Many private practitioners are uncomfortable with money matters. Setting fees, collecting co-pays, billing for no-shows, and raising fees can be huge sources of stress unless you are able to manage these realities of running your own business. One thing is certain – your clients will react less defensively about money issues, the more comfortable and confident you are in addressing those issues. If you are awkward and uncomfortable when asking for payment for services rendered, you will likely pass along the discomfort to your clients.
Money is a therapeutic issue. While I am first to agree that “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”, when clients consistently forget their wallets, no-show or late-cancel appointments, or get behind in their accounts we must look at the messages those clients are sending. Are you writing off co pays and missed appointment fees because you are too uncomfortable to collect them? Have your fees been the same for the past 10 years? Do you slide your fees and then feel resentful when your clients talk about their vacations or 401Ks? Do you often feel guilty about charging clients for your services? Do you often feel that your fees are too high? Do you feel bad that you make more in one session than some of your clients make in a whole day at work? DON”T!
You’ve worked very hard to get where you are. You’ve invested a lot of time, money, blood, sweat, and tears in getting there. There is a good chance that you are still paying off your school loan! This is not to say that your clients have not worked just as hard as you have worked, or don’t deserve what you deserve. This is not a competition. It is a business transaction. You provide a service and your client pays you. Just like when you pay the dentist when you have a root canal.
The fact is that you are there to provide quality, professional services to help others in need of those services. More often than not, people are not taken back by paying you for your expertise. I’d bet that the majority of your clients are not angry or resentful about your fees. Just as money can be a therapeutic issue for our clients, we must look at our own issues when we are plagued with guilt or shame about money.
Private practice is a place where you have no choice but to grow a thicker skin about money. There is no front person to collect your fees or charge your clients for missed appointments. Somehow you must find peace with money so you can gladly provide your best while accepting compensation for your hard work.
What do you think? Does money stand between you and a successful Private Practice? Can there be a healthy balance between the “business” of Private Practice and the “practice” of Private Practice?
Deborah Legge is a counselor, an assistant professor, specializes in coaching counselors in private practice, and is the founder of InfluentialTherapist.com