Deciding what to charge for your therapy sessions can be a difficult decision. This is especially true when you are just starting out and you fear that you will not attract any new clients; the instinct is to undercharge for your services. This happens a lot in the business world, where companies compete to offer the lowest price on a product or service; what often results is a race to the bottom. When I first started out in private practice, I debated whether to offer a sliding scale so that I could see a wide variety of clients, including university students who had limited funds. I eventually decided against this approach because I realized that my business model was not going to be a therapist who could see absolutely everyone, but rather, I wanted to see clients who could comfortably afford therapy with me. I have received many emails from potential clients who inquire about my rate and then ask if I can lower the rate for them, due to their limited finances. In my experience, these clients often demand rapid therapeutic gains because they are hoping to maximize their investment. This is understandable, but it creates a stressful therapeutic relationship and one that I try to avoid. I do not want money to get in the way of therapy. When potential clients call me and seem stressed about the rate, I validate their concerns by noting that therapy can be expensive and then I offer them several reputable therapists whom I know who offer more affordable rates. Clients always appreciate this gesture and I feel reassured that this client will be able to receive therapy that they can afford.
It is natural for therapists to undervalue their work. It does not help that most graduate programs in psychology do not have courses or training in how to run a business or how to deal with money. It can be uncomfortable asking for money at the end of the session and it is natural to question whether you are “worth” your rate. Charging a higher rate can also create a cognitive dissonance in therapists because we like to think of ourselves as being altruistic and charging a higher rate can challenge that idea.
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