Take Action: Write a Professional Will

Benjamin E. Caldwell, PsyD

None of us likes to think about the possibility that we may suddenly become ill or even die. It’s one reason why we take care of ourselves and buy health insurance. And we try to protect our loved ones, with life insurance, advance directives, and other instructions so that our wishes might be carried out. But the possibility still exists that, any given day, you could have a major medical issue or be involved in a serious accident.

What would happen to your clients? Who would let them know, and how would they receive continued care? If something happens to you on a Monday, would your Tuesday clients simply be left in your waiting room, counting the minutes?

A professional will does not take long to create, and can be a lifeline for your clients in the event that something unfortunate happens to you. It spells out who will contact your clients, who will be able to access your password-protected records, how office and financial arrangements will be handled, and much more – keeping sensitive client information private and keeping your sensitive professional information protected as well. While it is most immediately necessary for therapists in individual private practices, it can be helpful even in for therapists in group and clinic settings.

A useful template for a professional will for psychotherapy can be found here. I’ve also recorded a one-hour online CE course in professional wills, which you can take here, further explaining why professional wills are helpful and discussing several possible content areas that you might find helpful.

No one likes thinking about something bad happening to us. But bad things happen to therapists all the time. Putting a plan in place for when something happens to you can be the difference between your clients getting good continued care, and being stuck in your waiting room, wondering whether they’ve simply been forgotten.

We’re all in this together. Thanks for all you do.

Benjamin E. Caldwell is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (#42723) in Los Angeles. He is the author of Saving Psychotherapy and Basics of California Law for LMFTs, LPCCs, and LCSWs.