupational risks, you can head them off before they take root and start negatively impacting your wellbeing. The following proactive actions and strategies may come in handy for managing your occupational risks.


  • Seek advice from trusted peers in your industry regarding your clinical and professional challenges.
  • Make the time to maintain professional connections that give you opportunities to discuss the specific nature and stresses of your work.
  • Accept that you are not alone in your situation, and that all psychologists are vulnerable to vicarious traumatisation and other related risks that come with being a psychologist.
  • Do honest and regular assessments of your emotional and mental wellbeing. And if you need help yourself, don’t be afraid to reach out and get the help you need. There is certainly no shame in it. These can be serious risks, so take them seriously.
  • Make time for yourself to enjoy the things you love, whether that’s a holiday every six months, or taking up a regular hobby, such as golf or cycling, or running. Make life about more than just work and helping patients.
  • Seek advice from thought leadership articles or published literature on occupational risk for psychologists. Making this a regular focus will mean you will be better equipped to manage your wellbeing.

Reduce your risk through insurance for psychologists

 Insurance for psychologists can help with managing the anxiety and uncertainty that may come with running a psychology practice. Psychologists may consider psychologist insurance which would include the following types of business insurance as part of the risk management strategy for their psychology practice.


Professional Indemnity*

Professional Indemnity insurance covers claims against your business for losses that result from actual or alleged negligent acts, omissions, and other forms of wrongdoing in the provision of your professional service or advice. Professional Indemnity insurance also assists with the legal costs associated with responding to or managing claims which are covered by the policy.

Beyond professional negligence claims, psychologists may take out Professional Indemnity coverage to protect themselves against providing incorrect or misleading advice, breaches of privacy, and loss or damage of documents.


Public Liability*

 Clients coming and going from your office increases the chances of a ‘slip and fall’ accident or other unintentional injury happening. You might also invite other members of the public into your premises, such as client family members or delivery people, that could be similarly hurt.

Public Liability insurance provides protection for you and your business if a client, supplier or a member of the public is injured (and not covered by the Accident Compensation Commission (ACC)) or sustains property damage because of your negligent business activities.


Just like all other small business owners, qualified psychologists who operate their own psychology practice in New Zealand can benefit from actively reducing the risks to their business. And a great way to do just that is to invest in psychologist insurance*. As you work on helping your clients, let us help you with business insurance for psychologists to protect your business so you can keep helping your patients without interruption.

*This information is general only and does not consider your objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be relied upon as advice. As with any insurance, cover will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording. © 2022 BizCover Pty Limited, all rights reserved. BizCover Limited is owned by BizCover Pty Ltd (ABN 68 127 707 975)


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