When clients “cross the line”

It happens to many of us.

Something happens (or doesn’t happen), and we must terminate with a client.  This is often laced with concern (about the client, about ethics, or about professionalism), and uncertainty about how to handle the situation.

As is true for employers, it’s always a little easier when a client “fires” him/herself.  Clients who break the rules; clients who overstep their boundaries; and clients who make you feel unsafe clearly need to move on.  On the other hand, clients who merely outgrow their level of care, or who can no longer afford to continue on in treatment make it more difficult to do what must be done.

In any case, here are some items that you’ll want to consider for any termination letters you write:

  • Client name
  • Date range of service (first and last sessions)
  • Concise description of the reason for termination — if you discussed this with client, you may want to precede the description with “As we discussed on (date)…”
  • Effective date of the termination
  • A reminder that it is the client’s responsibility to pursue treatment, if necessary
  • Amount of time (if any) that you will serve as an emergency contact via telephone (to facilitate hospitalization or other emergency interventions if necessary)
  • Instructions about what the client should do in case of crisis or emergency (if you are not going to provide coverage in the interim), including emergency phone numbers
  • A list of 3 possible referral options that appropriate to the client’s needs
  • Send copies with other treating professionals with whom you collaborating

It is IMPORTANT to note that it’s always best to consult with your malpractice insurance company regarding the content they would like you to include/not include in client termination letters.  Your malpractice insurance company can be a great resource when it comes to any issues of potential liability.

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