The very act of becoming therapist is a declaration to the world that you are deeply committed to helping people live more meaningful lives.
YET, in a 2015 survey I did with over 200 therapists, 55-78% of you experienced shame, guilt or anxiety about dealing with money in private practice – getting paid for the work you do.
This results in many therapists in private practice building businesses that are woefully underfunded and, ultimately, unsustainable. How can you both serve those you are passionate about serving, while also building a practice that enhances your quality of life?
Here are five steps that will help you raise your fee and increase your income, guilt-free!
Step One: Acknowledge your Investment
Despite thousands of hours of free labor and tens or hundreds of thousands of cold hard cash, along with the years of your life that you gave in order to learn how to help people, when it comes to stating your fee with confidence, it is so easy to forget about that.
When it comes to charging for their work, many therapists experience a needling guilt that maybe they’re just doing it for the money. WHAT?! Nobody, nobody, invests that much time, energy and money towards a profession that they are not deeply devoted to. Spend just five minutes each day writing about why you do what you do and nip that guilt in the ass.
Step Two: Get REAL about your finances.
It can be scary to actually take a good hard look at your monthly expenses (which include, of course, big budget items like saving for retirement and paying off student loans). Why? Because if you look at it, you will likely come to realize that you’re charging nowhere near enough to sustain your costs of living.
Take five minutes to fill out the Fun with Fees Worksheet and get a realistic sense of how much it actually costs to achieve the standard of living that you want.
Step Three: Acknowledge the Feelings
When you get a sense of what you need to be charging in order to create a thriving life, you may experience anxiety, dread, overwhelm, or confusion. You’ll begin to wonder, “How could I possibly earn that?! Who would pay me?! What about “market rate?!”
Take a breath. Then take three minutes to write down all the feelings you’re experiencing and play them all the way out. What is the concrete reality that you’re afraid of now that you have this information? If you have a therapist to bring these feelings to, even better!
Step Four: Find Your Tribe
I hear from so many therapists who are terrified of accusations from other clinicians, things like, “You’re a sell-out” or “How can you claim to be invested in social justice while also charging $200/session”
This is many-a-therapist’s worst nightmare.
The solution? Spend 5 minutes identifying the people in your community who share your values around giving back, while also charging fees that are over and above what you can even imagine. Guess what – they’re out there. Finding ways to connect to thoughtful, skilled and committed therapists who also charge premium fees will help you feel less isolated and more able to move towards your own financial goals
Step Five: Invest in Change
When it comes to money, especially for upwardly mobile therapists, there are all kinds of whacky psychic gymnastics one does. It is easy to project your own shit onto people who are wealthy and onto people who are impoverished. Envy, fear, insecurity, shame – all of these emotions come up when imagining raising our fees. And you may find very sophisticated, politically-correct ways to justify your inaction when it comes to charging what you actually need and want.
If you know you need to earn more money in your private practice, but you are not taking action, invest in learning from others who have done it before you. Pay full fee for your own therapy. Invest in consultation programs. Practice giving your money with love. Stop haggling other people down or looking for financial shortcuts.
By doing it first, you will have the opportunity to see that it is possible to find clients who are willing and eager to invest in what you have to offer, with gratitude and respect.
Tiffany McLain is a therapist consultant whose mantra is, “Full fees are the new black.”
Via her business, www.heytiffany.com, she helps upwardly mobile clinicians in private practice overcome their shame about marketing and making bank so they can help the clients they are truly passionate about serving.
She’s been featured in Psychology Today Magazine, Psych Central, Huffington Post, KGO Radio and SF Weekly.