So the story goes... I came back from maternity leave and decided to do a massive overhaul of my practice procedures. I wanted my practice to be streamlined and smooth. I spent hours and hours - literally hundreds - buried in ethical guidelines and then had a lightbulb moment.
Why not ask a lawyer?
That's what my US based colleagues did. They created their policies and then consulted with lawyers. Made complete sense to me, after all, we are dealing with ethics, business, privacy law...
So off I went, looking for a solicitor in London to read, edit and give me a stamp of approval. And after tens of thousands of pounds and absolutely millions of back and forths, mostly about terminology and how to make a contract sound warm AND formal, we finally settled on our documents, with a few updates too.
So what's my "why"? Why do I sell templates over at my first side project, Private Practice Paperwork? I originally started selling these templates to recoup the lawyer's fees and then figured out that paperwork has the potential to do so much more than that.
Our policies support clients at their most vulnerable moments, help us to feel confident and prepared AND protect our private practices.
Who doesn't love that?!
My five paperwork essentials are:
- The Therapy Contract
- Contact Details Form
- privacy notice [GDPR]
- clinical will
- reduced fee agreement
The Therapy Contract
The Counselling Contract. Terms and Conditions. Psychotherapy Notice. Process Contract. These are all terms I hear used to describe the agreement between a client and therapist. In some countries, such as the United States, the term “Informed Consent” is used.
Whichever term you use, the agreement serves as a legal contract between a client and therapist. In the United Kingdom, a counselling or psychotherapy contract can be verbal. A therapist may explain their cancellation terms, confidentiality policy and any other conditions when they meet a client without providing a written Therapy Agreement, however, the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) encourages us to provide clients with written documents. Whilst a Therapy Agreement can be verbal or written, a written agreement means clients will be able to remind themselves of boundaries such as cancellation policies.
Why do we need one?
It is important to be mindful and clear about the terms of our interaction with clients before the start of the therapy process. The Therapy Agreement takes care of the client, therapist and the therapeutic alliance.
Clients: A therapy agreement provides clarity and security to clients at a challenging time
Counsellors/Psychotherapists/Mental Health Professionals: A therapy agreement offers protection against complaints and creates a self care framework by setting boundaries
Relationship: The therapy agreement serves the therapeutic alliance by setting the tone and intentions of the relationship
If we consider these three aspects, we can take care of our business and our emotional wellness in conjunction and collaboration, not at the expense of one or the other but in a way that supports and elevates both.
Our therapy contract, or whole welcome pack, give our clients an idea of shared core values. In my Therapy Contract template, there is a editable template for a Personal Statement and Anti-Racism Commitment. We can welcome our clients by affirming them and explicitly committing to further learning and reassurance. I undertook some specific training and consulted with coaches on the topics of anti-racism and LGBTQIA+ friendly paperwork and it's one of my favourite parts of my paperwork, where clients learn a little of my values and intentions for our work together.
Contact Details Form
When a client decides to start working with us, we collect their contact details for invoices, scheduling and practice updates.
In an emergency situation, such as a medical event in session, we may need to share their address with emergency services so we keep all important information on this form for ease of reference.
Our contact details form should be clear and easy to complete, with opt-in boxes and space for information. We want to make sure all sections are compliant with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements, for example, by stating which sections are mandatory in order for us to work together, which are optional and how to amend details in the future.
CONTACT DETAILS FORM SECTIONS
privacy notice [GDPR]
Even though GDPR can seem confusing (and even terrifying for some of us!), my document pack can save you oodles of time poring over ICO pages. With a healthy respect for data protection policies, I have done as much of the heavy lifting as possible, through trainings, research and legal advice so that you can just tweak a few highlighted areas and get on with providing therapy. See below for descriptions of the documents in my paperwork pack, and you can recreate these yourself by reading the Information Commissioner's Office website or using other templates available on the internet. Mine is only different because it's specifically for therapists and a lawyer co-wrote it.
Who needs a Privacy Notice?
➤A therapist based in the United Kingdom or European Union
➤A therapist working with clients in the United Kingdom or European Union
This is relevant whether you or your Client is relocating permanently, temporarily, visiting on holiday, travelling for work or any number of other reasons.
TAMARA'S PRIVACY POLICIES PACK CONTENTS
- Privacy Notice for Clients [GDPR]
- Record of Data Processing Activities
- Retention Schedule
- Data and Cyber Security Policy
- Policies for Multiple Employees
- Email Footer
- The Privacy Notice for Clients is client-facing and can be included in your Welcome Pack or sent individually for electronic signature. It explains to clients how their data is collected, processed and stored. I have provided examples to save you time and take the stress out of GDPR.
- Record of Data Processing Activities explains to you and any staff within your organisation what your data protection responsibilities are and is an internal policy procedure.
- Data and Cyber Security Policy explains what data protection and cyber security responsibilities are for you and any employees or contractors. It serves as an internal policy procedure.
- The retention schedule is an internal document setting out how long data is stored for and on which legal basis.
- The email footer is a disclaimer that goes at the end of your emails after your signature to demonstrate the need for privacy.
- Policies for Multiple Employees applies for anyone operating a group practice or working with employees or independent contractors such as a virtual assistant. [ADDITIONAL POLICY INCLUDED JUST IN CASE]
Hopefully we will practice as long as we wish to and close our practices when we choose to retire.
However, in the event that something unforeseen leads to us not being able to work, we can provide step by step instructions and considerations so that our loved ones and colleagues are supported and do not have the extra stress of trying to figure out how to notify clients.
reduced fee agreement
This document provides a framework for offering lower fees to clients whom we would like to work with but are unable to pay our full fee.
Our documentation is a living part of our practice and will likely require updating from time to time. Once you have created your forms, you have done the bulk of the work and it should serve you for your whole career.
But, just from time to time, you might notice something you want to add or remove. Things that nudge us towards updating documents could be changes in:
- our relationships
- our location
- our schedules
- our practice
- health - ours, our clients, others
- changes in our client group
- world events
Keep an eye out in forums and groups you participate in and every time you hear a good idea, or something someone discovered, just make a note of the link and when you come to your annual review, check back and see what needs tidying up.
Drop me questions in the comments, community or by email!
Image description & Photo Credit
1. Release of Information form on wooden floor with two pink puzzle pieces and a yellow ball, animal-shaped paperclips and a pen on top for decoration.
2. GDPR Privacy Notice pages spread like a fan on a wooden floor with two yellow daffodils, a small globe, two turqoise wooden people figures and a white smartphone strewn on top and around the pages.
3. Contact Details form on a wooden floor with a black notebook on top next to a black leather business card holder, a grey pencil and small succulent plant in the top left corner.
4. Therapy Agreement pages on a wooden floor with a black leather business card holder two pens and lids and two small succulent plants with a toy panda on the left of the pages.
5. Clinical Will page on a wooden floor with a bunch of daffodils from above, a grey pencil and four pine cones.
Visit The Doc Shop
Private Practice Paperwork has it's own shopfront with lawyer reviewed templates for all the documents I use in my private practice. Check out my paperwork pack over there!