Contingency Planning/Professional Will

Part 1: The Basics: defining terms and steps to getting the job done

Part 2: A sample professional will

Part 3: Questions we asked the CRPO

If you are a therapist, especially if you’re in private practice, the CRPO requires you to create a contingency plan and/or professional will to transfer your clients’ care for when you retire, close your practice, or in the case of disability, illness, or death. 

If you are anything like me, the idea of creating a contingency plan or professional will might feel like a summer of cold rain on your long-awaited beach holiday, only less pleasurable. 

As therapists, we know that together is better than alone, so I have taken the liberty of placing each and every one of you on my shoulders as I take on this unpleasant-but-necessary task.

Here’s how we are going to get it done: we will cut it down to bite-sized pieces. And I suggest loading up on treats: go get yourself a frothy coffee or fragrant tea, put on some classical music or metal rock, and let’s sit down together to figure this out. 

Disclaimer: This information was gathered through a number of sources, mostly from the American Psychological Association's guidelines for professional wills. Please do your own diligence when writing your contingency plans and professional wills.

PART 1: The Basics: defining our terms and the steps to getting the job done

What’s a contingency plan? What’s a professional will?

No client wants to find a note on their therapist’s door saying the therapist has retired or, worse, “retired.” A contingency plan will and professional will not only mitigate that surprise for your client, but the documents detail what to do with your clients and their files for your designated executor(s).

The contingency plan is, in effect, the meat of your professional will: i.e. it’s a plan while you’re alive, and a will when you’re not. And, most importantly, it is a required part of our practice, detailed in the CRPO Standards of Practice 6.4: Closing, Selling, or Relocating a Practice. 

The contingency plan and professional will protects your family and colleagues when something happens to you. It ensures you won’t be sued, for instance. 

Okay, easy-enough concepts, right? Now, the part with the steps: how to create the contingency plan/professional will and who is going to manage our clients when we can’t? 

Two key steps for your contingency plan/professional will

  1. Figure out who to designate as your executor (with their consent, of course) to undertake the below tasks:
  • Take over your practice when you retire, and/or
  • Contact your clients, or their substitute decision makers, to let them know about changes in your practice or state of health
  • Transfer your client information safely to the appropriate next place -- either to the next therapist (with the client’s consent, of course), or to storage; some clients may want their files back. If so, do this under legal advisement.

      2. List all the things that your designated executor(s) need to know in order to carry out the tasks in your contingency plan/professional will

But what are The Actual Things the documents should include? The following: 

  • The contact information of your executor(s)
  • The contact information for your clients, as well as contact information of colleagues and any other relevant professional relationships
  • Directions for the executor(s): i.e. the plan! What to do with your clients, their files, and anything else related to your practice, such as: 
    • Where to find client records and other related information
      • Provide e-mail and voicemail access codes, along with keys to your office, file cabinets, and storage facilities.
    • What to do with client records
      • Transfer to the next therapist with the client’s consent, or put into storage.
    • What to do with billing and financial records
      • Let executor know where all your professional billing lives so that any bills and transactions can be managed. Give executor your accountant’s contact info.
    • Contact clients with updates
      • Executor must refer clients to qualified, competent mental health providers and explain why the referrals are being made (all with the client’s consent, of course!) Ideally, do this before the clients show up for next appointment in the case of illness or death.
    • Contact for liability insurer
      • Executor must notify insurers as soon as possible about the closing of the practice.
    • Compensate your professional executor(s)
      • This job saves your family from having to do something for which they may not be professionally equipped. Your executor has a big job on their hands. So, pay them for their time!

Stay tuned for Part 2, which offers an example of a professional will! Please leave your comments in the box below! We'd love to hear from you!



1 Comment

Brian Collinson · January 3, 2021 at 7:53 pm

Great job, Liz! Thank you most kindly for posting this very badly needed information, and for doing all the necessary legwork to bring it all together.

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