This is such a strange thing that people keep telling others “Don’t worry. It’s safe.” when they’re feeling unsafe.
This tells them they’re wrong. This says you don’t believe them. This invalidates their instincts. And this demonstrates power imbalance of you being the expert.
Here are some of what I think work.
– Tell them what’s going on, and let them decide it’s safe. Eg. “I will not approach you without your consent.” “That door is locked.” “I could lose my registration if I break my promise of confidentiality.”
– Tell them you believe they have a very good reason to feel unsafe. (And listen to understand, not listen to dispute.)
– Explore what “safe enough” looks like and what therapeutic work are available in this space. (If mentioning work outside of this space, state it as a future goal not as negative punishment of “well this would have been available to you if only you’d known how to feel safe!”)