Going On Vacation? A Few Thoughts Before You Leave The Office
By Barbara Griswold, LMFT (May 26, 2019)
Summer is coming, and for many therapists, this often means vacation. It may also mean you are not going to be — or don’t choose to be — reachable by clients. So, what does that mean for your practice?
- Choose a covering therapist. Insurance plans want you to have some type of 24/7 emergency coverage at all times, including in your absence. Ideally, they would have you choose therapists to cover for you that will accept your clients’ insurance. But this is easier said than done — it can be hard enough to find someone you feel comfortable asking to cover for you, much less finding someone who takes insurance. And what if you accept multiple insurance plans? If you can’t find one person who accepts all the plan you do, consider using multiple on-call therapists (ex. an Aetna provider to cover your Aetna clients, a Blue Cross provider to cover your Blue Cross clients, etc.).
- Give clients the name of the covering therapist, or, if you have an answering service, at least give that number. Explain how the service works, and what kind of situations might be considered an emergency. Let clients know when you will be gone.
- Give warning of your leave to all clients, but consider giving more warning to those with issues around abandonment, dependency, and trauma.
- Since you may need to share information with the on-call therapist, it’s wise to address this in your treatment agreement/informed consent, or to get a release from clients.
- If you feel a client might contact the on-call therapist, it’s a good idea to give a heads up to the covering therapist about the issues the client is working on, contact information for the client’s psychiatrist and medications, if applicable, and tips about what the client might need from a covering therapist when in crisis (ex. “if this client calls she will probably just need you to listen” or “this client has an AA sponsor that might be a good resource,” or “it helps him to write in his journal.”
- If you are particularly concerned about a client, consider setting up pre-scheduled appointments with another therapist while you are away. If you can’t find a therapist who accepts the client’s insurance, let the client know that insurance may not cover (or may cover at a different rate) a therapist seen in your absence.
- If you will be gone an extended time, you might want to give on-call instructions to clients in writing, including when you will be back, and on-call contact info.
- When you leave the office, make sure your outgoing voicemail and email away message reflect both when you will return and coverage information. In addition, suggest clients in emergency can always go to the Emergency Room or dial 911 for assistance.