Therapeutic Failures, Ugh

Therapeutic failures. Ugh. Rarely do we discuss them openly. Yet our failures can be one big playground on which we can discover and fortify leaps in skill.I recently hit a therapeutic failure with a client. I don’t want to write about it. Sharing failure seems counterintuitive and oh, so wrong. Yet oh so right at the same time.None of us like admitting a therapeutic failure, ESPECIALLY when we stand in a position of mentoring and teaching. Yet here I am. Simultaneously unpacking a therapeutic failure while standing in the full and complete knowledge of the value of my service and the training I offer.Yet, I failed. It’s the truth, we fail others from time to time.Turning away from that serves no one. We all aim to serve to the very highest of our ability. From my point of view, part of becoming even more adept in how we serve is to investigate the failures – find the miss. Mine that territory for the gold buried in the breach. Continuously learn.What did I miss?What could I have done differently?Examination, discovering where things went awry is vital to serving at the level I choose to serve. It’s ALWAYS a good idea to engage in a good honest review of what happened when things don’t go as we expect.


This does not mean self-flagellation. Nor does it mean unpacking some assumed pathology of our client as the reason. People have their reasons. I can be at peace with that. My job at this point is to discover MY misses.Nonetheless, if you are anything like me, you may journey through a territory of remorse or sorrow in the field of failure. I ran into some regret and even embarrassment as I considered sharing this with you.Failures, defeated goals can evoke all kinds of content (Thoughts, Images, Emotions, Sensations). Failure is rich territory for untethering from limiting beliefs and identifications along with other variants of human experience associated with defeat.Of course, having the means to shed this energy in minutes is not only a relief but clears the path for being able to look at the therapeutic failure through fresh eyes and a wide-open heart. I honestly cannot even remember what it’s like to unpack something like this without the accompanying understanding and methods to untangle from such cognitive and emotional briar patches.What I discovered in my exploration was a frayed connection with my client. Investigating when it started to fray revealed several points where I could have chosen a different path. For one, I became too slack about the expectations of our collaboration and let slide little indicators that we weren’t on the same page, I didn’t use our relationship well. Our connection frayed as I tooled along ignoring the little signs warning that we were getting off course from the essential element of good work – a solid therapeutic relationship. Without that, we cannot collaborate.Some frays can be prevented, some cannot. This one, likely couldn’t have been prevented, but who knows? What I know is that we can often find the very beginning of the end in looking at how clear and specific we are in the beginning – the client contract. Contract, in this context, doesn’t mean a written agreement, it is more conversational, built into the dialogue with clients.


Specifically -

WHAT are we going to address?

HOW are we going to address it?

WHAT expectations do we have of each other?

Of course, the most SIGNIFICANT of these expectations is the collaborative commitment to maintain a safe and solid therapeutic crucible. That means having a mutual willingness to address any tiny cracks.

There is an expectation of being on the SAME page about deliberate practices at home, aimed at helping our clients get relief from their problems and realize their goals.

HOW are we tending to the ongoing care of the relationship?

From my vantage point, I am reminded of what a deep honor it is to be trusted in the ways we are trusted regardless of our failings. This honor is built on the bridge of our connection and a commitment to providing the BEST care we can.I’d like to hear, what are the best things you have learned from therapeutic failures?

Understanding Professional Liability Insurance

Design firms face a myriad of risks to manage. Professional Liability Insurance (AKA Errors and Omissions Insurance) is one critical tool that a design firm can use for protection from actual or alleged negligent acts in the performance of its professional services.

Professional Liability Insurance coverage demands special attention due to the unique nature of the coverage that is provided. Understanding your policy will empower you with the precise knowledge of exactly what you are paying for and may even help to improve your firm’s profitability. In addition, your understanding of professional liability insurance can help you purchase appropriate coverage in order to reduce the impact of claims.

Purchasing Professional Liability Insurance is a very important decision. The premium for Professional Liability Insurance can range from one to two percent of a firm’s revenues or even more. As insurance brokers dedicated to serving your industry, we understand the intricacies of professional liability insurance for design firms. We would like to share four basics with you via this professional liability insurance primer.

Q. What does a professional liability policy cover?

A. In general, the policy covers actual or alleged negligence in the performance of professional services. Failure to meet your applicable industry’s standard of care will typically trigger negligence. Professional services typically include Architecture, Interior Design, Engineering and Land Surveying. Some policies also include Environmental Consulting, Construction Management and Technical Consulting as covered professional services. Insurance policies can differ widely. It is important to know the professional services that you are covered to perform. You can find this in the definitions section of your policy under “Professional Services”.

Another item worth mentioning is that many client-written agreements include adverse indemnification wording that may place your firm in the unfortunate position of being uninsured if such indemnification is triggered. Many indemnification clauses will make the design firm responsible beyond the applicable standard of care. As your agent, we are available to review such contract wording for you at no charge.

Q. What is the “retroactive date” on my policy and why is it so important?

A. The policy will only cover professional services performed after the retroactive date of the policy. Your policy may provide “fully retroactive” coverage or it may be limited to a certain date. The retroactive date is typically the date that the firm first purchased professional liability insurance. The policy does not respond to claims, incidents, or circumstances that are related to professional services performed prior to the retroactive date.

When reviewing professional liability proposals pay special attention to the retroactive date to assure that it is not compromised. Keep in mind, a lapse in insurance coverage will typically result in losing your retroactive date.

Q. My professional liability policy is on a “claims made” basis. What does this mean?

A. This means that the policy provides coverage for claims made against your firm during a policy period provided they arise out of professional services performed after the “retroactive” date on your policy. Under a claims made policy, all coverage ceases when a policy cancels or is not renewed. Once a claims made policy lapses, it is like it never existed. Therefore it is crucial to avoid compromising your retroactive coverage as well as to maintain continuous insurance coverage.

Any claims, or potential claims should be reported to the insurance company that has a policy in force at the time you are made aware of the claim. It is also important to know that most professional liability insurance policies do not automatically renew.

Q. What are some common exclusions listed on a professional liability insurance policy?

It is very important to be aware of the exclusions listed in your professional liability policy. Following are some exclusions that we have seen to be the reason for a claim to be denied:

1. Prior knowledge: The insurance company will not cover any claims that a member of the insured firm had knowledge of prior to the effective date of the policy.

2. Prior to the retroactive date: The insurance company will not cover any claims that arise out of professional services performed prior to the retroactive date of the policy.

3. Not reporting the claim in a timely manner: The insurance company will only cover claims that are reported within a reasonable amount of time.

4. Claim against a firm not named on the policy: It is important to list all current and predecessor firms for which insurance coverage is desired. Most insurance policies will only cover claims made against a firm named on the policy.

5. Arising out of non-professional services: The policy will only cover negligence in the performance of professional services. Examples of claims of a non-professional nature are breach of contract, fraud, payment disputes, faulty workmanship, and intentional acts.

Please remember that this provides only general information regarding professional liability insurance and is not a determination of insurance coverage for specific situations. The actual insurance policy should be consulted for specific coverage details.

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