As a therapist, discussing money related issues with clients can feel AWKWARD – and at times at odds with being a caring, supportive therapist. I know I’m not speaking for just myself when I say that there’s a real fear that saying the wrong thing will damage your relationship with a client.
However, this is not only an unavoidable part of the job, but it can actually help you build a stronger therapeutic alliance. This exercise is an opportunity to model boundary setting and how to handle communication with someone who has different needs or desires. Let's explore some practical tips on how to these sensitive conversations with clarity and empathy.
Dos and Don’ts of Navigating Money Matters with Clients
To handle awkward money moments effectively, here are some dos and don'ts:
💰 DO Know your financial boundaries in advance.
If you accept a sliding scale, determine the minimum rate you are willing to accept for this call. It can be helpful to do some calculations and find an average rate that will allow you to make your target salary.
🗣️ DON’T speak too quickly or over-explain.
Slow. Down. and Breathe. This signals confidence and encourages open communication for both you and your clients. Also avoid justifying or explaining your fees.
⏰ DO Establish your fee structure and policies in advance.
This helps you project a clear and professional image. For example: Do you have in-person availability? Do you take insurance? Do you work with a platform like Mentaya who can help clients get reimbursed for out of network therapy?
🔦 DON’T put your client on the spot.
Some therapists make the mistake of negotiating against themselves when clients aren't ready to commit on the spot. Get out of your own way- just because your clients need time to think about their budget, doesn't mean it is not a fit. Give your clients ample time to consider this change and how they feel about it.
💌 DO proactively offer to refer clients to other therapists.
Proactively let clients know that if they end up deciding you are not a fit for their budget, you are happy to help refer them to another therapist. I always end my intro calls on this not, and have found it consistently touches prospective clients (many of whom end up working with me).
📝 DON’T leave the conversation without documentation. After discussing your fee adjustment with your client, provide written documentation to avoid any misunderstandings, ensure transparency and build trust.
Here are some tactical tips on how to make fee adjustments smoother:
Standardize Fee Increases
Set expectations by doing an annual re-evaluation of fees and raising them the same time every year. Give clients a heads up so that they have sufficient time before making any financial changes.
Time it Appropriately
Choose an appropriate time, like insurance open enrollment periods (usually around November!), to inform clients about fee changes. This is also a chance to encourage clients to consider a plan with out-of-network benefits so that even if you raise your fee, they might end up paying less because they can get reimbursed for therapy!
Use an out-of-network billing platform like Mentaya
This enables private pay clients to leverage their out of network benefits to save on therapy. This is a win-win and positions you to increase your rate without exceeding your clients budget.