ACA Blog

Doc Warren
Mar 14, 2012

The need to find time to consult with other professionals

It’s one of the more important things we do yet it is also the thing that many of us dread. Trying to consult with other professionals can be akin to trying to catch a greased pig with your feet; though it is statistically possible, very few of us have ever seen it. Phone tag between colleagues can last days or weeks, even when we attempt to set things up via email prior to the conversations. This to a certain extent should be expected; try to get two busy clinicians available at the same time is difficult due to emergencies, meetings, paperwork and related insurance practices and the reality that our clients need us, at times they need us a lot. As a new clinician it can be even harder. Some senior clinicians do not take them seriously and are lax on returning calls, some when they do return the call tend to talk down or spend a great deal of time “educating” the clinician when in fact the new clinician may have as good a grasp on the issue or even better than the senior one does. Some clinicians see consultation as an invasion of their practice or as a possible indictment on their ability to do their jobs. When this occurs it is a clear signal that the clinician has some deep seeded insecurities and or trust issues. Mostly consultations are just routine: fellow clinicians checking up on a client that they both treat (with proper releases as needed), sometimes it is to pick the brain of a colleague about a case they are working on or one of many equally benign reasons. One of the common arguments against consultations is that consultation time is not covered by insurance companies yet it is expected to be performed by them. I really do not have an answer as to why it is not covered but we all know the importance of consultations (this is a bigger issue for those in private practice or who work on a percentage of what is collected basis. For hourly employees it is typically a covered job function). Many of us have explored ways to increase consultation. I tried letting colleagues know times that I had set up for non emergency consultations. I set a block of time every week, same time, same day and have done so for years. Some colleagues keep this in mind and call me during this block, many seem to disregard it and call whenever they are lucky enough to find a moment. This can lead to frustration and a great deal of delays. I have also encouraged people to email me with times and days that work for them in order to try to find common times. This has worked well with many people, but surprisingly enough, there are still many folks who are not using computers, email or related items (I myself have never texted and my cell phone is so old that it barely makes and receives calls, so I am not casting stones here). So what do we do when emails, set times and notices do not work? Well, for me it seems that phone tag has become an Olympic sport, if it hasn’t it should because I could at least win a bronze medal. My record phone tag with a person who refused to email or leave a message telling me good times to call back was 3 months. Thankfully it was not an emergency. Consults can be hard to arrange but they are so very important. When we see something in our client that needs to be addressed by another professional working with our client, this phone call can help prevent an emergency hospitalization or worse. When others who work with our clients see something, this communication can help us find the missing piece to the puzzle of our client’s treatment. Tough though it may be, do not hesitate to play a game of phone tag if need be. Hopefully in time, you and your colleague will find a way to sync up enough to shorten the length of the game. The improvements can save you and your clients so very much. Do make sure you have proper releases with everyone you speak with if it concerns a client. See you at the ACA conference…

Warren Corson III (Doc Warren) is a counselor and the clinical & executive director of a community counseling agency in central CT (www.docwarren.org).

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