A Psychotherapist’s Out-of-Office Email Response


Summer is waning and many of us have been out of the office for some long overdue respite and self-care.

Last year, I sent one of my colleagues, Christine Garcia, MA, LPC, an email while she was out of the office and, in response, received an email from her autoresponder.

In consideration of her clients’ needs, her own risk management needs, and in the interest of any others who might be trying to reach her, Christine had created an automatic email response that provided notice of her absence as well as information for clients and potential clients who have mental health needs.

Her email was so thorough that I wanted to share it with you and invited her to guest post about it right here.

However, she modestly gave credit to  Barbara Sheehan-Zeidler, MA, LPC who originally introduced her to the idea of using an autoresponse but did graciously agree to share the evolution of this email response that she uses today.

  (If you are interested in writing a guest post, check out the guidelines here.)


 A Guest Post by Christine Garcia, MA, LPC

Image of A Psychotherapist's Out-of-Office Email Response

Responsible for Me

When I plan a vacation or time away from the office to tend to a medical or personal need, I want to get completely away.

It seemed that being able to leave work behind and mentally escape became essential to my self-care as a clinician in private practice.

My clients were amazing-but-intense people with crisis-oriented situations that often put them in harms way.

They were women who were victims of domestic violence and several were involved with Child Protective Services.

I enjoyed working with them but found I needed a mental and emotional break at least once a year to avoid burnout.

In order for me to really let go of worrying about my clients while I was laying on a beach somewhere soaking up a cocktail and some sun, I realized that I needed to be reasonably sure that my clients could get help if they reached out to me while I was away.

Responsible to Them

In fact, I knew it was my responsibility to any client trying to reach me (both current and new clients) to give them information about where to seek help and support during my absence.

Although I would create plans with my current clients before being away from the office, I realized that having additional coverage meant I could better enjoy my time away because I worried less.

So, in addition to getting coverage from a colleague to answer urgent calls or hold a session with a client in crisis, if needed, I also set up an automatic outgoing email that provided helpful information.

My colleague and friend, Barbara Sheehan-Zeidler of Creative and Caring Counseling, LLC took my original message and cleaned it up for her own use.

Her version is better than mine.  Just click to download

.Barbara's Autoresponder


Do you have experience using email auto-responders?

If so, what has your experience been?

Are there other things that you include in your out-of-office emails?


 About the Author:  Christine Garcia, MA, LPC  has been in Image of Christine Garcia, MA, LPCprivate practice in Colorado since 2006. Prior to becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor, Ms. Garcia worked in domestic violence victim services, child adolescent treatment centers, and for Child Protective Services. 

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Karen Carnabucci’s Success Tools & Tips For Marketing Your International Conference & Private Practice, Too


Over the last 30 years, I’ve volunteered to spearhead or work on more conferences and events than I can even list. Along the way, I’ve gained skills in leadership development, marketing, problem solving, and communication that have easily transferred to building my private practice.

But, what I’ve never done is work on an international conference.  So, when author, trainer and mind-body therapist Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP offered to write a guest post sharing her tips based on her own experience as a member of the Steering Committee of an international conference, I jumped at the opportunity for you and me both to learn from her.

I’ve followed Karen’s work for years.  She’s a creative soul, an out-of-the-box clinician, and a practical-minded business woman who knows how to gain the attention needed to stand out in a crowd. I’m happy to have her join us today to share with us what she has learned while marketing the 2015 North American Systemic Constellations Conference and how you can apply this to your own practice.

(If you are interested in writing a guest post, check out the guidelines here.)


Karen Carnabucci's Success Tools & Tips
A Guest Post by Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP

It’s a Little Bit More

Want to step up your business-building and marketing skills?

Well then, step up and volunteer to help with the planning of an international conference!

I’m doing that right now, as a member of a Steering Committee for the 2015 North American Systemic Constellations Conference, scheduled for Nov. 12-15 in San Diego, California, USA.

I’ve attended conferences, presented at conferences, given feedback for conferences, contributed to fundraisers at conferences, had my books sold at conferences and organized a few regional conferences in my own backyard.

Planning an international conference for all helping professionals, is a different story.

As one of eight members of the Steering Committee over the past nine months, I’ve been invited to stretch my marketing skills – all in a good way.

It’s been like taking an independent study course, leading me to discover marketing tools and approaches that I had never considered. And I expect even more learning by the time the conference date rolls around!

Adapting New Tools

I’ve prided myself in knowing a good deal about marketing and getting the word out to prospective clients and trainees.

I’ve built my private practice twice – first in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and later in Racine, Wisconsin — where I moved when my husband’s corporate job transferred.

I’m a former newspaper journalist and have coached clients about practice building and press releases.

I’ve taught the marketing and practice building course at a local massage school.

But, what I’m learning now can also apply to marketing anyone’s private practice or special event.

I’m already using some new tools as I revise my practice to cast a wider net for my own training and consulting work.

Many of these tools can convert or be adapted to starting, expanding or reinventing most practices.

Casting a Wider Net

The outreach [for an international conference] is way bigger than for your practice.

An international conference means that we look at four levels of audience – local, regional, national and international – and how to reach them.

Because systemic constellations apply to all helping professionals, from traditional to alternative, we are identifying different strategies for each level.

Online Tools Support Networking

We are using Basecamp for our project management and the teleconference service Zoom for our weekly online meetings.

Animoto, which has free and paid versions, helps with making simple videos that we’ve uploaded to YouTube.

Canva and Quotescover provide free and easy apps for making attractive graphics for Facebook and other social media.

We can become friendly faster with an event app – we are using Bizzabo – which helps with registration and pre-conference networking.

There is even a free introduction app for networking which can be upgraded to a paid version that registers participants.

Publicizing via Social Media

Using social media is a must to publicize your event.

We’ve been focusing on quality content on Facebook, which includes info, links and videos from our keynote speakers as well as other good links about our topic i.e. focusing on multi-generational healing and change.

There are a huge amount of resources online, so many that we’ve had to pick and choose which to use.

Two of the sites that allow for free listings are Eventful and Yelp.

Pinterest is an amazing site therapists can use not only for posting about the event but also for sharing research.

I typed in “conference planning” and “event planning” in the search window for Pinterest and got tons of ideas with pictures, websites and links about great conference resources.

The Pinterest board where I curate my own “Conference Ideas” has more than 110 pins. You can find it here.

I’m using it for conference planning now and will be referring to it for my business and my clients later.

Don’t Forget the Volunteers

Recruiting volunteers to help with marketing and outreach make the job much easier.

We’ve asked marketing partners of various disciplines to help spread the word through their own social media sites, email newsletters, websites and podcasts.

State affiliates like the National Association of Social Workers and the American Marriage and Family Therapists often have pages on their websites where conferences and presenters can list programs with continuing education credits.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Talk with members of conference committees from previous years about what went well and what needed improvement.

Save time by getting documents from past conferences so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel.

You can tweak the documents on topics such as workshop proposal invitations, session assistant instructions, and timelines with updates rather than starting from scratch.

International vs. Local

Include planning committee members who are familiar with the needs of international attendees.

In the United States, we don’t necessarily think about cultural differences that come with international audiences like the currency exchange rates, matters of visas, translation services and the like, so consulting on these topics is useful.

In addition to the perks of learning and the opportunity to contribute, I and my colleagues have already enjoyed other perks including private video conferences with the keynote speakers.

Here is what we’ve accomplished so far

Take a look and let us know what you think.  

And, if you’ve helped plan a conference or other large event, I hope you’ll share below what you have learned from the experience that helps you market and grow your business.


About the Author: Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP, is a psychotherapist, trainer Image of Karen Carnabucci - Polaroidand author of several books about mind-body therapies – and a member of the planning committee of the 2015 North American Systemic Constellations Conference. You may sign up for her professional e-mail newsletter here.

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Why Therapists Should Always Allow Commenting On Their Blogs


Image of Why Therapists Should Always Allow Commenting On Their Blogs

No Commenting?!

Earlier this week, I was talking with graphic designer Kat Love about why some bloggers choose not to allow commenting on their blogs.  To me, that’s like publishing a book and then forbidding readers to discuss it with each other!  It just doesn’t make sense.

But, as Kat pointed out, some bloggers might simply prefer to be contacted in a different manner.

While that may be true for some of you, I know from talking to hundreds of you about this issue that fear is a different reason that many of you choose to prevent commenting on your blog.

There’s also “I don’t want to be bothered” and “I don’t have time” and “What if a client identifies himself in the comments as being my client?”

And this one comes up a lot – “I don’t want someone to threaten to kill herself and me have to address that right there on my blog” or “What if someone threatens suicide or homicide and I don’t catch it in time and someone dies on my watch?!”  – both of which, of course, are really “I don’t know how to respond or what to do” if either of those situations arise.

Did I cover most of your objections?  Well, we will be talking more about commenting in BlogStart for Therapists when I start my next round of classes next week!

Rethinking Those Comments

With that in mind, I thought this might be the right time to talk with you about some of the reasons you absolutely should be allowing (and even encouraging) commenting on your blog if the primary purpose of your blog is to get seen, get known, get liked, and get trusted to attract your ideal clients!

I get it if you think that commenting may be distracting to your readers and take the focus away from you or something else that you might want them to focus on – like your opt-in form or your call-to-action.

Or, maybe you think that comments just visually clutter up a web page and don’t add anything of substance.

If either of these is true for you, I want you to consider that not all of us feel that way when we’re checking out your blog.

In fact, a lot of us are actually looking for ways to connect with you – the blogger – especially if we’re thinking about doing business with you!

“Why?” you might ask.

Because before I am ever going to sit in a room and spill my deepest, darkest secrets to you, I have to trust you!

And, before I have to trust you, I have to figure out that I like you!

And, before I figure out that I like you, we need to hang out together and get to know each other a little bit!

And, frankly, I’m not going to hang out with someone who does all the talking and then acts like she knows who I am, what I’m about, and what I need without first listening to me!

Need More Reasons?

There are lots of other reasons that you need to enable commenting if you are using blogging as one tool to build your practice.

If I’m your favorite potential client, I’m reading your blogs every day and usually finding all that great information and inspiration I am looking for.

But, here’s the truth -as much as I love the great content that you are providing and how beautifully you string your words together to turn a phrase, it’s the comments that most often have the juice in them for me!  It’s those comments from my peers that are causing me to re-examine my own choices or are encouraging me to take my next steps!

It’s the interactions between readers or the interactions between you and your readers that seem to catch and hold my attention or draw out that extra little nugget that I needed.  Those show me who you are (as well as who they are).

And, all of that is so much more interesting to me than some old fart who tries to tell me what to do just blabbing away at me, like old-school-push-marketing where the business owner wants to tell me what they want me to hear and we never interact at all!

Bloggers lose my interest really quickly when they just talk at me.

In fact, it’s entirely likely I won’t even go back a 2nd or 3rd time to a site if you don’t let me interact with you.  If this holds true for most of your other visitors to your website or you don’t make it easy for them to connect with you personally, think about how many potential clients / resources / evangelists you are missing every single day!

Bread Crumbs Straight to Your Door

Showing up to engage with those in your audience who want to engage with you is like leaving bread crumbs for Hansel and Gretel! Just by showing up to the conversations you are building trust and leading your readers right back to your door!

And, don’t forget those occasions when you’ve gotten something wrong or someone wants to take issue with you. Allowing your readers to address those issues publicly is invaluable!

Why? Because it shows your audience how it is that you choose to deal with confrontation and challenges!  Commenting allows them to see that you and they can bump up against each other with your differences and still be OK.

That’s HUGE – especially when you reader is thinking about going to see you (a stranger) who may find her girlfriend, her life choices, her religion, or frankly just her to be “odd.”

It can be comforting for potential clients to see that you aren’t perfect, that you can be wrong and still be OK.

Putting on your big girl panties and cleaning up your public messes in public really can tip the scale in your favor if you have the courage to do so.

Precious Gifts for You from Your Biggest Fans

Then, there are all the great ideas that readers bring to you (knowingly or not) by peppering their biggest concerns, most astute observations, and favorite resources into their comments.

When your readers do this they are introducing themselves to you in tiny little snippets for you to get to know (and respond to) like tiny little offerings all while adding literal quality, usefulness, and interest to your website.

Oh, I almost forgot!  If you know how the search engines work, you already know that all that extra yumminess and goo that comes with each of those fabulous comments are like virtual delicacies for those search engines!

That’s what the search engines love to eat – new, relevant content.  It broadens the keywords on your site and creates the organic long-tail keywords that keep your website moving up in the ranks.

If what you are doing is working for you, then good for you! Keep at it! But if you find that you aren’t meeting the goals you have for your website (And, yes, we’ll be talking about goals and planning for you website / blog in BlogStart for Therapists, too!), you might want to take a look at this perspective.

Your Website Needs to Be Your Hub

And, back to those initial objections for enabling commenting on your blog . . . . If you are using Facebook or Twitter or some other platform to have all those juicy conversations rather than hosting them on your very own website, you’re making a HUGE MISTAKE.

Maybe you started out online in junior high school using social media primarily for social reasons.  If so, hanging out on social media back then was “just for fun” and now hanging out on those sites just feels “native” to you.

But once you started your own business, you may have assumed that because that’s where the bulk of your friends and contacts are hanging out, that Facebook or some other platform is where you feel most at home.  And, that’s why you decided to use those places as your “home online.”

But, listen up!  From a business and risk management perspective, that’s not smart!

The reason that’s not smart is because, of course, you don’t own those spaces and they can go change or go away at any time – and they have!

Doing the bulk of your business on Facebook or Twitter is no different than renting an apartment, knocking out walls, putting in a new kitchen with new cabinetry and appliances, and even a pool out back and then fussing when the landlord says he wants you to move out.

No.  You cannot take the new kitchen appliances and cabinetry with you.

And, oh, yeah – The pool stays here, too.

I’ve seen therapists lose 7 years worth of content and artists lose all their professional images of their work and, perhaps even worse, I’ve seen seen business owners lose their entire audiences overnight simply because they were sharecropping their online spaces!

Do the Smart Thing for You (and Your Clients)

So . . . back to BlogStart for Therapists . . . . Did I mention that the new series starts next week and that we’ll also be talking about risk management in blogging and how get people to even find your blog, and a whole lot more?

I’ve got seats to fill and I would love to have you join me.  

But even if you don’t sign up to take BlogStart for Therapists today, whatever you do . . . please enable commenting on your blog.

Join the conversations.

Help your ideal clients find you, get to know you, learn to trust you, and pick up the phone to call you!

You have important work to do and your potential clients are just waiting to start those life-altering conversations with you.

And, if you’ve already started engaging with your readers, how’s that going for you?  I’m serious.  I really want to know!

[And, a big THANK YOU to Kat Love for helping me flesh out my thinking about this topic.]

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