You’ve probably forgotten that I’m a psychologist, it’s been so long since I’ve mentioned it. I haven’t had much time to think about it lately either. I’ve been busy healing.
The week I was admitted to hospital, I had not one, not two, but three clients scheduled. I don’t normally schedule three clients in one week. I had been seeing all of these clients every so often, usually one per week, but all three happened to want in. I was wondering how I’d be able to manage the workload without tanking.
My hospitalization solved that one: I had to cancel everyone. Since I suspended work after my leukemia diagnosis and later reopened my office, I’ve rarely had to cancel or even move a client for medical reasons. I try to keep my work life and my illness as separate as I can, for my own sake but even more for my clients. But occasionally, like last week, I can’t.
I have since left messages for two clients to rebook, and managed to catch the third by phone. This last one was concerned that I’d cancelled and was relieved to know I’m okay. I don’t want any client to worry that my health has taken a turn for the worse. I was glad I could reassure my client, but the damage was already done.
None of these clients have rebooked yet. Maybe they’re gun shy; I would be too if I were them. So I’ve decided to provide some incentives for booking. Our vet offers discounts for doggy dental work in the spring and cheap bloodwork in the fall, so why can’t I come up with something similar? How about: “50% off your next appointment if you refer a friend.” Or: “Free baked goods with every appointment.” There’s always: “Come for therapy and I’ll use you as my contractor.” Need I list the ethical infractions I’d be violating here?
Years ago, a woman organizing a school fundraiser approached me to donate a psychoeducational assessment for a silent auction. This may seem like a reasonable request, and initially I felt honoured to be asked. It would be great publicity, I thought.
I quickly came to my senses and politely declined. It wasn’t the time commitment but the inappropriateness of the request. My work demands confidentiality. How could I maintain that client’s privacy if anyone could see the list of bidders, and the winner were made public? No, I couldn’t do it.
Just as I can’t beg my clients to come in. I may be bored and my office underutilized, but my clients have to choose to come in; I can’t beg them. Ambulance chasers psychologists are not. I’d lose my license if I coerced anyone to see me. I can say that I am available but then it’s up to my clients.
I hope someone books in. This month’s psychology registration dues are a pretty penny. And, without any real work to do, I’ll have no excuse but to start on my taxes. Despite my paltry income, I will owe the government money again this year. If you’re my client and you’re reading this, know that I could use the money, so please come in. But don’t tell anyone I begged. Let that be our little unethical secret.