Community Notes

What are some best practices for vacation coverage?

July 30, 2021

Article written by
Lisa Lewis
LMFT, LPCC

The summer months are here and you may be thinking of taking some time off, especially after the last 18 months of coping through the pandemic. As a mental health professional in private practice, you may have overworked yourself caring for your clientele/patients in one of the most difficult time periods in our lifetimes.

You have definitely earned time off for a vacation or holiday for some tender loving care for yourself. I recently took 10 days off for vacation and went out of the country. I had not taken a vacation since pre-Covid. It wasn’t until on vacation that I realized the emotional, mental and physical toll that working as a mental health professional during Covid-19 had on me. I kept saying to myself, I need another 2-3 weeks of vacation following 10 days of rest and relaxation. I could feel the burnout. I’m not saying that the burnout was present with my clients during Covid-19, but what I am saying is that I needed more time off to recoup.

Not being able to take more time off right now, what did help me to unwind on my vacation was that I made sure I had another colleague cover my practice while I was on vacation. I notified my clientele by email and talked to them during their last session before I left for vacation, about who will be covering my practice while I’m on vacation. In my email, I provided the contact information for my colleague along with the dates I will be on vacation, and the fee for service. It may be a different rate than what they pay me. Some therapists agree to accept the same rate that your client pays you. It’s really up to you and your colleague on what works best for the both of you.

The catch in all of this is you can do a swap when your therapist friend goes on vacation. It provides you a sense of peace while on vacation and allows for you to decompress especially after a long year and a half. I wanted to make sure that I had a restful and peaceful vacation without having to worry or think about my clients. I did not want to be “on-call” for my clients while on vacation. I have been on vacation when my clients have needed to use my back-up person. It was such a relief to come home and know that I did the responsible and ethical thing to provide the best standard of care for my clients.

Did you know as a licensed mental health professional that ethically we are required to have care for our clients at all times?

As a practicing clinician in California, it’s stated in the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists Code 3.4 Emergencies/Contact Between Sessions: Marriage and Family Therapists inform clients/patients of the extent of their availability for emergency care between sessions. The best standard of care for clients/patients is to let them know if you are unavailable.

For instance, with my own individual therapist, if she were to go out of town and didn’t let me know, and I had a mental health emergency, I would be expecting a call or text back from her within 24 hours. She has made her policy clear with me as I do my with my clients.

It’s okay to go on vacation and take your own call, but sometimes we really need that mental time off from any responsibility for caring for another individual. Give the gift of time and relaxation to yourself! You are well worth it! It will allow you the rest needed to come back fully charged and ready to be the therapist you want to be for your clients and for yourself!

Lisa Lewis has gained extensive training in the mind-body connection with three certificates in energy healing, Level 2 Reiki certified, and a masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She is also part of the Disaster Mental Health Team for the world’s largest volunteer network, the American Red Cross. Lisa works with clients on issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, highly sensitive, and supervises trainees, associates, and newly licensed clinicians. She is a certified Bereavement Group Facilitator so she has a passion for helping those in need. Get in touch with Lisa at lisa@lisalewiscounseling.com or call her for a free consult: 626.319.5076.

This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post.

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