Emergency Contingency Plan

“To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business,
and your business in your heart.”
~ Thomas Watson Sr

Check with the guidelines of your professional associations when determining a plan that fits for your practice, and you may want to seek legal advice about this for your specific circumstances.

In any industry where you ARE your business, it is considered best practice to have an emergency contingency plan that would come into effect in the event you were seriously injured, incapacitated or potentially die – and counselling shouldn’t be any different.

Our clients depend on us to be there and would need to be informed if we were no longer able to show up for sessions. It is recommended that you name a designate who could contact your clients to let them know sessions were cancelled. In other industries this would often be your next-of-kin or your power-of-attorney. This would not be appropriate in the counselling field due to the ethical considerations and the nature of the work.

It is recommended that the person making the initial calls be a therapist, as opposed to a family member. Therapists would already be briefed on the ethics involved and would have the skills to relay the information to clients, and manage the potential reactions this news may elicit. They would assist your clients in finding other resources and may act as an interim counsellor during the transition or until you can return to work.

Consider the following steps when coming up with your plan:

1) Determine a designate therapist. You would want your immediate family members or power-of-attorney to know who this person is so they can be contacted in the event of an emergency.

2) Determine in what circumstances they would be required to contact your clients.

3) Determine how they would access your calendar and client contact details. You may want to cut a spare key to your office and filing cabinet to leave with them for safekeeping, or leave them the passwords to your computer in a sealed envelope.

4) Lay out the exact steps you would like them to follow in different circumstances – short term absence, long-term absence, death.

5) Write out the contingency plan and your designates contact details, and give one copy to your designate, keep one copy for yourself and leave one copy stored with your will or with your lawyer.

How you go about setting up your plan and how it is carried out is up to you, but it is important to have a plan in place so your clients aren’t left standing outside your office door, wondering why you aren’t there and why you aren’t answering the phone. It is a plan you hope to never use, but critical to have thought through in advance.