Dr. Steiner's Psychotherapy Tools

The Therapist's Professional Will™

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

NOTE TO CLIENTS: This website is not designed for the public, or to address the needs of clients. If you are a client and have lost your therapist and are looking for help, please click here.

NOTE TO MEDIA: If you are a member of the media and not a mental health provider, yet are interested in interviewing Dr. Steiner, please refer to Notes to Media at the bottom of this page.

What is the Therapist's Professional Will™?

This crucial document specifies a practitioner’s wishes for the continuing care of his or her clients in his/her absence due to vacation, unexpected emergencies or illness causing absence, or termination of the practice. By completing this vital document, and making sure that it is compatible with their personal estate planning documents, psychotherapists can rest assured they have done their very best to ensure the continuity of care for their clients and to comply with their professional guild's ethics requirements. (Refer to the bottom of the page to read more about these.)

To read a short article about the Therapist's Professional Will™, or for more information about the Therapist’s Professional Will™, please see About the Therapist's Professional Will™: Guidelines for Managing Planned and Unplanned Absence.

Recent Interviews about the Therapist's Professional Will

Featured on NASW’s podcast, Social Work Talks podcast, August, 2022.
Interviewed by Elisabeth J. LaMotte LICSW and Mark Davila, LICSW  It’s Time: Write Your Professional Will, about the Therapist’s Professional Will for NASW’s magazine's Specialty Practice Section Connection, Fall/Winter, 2022.



My Next Book!

I am in the process of writing an editable E-Book, The Therapist's Professional Will: Workbook an Interactive Planning Guide, that draws on my years of teaching

this material as a 6-hour Law and Ethics workshop.

Check back soon for information about this interactive book's release and ordering information!


Order the new downloadable Therapist's Professional Will!

simply go to the Order Products page.

Ann Steiner Ph.D.'s contribution to The Therapist's Professional Will™:

Dr. Steiner has led the charge in bringing this important and frequently neglected issue to the attention of therapists throughout the US and internationally. She has published over twenty articles, been cited in many additional publications, and since 1999, has spoken and taught on this important yet taboo topic of preparing for the illness, death, relocation, and retirement of psychotherapists.

Check back periodically for new tips and information which we will continue to update.

Having a Professional Will™:

  • Enables your trusted, hand-picked team of colleagues to contact patients/clients and to follow your wishes for handling your practice when you are unavailable
  • Provides patients/clients with immediate care and minimal disruption in their treatment plans
  • Processing office matters and records as you specify. Trusted colleagues handle your office matters and records in the way you have specified
  • And allows practitioners to focus their recovery if they are ill or injured, or to rest and enjoy their vacations or retirements -- rather than worrying about clients’ well-being or other crises

Did You Know?

That the ethics codes of most mental health organizations require therapists to provide for the disposition of their practice? These include:

The American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association's Ethics Code: "Physicians have an obligation to support continuity of care for their patients. While physicians have the option of withdrawing from a case, they cannot do so without giving notice to the patient, the relatives, or responsible friends sufficiently long in advance of withdrawal to permit another medical attendant to be secured." (Opinion 8.115 Section I, IV)

The American Psychological Association's Ethics Code: "Psychologists make plans in advance to facilitate the appropriate transfer and to protect the confidentiality of records and data in the event of psychologists' withdrawal from positions or practice." (Section 10.09)

The National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics: "Social workers should make reasonable efforts to ensure continuity of services in the event that services are interrupted by factors such as unavailability, relocation, illness, disability, or death." (Section 1.15)

The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists Code of Ethics: "Marriage and family therapists do not abandon or neglect clients in treatment without making reasonable arrangements for the continuation of such treatment." (Section 1.11)

The California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists Code of Ethics:"Marriage and family therapists, therefore, maintain practices and procedures that assure undisrupted care. Such practices and procedures may include, but are not limited to, providing contact information and specified procedures in case of emergency, or therapist absence, conducting appropriate terminations, and providing for a professional will." (Section 1.3)

Dr. Steiner's contributions have been acknowledged by being invited to contribute articles to these prestigious publications:

Preparing Your Clients and Yourself for the Unexpected: Therapist Illness, Retirement, and Death, The Therapist, Vol. 23, Issue 6, November/December, 2011.

Therapists Need a Strong Back-up Plan was published in the July/August 2011 issue of The National Psychologist.

The Therapist's Professional Will: A Back-Up Plan Every Clinician Needs, GROUP, the Journal of the Eastern Group Psychotherapy Society (Special Issue: The Aging of Group Therapists), Vol. 35.1, March 2011.

Her work on the professional will has been cited in the Wall Street Journal, a textbook entitled Skilled Empathy: Creating Safety through Therapeutic Attachment, (Gollnick, 2005), incorporated into the curriculum for FilmTx, a continuing education provider, published in The California Therapist. One of her articles, "The Empty Chair, Making our Absence Less Traumatic for Everyone" was published in The New Therapist, a South African journal distributed in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

Dr. Steiner has been giving Law and Ethics workshops about The Therapist's Professional Will™ since 2004 and teaching about this taboo topic since 1999. Organizations she has presented this topic to include: The American Group Psychotherapy Association, California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, Herrick Hospital Dept. of Psychiatry Grand Rounds, International Human Learning Resources Network, Kaiser Hospital, Contra Costa Psychological Association, and The Psychotherapy Institute.

In order to assist colleagues in creating this vital document, Dr. Steiner has created:

The Therapist's Professional Will™: Guidelines for Managing Absence 

The updated downloadable version takes the critical issue of providing therapeutic continuity for clients from concept to practical application. This comprehensive system includes checklists, templates, worksheets, forms, and the Therapist's Professional Will™ itself.  Designed in consultation with estate planning attorneys, it includes everything practitioners need to make thoughtful decisions about what's important to them on behalf of their clients. The forms may be filled in on-line or printed and filled in by hand.



Check back soon or email me for information about the next online workshop!



Your Therapist's Professional Will:The Ethical Care of Yourself and Your Practice: The American Group Psychotherapy Association Annual Meeting, NY and online March, 2023.



Live 6 Hour Law and Ethics Virtual Workshop Presenter: Feeling Good Whole Health: “The Ethical Care of Your Practice and Yourself: Creating Your Therapist’s Professional Will” For registration information contact Feeling Good Whole Health at training@fgwholehealth.com May 20 - 21, 2022.

Live 6 Hour Law and Ethics Online Workshop Presenter: California Society for Clinical Social Work, "Your Professional Will: The Ethical Care of Your Practice and Yourself" January 8 & 9, 2022.


COVID has been a wakeup call and reminder that we all, regardless of age, health and socio-cultural location, need to have backup systems in place.  Illnesses, retirement, relocation, sudden emergencies, and death happen. Plus, the Ethics Codes for every discipline require that you have a Professional Will. This workshop helps you plan who will contact your patients if you cannot, and ways to minimize the impact of your absence on your patients, colleagues, and community.  All levels of experience welcome!


Business Continuity Guide for Small Businesses and SoloPrenuers

I enjoy training and consulting to groups who want to plan for expected or unexpected absences from a professional practice or small business. A professional will provides peace of mind for breaks in service such as vacations, family emergencies, relocation or retirement. This system uses the successful model I built for helping therapists start their own therapist's professional will.

Please join the mailing list to be notified when the Business Continuity Guide System for your small business, or health discipline becomes available.


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

If you found this website because you have lost your therapist and are looking for help, please be aware that this section is designed for use by licensed mental health professionals. The information in this section has been provided to help therapists better assist their clients and is not designed to address the needs of clients themselves.

As with all challenges that come up in therapy, it is best to discuss your concerns directly and openly with your therapist. If for some reason this is not possible, please contact your local mental health organization for advice and possible referral information. As always, if you are having a psychiatric emergency, call 911 or go to your local emergency room.

The following organizations may be able to provide referral information:

  • American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (703) 838-9808,
  • American Psychological Association (800) 374-2721,
  • American Psychiatric Association (703) 907-7300,
  • American Counseling Association (800) 347-6647,
  • California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (858) 292-2638,
  • Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) +27 12 338 9300.


As mentioned above, 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 at (925) 962-0060 directly. Please do not reproduce the information on this website for distribution or publication without the author's written consent.

Top | Home | Site Map | Mailing List | Privacy Policy | Contact

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

Last Updated: April 12, 2023