This is part of a series of blog posts: The Top 10 Questions Therapists Ask Me.
#2: How Do I Decide What To Charge?
To figure that out, let's take a step back and look at your beliefs for a moment. We all have a lot of beliefs, some conscious, some unconscious, about money and fees. If you don't know what yours are, you can't make good decisions about your fees. Let me walk you through an exercise.
First ask yourself, what is a fee you think is way too high? This fee is too high because you think no one would want to pay it or it would be impossible to get yourself to ask for it out loud.
Now ask yourself what is a fee you think is way too low. Maybe you've charged this fee in the past. Working for this amount would make you feel resentful.
Your right fee for now is going to be somewhere between these 2 numbers.
Now think about a number closer to the higher fee, and ask yourself this:
What would be the worst thing that would happen if I charged this higher fee? (This will bring some of your beliefs to the surface).
List every fear that comes up, both realistic and possibly not so realistic.
Now let's check out these fears. Here some common ones, and my replies.
1. If I charge a high fee, clients will have a hard time deciding to work with me.
You may be very wrong. When looking at different therapists, most people aren't comparing fees to make their decision. They are talking to different therapists to get a sense of who they believe can help them. If you charge a high fee, some people will associate that with a higher quality of service. I know that association is not accurate or fair in many cases. Many therapists with waiting lists charge higher fees, so cost is clearly not the biggest factor.
2. If I raise my rates, my current clients will leave.
You might be right. Some of your current clients might either leave or choose to decrease to every other week. This could be bad for you because you probably love working with these people, it might not be the right time clinically for them to terminate, and you also don't want to lose that income. Consider keeping your current clients at the same rate and significantly raising your fee for future clients only. If you keep your current clients at the same fee, you might feel more able to raise your fee to where you really want it now, rather than deciding what you think your current clients can pay. You might raise your fee much higher than you would if you were anticipating going through an increase with every one of your current clients. Of course there may be times when you need to raise a current client's fee, especially if you work with that person for a very long time.
3. If I charge a high fee, I'll only get to work with wealthy people.
This is rigid thinking. If you are charging a higher fee, you can then set aside a few slots with a very low fee. You can offer a group workshop or an ongoing group that is more affordable in addition to your individual work. If it fits the way you work clinically, you can offer a brief model for clients who can't make a long term financial commitment.
4. If I charge a high fee, I'll feel like a fraud.
You are in such good company! Most therapists making good money have felt this way. Most of our feelings and beliefs about what we should get paid come from our experiences before age 10. So much stuff comes up when we think about fees, including our identity issues around class, race, gender, and family history. Look inside at what is telling you that you're a fraud. Do you believe a therapist who charges a higher fee dresses a certain way, looks a certain way, or behaves a certain way that you don't? Do you believe your office doesn't look like the office of a therapist who charges a high fee?
Once you've worked through some of the inner issues around value, look at the image you're putting out there and notice if there are ways you are undermining your value. For example, if you think your office is shabby, do something to spruce it up. If the photo on your website is a snapshot, get a professional photo. These things are an expression to others of your belief in your own value.
What other fears come up when you think about charging a high fee? Examine them.
Now look at that high fee again and see how it feels to consider asking for it. Your goal is not to charge the highest fee you possibly can, but to charge a fee you will feel really good about charging your next client for possibly a very long time. Your right fee will allow you to pay your bills while you work a reasonable number of hours, take time off, and pay for the support and consultation you need.
I’ve got a free assessment you can take right now to find out how you're doing with your fee and 4 other important factors for building your practice. Click here to get started.
Next time I'll answer question number 3: How do I get more clients? I'll see you back here next week.