Effective Communication for Complementary Therapists

Effective communication helps ensure that a client is kept fully informed and understands all aspects of the complementary therapist treatment. This blog is part of the Don’t risk it series facilitated by IICT’s trusted insurance partner BMS and written by Barry.Nilsson. Lawyers.

What is effective communication?

It helps ensure that a client is kept fully informed and understands all aspects of the complementary therapist treatment. It encompasses how complementary therapists communicate with clients (in both verbal and non-verbal ways), the language used and the consideration of a client’s literacy ability. 



Why is it important? 

Poor communication can lead to a breakdown of the treating relationship as it may cause trust to be broken between a complementary therapist and their client. It can also cause miscommunication leading to potential adverse outcomes for the patient. This can increase the risk of a claim or allegation of harm being made against you. 


Code of Conduct 

A complementary therapist should keep in mind the general code of conduct in respect of general health services which is enforced by the various health complaints entities across Australia. Complementary therapists also have communication obligations as set out in the International Institute of Complementary Therapists (IICT) Code of Ethics (Code). In particular, the Code outlines that IICT members must communicate professionally, and respect a client’s physical and emotional state; not abuse clients through actions, words or silence.  


Strategies for complementary therapists 

There are a number of strategies which complementary therapists can use to help ensure they are effectively communicating with clients, including: 

  • employing clear and straightforward language when speaking with clients; 
  • during a consultation, requesting that a client confirms back what a complementary therapist has said; 
  • being aware of a client’s health literacy (the client’s ability to understand healthcare information) and adapting communication with a client accordingly;  
  • considering whether it is appropriate and necessary to communicate with a client’s other treating practitioners and respecting a client’s views in this regard; and 
  • spending time reflecting on a practitioner’s own communication style and undertaking mentoring in this regard with a senior colleague. 


Strategies for complementary therapy clinics

Safeguards for clinics to help ensure that all complementary therapists are practicing effective communication may include: 
  • training for all new staff on communication styles and professional obligations relating to effective communication; 
  • organising regular meetings with staff to discuss effective communication and how to best communicate with a variety of clients and health practitioners; and 
  • developing and implementing communication policies and procedures regarding communicating with other health professionals. 


What to do when miscommunication happens 

You should seek assistance, including from a senior colleague, association or other appropriate advisor if you’ve experienced miscommunication or are unsure about how best to discuss a particular health concern with a client.


Barry.Nilsson. Lawyers communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. 

BMS Risk Solutions Pty Ltd (BMS) AFSL 461594, ABN 45 161 187 980 is the official and exclusive insurance broker for the IICT member insurance program and is part of the BMS group.

Learn more about IICT’s trusted insurance partner BMS or IICT’s insurance program. 

04/2022 ISS1 20223



Article written by: Scott Shelly and Ashlee Sherman of Barry.Nilsson. Lawyers


About the Authors:

barry nilsson

Barry.Nilsson. is a national firm specialising in Insurance & Health Law, Family Law and Wills & Estates.



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The BMS group provides cover to more than 700,000 healthcare and regulated professionals through 100+ associations across Australia, Canada, Europe and New Zealand. This experience gives BMS the ability to create and deliver significantly continuously evolving member centric insurance programs. This includes ensuring broad, market-leading coverage, evidence-based risk management and exceptional member service.


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