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Preparing for Extended Absence

You have been working steadily to build your practice and now you are finally full. It wasn’t simple or easy, but you have created momentum in your business and it feels great.

You’ve worked out a plan for handing family emergencies and national holidays…but what will you do with your clients if life puts you out of commission for weeks or even months?

Overseas travel, extended illnesses and maternity leave can pull us away from the client list we have so carefully curated.

You don’t want to diminish the momentum you have created.

Well let’s think this through.

Create a plan ahead of time.

Spend time thinking through what would be an ideal scenario for you. The time you spend developing a strategy for your ideal situation is never wasted. Even if an emergency never comes up…the peace of mind in knowing you have it covered is priceless.

Always see it from the client’s perspective.

As a part of your intake process, you want to communicate clearly with clients how emergencies and planned absences are handled. Let your clients know what they can expect and then follow through with providing them whatever supports you have agreed to put in place.

Plan individually for each client.

In our practice, we have created a two tiered approach to managing extended absences. The first set of clients are those that are stable enough to await your return if you will be out for a few weeks. For those clients, it may be sufficient to establish a connection with a back up clinician that can be accessible in the event of a crisis. For the second set of clients, you may have to orchestrate a transfer to a colleague that can provide ongoing support in your absence. You really have to use your clinical expertise to gauge your client’s needs.

Either way you are going to need this final and most important part of the plan….

Develop a strong referral network.

Having a strong network of other mental health professionals that you can trust is essential for so many reasons. This referral network can serve as a go to for everything from referring clients when your practice is full to being coverage when you are away.

If you are in a group practice it can be as simple as identifying others that work with similar clients and establishing an agreement to help each other out. As a solo practitioner, it can be a bit more tricky.

You will have to truly vet other professionals to ensure you have a “values match”. You don’t want to refer to someone that does not share your sense of professionalism and quality. Once you have found someone you respect, you may also have to overcome any feelings around competition, It takes time to establish a trusting and successful collaboration with others in the field. If you don’t already have a network in place start now…create alliances with other practitioners and agree to be one another’s coverage.

A special note about preparing for maternity leave…this situation is a bit different, because the length of the absence is greater and you have lots of advance notice to plan for the departure. I opt for a gradual departure and a gradual return. You can start scaling back on accepting new clients well before you go out on leave. It makes sense to stop taking new clients right around the middle of your pregnancy and perhaps 2 months prior to your anticipated leave date. Likewise, you can plan for a gradual return after maternity leave. In my private practice, I returned when my baby was six weeks but kept very limited hours. I would maybe see three clients two days a week to start and gradually grew back to a full volume. I even had a bassinet in my office when he was very small.

Looking for more ideas I how to prepare your practice for an extended leave. Two heads are better than one. Let’s chat about what options might work best for you.

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