Most of the time, without a proper business plan that takes into account the risk of death or disability, clients will likely learn about their therapist's health issues by showing up to an empty office when they arrive for their appointment. Clients will not have the opportunity to speak with someone knowledgeable about the situation who can help them cope with the sudden change in circumstances. Also, clients may not be able to receive their client files for some time and there would be a risk of losing their confidentiality if a family member of the therapist were to handle the client files. This scenario is not good!
Therapists are required by their ethical standards to have some plan in place that protects their clients in the event of their disability or death. A great idea is to create a professional will. Think of a professional will as a set of instructions for another licensed practitioner to follow if this scenario presents itself. They would need to know your passwords for your website and client files and have keys for your office. They would need to know how to contact your clients and what to say to them. And it's also good to set aside some money for this person so that they will be compensated for their efforts. Leaving this whole process up to a family member in charge of your estate is a bad idea and runs afoul of your ethical responsibilities.
I will be sure to list some resources that mental health practitioners can use to see if they are meeting their ethical requirements in a later blog post. Thanks for reading and feel free to call my office if you'd like more information.