Recently Chris Peterson, a leader in the Positive Psychology movement, died at age 62. It is a reminder that just because we are mental health professionals we are not immune from experiencing life’s trials, tribulations, and indeed the very ending of life.
In TPI “Interview with the Authors” (available in the archives for TPI members only) Brad Johnson and Jeff Barnett described Brad’s personal and professional experience in being diagnosed and treated for a brain tumor.
So what happens to our practices, our patients, our records, and our professional obligations if we become incapacitated or die? Are patients left to “fend for themselves?”
Because of our obligations each mental health professional should develop what has been termed a “Professional Will.” This delineates how you want your practice affairs handled in case of disability or death.
An outline of a Professional Will for a mental health clinician is provided on the website of Psychologist Ken Pope and may be found at www.kspope.com/therapistas/will.php
According to Dr. Pope and his co-author Dr. Melba Vasquez the Professional Will should include the following sections:
• Who takes charges?
• Who serves as backup?
• Coordinated planning for the Executor
• Your office, its key, and its security
• Your schedule
• Client records and contact information
• Avenues of communication for clients and colleagues
• Informed consent
• Client notification
• Colleague notification
• Professional liability coverage
• Attorney for professional issues
• Billing records, procedures, and instructions
Pope and Vasquez suggest a legal review of the Professional Will, making copies of the document, and the importance of reviewing and updating the document.
Guidelines for preparing a Professional Will, along with a sample format, is provided by the State of Oregon may be found at http://www.oregon.gov/obpe/docs/guidelines_for_preparing_your_professional_will.pdf
A one credit CE course on writing the Professional Will is offered by The Zur Institute at http://www.zurinstitute.com/wills_clinicalupdate.html
Remember, “life happens” whether we want it to or not. Be professionally prepared in the unfortunate circumstance that it happens to you.