A yearly review of your forms and policies can save you time and heartache in the long run. "That seems a bit dramatic, Maelisa" you may say. But exaggerate, I do not! Let's look at a couple scenarios...
- Perhaps you continue to have clients using a sliding scale fee when they no longer need this fee.
- Maybe you're still procrastinating on that social media policy and get nervous every time you see a friend request or a new follower on your social media accounts.
- Or perhaps you've been avoiding emails with new clients and spend extra time on paperwork during intake sessions.
These are all things that can be streamlined or revised. So how come so many counselors avoid doing these things? Because it seems boring and time-consuming in the moment!
However, revising (or creating) your social media policy may only take you 15-60 minutes (for the whole year!)... but could save you an hour of consultation with colleagues and then another hour in session when you get that inevitable friend request or follow.
Creating a structure around your intake forms and systematizing email communication can save you 1-2 hours for every new client but may only take a one time session of 1-2 hours to set up for the (foreseeable) life of your practice.
Now, most likely if you're reading this you already have your forms and policies set up. You're just scared they may not actually address all the potential issues that could come up and may be incomplete.
Below I have some questions for you to ask yourself. So, take a moment right now to get out your intake forms and internal policies. Yes, get them all out and then come back to this and answer each question below.
As you go through your forms and notice something is missing or needs revision simply write on the form or highlight it with a note. Give yourself 30 minutes. I promise you'll be done at that point and will have a pretty good review of your forms.
If you do need to create something totally new or do a more extensive revision then plan an hour at some point next week. Make it non-negotiable in your schedule and also tell yourself you will be satisfied with the result at the end of that hour regardless of how complete it is.
Your forms and policies will never be perfect!
That's why you do the annual review. It's a work in progress and things will adjust as you have new experiences with clients or ethical guidelines change. That's okay. It makes our work exciting :)
Alrighty, now we have your review questions. Go through each question and read your forms to see if anything is needed. Don't forget to set your timer. This is NOT the time for obsessive perfection.
- Do I know how long my state or professional association requires me to keep records? Is it time for me to destroy any records from previous years?
- Do I include in my intake documentation that when I see couples or families their records may be considered one client record and this may require both/all parties to consent to release?
- Does my informed consent document outline the benefits and potential risks of therapy?
- Do my intake documents outline my sliding scale policy and identify a timeframe (I recommend 3-6 months) in which to revisit the financial need?
- Do I explain exactly when I charge payment (e.g. before session, beginning of day, etc.)?
- Have I clearly identified circumstances in which texting and/or email is acceptable and the potential risks when used?
- Are any active Releases of Information expired or need revision?
- If you are a HIPAA-covered entity, do you explain to clients their rights regarding access to records as well as the limitations on confidentiality?
- Is there any language in my forms that appears to frequently confuse new clients or about which I am commonly asked? Is there a way to revise this and make it more clear?
- Have I created a professional will so that my loved ones and clients will experience less burden if something should happen to me (whether short or long-term)?
Phew! Okay, that wasn't so bad, was it? Maybe it was even easier than you thought. Keep in mind, this isn't necessarily an exhaustive list of what you may want to review but it certainly covers some key points.
If you want to do a more in-depth review of your intake forms and policies, my Meaningful Documentation program will be opening up again soon. We spend two whole weeks on this topic! You can click here to get on the interest list**.
In the meantime, leave a comment below with anything that came up but isn't listed here. It'll help your colleagues reading this later on. And feel free to post any questions! Let's keep the discussion going.
Like the tips in this blog post? This blog is part of the compiled tips in the ebook Workflow Therapy: Time Management and Simple Systems for Counselors.
**This group is no longer running, but you can find tips, webinars, and office hours in my Meaningful Documentation Academy.