What might we want to consider when assessing signs of safety with practitioners?

It can be challenging to know if we feel safe around our practitioners, especially when we have not had many or any previous experiences of this. Here are some questions we can ask ourselves to explore our experiences.


  • What about their tone, body language, and personality is inviting or makes me uncomfortable?
  • How do they respect my physical space?
  • Do they ask for and use my name and pronouns?
  • Do they ask and inform me before they do something?
  • Do they validate my concerns?
  • Do they respect my decisions?
  • Do I feel judgment when discussing certain topics?
  • Do I feel rushed, or do they spend the time to get to understand me?
  • Do they share all of the options available for treatments?
  • Do I feel pressured to make certain decisions about treatment?
  • Can they explain concepts in an easily understandable way?
  • Do they ask if I have any questions?
  • Do they take notes and am can I ask to access them?
  • What is my gut feeling telling me about our dynamic?
  • How does this dynamic compare to other experiences with practitioners?
  • Are they clear about what forms of insurance they accept or reject?

Physical space

  • What kinds of décor is in this space?
  • Do they have any stickers or brochures that might indicate safety? (e.g. pride stickers)
  • How easily accessible is the exit?
  • Are there other practitioners in this space?
  • Do they have harm reduction supplies available (e.g. Narcan kits, free safer sex, injection, and smoking supplies)

Practitioner identity, experiences, and values

  • Do they share any of their identities or experiences on their website, in-person, etc?
  • Do we share any lived experiences?
  • What experiences practicing or serving in the community do they have?
  • Have they shared their approaches to practicing (e.g. anti-oppressive, harm reduction)?
  • How comfortable are they discussing systemic harm and systems of oppression?
  • Do they acknowledge the power dynamics in patient-practitioner relationships?
  • Do they initiate conversations about feedback and accountability?
  • How does this practitioner incorporate holistic and de-colonial understandings of health?
  • What channels for individual and community accountability are available to me?

Other sources of information

  • What experiences have other folks in the community (e.g. friends, family, peers, Elders) had with this practitioner?
  • Are there online reviews (e.g. Google, Reddit) that I can find for this practitioner?