Getting Paid: Introducing & Talking About Sliding Scale, Adjusted Pricing & Specialized Alternatives—The Words You Use Make a Difference
Getting Paid: Talking About Sliding Scale Pricing—The Words You Use Do Make a Difference
Getting Paid: Talking About Sliding Scale Pricing—The Words You Use Do Make a Difference is the fourth article of the Getting Paid: Talking with Clients About Money Matters Series.
How much do you charge? What’s your sliding scale? Is that the lowest you charge?
How much can you slide? How low can you go?
If you dread hearing these questions you are not alone.
While questions about a lower price or a sliding scale used to be asked from time to time, therapists are reporting that now they are asked these questions all the time—from just about everyone who calls.
What’s problematic about this?
Well, before this recent phenomenon started, sliding scale requests came from just a few—usually those with a low income or reduced ability to pay, a financial hardship or significant unexpected expense. Now a majority of those asking for lower or sliding scale pricing more often have adequate resources, income, and an ability to pay. What’s a therapist to do?
Offering lower pricing to clients truly in financial need who require mental health services, is a time-honored tradition in the practice of therapy. Sliding scale and other types of price adjustments were instituted to make therapy services available to those whose economic circumstances didn’t allow payment for the full cost of services.
Having these accommodations available allows therapists, at their own discretion, to adjust the amount a client pays and can manage on a regular basis
Like most therapists in the mental health profession, I believe in, and support, making affordable therapy available to people who don’t have much money and those experiencing a financial hardship.
Clinicians, who are committed to this, routinely offer those in need a variety of options that allow them to afford and pay for needed mental health treatment. Many therapists also work with certain clients on a case-by-case basis to offer specialized arrangements based on their particular needs and circumstances.
Some of the options private practitioners use to make therapy affordable to clients in financial need are: pricing based on income; lower pricing; a percentage or number of lower priced client spaces; an allotted length of time or number of sessions of lowered pricing for a certain number of clients; flexible scheduling (three sessions per month, every other week, etc.); charging less for shorter sessions; payment plans; pro bono sessions for a client or two; charging less for sessions during slow periods of the day; special arrangements based on special circumstances; a limited number of reduced-price scholarships; sliding scale; etc.
With so many callers asking about the lowest prices they have, now therapists feel even more to reduce prices because
While clinicians believe it’s important to offer sliding scale pricing only when a client is genuinely in financial need, unfortunately, when repeatedly asked about sliding scale or lower pricing, many end up undercharging, letting clients determine the fee, maxing out the number of low-cost clients their practices can accommodate, cutting prices below the minimum amount needed to keep their practice open, and feeling resentful or taken advantage of by clients they gave a lower price to and then discovered were spending large amounts on luxuries (new, high priced cars, jewelry, vacations, designer clothing; dining at pricey restaurants, etc.) after they’d claimed they couldn’t afford to pay for therapy and needed a lower session price.
Sliding scale, special arrangements, and lower prices upon request were never meant to be offered as options to those who had resources, could afford to pay the full price, and who, for other reasons, don’t want to or think they should.
It’s also not financially feasible for any private practitioner who wants to remain in business, to give a discount to every single client who wants to pay the lowest possible price for therapy—after all we need to keep our practices up and running, be able to cover practice and professional expenses, and support ourselves and our household.
Responding to callers and clients who are asking, but don’t really need or qualify for a lower therapy rate, is a very different type of conversation than the one clinicians trained for and are familiar with—people who genuinely have, a financial need.
As therapists, our task is to find the right balance of how, and how much, we can adjust session prices, for which clients, and how many—and not go out of business. In the current climate, navigating talking about prices with these clients takes more specialized skills and requires a totally different mindset, approach, and vocabulary.
So, what’s the best way to respond to a caller or current client who wants a price accommodation but doesn’t need one?
Money Talk: Words & Phrases to Consider
Let’s look at some of the words that can make a difference when a clinician talks, writes, or communicates about money matters involving sliding scale and adjusted pricing for those with limited income—and how and why these words can affect the amount a person is willing to consider or pay for therapy services.
This information applies equally to phone calls, face-to-face conversations in real time or virtually, emails, texts, social media postings, and what’s printed in marketing materials or written on a website. Yes, each of these words and phrases can have a direct effect on the perceived value of the services a therapist provides and the amount clients are willing to pay for the clinical services you provide.
As you read the following information, be sure to remember:
Now about that vocabulary . . .
As noted in Getting Paid: Talking Fees, Pricing, Prices The Words You Use to Talk to Clients About Money Matters in Therapy Do Make a Difference using fee, full fee, my, my fee, etc., currently seem to signal to those seeking therapy that any stated rate for clinical services is just a starting point. It’s automatically assumed therapists are open to requests and negotiating lower prices.
You’ll notice that the words listed aren’t used in this article—that’s why. To review alternate wording, click the link. Using some of these suggested words may eliminate a client who doesn’t need a sliding scale asking you about one.
1. Low, lowest, lower . . . Reduce, reduced . . . Discount, discounted . . .
Lowest price/prices/rates/amounts . . . reduced price/prices/pricing/rates/amounts . . . discounted price/prices/pricing/rates/amounts
Are the people who call us about our services seeking therapy or shopping for therapy?
In today’s world using any of the words listed seems to put people on the “I’m shopping” channel. Not exactly the best channel to be on to seek professional help for mental health issues or work, family and relationship problems, self-regulation skills, healing past traumas, addiction, recovery, anger management, parenting skills, growth, etc. It’s sometimes very easy for people to get mixed up about what type of professional help they need and what that costs.
Are people looking for a professional who’s trained and skilled in helping clients like them with their presenting issues? Or are they looking for the lowest possible price for counseling? How much is it necessary to pay? What difference does the price make?
These are all important questions for therapists to address when clients call about therapy and cost is discussed.
As mental health professionals who are highly skilled and experienced, we don’t want to add to any confusion, so it’s important we’re aware of the words we use when we talk or write about the price for therapy services so we don’t inadvertently encourage clients to shift into a shopping for the lowest price mindset or turn into a “therapy price shopper.”
Clinical services are valuable and worth paying for since stopping unhealthy behaviors, learning new skills, and how to take better care of yourself can save both money and time as well as help you take advantage of opportunities that make your life better.
How much does therapy save when you don’t get divorced, lose your job, get a DUI or???? When you compare the cost and benefit from what you receive then the price may seem worth paying—even if you must rearrange your budget, put it on a credit card, arrange a family loan or payment plan, etc.
Unless therapists are specializing in clients who only want to pay low, reduced or discounted prices for therapy services, in general, it’s best for those in private practice to use other words and not any variation of “low, reduce, discount” when referring to or stating pricing for therapy services.
2. Sliding Scale
When in conversation or writing, substituting one of the following words in place of “sliding scale,” price . . . rate . . . amount . . . pricing . . . cost . . . charge . . . along with adjust, adjusted, alternate, alternative, affordable, special, economy, helps clients understand, and cognitively register, that this isn’t the type of pricing range where a therapist will, upon request, “slide” all the way to zero, or some other very low price.
Adjusted price . . . economy rate . . . special pricing . . . cost adjustment . . . more affordable amount
Using this wording usually results in fewer requests and conversations from those not truly in financial need. With these words people, usually don’t just automatically try to negotiate to make a stated price lower.
Let’s look at this from another perspective . . . When you go to a doctor, attorney, dentist or other professional, do they use the term, sliding scale? Most likely these professionals use words like adjustment, introductory, limited time or another pricing term.
Clients are familiar with this wording. and when it’s used, don’t automatically assume that the price stated is open for negotiation to a lower one. Nor do they experience these definitive words as an invitation to ask for a discount or adjustment to a much lower number.
Now’s a good time to take a moment to think about and consider the words you are using with the people who call or clients who want to change the amount they pay, what you’ve read about this, and what your colleagues are saying about handling these things and if, and how, it’s working for them, and for you.
That’s enough for today on talking sliding scale pricing and getting paid. I hope you’ve found it useful to understand how the wording you use to talk about sliding scale pricing can increase or decrease the money you earn in your practice. See for yourself how the words you use can make a difference.
The next article, the fifth in the Getting Paid Series, covers sliding scale, part 2—specific suggestions about how to introduce and talk about your sliding scale, adjusted pricing and specialized alternatives.
Getting Paid: Talking About Sliding Scale Pricing—The Words You Use Do Make a Difference is the fourth article of the Getting Paid: Talking with Clients About Money Matters Series:
1. Talking with Clients About the Price & Value of Therapy
2. Talking Fees, Pricing, Prices—The Words You Use to Talk to Clients About Money Matters Do Make a Difference
3. Talking Pricing, Services, Rates—The Words You Use to Talk with Clients About Your Services and Rates Make a Difference
Getting Paid: Talking Pricing, Services, Rates—The Words You Use to Talk with Clients About Your Services and Rates Make a Difference
Talking with clients about therapy services, cost and payment, and the importance of making and keeping regular appointments is a vital part of therapy—and finding the right words to use professionally and clinically to convey the value of these services and the appropriate cost, time-frame, and involvement—is key to the success of every therapist’s private practice.
However, today many therapists are finding that they must spend significant time and energy to reset a client’s, or prospective client’s, expectations for therapy with regard to cost, frequency, duration, participation, and involvement in the therapy process.
As a result of these challenging money-driven clinical conversations, many therapists have reduced their rates significantly and are undercharging--and frequently being paid too little—for their therapeutic services. Yes, and, sadly, all too often, therapists are being persuaded to give their services away free.
This is the third article in a series on Getting Paid: Talking with Clients About Money Matters:
Unfortunately, it is a common misperception that charging as little as possible is the best strategy for attracting new clients and filling a practice.
However, undercharging and underearning seriously harm your business if you are mainly providing low cost offerings to clients—you and the work you do aren’t valued by these low-paying clients, you still need a lot of clients, and any new client makes very little difference to your income.
If you’re in private practice you have a responsibility to find clients who can pay your rates and keep you and your practice solvent so you can do the work you were meant to do instead of spending all your time and energy trying to keep you practice full.
The therapists I talk to are tired of undercharging and underearning.
Therapists want to work less, earn more, and make a bigger difference. More and more therapists are seeking out clinical and practice coaching so they can take charge of clinical money conversations and refocus them on the value, relief, and life/relationship/health changing/enhancing, conflict/anxiety/depression reducing benefits that clients are seeking from in person, face-to-face therapy work with a trained professional—and they charge more and are paid accordingly. Their income increases, they attract more clients, they fill their practice. Therapists deserve to earn a good living for the work they do.
The Wording You Use Can Make Difference in Your Income
As in any clinical endeavor, the words you use to describe your services do make a difference. In this case, the amount a client is willing to pay for therapy with a trained professional—and in order to receive the desired result/relief/outcome.
Yes, the meaning our words convey can either increase or decrease the amount of money we earn and are paid for therapy. You’ll find that people will pay in full and out of their own pocket for your services, when they believe you are the professional who can give them what they want—and the wording you use to describe your services conveys that.
Money Talk: Words & Phrases to Consider
Here are some examples of words that can make a difference in income when a clinician talks, writes, or communicates about therapy or money matters—and how and why these words can affect the perceived value, and subsequently, the amount a person is willing to pay for the therapy services provided as a clinician.
This information applies equally to face-to-face conversations in real time or virtually, to emails, texts, social media postings, and what’s printed in marketing materials or is on your website. Each one of these words and phrases can have a direct effect on the amount a client pays you for your clinical services.
As you read the following information, be sure to remember:
1. Help, Support, Advice, Listening, Guidance
Many therapists, clients, and lay people refer to therapy as: help, support, advice, listening, guidance, appointment, etc. When it comes to the amount of money a client is willing to pay for each of those ‘services,’ the perceived value and worth is low since these are things that non-professionals—friends, colleagues, neighbors, parents, siblings, support groups, online forums, etc.—can, and do, provide.
Exceptions to these would be: professional help/support/advice/guidance. These combinations have a higher perceived value of worth and price to clients.
Contrast the words: help, support, advice, etc., with the following ones that have a higher perceived value and worth: session, service, psychotherapy, counseling, treatment, recovery, consultation. Now combine them: psychotherapy session . . . therapy session . . . counseling session . . . psychotherapy services . . . therapy services . . . therapeutic services . . . professional services . . . depression treatment . . . anxiety treatment . . . bipolar treatment . . . trauma recovery . . . professional consultation . . . etc. These terms mean business. They are definite and professional. To clients they position you as a worthy professional who is both trained and capable of giving them what they want.
Other terms of higher perceived value that can be added when appropriate: licensed, certified, approved, supervised by, etc. Yes, clients will pay you more for your service when these words are added.
Here are two examples of lower perceived value wording: my services, services I provide. However, when you add other words to those two phrases you come out with higher perceived value: psychotherapeutic /psychotherapy services I provide. Add another certifier to that and you then have the highest perceived value: psychotherapy conducted by a licensed psychotherapist/clinician.
What word or terms do you, and your clients, prefer—or use—to talk about or describe the services you provide? Which would you or your clients pay a higher price for?
2. Ask, Get, Take, Accept, Charge
I ask $ . . . What I ask is $ . . . How much do you get for a session? I can take $ . . . The fee I accept is . . . I charge $ . . . What I charge is . . . What do you charge?
Are you asking or is it the cost? Are you asking or is it the price?
Be professional and definite: “The cost is . . ." not “What I ask is . . .”
State what the cost is for. “The charge/price/cost for/of the 60-minute session is . . .”
Here it’s important to remember that a client doesn’t “give you money,” a client pays for services rendered.
You have earned the money the client pays you. You’ve provided services to the client. In this case, services provided by a highly-trained professional—as therapists we have quite a bit of education, training, skills, and experience, not to mention licensure or supervision by a licensed person. Therapists deserve a fair rate of professional compensation.
Here are some alternative words and phrases to consider when stating the prices for the services you provide in your practice. Using these terms positions you and the services you offer as confident and of high value and worth:
The PRICE is . . . The COST is. . . The RATE is . . . The AMOUNT for that is . . .The session price is . . . the session cost is . . . the session rate is . . .The Price/Cost/Rate/Amount/Charge for that service is
Decide for yourself what fits you, your clients, and your practice best. Try a few of the phrases out. See what fits you best.
3. Free, discounted, reduced, lower
“No charge,” “no cost,” and “complimentary” are better wording for practice success than the word “free” which seems to mean to people that your services aren’t worth much and they should expect to receive all your services “for free,” all the time.
Discounted, discount, and reduced rate are popular words. Again, they are not the best for practice success as they train people to always ask for “a discount” or reduction.
A better choice in wording is “special” price/pricing or “introductory’ pricing, “a special offer” or even, “a limited time offer.” With these words and phrases, people associate your services as something of worth that are available at this pricing for a limited amount time.
Sometimes people ask if you have a “lower” fee or if you will “lower” the fee or even, “What’s your lowest fee?” Some better alternative words and phrases are an “adjusted” fee or “special pricing” or “professional courtesy” pricing or even “college student” pricing.
It’s important for mental health professionals as a profession to not train people to expect therapists to always reduce, discount, lower or charge the lowest fees just because a client wants but doesn’t need an adjusted fee.
It’s important that therapists, as a profession, maintain a reputation for being paid well for the good work they do—work that’s worth every dollar they’re paid. It’s not a good thing for therapists to be known for charging the lowest rates in town to anyone who asks even when they don’t need a price adjustment.
4. Fee Scale—Prices, Pricing, Rates, Fee Range
When talking numbers around the amounts you charge for your services, most therapists find it’s better received to refer to pricing, prices, and rates, as a “fee range” instead of a “fee scale.” Using the term “fee range” is associated with “a range of services and fees.” People seem to understand that concept easily. A fee range connotes choices and options whereas “fee scale” suggests some type of ranking or judgement.
That’s enough for today about money matters and getting paid. Next time we’ll address wording around sliding scale which is a whole topic in itself!
Getting Paid: Talking Fees, Pricing, Prices—The Words You Use to Talk to Clients About Money Matters in Therapy Do Make a Difference
Getting Paid: Talking Fees, Pricing, Prices—The Words You Use to Talk to Clients About Money Matter in Therapy, Do Make a Difference is the second article in the series on Getting Paid—Talking with Clients About Money. If you’d like to read more, here’s the first article: Getting Paid: Talking with Clients About the Price & Value of Therapy.
As a mental health professional, the words you use in money conversations matter to you, your clients, your colleagues, your employers, and to your therapy practice.
When communicating about money and therapy services it pays to pay attention to the language we use in our clinical role because the meaning our words convey can either increase or decrease the amount of money you are paid as a therapist.
Yes, the words and phrases you use truly contribute to the bottom line of your therapy practice.
Money Talk: Words & Phrases to Consider
Let’s look at some of the words that can make a difference when a clinician talks, writes, or communicates about therapy money matters—and how and why these words can affect the amount a person is willing to pay for the therapy services you provide as a clinician.
This information applies equally to face-to-face conversations in real time or virtually, to emails, texts, phone calls, social media postings, and what’s printed in marketing materials or is on your website.
Yes, each one of these words and phrases can have a direct effect on the perceived value of the services a therapist provides and the amount a client is willing to pay you for the clinical services you provide.
As you read the following information, be sure to remember:
1. My, Me, I, You, Your
My fee . . . I charge . . . What I ask is . . . What is your fee? How much do you charge? What do you charge?
Do clients pay you or do they pay for therapy services or the sessions you provide?
The fact is that most clients don’t really want to pay you. Clients want to pay for therapy or services or for the help and expertise that a therapist provides.
When therapists pair the words, “I, me, mine, you, your,” with fees and pricing it can make paying for therapy seem like a personal interaction instead of a professional one. Many clients will pay less or feel reluctant to pay for what seems like a personal transaction of caring and help.
When a therapist uses the words, “I charge,” people unconsciously think, “Ok, you charge that; how much do others charge?” Saying what you charge sounds like it’s arbitrary and negotiable. When clinicians use the term, “my fee,” the same principle applies.
Making one small change—using the word “the” in place of “my, me, mine, and I”—works surprisingly well to communicate a professional charge for services rendered.
The very personal and idiosyncratic “my fee” becomes “the fee.” “I charge,” becomes “the charge.” “Pay me” becomes “Paying for therapy or the session.” Which sounds more professional to you? Does “the fee” seem like it’s automatically open to adjustment?
Here are some alternatives:
The cost of the session is ___
The price of your session is ___
The charge for your session is ___
Using this type of focused clinical language activates the cognitive/thinking parts of the brain and helps a person operate from an integrated thinking, analyzing, and decision making mode instead of an “emotional” mode which is more feeling driven and can make these types of money matters conversations more personal, intense, and stressful for both therapist and client.
Therapists often use the word fee to address the amount of money that is charged for therapy services provided/delivered/rendered. However, the word "fee" seems to come with quite a bit of baggage for both clients and clinicians.
To most clients encountering the word “fee” in the context of therapy is synonymous with “fees are always negotiable” or that the number is meant to be adjusted to a lower amount.
Substituting one of the following words in place of “fee”—price, charge, cost, amount, or rate—helps clients cognitively understand and process that this number is the actual amount it costs and that they’re expected to pay for services. With these words people don’t usually react so reflexively to negotiating to make the amount lower.
Think about this . . . when you go to the doctor or dentist or other professional, do they usually use the word fee? Most likely they use words like charge, price or cost. Consumers are used to this type of pricing language and understand this is the number they must pay. People do not automatically associate these definitive words with the possibility of negotiation and adjustment to a lower number.
By using this type of consumer wording, therapists can bypass the client’s automatic reflexive perception and response to the therapist’s “fee” as a starting point for negotiating payment even when no fee adjustment is realistically needed.
As a result, of making this change in wording the clinician’s money conversations are usually shorter and the amount a client pays for therapy is usually higher but is still what the client can afford.
3. Full Fee
My full fee is . . . My regular fee is . . . The full fee is . . .
What actually does “full fee” mean? Is there a “partial fee?” Why do we as therapists say, “full fee?” Why don’t we as therapists just use fee or price or charge without the adjective?
Attaching the word “full” to the word “fee” with regard to therapy causes the client to wonder, think, entertain, ask or explore what the fee that isn’t "full" is—and then clients ask you about that other fee!
What a pickle for the therapist. As professionals, we don’t realize when we are inadvertently inviting discussion and negotiation about the amount of therapy payment when it’s not needed.
An alternative to using “my full fee” is to use more definite and clear language, such as “The price for a 50-minute session of therapy is . . . ” or “The charge for your therapy session is . . . ”
Decide for Yourself What Fits You, Your Clients, and Your Therapy Services Best
Confidently take charge of money conversations by using the aforementioned professional and clinical language suggestions and recommendations tailored to your client population and clinical practice. Focus on the value, cost, worth of the therapy service to the client and their life.
Remember to keep the language, wording, and focus of the clinical and professional money matters conversations on the client responsibility for payment for services needed, received and provided—not on what or how much the therapist gets or charges.
Allow the client to pay a fair price for the therapy benefits they receive from you.
That’s all for this article on getting paid and how the wording you use as a clinician to talk about money matters can increase or decrease the money you earn from your client work.
I hope you have found it to be useful, thought stimulating, supportive, and encouraging to your efforts to get paid what the therapy you provide is worth. See for yourself how the words you use can increase the amount of money you earn from your practice.
The next article, the third in the Getting Paid Series on money matters conversations, will address words to use to refer to the services you provide, to describe your prices and fee scale, and how to introduce and talk about your sliding scale.
Talking Fees, Pricing, Prices—The Words You Use to Talk to Clients About Money Matters Do Make a Difference is the second article of the Getting Paid: Talking with Clients About Money Matters Series:
1. Talking with Clients About the Price & Value of Therapy
2. Talking Fees, Pricing, Prices—The Words You Use to Talk to Clients About Money Matters Do Make a Difference
Networking, Marketing & Referrals: Tips, Information & Encouragement for Filling Up Your Practice
When the vacation or holidays are over, it's time to focus again, and get back to work.
I bet you could use some tips, inspiration, and encouragement to get your networking and marketing going so that you can fill your practice.
So, let’s get right to it!
1. Set Aside Time for Networking and Marketing.
Tip: Track what’s working and then do more of it—repeat what works. Quit what doesn’t work or work well enough.
2. Networking is simply making professional friends and acquaintances.
Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you, make yourself targeted opportunities.
When going to a networking event or a lunch or meeting, decide on your networking goals before you arrive: Who do you want to meet and talk with? How many new people do you want to get to know?
Tip: Read How I Came to View Networking Events as Social Meetups
Tip: Make list of 10 contacts you want to meet—people you want to know or be known by in your community. Then find ways to meet and develop mutually beneficial relationships with them.
Tip: Find others who might be in contact with or serving your ideal client from other professions; find allied professionals who serve your client population or ideal client. Get to know them and let them get to know you, the services you offer, and the type of work you do.
3. Marketing is what you do to help clients—and referral sources—find you, and to get clients coming to you instead of you running after them.
Remember that people are not going to look hard to find you or to find out more about you. Make it easy for them.
Tip: Follow the Two Golden Rules of Therapist Marketing:
1.) Make the act of marketing energy producing instead of energy draining;
2.) Only do marketing activities that fit for you, your client population, your type of practice or service—and ALWAYS within legal & ethical guidelines.
Tip: When clients go to your website, directory listing, and social media pages, what they are really looking for is: Who are you? What can you do for me? How can I contact you?
Make sure your content on your website, directory listing, and social media pages addresses that.
Tip: To market effectively, you need to know two things: what you offer and who needs what you offer.
Think about what you want to be known for, the treatment options you want to be known for, and the target populations you want to attract as clients. Share this content in a way that will get it—and you and your practice—noticed and that will help you build your practice.
3. Referrals: Don’t just rely upon clients, friends, colleagues or potential referral sources to automatically know that you welcome their referrals.
It’s up to you to let them know and to educate them about who are good referrals for you and your practice.
Tip: Directly mention that you welcome referrals by using a brief, and thoughtfully scripted, phrase or statement. This can produce significant results for your practice. You can say things like:
Okay, reading time is up. Now it’s time to get out there and increase your visibility in the community so that your new clients can find you when they need you! Happy practice-filling.
If I’ve learned anything from attending networking events and hosting a monthly practice development lunch, it’s what licensed and pre-licensed therapists and related professionals want.
Top of the list are: full practice or good job; work they love; ideal clients; enough money to support themselves, family (this doesn’t have to mean having a partner or children), and practice without struggling too much; a reasonable number of hours along with time away from work for personal and family life, vacation, networking and professional development, as well as for other individual or professional pursuits
Therapists are willing to work hard for all the above—starting with graduate school and continuing through gaining hours for licensure, and post-licensure or certification, then through the accruing of years working, and the maturing of their career.
How can, and do, professionals attain these highly-desired benchmarks while still serving clients, the profession, and the community?
The good news is that it can be done with any type of practice that suits you best: cash pay, insurance, sliding scale, part-time, online, coaching; day, night, weekday or weekend; rent your own office, share, sublet full day or half day or hourly, etc. It’s your choice. In fact, having the successful practice you want depends largely on the practice being suited to you and the clients you work with.
So how do you grow and fill a practice?
Consistent, effective, and ongoing, local networking is the best way to get known in your community and the fastest way to grow a practice and keep it filled.
What is local networking and how does it work? Local networking is one of the most natural ways of interacting with people—and most professionals find this a comfortable way to get known in their community.
Local networking means raising awareness about your services and getting the word out about how you help people and doing this by regularly connecting with everyone you know and keeping them up-to-date with what you’re doing in your practice or career and maybe even inviting them to check out your website, social media, blog, article or podcast.
Local networking means letting those in your community know what you do and how you help people—relatives, friends, neighbors, social and community contacts, colleagues, those at church or temple, people you worked with at previously or were in graduate school with or a placement—don’t forget professors and supervisors.
Each one of these people is a potential referral source for your practice. Find a way to keep in contact with them and to keep them current on you and your practice. Building your contact list, e-mail list, referral sources, and resource list is a long-term project. Start today!
Getting the word out about what you do and the services you offer to the community also involves meeting new people and making new friends as you increase your practice’svisibility and grow your network.
Who you know, those who know you, and those who refer to you are valuable resources for filling your practice with clients who need your services and will pay your fees.
Think about it this way, when people know about your practice, and are familiar with your services, they can find you or refer to you when a therapist with your skills and abilities is needed.
This type of networking is viewed as a community service, so make sure your community knows how you can be of service to them. The more people, businesses, organizations, and professionals in your community who know about the work you do the faster your caseload will fill.
Local networking can take a variety of forms, in person, online, digital or print advertising, talks, blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos, and any type of social media or online forum. It’s up to you to decide what works best for you, your practice, client market, available time, and budget. Take your pick. You get to choose. Try things out, then see what works best for you.
Local networking also means becoming familiar with your community and how your potential clients move through it via churches, schools, sports programs and teams, athletic and country clubs, theater arts, colleges, yoga centers, hospitals, libraries, parks and recreation, employee assistance programs, and many others.
Understanding the needs of potential therapy clients in your area and how those needs are being or not being met makes practice building easier.
Since therapists are an important part of every community, it’s important that we be visible so that our clients can find us when they need our services. The therapists I know who have a full enough practice with a consistent influx of clients are those who are known in, and know, their communities and keep up regular contact.
Local networking also includes getting known in your professional community. Joining and attending your professional organization is a great way to get connected with other professionals in your area and to develop and maintain relationships and friendships as well as referral sources for your network.
Through monthly networking events, workshops, member events, newsletter articles, classified advertising, and e-blasts, special interest groups, support groups, and special events, Professional organizations provide many networking opportunities for therapists and related professionals to get known in the community and develop themselves and their relationships.
As you can see, filling your practice with the clients you’re meant to work with requires that you find a way to connect with your community and let them know, on a regular basis, that your practice exists, what services you offer—and how people can go about contacting you when they desire your services.
This success formula for attracting new clients, filling your schedule, earning enough income, and having vacations, consists of raising awareness about your private practice in your community.
So, go ahead, announce your presence to the world and raise community awareness about your private practice. Be sure to keep me posted about your progress. I look forward to hearing about your success — and your vacation!
Getting Paid: Talking with Clients About the Price & Value of Therapy is the first article in the Getting Paid: Talking with Clients About Money Matters Series:.
There’s a lot of interest lately in addressing the issue of the amount of money clients pay, or don’t pay, per session for therapy.
The truth is that, as a profession, we as therapists often undercharge, and are underpaid, for the therapy services we deliver.
Fortunately, this seems to be changing as people are becoming more aware of the value of the therapy that therapists provide—and what therapy actually costs to provide.
So, what is the therapy that mental health professionals provide worth to clients and in marketplace?
Overall during money conversations when the price of therapy comes up, we, as therapists, need to focus on increasing people's perception of the value of the therapy services clients receive instead of routinely just dropping our fees.
When clients, or prospective clients, bring up the cost of therapy services during the intake or pre-therapy conversation we have, it’s up to each of us, in our therapeutic role, to engage the client in conversation about what they actually need and can benefit from in therapy.
This helps the client think through and justify paying the session rate, or continue to pay the session rate, we charge for therapy. It’s what we do in every other conversation with clients. Money matters are no different.
Yes, in these money conversations the therapist’s role, or clinical task, is to help the client clarify the value of the therapy and services they need and the results or benefits that therapy can or has delivered to their lives and relationships.
Helping clients look at what they benefit or gain from, don’t have to suffer, or will heal from because they are coming to therapy is an important part of these conversations when clients become over-focused on the price or cost of therapy services. It’s not just about the money or the price of therapy services, it’s part of the therapy itself.
It’s definitely part of our clinical role to help client think through what they need or are coming to or are seeking therapy for and the results and benefits therapy is providing to them or can provide.
When the therapist has this type of clinical client interaction, clients will often hire the therapist or continue coming to therapy even when the therapy costs more than what they originally wanted to pay or thought they could afford.
Remember that clients are paying for the value and benefits that therapy provides for them, not the time—and clients want a price, a number, they can justify paying. One that’s commensurate with the service and benefits they receive and need.
Do you get paid for your time or your expertise? Remember, professionals get paid for their expertise instead of for their time. Charge for your expertise and the value you provide, not just for your time.
Convey to your clients that they pay for your expertise, not just for your time. Clients often forget this when they focus on money and numbers. People will pay in full and out-of-pocket for your therapy services if they see you as a trained professional and an expert who can give them or help them get what they want.
The most common question I receive in my Money Matters workshops and practice coaching is how to respond when a client says, “I can’t afford that,” “I can’t pay that,” “I don’t want to pay that” or “I don’t know how I could pay that.”
Good responses to “I can’t afford it” are clinically based. Work with clients, or converse with prospective clients, to find out how they could pay that amount—what it would take or what they would need to/could do to make that happen.
Treat the issues that come up in these client money conversations the same way you’d treat any other client issue. Maintain your therapeutic stance and approach as you work with the client and their issues during the money conversation.
Yes, I am recommending that you address client fee and payment issues as clinical issues.
Maintaining your therapeutic role or position and confidently taking charge of money conversations works—and is therapeutic for the client. Focus on the value, cost, and worth of the therapy service to the client and their life. A client will pay for that. Clients do pay for that.
Be sure to keep the focus of your interaction on the client paying for services they need and receive not on what the therapist gets or how much the therapist charges.
Remember: a client doesn’t “give you money,” a client pays for services rendered. The client is not in charge of determining much therapy costs, the therapist is.
I wish you the best in your client money conversations. They are always adventures!
Create and Sustain a Successful Private Practice Career Presentation Workshop Summary
March Presentation Summary
Create and Sustain a Successful Private Practice Career
Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor
Joint Meeting of SVC-CAMFT and Sacramento Networking District AAMFT
Lynne Azpeitia is a licensed MFT and Approved AAMFT Supervisor. She trained at the California Family Study Center, where she received her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy.
Lynne worked with Virginia Satir, which was evident in her experiential style of teaching.
Her practice in Santa Monica, CA includes psychotherapy, coaching and work with gifted adults. Lynn brought energy and personality to her presentation. She held our attention while challenging us to envision our ideal careers and practices.
She provided us with a booklet of “Practical & Cost Effective Tools and Approaches”. This was a helpful guide, containing an outline of much of the material that was covered in the presentation. It also provided a resource to be used as we continue to plan strategies to design our own practices.
The following are some of the areas covered
*5 Main Tools to Develop Your Private Practice: Your Introduction – How you introduce yourself Your Business Card – including email
Your Contacts – you Rolodex
Your Website or Webpage
Listings on Web Directories
*The Success Star:
Skills, Expertise & Training
Personal & Professional Reputation
Referral Sources & Contacts
Personal Presence, Awareness, Growth, Consciousness, Vision & Creativity Self Care & Development of Personal Resources
Business Practices – Therapeutic and Business
She addressed the needs of each of the various levels of professional status, i.e. trainees/interns, newly licensed and experienced therapists. Although the emphasis was on private practice development, Lynne also generalized some of the material for agency work.
Individual and small group exercises helped participants evaluate their values and vision of their ideal practice, including the type of clients, setting, as well as their roles. It was an informative and thought provoking presentation that left us with the tools and information to revamp an existing private practice or start a new business.
Submitted by Eva Tak, LMFT
This article was first published in the Sacramento Valley CAMFT Newsletter April 2011
Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT
For 10+ years Lynne Azpeitia has helped therapists to live richer and happier lives through her workshops, private practice and career coaching, and her practice consultation groups which train, support, and coach licensed therapists, interns & students how to create and maintain a successful, thriving clinical practice and a profitable career