Whether you previously worked for an agency, school, hospital, or non-profit, you more than likely didn’t determine how much your time is worth. Someone else put a value on you time. As you transition to private practice, you now have the freedom to determine how much your time is worth. We talked previously about setting your fees according to education, experience, and going rates in the area. But you also need to spend time thinking about your value as a professional and changing your money mindset.
If you were to do the math, you’d probably be saddened at what your hourly rate was previously. In private practice, you are only getting paid for the time you actually spend in session. Factor in networking, marketing, planning for sessions, attending trainings, and writing notes. You aren’t just charging for the 50 minutes you spend with a client; you are getting paid for your expertise and knowledge.
Many therapists have some guilt and uncomfortable feelings around money. Because someone else put a low value on your time, it’s hard for many therapists to charge a ‘going rate’ for their services. For some reason, other professionals aren’t questioned about their fees. You may encounter clients who believe your services should be free or at a low cost. Would they expect the same from an accountant, doctor, or attorney? Can you imagine haggling a price with your physician? We have just as much, if not more, education and experience as those professions. It’s important that we own our value and educate others about our skill set. We are not just empathetic and good listeners!
Sometimes you have to think about and process your feelings towards money in order to maintain a successful business. Many clinicians feel shame or guilt for charging high prices for their services, not realizing how valuable their time actually is. You might also miss working with a lower income population if you are only accepting self-pay clients. There are ways to mitigate those feelings and reach those who struggle financially while still maintaining a successful business. You might consider having a percentage of your available spots be for sliding scale, low-cost, or even pro bono clients. You might consider joining the Open Path Collective, a placement service for clients looking for low cost counseling.
At the end of the day, recognize that your education, experience, knowledge, and time is valuable. You can grow a profitable practice and make a good salary, all while helping others.