Therapists and money seems to be a controversial subject. A lot of people, and a lot of therapists for that matter, think that therapists should work for free and have the satisfaction of helping people be payment enough. However, unless you are independently wealthy, you do need some kind of compensation for your services in order to survive. Add to that the fact that therapists spend 7+ years in college and often owe 6 figures in student loans, malpractice insurance, licensing fees, continuing education, etc, and it becomes clear that therapists simply can’t afford to not charge for their services. Given the high costs of operation (both financial, emotional costs, and long hours) and the fact that we all deserve to earn a living, why do therapists have so many issues with receiving payment for their valuable services?
I think part of it comes from the fact that no one in their right mind would ever become a therapist “for the money”. We went into this profession because it was a calling, a passion. Many therapists have told me that if they won the lottery, they would keep on being a therapist; a few even said they’d share the money with their clients. This then creates uncomfortable feelings when we realize that until we do win the lottery, we are going to have to rely on our clients to put food on our table. This creates a lot of tension for therapists: The tension between a genuine desire to good and the necessity of paying our bills.
I will admit that I experienced this tension when I started my private practice. Previous to this, I had always gotten paid through the agency. I had never even touched a client’s copay before. It didn’t matter to me if they were paying their fees and whatnot because my pay came from the agency. Now that I was in charge of all of that, I had a really hard time transitioning from therapist to business owner. And you can’t call it a business if you aren’t making any money. I actually struggled with just reminding people to pay their copays. I felt awkward about taking people’s money and strangely guilty about it. Not surprisingly, I even had some people take advantage of me during this time. People with 6 figure incomes who guilted me into giving them free services. This caused some resentment.
What I discovered was that the people most capable of paying often gave you the hardest time about it. I was tired of negotiating with people to pay their copays and no-shows fees. I really started thinking about the high value of services I was offering and realized that in reality even my full fee was uncharging people! I had nothing to feel guilty about. I no longer negotiate or haggle, and I feel a lot less stress because of it. The key to getting past my money issues was realizing that I do provide such a valuable service and I wouldn’t let people make me feel guilty about getting paid a fair price for it.