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Although often overlooked, effective forms are an important part of the toolbox for clinical directors and other behavioral health providers. Forms communicate expectations, which can help avoid problems. In addition to this, many forms are legally required or can help reduce liability. In this article, we will examine some of the key forms your mental health private practice needs and what these forms should include, and we will share several resources to get you started.

Understanding the Importance of Forms in Private Practice

Your practice’s forms are vital for not only conveying the policies and procedures of your mental health practice to patients, but also for achieving understanding and buy-in, as well as enforcing accountability (e.g., policies for no-show appointments). Several forms, such as HIPAA and TCPA forms, are legally required.

Often, your forms should be customized to reflect your practice’s mission statement, target audience, and services offered. Effective forms help protect your practice from misunderstandings, poor reviews, legal issues, and lost revenues, while also providing clarity and consistency to the patients you serve. We will explore various key forms in the next section.

Key Forms for Managing a Mental Health Private Practice

In this section, we present a selection of key forms your practice should have for day-to-day operations, along with rationales and important details to include. These forms are generally the same for all patients, unlike clinical forms which may be more specific to your patients’ individual needs and your practice’s specialties.

Consent for Services and Fee Agreement Form

This form gives permission for treatment and outlines your practice’s fees for behavioral health services, which is important for transparency and accountability. The form should include self-pay rates for different types and durations of therapies offered, including any differentials for clinicians with more experience at your practice.

Self-pay fees for your most used insurance codes should be included, and you should reiterate your cancellation and no-show fees here. Although less relevant for insurance-paid services, this form is also important for out-of-network “superbill” insurance reimbursements, and is your blueprint to provide good-faith estimates to patients to comply with the federal No Surprises Act that took effect in 2022. Note that some practices may opt to split Consent for Services into a separate form.

Release of Information (HIPAA) Form

This is also known as the Notice of Privacy Practices form and is required by federal law. This form should explain how your practice uses and discloses protected health information, along with several other required elements. The notice must include an effective date, it must be prominently displayed in your office, and written or electronic acknowledgement of receipt of the notice should be obtained from the patient.

Cancellation Policy Form

This form should explain expectations for timely attendance of appointments, policies for rescheduling, exceptions for extenuating circumstances, and penalties imposed, such as a cancellation fee. Make sure to keep this form simple and clear, and collect patients’ signatures and the date signed.

No-Show Policy Form

Although this can also be rolled into the Cancellation Policy form, it may be worth having a separate form to explain the difference. Your practice’s fee for a no-show may be higher, and, as with cancellation fees, is not covered by insurance. Importantly, specify that after a certain number of no-shows (e.g., 2 or 3), you may discontinue treatment with the patient. Keep in mind that effective appointment reminders are your first line of defense against no-shows.

Auto-Payment Agreement Form

This form can simplify the payment process for co-payments and co-insurance, as well as for self-pay patients. The form can be connected with a patient portal in advanced electronic health record (EHR) platforms that allow online payments, and must include giving permission to securely store the patient’s payment details (e.g., credit card, debit card, bank draft). This can be especially useful for telehealth practices.

Consent to Communication (TCPA) Form

This is a legally required form that protects your practice when communicating with the patient via text message, telephone, and email. Although a consent form is not required for communication of pertinent medical information, it is best to have one on file to reduce liability when communicating broadcast messages to all patients, appointment reminders, paperwork reminders, and other materials.


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Additional Forms for Consideration

Other important business issues you may want to address via forms include parent/guardian permission if treating minors, insurance verification, and payment responsibility. Beyond this, the clinical realm includes intake forms, many types of assessments, the all-important treatment plan, and periodic progress notes. Instead of pen and paper, many behavioral health providers prefer using EHR software to make these forms customizable, accessible, and secure.

Utilizing Templates and Professional Resources

Templates and other resources can be helpful to get started with forms. Particularly for your HIPAA notice, it is important to use the right language, which may originate from a professionally designed template, and may also include consulting with an attorney, depending on the complexity of your practice. Other forms may be more specific to your practice and so a template may be less useful—but it may still be a good starting point.

Although you can buy packages of form templates online, be careful, as they are likely not specific to behavioral health and may be of limited value. Bear in mind that you will want your forms to fit in with your practice’s marketing brand, such as by including your practice’s logo on each form. You may also want to reach out to colleagues, including clinical directors or practice owners, for guidance on pitfalls to avoid, and what they have found to be effective. This will help you develop well-designed forms that cause less confusion for patients and need fewer revisions later.

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Having the right forms in place for managing and protecting a mental health private practice can help your intake process flow smoother, for both staff and patients. We encourage behavioral health providers and clinical directors to review their current forms and make necessary adjustments, based on these insights, as well as revisions needed for policies and procedures that have changed over time based on your practice’s needs and the community you serve.

For further reading, if you are considering launching your own practice, you may enjoy our Things to Consider When Opening Your Own Private Practice article, which covers a wide array of other topics.