How often have you clicked into your inbox and opened up some variation of this email:
I wanted to check in before our next session. I don't want to take up too much time during the appointment. I was hoping you could find some time for a quick phone call before tomorrow.
Ok for legal purposes this is 100% a made up email BUT some variation of this email or voicemail comes my way from time to time.
In all honesty it used to be muuuuch more frequent.
And why is that?
Well - I have significantly improved my ability to have clear boundaries around my time, including email and phone calls in my career as well as clarifying what things are helpful to handle over the phone vs. in the therapy office.
So to kickstart this post I wanted to give you some resources so you can increase your time boundaries too!
First hop on over to this blog on informed consent and grab yourself a free copy of my informed consent checklist so you can start having these conversations and setting contact expectations at the first appointment.
Next, check out this post HERE to see how I set boundaries with parent emails and communications.
So, what about when a parent is requesting a phone call and not an email?
Well......... I hate to break it to you but it’s never a quick call.
And it makes sense. Most of the time a parent is calling to give information or receive support on a clinical issue.
Maybe it’s information about your client having an issue with fighting on the playground, not completing their homework (again), or clinging to their parents leg at the latest round of dance.
Either way - these are clinical issues that rarely take a minute or two to unpack.
Time boundaries can be crucial as a child and teen therapist where you are getting notes done between sessions, may have a back to back day, have other forms to fill out, and potential new client inquiries to field.
Your time is valuable and you want to make sure that you are getting compensated for clinical services you are providing.
So, before we talk about the four strategies to set time boundaries for phone calls, grab my free download of my informed consent checklist and start talking about boundaries with phone calls and emails session one!
Okay, now it’s time to get tactical! Here are the four strategies to increase time boundaries with parent phone calls:
Before figuring out what technique is going to be the best fit from the list below, it’s important to acknowledge and validate the importance of the parent reaching out to you. Research shows that when parents are involved in a child’s therapy they have better outcomes! SO the fact that they are communicating to you is a good thing!
Redirect to the next session
For this option you can let the parent know that you want to make sure that you can give the issue they want to discuss the attention and focus it needs. You can also let them know that you don’t think you have the capacity to appropriately support them with this situation with a quick phone call. You can orient them to the next session date and ask if they would like to check in for the first or last portion of the session.
Offer a parenting session
If the option above isn’t a great fit you can let the parent know what openings you have in your calendar for family therapy without client present appointment. This is a great option for issues that may need more support, parenting skills, or assessment than 15-20 minutes within the individual session will allow.
Call with 10 minutes until your next session
Because you have another session coming up you can clearly state at the top of the phone call that you are calling between sessions, only have ten minutes, and if the issue seems like it might need more focus you can offer any of the two options above. When you prime parent expectations you will either wrap up the sort conversation within the allotted time or find another way to communicate.
Engage in a billable phone consultation
Depending on your informed consent and the type of insurance a client has, contact with a parent or guardian of a minor child can be a billable service. If you charge out of pocket (which some insurances won’t allow) for extra services like phone consultations it clearly needs to be in your informed consent and stated as you schedule the call.
Other insurance companies allow for98966-98968 codes to be billed for "telephone assessment and management service provided by a qualified non-physician health care professional to an established client, parent or guardian." This is a great option for a parent who isn’t able to commit to an extra session, may not be able to attend the next session, and has an issue that is over 10 minutes. For this option you want to make sure you are clear about this being a billable service.
So there you have it - four ways to create time boundaries around parent phone calls in your practice!
I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC,