Dr. Steiner's Psychotherapy Tools

Therapist's Professional Will

  1. What is the Therapist's Professional Will?
  2. About the Therapist's Professional Will: Managing Planned and Unplanned Absence
  3. Getting Started, Tips, and Updates
  4. Consultation for Therapists
  5. Workshops & Keynotes for Therapists

Getting Started, Tips, and Updates

The best way to create your own Professional Will, as I describe in detail in the Therapists's Professional Will™: Managing Planned and Unplanned Absence, in the downloadable version, as well as in the online CEU course, is to put together a trusted group of colleagues who want to be on each other's Emergency Response Team, or E.R.T. These handpicked therapists will help you and your clients when you are unavailable. It is best if your group orders copies of The Professional Will and agrees to meet regularly to cheer each other on in the process. (Please see Order Products page for information re group discounts.)

If you already are part of a consultation group you might want to schedule time during your meetings to work on the Will with them. Or pick colleagues to simply get started thinking about taking the first steps to form a small group. The 6-hour Online law and ethics course, The Therapist's Professional Will: If Not Now, When? Honoring Your Ethical Responsibility and the downloadable Therapist's Professional Will™: Guidelines for Managing Absence, each include suggestions for how to do this. You can start now by finding a few colleagues you trust and respect to begin talking with about doing your own Professional Wills.

For therapists who don't have a group of colleagues whose treatment values are compatible, The Therapist's Professional Will™: Guidelines for Managing Absence includes suggestions for how to select your Emergency Response Team (ERT). It also outlines essential qualities for selecting your Bridge Therapist, the person who will serve as the main contact person and coordinator of your Emergency Response Team when you are unavailable. For now, start thinking of colleagues you would be comfortable inviting to work with you on your Professional Will.


This page will be updated with tips, new information and recommendations for how to keep your Professional Will current. Please check back for updates and suggestions. If you would like to be notified of major updates, please join my mailing list.

Tip #1: Ways to notify clients that you will be unavailable temporarily:

If you are out of the office temporarily or for an uncertain amount of time change your cell phone or answering machine's outgoing message to include information about who to contact in the event of an emergency or for information about your expected date of return. Until you set up your Emergency Response Team you can use the same person who covers your practice while you are on vacation.

Tip #2: Another way to notify clients that you will be unavailable temporarily:

Use your computer's "Out of office auto reply" message for emails. For example:

"Hello, I will be out of the office until (date).  During my absence, my colleague, (name) is covering for me.  You may contact (name) at (area code and phone number).

Kind regards,
(your name)

Tip #3: Make it easier for your Emergency Response Team, ERT:

1. Keep a folder in your password-protected Word documents called EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM

2. In your locked file drawers, segregate your open and closed cases.  If you haven't started to keep current patient summaries, it will help if you note the date first seen and date the case was closed.

3. Separate out or have a system for identifying clients who are high profile or might be known by members of your ERT so that those patients can be followed up by someone who does not have a dual relationship.

4. Consider writing essential information on the outside of the hanging file for each patient.

5. Add a line at the top of each patient summary and in each patient chart, indicating when to destroy/ shred the chart. For example: Date to destroy/ shred this chart (Date)__________Tip #4: Keeping Your Website Up-To-Date

Tip #4 Have a plan for updating your social media in your absence:

Many therapists have websites and blogs, Twitter, Linked In and Face Book accounts, etc. Remember to write out directions for your Emergency Response Team about how to update this information. If you know that you will be out of the office for a specific period of time consider posting contact information on your website that includes the name and phone number of the colleague who has agreed to cover for you.



Note to Media: As mentioned elsewhere, this section was written for use by trained, licensed mental health providers.  The issues discussed are of a highly sensitive nature.  If you are interested in writing about this topic please feel free to contact Dr. Steiner directly at (925) 962-0060. Please do not reproduce the information on this website for distribution or publication without the author's written consent.

Disclaimer: The information in this page is intended for educational purposes for licensed mental health providers.

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© Ann Steiner, Ph.D. All rights reserved. Reproduction without the author's written consent is prohibited.

Last Updated: April 10, 2019